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Day to Day Politics. Climate Change: A lay person’s dilemma

Wednesday 9 December.

1 The Paris Climate talks are now in their third week. The coverage of this most important and crucial event in the Australian media has been simply sickening. Only the ABC, The Guardian and Fairfax have given it the treatment it so earnestly deserves. Murdoch has given it little coverage.

In a piece for THE AIMN I said this:

“How does the layperson like me reach a view on such subjects without any formal training? It’s simple. There are many areas (medicine for example) that I don’t have a deep analytical grasp. Like many others I listen to experts, apply common sense, observation and what my life experience tells me. It is not difficult to understand a theory. Generally people assume that a theory (for example the theory of evolution) is something unproven”.

In the scientific world, a theory is something that has evolved to fit known facts.

Conversely, those who deny Climate Change and the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of science deniers with obscure qualifications or worse, to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever. These people have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken deniers (Andrew Bolt) has, in recent times, been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals. The Press Council also made him correct misleading figures in one of his articles. One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favourite topic climate change.

So for the layperson the choice is to listen to the science or default to the opinions of the Bolts of this world.

And in Paris the latest news is that the world’s biggest climate polluters rallied around a stronger target for limiting warming on Monday, saying they were open to the 1.5C goal endorsed by the most vulnerable countries.

In the final push to a climate agreement, the US, Canada, China and the European Union declared they were now on board with demands from African countries to adopt an even more ambitious goal to limit warming.

Now they are taking it seriously. Julie Bishop must be wetting herself.

2 Guardian Australia has two years to prove itself commercially viable according to a headline in Tuesday’s Australian. Now that a bit of a shocker coming from a newspaper that loses 25 million annually. If fact the only reason it is still in business is because of the power it yields. It has very little public readership but is the go to source for every conservative commentator in the country. It will die with Murdoch.

An observation.

‘It is a pity that fact in journalism cannot be made compulsory and decency legislated’.

3 Joe Hockey has said if he did not retire from the Parliament he would have been focused on “getting even with people” who contributed to his downfall as treasurer. What a shocking indictment of politics in general and his party in particular.

4 Donald Trump wants to close the United States borders to Muslims.

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people who believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” the billionaire real estate developer said.

I wonder if that should also apply to adults entering schools. Maybe tattoos next.

5 The Vladimir Putin Shirtfront won the Insiders Matt Price award in 2014. This year it was given to Christopher Pyne for his ‘I’m a fixer’ comment. There were some excellent entries. Abbott got the most nominations with his onion eating (without tears) act. Knighthoods, Good government starts today and in my opinion he should have been on a winner when he outrageously said that his ministers were performing fantastically well and it was all due to his magnificent leadership. Oh I forgot one. ‘Good government starts today’ Others nominated were Hockey’s ‘Just get a job. ’Scott Morrison for ‘There’s a boom up there’ Bronwyn Bishop ‘It was within the guidelines’ Then there were mentions of ministers with large packages, even snakes. There were many others but for the breadth of its audacity I’ll stick with my choice.

6 Now here is a conspiracy theory to end them all. Tony Abbott was toppled by Malcolm Turnbull, not because of gross incompetence. According to climate sceptic Christopher Monckton it was the UN who brought down Tony Abbott because of his anti-global warming views.

Wrong of course but he tells the truth about Abbott’s denialism.

MY THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

“At some time in the human narrative…..in our history, man declared himself superior to women. It must have been an accident, or at least an act of gross stupidity. But that’s men for you”.

PS. Early warning. Day to Day in Politics will be taking a break over the Christmas and New Year Periods. I will however be posting some of my short stories, poetry and other things of interest.

 

Day to Day Politics: Frydenberg’s another Hunt.

Thursday 9 March 2017

Tony Abbott came to power on 18 September 2013 and served as PM until 15 September 2015. The two things that stood out to me were firstly,when he appointed Malcolm Turnbull as Communications Minister, he wanted him to destroy the internet and secondly that he would repeal Labor’s ‘Carbon Tax’. He thought the internet was to access pornography and that Climate Change was a socialist plot to replace communism. Despite his luddite mind the internet survived, albeit a second-rate version.

The Carbon Tax did go and three and a half years later the decision can best be summed up with this comment in “The state of the environment Report 2016” tabled in parliament on Tuesday:

The government has no national plan to protect the environment in the years to 2050.”

An observation.

”In terms of the environment I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today”

What a bloody disgrace this government is. Josh Frydenberg, The Minister for the Department of “I couldn’t care less’’ tried to jump the gun by writing a column for the Guardian. In it he said the Coalition will “use this report to continue the good work” the government is doing in environmental policy. Frankly the man needs a manager. He’s been handling himself too long.

The report is commissioned by the government every 5 years and is written by independent experts. They say that Climate Change is beyond debate and that it will cause enormous damage in the future. Climate change is now irreversible.

Freydenberg was out and about doing what his predecessor Greg Hunt did for year after year, creating the illusion they were doing something whilst doing nothing. Telling lies, in other words. The tide has turned and people are now taking in the catastrophic damage that climate change will do to future generations. That a government can just continue to pay lip service to the science is beyond belief.

I suppose I have never come to grips with the fact that supposedly intelligent men can be so dismissive of the science.

An observation.

“How can one man hold the future of the planet in his hand while the remaining leaders kowtow to him?”

In the same year that Abbott came to power I wrote an essay titled “Climate Change. A Lay person’s dilemma”. Here are a few paragraphs:

For the life of me, I cannot understand people who accept science in fact and use it every day somehow become brain-dead when it comes to climate science. However, lay people like me who believe in the existence of climate change cannot honestly claim to know the veracity of the science for ourselves but are happy to delegate this task to climate scientists. Laypeople simply do not have the knowledge to adjudicate on the issue.

On the other hand the, those who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of science sceptics with obscure qualifications or worse to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever. These people (like you and me) have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken sceptics (Andrew Bolt) has recently been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals. One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favourite topic climate change.

If I do not support the 95% of scientists, every major scientific institution and the research that is constantly peer evaluated I am obliged to accept the alternative. That is that I should take seriously the likes of Andrew Bolt, (A journalist) Alan Jones, (I’m not sure how you would describe his contribution to society) Lord Monckton (A discredited something who was once a lobbyist for the tobacco companies) Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott. (Both politicians). In fact, Minchin is on the record as saying that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to replace communism. None of the aforementioned people has a background or expertise in climate science.

Now that’s not to say that they should not have a view and that view should not be considered as should any laypersons if they are of that ilk. But surely, we must respect the science otherwise; you put into question all science.”

When a government is so out of step with science, public expectations and what we call common sense, we need in our democracy some sort of trigger that overrides the normal decision-making process and gives the public a greater say. Some sort of people’s referendum after a suitable petition.

On this day in 2016 I wrote the following:

4 Meanwhile in the US. ‘Only in the US,’ Donald Trump, in scenes reminiscent of a Hitler rally, asked, no demanded, that thousands of people at a rally swear an oath of allegiance. And they did. It was a scene that people of my vintage thought we might never experience again.

‘I do solemnly swear that I, no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there are hurricanes or whatever, will vote on or before the 12th for Donald J Trump for president.’

5 After last week’s embarrassing debacle over Negative Gearing you might have thought that The Australian might leave the chill of those waters behind for a while. But no, yesterday’s headline read.

‘Labor’s crackdown on negative gearing ‘a threat to small business’

6 Peter Costello has warned against changes to Negative Gearing, Superannuation, and Capital Gains Tax. In fact he has urged Scott Morrison to maintain the generously immoral superannuation and tax arrangements of his tenure for the rich and privileged.

On the evidence thus far the Government never had a reform policy in the first place. They just needed something to talk about. Something they are good at.

7 I think I will stop here. I’m becoming very depressed of late about the way in which we are governed. The disrespect that we are treated with. The incompetence. Government for self-abounds. There is a stench about it that is contributing to the way I feel. I wrote last week that this mob has degrees from the world’s finest learning institutions dripping from the walls of their parliamentary offices but all the learning seems unsuitable for good governance. The problem is that conservative ideology and practicable common sense just don’t mix.

I’m not sure that I want to read ‘Road to Ruin’ but I probably will. What seems to give the book integrity and is compelling about Niki Savva’s writing is the number of sources who have gone on the record.

My thought for the day.

“A commitment to social justice demands the transformation of social structures as well as our hearts and minds.”

 

Day to Day Politics: I thought we had moved on from ratbag conspiracy theorists like him.

Friday 19 August 2016

Climate Science has always been somewhat of a layperson’s dilemma. Monday night’s Q&A programme yet again demonstrated that there are still conspiracy nutter mentalities who gain prominence by being controversially stupid.

When the debate turned to Climate Change even renowned physicist Brian Cox was dumbfounded by One Nation senator-elect Malcolm Roberts’ arguments. Roberts suggested that the figures presented by Cox were manipulated by NASA and that it was all essentially a lot of lies. The audience laughed. How are we so blindly stupid that we elect these people.

Why he was even given a seat on the panel is beyond me. Even more so is why Greg Hunt was allowed to lie about the effectiveness of the Coalition’s Direct Action policy is also beyond me.

But all that aside how does the layperson comprehend it all.

During the 2000 federal election campaign I tuned onto the ‘7.30 Report’, the night Kerry O’Brien interviewed Tony Abbott about the coalitions ‘Broadband Policy’. During the interview, Abbott who was totally out of his depth appealed to O’Brien not to ask questions of a technological nature because he simply did not understand it. As a voter, I was appalled that anyone with ambitions at the time to become Prime Minister should know so little about his own policy. (Mind you, at the time he could not introduce his party’s economic policy either, but that is another matter).

What occurred to me on reflection was that if Abbott knew so little about the science of the internet, how could he have developed such an insightful knowledge of climate science as to be able to dismiss it as crap? This in turn prompted me to question my own comprehension.

I had to admit that although I followed the debate rigorously and considered myself well-informed. I in fact like many others knew little of the science itself. Frankly, I have enough trouble with the pop up toaster.

Ask me about literature, art, political and religious philosophy, music, sport and I can handle myself adequately but science no. Ask me to explain how an atom is split, how carbon dating works, how science takes us to space, advances in medical science, how a mobile telephony phone system works, DNA, genetics or electricity is produced then I would be hard pressed to explain. In fact, I could not and the reader will understand I have only minutely touched on some branches of science.

So as a layperson, where does this leave me? Whom do I believe? Well for me it is a no brainer. I come down on the side of science. In the last few years, I have under gone a number of operations. I have had a heart attack and bowel cancer. When confronted with these issues never once (when consulting with surgeons) did I question the diagnosis I accepted that scientific research had given my doctors the knowledge to perform whatever procedure was necessary.

Therefore, it goes that I cannot explain how many things function or occur. I simply know that science through reasoned, rational enquiry, evaluation and testing proves that they do.

For the life of me, I cannot understand people who accept science’’ in fact’’ and use it every day somehow become brain-dead when it comes to climate science.

However, lay people like me who believe in the existence of climate change cannot honestly claim to know the veracity of the science for ourselves but are happy to delegate this task to climate scientists. Laypeople simply do not have the knowledge to adjudicate on the issue.

On the other hand the, those who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of science sceptics with obscure qualifications or worse to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever. These people (like you and me) have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken sceptics (Andrew Bolt) has been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals.

One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favourite topic climate change.

If I do not support the 95% of scientists, every major scientific institution and the research that is constantly peer evaluated I am obliged to accept the alternative. That is that I should take seriously the likes of Andrew Bolt (a journalist) Alan Jones, (I’m not sure how you would describe his contribution to society) Lord Monckton (a discredited something who was once a lobbyist for the tobacco companies), Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott (both politicians) or new kid on the block Malcolm Roberts. In fact, Minchin is on the record as saying that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to replace communism. None of the aforementioned people has a background or expertise in climate science.

Now that’s not to say that they should not have a view and that that view should not be considered as should any laypersons if they are of that ilk. But surely, we must respect the science otherwise; you put into question all science.

As to which way is the best to tackle the problem in Australia this is more open for the layperson to investigate. In this country, we have two propositions. One is an emissions trading scheme.

The other is a direct action policy where taxpayer’s funds are given (repeat “are given”) to the polluters to clean up the mess they have created without any guarantees they will do so. In all my research, this method has no credence among professionals. Indeed, Greg Hunt has not produced one economist in support of direct action. Before he became Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote angrily about how the scheme would be a costly disaster. Treasury has qualitative evidence to suggest his plan will cost twice as much as they have committed. It is a shame, indeed sad to see shadow minister Greg Hunt who wrote his university thesis (with honors) in support of a carbon tax trying to defend Direct action.

In conclusion, for me as a layperson it seems logical to support the evidence the scientists have produced. I think all the people of this earth and our planet deserve the benefit of any doubt.

Alternatively, when science discovers a cure for cancer do I just say “crap”?

Australia in fact produces 1.4 of the world’s emissions and people therefore argue that whatever we do to reduce them will have little or no effect. All the countries combined that produce less than 1.5 per cent (including Great Brittan) actually total one third of world emissions so it follows that if we and the other smaller emitters do something to reduce them we will be having an effect on a third of the problem and that is a large contribution.

My thought for the day.

“We all incur a cost for the upkeep of our health. Why then should we not be liable for the cost of a healthy planet”.

 

Voting for action

In our previous piece, Climate change ‘a lay persons dilemma’ John Lord provided a logical argument in consideration as to whether to believe or not believe in climate change. His logic cannot be argued with:

Now that’s not to say that they should not have a view and that that view should not be considered as should any laypersons if they are of that ilk. But surely, we must respect the science otherwise you put into question all science.

. . . for me as a layperson it seems logical to support the evidence the scientists have produced. I think all the people of this earth and our planet deserve the benefit of any doubt.

Alternatively, when science discovers a cure for cancer do I just say crap?

Climate change is sure to be a major and hotly debated election issue in 2013 but I doubt we’ll see the arguments following the same logic. Well, not from Tony Abbott that is. Although I doubt he’ll resort to his famous and ill-conceived climate change is crap mantra, I can hazard a guess that just about every thing he says will also be ill-conceived. Take this piece of prophecy:

Mr Abbott pledged at the 2010 election to cut the Commonwealth payroll by 12,000 jobs but his economic policy outlined today could see that number increased.

Major targets will be the Health Department, Education and Defence Materiel Organisation while the Department of Climate Change would be abolished completely (my bold).

Is he aware of the programs and initiatives the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency administer? Does he know what they do? Is he interested in promoting energy efficiency even if he doesn’t believe in climate change? I’d say the answer to those is no, no and no. The department has the words ‘climate’ and ‘change’ in its title. It therefore needs to go.

We learn yesterday that Mr Abbott is to embark on a mini election campaign as he gears up for this years battle. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say about climate change in the mini campaign or the campaign proper. He could come up with anything. And it will follow no logic. So far he hasn’t come up with anything to indicate he has an idea of what he is talking about. He doesn’t believe in climate change yet prattles on as if he’s a leading expert in the field.

Take these pearls of wisdom, which add nothing to his credibility but serve to demonstrate that he simply babbles along:

So this is a government which is proposing to put at risk our manufacturing industry, to penalise struggling families, to make a tough situation worse for millions of households right around Australia. And for what? To make not a scrap of difference to the environment any time in the next 1000 years.

Well, that’s not right. According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who just happen to know a bit more on the subject than him, confirm that:

Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.

But nice try. Should have kept his mouth shut, as with this one:

There is no doubt that we should do our best to rest lightly on the planet and there is no doubt that we should do our best to emit as few waste products as possible, but, having said that, whether carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven.

Well, that’s not right either.

Over the past 10,000 years, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has remained at relatively stable levels. However, human CO2 emissions over the past few centuries have upset this balance. The increase in CO2 has some direct effects on the environment. For example, as the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, it leads to acidification that affects many marine ecosystems. However, the chief impact from rising CO2 is warmer temperatures.

Dear readers, I suggest you take a deep breath before reading his next gem.

Climate change is a relatively new political issue, but it’s been happening since the earth’s beginning. The extinction of the dinosaurs is thought to have been associated with climate change.

What school did that man go to? It is universally agreed that the climate changed because a great big asteroid bumped into the planet 65 million years ago. Perhaps he knows something we don’t. It would be nice if he could share his knowledge with us. The scientific community would welcome the findings of his clandestine research.

And if you were ever in any doubt that his interests side with big business, then this should remove it:

These so-called nasty big polluters are the people that keep the lights on. I mean, let’s not forget how essential these people are to the business of daily life.

Does he not know of green, renewable energy-based power, for example:

. . . geothermal energy is available at all times, concentrated solar thermal energy has storage capability, and wind energy can be stored in compressed air.

He continues:

I am not setting myself up as the great expert here, but the Hadley Institute in Britain, which is apparently one of the most reputable of these measuring centres, according to press reports, has found that after heating up very significantly in the previous 25 years, there seems to have been a slight cooling, but at a high plateau I’ll accept that.

He’s true in one aspect: he is no expert. Here is what the experts say:

The 2009 State of the Climate report released today draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.

But still he defies the experts:

The fact that we have had if anything cooling global temperatures over the last decade, not withstanding continued dramatic increases of carbon dioxide emissions, suggests the role of CO2 is not nearly as clear as the climate catastrophists suggest.

No, climate scientists are not catastrophists. Mr Abbott is, however. Global warming won’t ruin the country but measures to address it will, apparently.

Now for some contradictions:

I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change. […] I mean, I just think that the science is highly contentious, to say the least.

OK then, let’s not do anything about it. Why then, suggest we do and at a time that suits Tony Abbott?

Even if global warming is as bad as the doomsayers claim, it’s better to respond correctly than to respond tomorrow. Man-made CO2 emission have been happening for centuries and I daresay the planet could cope if we respond intelligently in 2012 rather than foolishly in 2010.

One more:

The climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth the climate was considerably warmer than it is now. […] Climate change happens all the time and it is not man that drives those climate changes back in history. It is an open question how much the climate changes today and what role man plays.

It’s the old sceptic’s answer that climate is always changing. For a man who contains such a mass of scientific knowledge he should know that:

A common skeptic argument is that climate has changed naturally in the past, long before SUVs and coal-fired power plants, so therefore humans cannot be causing global warming now. Interestingly, the peer-reviewed research into past climate change comes to the opposite conclusion. To understand this, first you have to ask why climate has changed in the past. It doesn’t happen by magic. Climate changes when it’s forced to change. When our planet suffers an energy imbalance and gains or loses heat, global temperature changes.

There are a number of different forces which can influence the Earth’s climate. When the sun gets brighter, the planet receives more energy and warms. When volcanoes erupt, they emit particles into the atmosphere which reflect sunlight, and the planet cools. When there are more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the planet warms. These effects are referred to as external forcings because by changing the planet’s energy balance, they force climate to change.

It is obviously true that past climate change was caused by natural forcings. However, to argue that this means we can’t cause climate change is like arguing that humans can’t start bushfires because in the past they’ve happened naturally. Greenhouse gas increases have caused climate change many times in Earth’s history, and we are now adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at a increasingly rapid rate.

He hardly inspires a vote for action.

And what would he possibly replace the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency with? The Department of Extinct Dinosaurs comes to mind.

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