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Category Archives: Environment

Our best future

By Stephen Fitzgerald 

April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in the world’s first manned space flight. “I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”

Scientists calculated a ‘point of no return’ for dealing with climate change – and time is running out

The goal of the Paris Agreement was to ensure global temperatures didn’t rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If temperatures hit that point, we’ll be more likely to see the worst projected effects of climate change, including rising seas, severe storms, extreme heat, drought, and fires. In fact, we are experiencing the beginnings of those extremes right now.

The world needs to transition to renewable energy fast if we don’t want temperatures to rise that much, according to a new study. In that study, the authors calculated a “point of no return” for acting on climate – and it’s soon. There’s nothing mysterious about what it will take to limit climate change: The world needs to transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. But the timing of that transition is extremely important.

According to a new study published in the journal Earth System Dynamics, we could soon cross a point of no return. After that, it will be almost impossible to keep Earth’s temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius. The new study calculates that if the world’s governments don’t initiate a transition to clean energy sources by 2035 – meaning that the share of renewables starts to grow by at least 2% each year – we’ll almost certainly pass that point of no return.

The world could hit a tipping point that causes warming to spiral out of control — a scenario scientists call ‘Hothouse Earth’

We need to take action to restore Earth’s systems back to their natural states as much as possible. That means doing more than cutting emissions. It requires planting and improving forests, managing biodiversity, and potentially creating technologies that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or, amplify Earth’s natural carbon propagation processes to capture and store atmospheric CO2.

Avoiding a Hothouse Earth scenario requires a redirection of human actions from “Exploitation” to “Stewardship” of the Earth system.

We are at a crossroad

As pointed out in the article “Creating Conflict”, do we continue down the path of exploitation of the planet and destroy ourselves or do we make stewardship of the Earth system our priority?

In the new 21st century democratic dictatorships, that are emerging around the world today, it’s difficult to push for action to contain global warming. Right-wing governments, like dictators, feign denial because there is no immediate benefit to them or those they represent. Ask a billion Chinese and the response is the same: “In China the government controls billionaires but, in the West, billionaires control the government.”

People need to wrestle control of the planet from those who would wilfully destroy Earth for profit and short-term gain. In a manipulated democracy it’s difficult, but not impossible, if good people work together. Governments who push for global conflict and arms build-up, to fight over oil and natural gas, are easy to spot. They are the ones feigning climate change denial.

Global conflict equates to hundreds of billions of dollars profit to arms manufactures and arms dealers. With $200 billion earmarked for arms build-up, the LNP Morrison government is pushing for Australia to become a war economy and one of the world’s top ten arms dealers. To be a successful war economy, just like America, you need global conflict and perpetual war. You also need something to fight over?

As pointed out, that something is oil and natural gas. The driving force behind the conflicts in the Middle East. By embracing alternate energy captured from the sun and wind, we no longer need oil and gas. We take away the need for war in that arena. Those in climate change denial are all about massive profit to arms manufacturers and arms dealers. To name a few, Morrison, Trump and Macron don’t care about you or society, they don’t care about starving children or refugees in war zones. They only care about themselves.

Besides inflicting conflict and perpetual war on the world, these megalomaniacs have lost sight on an even greater threat to humanity. If we burn all the oil, coal and gas they are fighting over, that will lead to catastrophic climate change and possibly the end of civilisation as we know it. These pathetic excuses for human beings need to be ejected into outer space so they can ponder our world from afar.

Our best future

Our best future is a belief founded on the very best of human nature. It is a goal for us to strive towards. For the betterment of mankind and our civilisation. For the betterment of our planet and life itself. We must change from a world ravaged by greed and exploitation of people and the planet. We need to become stewards and caretakers to protect our home planet and the future for our grand-children and beyond.

For the first time in recorded history we have something solid we can use to stop the wars and fight against exploitation by the power brokers and cohort governments. Action on climate change and a move towards renewable energy, gives us the voting numbers to change governments, it gives us people power and, is the vehicle to drive us towards a better future.

Agreed Rules, COP24 and Climate Change Protest

The world, if it goes off in a burn, will do so courtesy of the rules – or their elastic interpretation. It was a fine show of contradiction at Katowice, and the Polish hospitality did not deter the 14,000 delegates drawn from 195 countries from bringing forth a beast of regulation to delight climate change bureaucrats for years. Everyone clapped themselves in way emetic to any bystander suspicious about what had actually been achieved. The question to ask, of course, is whether this fluffy, self-congratulatory exercise makes it past the canapés and becomes a genuine policy document.

Little progress was actually made on the issue of commitments to cut emissions, even if there was, in principle, an agreement on a set of rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement. As things stand, the planet is set to reach 3°C, while the Paris Agreement stresses the need to keep matters manageable to an increase of 1.5°C, which would lead to more modest environmental destruction. Considerable troubling silences persist on the issue of technicalities. What, for instance, constitutes a suitable, measurable reduction in emissions or who monitors a country’s progress.

There were certain concessions. Poorer states received more solid reassurances of assistance from wealthier states to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions and attendant environmental challenges. China was pressed into accepting certain uniform guidelines to measure those emissions. States who cannot follow the “rules” to reduce emissions must explain why and show a pathway to redress that failure, more a case of nudging than punishment.

Coal advocates would not, however, have left COP24 dispirited. Poland’s own president, Andrzej Duda, gave a rumbustious display of refusal: his country, with 80 percent of its energy derived from coal, could not be asked to abandon 200 years’ worth of reserves before the idealistic abstinence of any green lobby. Poland, not the planet, came first.

Michal Kurtyka, COP24’s chair and secretary of state in the Ministry of Environment, saw little by way of contradiction in a performance run by the Polish Coal Miners Band during the talks, nor coal displays in the foyer greeting guests. It would have been silly, surmised Kurtyka, to dismiss the coal industry. “There are also energy companies of course engaging in a path of sustainable development.”

But a certain smell lingered at COP24, the sense that the conference had been sponsored by the very same entities whose behaviour was to be controlled and, in the future, abolished altogether. Kurtyka did little to dispel the aroma. “I don’t sense that there is a problem with anybody’s participation, provided that we have the same goal.”

The climate change talks were also being held, as it were, in the den of fossil fuel symbolism. Katowice was made by the legacy of coal rich reserves discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. Such delightful irony, as well, that the city could play host both to such a conference and the largest coal company in the European Union.

This did not deter Joanna Flisowska, a Katowice native and policy coordinator on coal for Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe. “We can be such a bright example for the transition away from coal if only we could put effort into using these opportunities.”

On other fronts, the climate change lobby has taken something of a battering. France’s Emmanuel Macron granted some concession to massive protests against fuel-tax rises supposedly designed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. Living standards have squared off against environmental policies.

The result of the foot dragging has been to illustrate a growing divide between citizen and government official. “Hope,” claimed a despondent May Boeve, executive director of the climate change campaign group 350.org, “now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in school to support a fossil-free [sic] future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development.”

Australia is particularly illustrative of this point, something emphasised by Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter. “The divide between the Government and the young people of Australia is probably the greatest it’s been since those huge protests of the Vietnam War era, and I think it’s for a similar reason.”

Students of varying ages certainly add to Ritter’s suggestions, with thousands of Australian school children taking to the streets in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour and Bendigo, to name but a spread of Australian cities, insisting that Prime Minister Scott Morrison heed their calls. “The politicians aren’t listening to us when we try to ask nicely for what we want and for what we need,” suggested an irate Castlemaine student Harriet O’Shea Carre. “So now we have to go to extreme lengths and miss out on school.”

Greta Thunberg pictured during her climate strike. Photo: Catherine Edwards/The Local

It was, however, a 15-year-old Swede by the name of Greta Thunberg, whose single person vigil outside Sweden’s parliament building featured the sign “school strike for climate change.” Three weeks were spent sitting in front of the Parliament during school hours, though she did return to classes for four days, using Friday as her weekly day of protest.

At Katowice, she made her own mark, a scolding aunt in the body of a disturbed teenager. “You are not mature enough to tell it like is,” she told delegates in her capacity as a representative of Climate Justice Now. “Even that burden you leave us children.”

Thunberg is right about one fundamental point. “You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again.” But to ignore the future in favour of the present, to cobble together an ineffectual regime that privileges current living standards in the hope that devastation can be postponed, is an inherent condition of the species. Fiddling as the planet burns will continue.

A Climate of Opinion

By John Haly 

The battle for climate change mitigation is euphemistically referred to as a “debate” amidst ideologically restrained political advocates that still think there are legitimate oppositional interpretations about it, to respect.

When opinions replace facts in a “post-truth” world, the result may be that confusion and ideology reign inappropriately in society. The increasing occurrence amidst western nations of the populist right, fascism and the rejection of science have manifest to generate a new dark age. Climate change denialists champions include Donald Trump (USA), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Recep Erdoğan (Turkey), – and further down the list – Scott Morrison (Australia).

The sea of opinions

Like fish swimming in the water, human social exchange swims in a sea of opinions. Facebook, Twitter and online commentary in the news media are awash with a flood of emotionally charged views fought with passionate debates, justifying links, populist rhetoric and ad hominems. The truth may emerge but catching glimmers of it, is as elusive as panning for gold.

The other day after some back and forwards over the subject of immigration my temporary antagonist finally resorted to “I think we have to agree to disagree on this one.” At which point I replied, “We do indeed” and more or less left the conversation with him. (Aside from an amusing sideline with a close friend of my antagonist who made some wry observations of him.) It fell into a case of a civil agreement, to disagree. Isn’t it all just a matter of opinion?

The Olive Curse

Well no. For example, my wife loves olives, and I hate them. It’s my opinion that olives are a curse rendered on humanity by unkind gods sent to torture one’s palate.  My belief about olives is a matter of opinion. The only consequence is when I get a salad with olives, I pass them to my wife’s plate.  She thinks they are a blessing that I am prepared to fork over, whenever I encounter them. Apart from our culinary differences, there are many other times opinions matter and have more serious consequences.

Schools Strike

I spent the afternoon of Friday the 30th of November with my son at the #StrikeForClimate protest in the city. My son – after canvassing his schoolmates who were unaware of the rally – was worried that hardly anyone would turn up. When we turned the corner from George St into Martin place, I pointed up at the massive crowds of thousands of kids and said, “Have a look, you think no one is turning up now?”. He muttered something incomprehensible, but I noted the smile emerging on his face.

The sheer crowds of children at the climate protest that my son was delighted to discover.
Sequence of Events

There are opinions that climate change is a natural cycle of events for which humans bear no responsibility. Other opinions blame humankind’s waste and dirty extractive industries. Unfortunately, the opinions have vastly significant consequences, not the least of which may be the end of civilisation as we know it. Dramatic, yes, but the sequences of the events have already begun.

As temperatures rocket and “hottest on record” becomes a catchphrase,

Another opinion such as Scott Morrison’s idea that climate change is “nonsense”  fly in the face of concerns by other nations.  If Morrison’s scepticism were true, would mean there is nothing we can do about stopping climate change. If Morrison’s opinions are false, then there is everything that we can do to stop it.

So these sorts of opinions matter enormously. In these cases, you don’t have a right to your personal opinion divorced from truth, if the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. Especially if your erroneous view affects what actions we take. As indeed it does in the case of the conservative government who are beholden to wealthy extractive industry leaders who financially support their opinions to profit in the short-term. When my late (small-l liberal) father argued against anthropomorphic climate change with me, I asked him, “On what planet is it a good thing to pollute your environment?” While he conceded the point, there is always the sense of condescension that the older folk have to the previous generation. None so apparent as the criticism of young people skipping school.  They were castigated by politicians before their protest over the lack of climate change mitigation had even begun.

Follow the History and Money

Despite this, our children took to the streets around the nation in protest of the destruction of their future. They have no ties to corporate ideology nor are they being paid off by extractive industry donations.

It is a truth that the extractive industries knew about the problems with CO2 and overheating the planet for decades. The extractive industries were predicting the effects of industrial pollutions effects on heating our climate in the 1980s. Despite years of research and technology advances and scrutiny over 40 years, our scientific research has done nothing else but confirm what Shell and Exxon knew and then actively falsely denied.

So it is way past time we had our kids still shouting about it in the streets. There is nothing temporary or theoretical about the findings: these have been confirmed! We should have legislated against polluting industries decades ago. Our failure to commit to climate change mitigation should be a criminal offence!

Exxon’s own scientific research from 40 years ago has only confirmed what we still know today.
Remember Tobacco?

This resistance is hardly the first or last battle the scientific community will have with uneducated or compromised opinions. Who recalls a very similar “debate” over whether or not, smoking causes cancer? US tobacco companies were well aware of tobacco’s effects on health, in the same manner, Exxon was about climate change but denied it publically for years. These companies fought every attempt to speak the truth. It is only in the last few years that these companies have been dragged kicking and screaming into public self-confession. As the truth has diminished their market,  Tobacco companies are moving into new smoking markets as Altria is in talks to buy the Cronos group.  Therein lies new issues for another discussion.

Vaccinations have saved lives and eradicated entire diseases from the spectrum of deadly and disabling ailments on this planet.  Yet, the anti-science brigade of anti-vaxxers that have a long history of obstinate rejection is expressing opinions which threaten the safety of the greater community and again, our children.

Your Right to an Opinion

If your opinion doesn’t align with the reality, then you need to get the hell out of the way.  I would argue that you don’t have a right to hold that opinion and prevent necessary risk mitigation that is going to save lives. Unfortunately, this is what our errant government is doing, and which our kids stood up to be counted, in opposition on Friday. When it is the children (not the adults) in the US, who are the ones standing up to archaic gun laws because they are averse to being killed, what does this say of the older generation? Similarly, it is children in Australia, that dare to stand up and protest because they too want a future beyond the lifetime of greedy, corrupt old men who want to die rich. Who are the Adults now?

So no, there are times when you don’t have a right to your opinion and the current race to save humanity from climate change is one of those times. It is – on the other hand – way past time, to stand up and be counted.

And my son was afraid noone might turn up at the protest.
This article was originally published on John’s blog Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches, and has been reproduced with permission.

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Denials Down Under: Climate Change and Health

Richard Horton’s note in an October 2015 issue of The Lancet was cautiously optimistic. It described the launch of Doctors for Climate Change Action, led by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference COP21. The initiative had arisen from a statement endorsed by a range of medical and international health organisations (some 69 in all), specifically emphasising that ancient obligation for a doctor to protect the health of patients and their communities. But, as if to add a more cautionary tale of improvement, the 2015 Lancet Commission also concluded that the response to climate change would, in all likelihood, be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.

A more sombre note tends to prevail in such assessments. The RACP has itself made the observation that, “Unchecked, climate change threatens to worsen food and water shortages, change the risk of climate-sensitive diseases, and increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. This is likely to have serious consequences for public health and wellbeing.”

In recent years, the link to a rise in temperatures has been associated with specific medical events, such as the transmission of infectious diseases. The Lancet notes one example specific to mosquitoes and their increasingly energised role: “Vectorial capacity of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus has increased since 1990, with tangible effects – notably the doubling of cases of dengue fever every decade since 1990.”

Mona Sarfarty, director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, could only be gloomy at this month’s International Panel on Climate Change report, releasing a statement rich with claims. “As a physician, I know that climate change is already harming the health of Americans. Doctors and medical professionals see it daily in our offices, including the effects of extreme weather events like Hurricane Florence to droughts, smoke from large wildfires, spreading Lyme disease, and worsened asthma.”

What, then, to be done? The RACP’s November 2016 position statement outlines a set of canonical objectives still deemed profane by climate change sceptics, notably those coal deep: a decrease in fossil fuel combustion in the generating of energy and transport; a reduction of fossil fuel extraction; decreasing emissions from food production and agriculture; and the improvement of emergency efficiency in homes and buildings. Not exactly scurrilous stuff, but highly offensive to fossil fuel fiends.

The Morrison Government, hived off from such concerns, is more focused on immediate, existential goals. Its own electoral survival, shakily built on the reduction of energy costs to pacify a disgruntled electorate, has featured a degree of bullying on the part of the prime minister towards energy companies. Energy retailers, Morrison warns, must drastically reduce prices from January 1 or face the intrusive burdens of regulation. The considerations of the planet, and the health of its inhabitants, have been put aside, a point made clear in the Australian government’s response to the IPCC findings.

The note of the report is one of manageable mitigation, shot through with a measured fatalism: “Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. While admitting that, “Some impacts may be long-lasting and irreversible, such as the loss of some ecosystems (high confidence)” stabilising temperatures at 1.5ºC would at least draw a ring around the catastrophe. “The avoided climate change impacts on sustainable development, eradication of poverty and reducing inequalities would be greater if global warming were limited to 1.5ºC rather than 2ºC, if mitigation and adaptation synergies were maximised while trade-offs are minimised (high confidence).”

For the Morrison government, these words, admittedly technical and dry, are the stuff another galaxy, pressed to the outer reaches of the cosmos. The IPCC report did not, according to the prime minister, “provide recommendations to Australia”, leaving his government to pursue policies to “ensure electricity prices are lower”.

Fossil fuel lobbyists and advocates were comforted by this retreat from environmental reality. “There is a role,” insisted former Coalition energy minister and Queensland Resources Council chief Ian Macfarlane, “for high-quality Australian coal and it’s compatible with meeting Paris emissions reduction targets.” An interesting omission on emissions here is that the richer the quality of coal, the more concentrated the carbon. Poorer quality brown coal, curiously enough, is less of a culprit. But Macfarlane wants it both ways, if not all ways. “Our economy depends on the coal industry, and we can have both a strong coal industry and reduce carbon emissions.”

Such dismissive, a deluding behaviour, has been seen to be nothing short of “contemptuous” by a group of Australian health experts, whose Thursday letter in The Lancet suggests a disregard for “any duty of care regarding the future wellbeing of Australians and our immediate neighbours”.

The signatories, including Nobel Laureates Peter Doherty and Tilman Ruff, suggested that, like “other established historical harms to human health [such as tobacco], narrow vested interests must be countered to bring about fundamental change in the consumption of coal and other fossil fuels.” They urge the adoption of a “call to action”, including the phasing out of existing coal-fired power stations, a “commitment to no new or expanded coal mines and no new coal-fired power stations” and the removal of “all subsidies to fossil fuel industries”.

A damp lettuce response came from the near invisible federal environment minister, Melissa Price, who insists that the Morrison government remains aware of the IPCC findings. This same minister, when asked about what she is doing in her portfolio, persists in praising the blessings of the good divinity that is coal, a spectacle as curious as a wolf at a sheep convention. “We have consistently stated that the IPCC is a trusted source of scientific advice that we will continue to take into account on climate policy.” To account, it would seem, is to ignore; to acknowledge is to dismiss.

Image from ecowatch.com

Climate recalcitrance

By John Haly 

“Recalcitrant” is what Prime minister Keating once described Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir over economic considerations with APEC. In this century, “recalcitrance” has become a term more readily applied to the current persistently pro-coal conservative Government over issues of ecology.

On the 8th of October 2018, as I was leaving Korea, I noted the first Green Climate Fund’s Global NDA Conference at the Hyatt Conference Halls had commenced next door to where I had been staying.

Having addressed climate and economic policy failures by the Australian Government recently, I became interested in how these representatives of the global community were discussing climate investment opportunities to facilitate the reduction efforts against greenhouse gas emissions.

Later the next day, I learned that during the opening sessions it was reported that Thelma Krug, the Vice Chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saidThe IPCC report is a bridge between the science and policymakers – limiting the temperature increase to 1.5℃ is not impossible.

At the same conference, Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group noted, “Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.

Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group

There was an evident emergence of urgency arising within this conference that repeatedly referenced the IPCC Special Report of Global Warming. It is only with immediate and focused effort can we prevent global temperatures rising above 1.5°C. (The report is available at http://ipcc.ch/report/sr15/ which includes its summary for policymakers.)

The question on everyone’s mind is, of course, are we up to that challenge and can we do it in time? It is well observed in literature and public commentary that the greatest obstacle to adoption of climate change mitigation is not the science, but the political policymakers and their conservative media support. Notable is their reluctance to take scientific advice over significant business lobbying and financial donations. Hence the desire to either shift the climate change discussions away from the political arena or build a “bridge” the economic policymakers of the world have to cross. The later is what the IPCC report attempts to address.

Back in Australia, the IPCC report bridge to our policymakers seems to have suffered the same fate as that of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen in 1945 at the end of World War 2. It similarly, has been captured by allied forces (western political democracies such as Australia and America), and they are hell-bent on no one crossing it. Hopefully destroying that metaphysical bridge will be as difficult as was the physical one. Although that analogy is troublesome because when they eventually destroyed the Ludendorff Bridge, it was never rebuilt.

Regarding climate change mitigation policies, legislation, measures and institutions the CLIM index (for measuring these factors comparatively for 95 countries) places Australian 55th in the world somewhere after Mongolia and Egypt but doing marginally better than Belarus and Uzbekistan both of whom have economies that are heavily based on fossil fuels. Just as a point of comparative interest, the United States is 45th in the world.

Meanwhile back in South Korea (18th on the CLIM index), the participants at the Global NDA Conference know that the South Pacific and Asian regions have the most to lose if climate change is not mitigated.  Across the continent from the Korean NDA conference, the South China Morning Post had previously reported. “Australia’s new prime minister will not revive plans to embed carbon emissions targets in law, a thorny issue that triggered the ousting of his predecessor in a party coup.” It is not merely a matter of “revival” of policy plans but hostility to even considering implementing any. Pressure by the Institute of Public Affairs (the policy lobbying arm of the Liberal conservatives) to exit the Paris Climate agreement is exemplified by their policy propaganda piece, “Why Australia must exit the Paris Climate Agreement”.

In the early history of that “party coup”, it was evident the conservatives held out hope that Dutton’s potential rise to power meant an end to the Paris Climate accords. While the emerging choice of Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has ruled out exiting the Paris Climate accord, he has decided to deny any further funding to the global climate fund. Claiming in an interview; “I’m not going to spend money on global climate conferences and all that nonsense.” So I can assume it is safe to imagine that the Australia government was not contributing to the NDA conference in Korea, despite Australians having contributed to the IPCC report.

Australia’s recalcitrance in following the leadership of European and British nations in preference for American policy adherence is disheartening and irresponsible. The failure of leadership on climate change by Australian Politics is well recognised even abroad in other countries. Ironically, the delays on mitigating climate change risks instituted by one Australian Prime Minister had previously been considered a luxury we could not afford.

Strong opinions held by Malcolm Turnbull

While the political ideology denies the science in preference for economic overtures and lobbying of financially significant fossil fuel interests, the future of the planet and our collective ability to survive climate change is at stake.

Back on October 9th the Deputy prime minister and leader of the National Party, Michael McCormack stated:

I’m very much supportive of the coal industry. I understand the IPCC report, and I’ll certainly consider what it has to say, but the fact is coal mining does play an important part of our energy mix in Australia and will do so going forward. [The government is not about to change policy] just because somebody might suggest that some sort of report is the way we need to follow and everything that we should do.”

Since the report has emerged, the government has not backed down from this position and confirmed their rejection of the IPCC report to back away from coal power over the next 30 years.

For a country replete in land and sunlight for setting up solar power generation, the excuses against transitioning our energy supply are feeble. Options include intermittent power supplies provided by solar panels, to the 24-hour power supply of solar reflectors heating molten saltsWind and geothermal, although intermittent, backed by the hugely successful battery storage exemplified by the much faster supply response by the South Australian Tesla batteries set up by Elon Musk, is also potentially plentiful.  Scotland expects to harvest all its electricity via renewable means by 2020 and California expects to be complete by 2045. While this nation and state had both different starting points, what has made the difference is not technology, but a political imperative to pursue the goal to not continue to heat the planet.

We have untapped employable resources in Australia, with already 2.383 million people under and unemployed and not enough job vacancies to absorb even 8% of that number. We have the educational resources with 42 universities and 59 TAFE institutions dispersed across metropolitan and regional areas of Australia. This is, despite a concerted effort by conservatives, to restrict access to education. Spending money on innovation, employment and educational resources to boost climate change mitigation infrastructure is a clear growth strategy for our economy, according to the Treasury. Other Nations have demonstrated evidence that climate mitigation has been economically prosperous. What we don’t have, is the political will to act to survive anthropomorphic climate change.

Fear mongering about climate change mitigation by the Liberals, the IPA and mining/coal lobbyists is not based on evidence or the examples of nation-states on this planet. Climate change disharmony (evidenced by increasing global heatwaves, and abnormal climate events) on the other hand, are increasingly apparent. Scientists and experts at these conferences have for decades repeatedly warned us, time is running out, and we need to act soon and fervently. If big business lobbying and political ideology are all that stands in the way of averting a climatic breakdown, then we as Australians need to vote out of office anyone who even remotely risks the future of our planet, in preference for greed and power.

This article was originally published on:

Australia Awaken - ignite your torches

Safety Cannot Be Guaranteed

By Keith Antonysen 

Already when the Paris COP21 was being negotiated some scientists were stating that reaching a 1.5C increase in temperature past pre-Industrial times was not viable, Professor Kevin Anderson begins talking 31/2 minutes into the film.

Prior to becoming a climate scientist, he worked as an engineer on oil rigs. He has also done some studies in economics which he describes as being akin to astrology. Professor Anderson argues that energy use in areas other than from power stations has largely been ignored. Without mitigating against the release of greenhouse gases, temperatures of 2C or 3C increase can be expected.

Rather than being focused on temperature, Professor Anderson states we need to be concerned about the emissions budget, CO2 can take hundreds of years to be dissipated. The longer that it takes to mitigate against emissions the greater the effort will be needed to mitigate against greenhouse gases already emitted.

Professor Anderson states very clearly that while there is much discussion in relation to mitigation, there is no mechanism operating at present.

The IPCC has been meeting in South Korea to produce a Report on the current state of the global climate to be published shortlyor.

The first sentence in this article in The Washington Post states

“A much-awaited report from the U.N.’s top climate science panel will show an enormous gap between where we are and where we need to be to prevent dangerous levels of warming.”

The article agrees with the summation provided by Professor Anderson that technologies are not available to mitigate emissions being voided…

 “An early draft (leaked and published by the website Climate Home News) suggests that future scenarios of a 1.5 C warming limit would require the massive deployment of technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the air and bury it below the ground. Such technologies do not exist at anything close to the scale that would be required.”

As stated very recently by the Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres; we have till 2020 to make an extremely concerted effort to stop a runaway climate.

Scott Morrison needs to get his act together in relation to climate change, and Labor needs to improve theirs. There is no room for coal mines such as in the Carmichael Basin or extensions of coal mines or fracking generally.

Revealing the Naked Emperor: Prof Kevin Anderson (November 2017)

Just a (new normal) drought

Recently there has been a lot of commentary about the Big Dry. From news.com.au to the 7:30 report  to your nearest Facebook page and a dozen appeals for corporations and individuals to contribute to “drought relief” efforts, the winter of 2018 is full of stories of struggling farmers and dying animals. Farmers in NSW and Queensland are calling it “the worst drought in living memory“.

So how bad is it really? Much of what we hear is anecdotal, and that’s bad enough. We hear that some regions have had no rain for more than a year. In other areas, farmers describe having had “almost no rain since 2010“. It’s bad enough that Scott Morrison calls it the highest priority for his new government, and State governments are falling over themselves to throw money at the problem (the NSW government has increased its drought relief package by another half a billion dollars).

The current drought has been going for up to a decade now; Tony Abbott’s government called it a “once-in-a-century” drought when they announced a federal support package in 2014. And there’s no end in sight.

There’s no question about it: Australian farmers, particularly in the food bowl to the continent’s south and east, are doing it tough. We are in the middle of a drought possibly more severe and more protracted than the Millenium Drought.

But calling it a drought obscures our understanding of the true situation. Throwing more and more money – Federal and State relief packages, public “Save a Farmer” appeals, statewide Bunnings BBQs – however well-intentioned, might just be making things worse.

This drought was already well-established when we were talking about it back in 2014. When Tony Abbott was doing the tour of drought-affected regions and declaiming ““If you look at the records of Australian agriculture going back 150 years, there have always been good times and bad times. There have always been tough times and lush times and farmers ought to be able to deal with the sorts of things that are expected every few years,” the drought had been ongoing for four years. Four years later and there is no indication of the weather changing soon.

And when it does change? When the rains come, will farmers be able to pick up their shovels and go back to business as usual? Will we wipe our brows with relief and thank providence that the bad times are over?

Perhaps. But not for long.

The current dry in Queensland and NSW is not a short-term anomaly. It’s not a once-in-a-century drought event. Certainly, it’s not the kind of conditions you would have expected to see a century ago, but the world now is not as it was then.

Our climate has changed. That’s a past-tense statement, and while it is also true that our climate continues to change, it would be foolish of us to think that things can ever go back to business as usual. For decades scientists warned us what would happen if our carbon-driven course was not changed. We largely missed our opportunity to avoid the consequences we are now seeing.

These consequences were predicted and should surprise nobody.

(Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-01/what-you-need-to-know-about-droughts/10051956

This chart is from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s State of the Climate report in 2016 and represents measured rainfall figures. (The full report is available at http://www.bom.gov.au/state-of-the-climate/State-of-the-Climate-2016.pdf)

Source: http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/rain/index.jsp?colour=colour&time=latest&step=0&map=drought&period=daily&area=nat

This is the Bureau of Meteorology’s drought map for the past three months (May-June-July 2018).

Looking at recent data is just one part of the equation. The real test is identifying trends, extrapolating those trends into the future, and seeing how they match up with the predictions of climate science.

Fortunately we have access to trend data.

The chart on the left shows the trend in annual mean temperature (°C/decade) from
1950–2015, showing warming over most of the continent. The chart on the right is of trends in annual-average rainfall (mm/decade) from 1950–2015,
showing an increase in rainfall in much of the north and a decrease in
many southern areas.

These charts are from the report Australia’s Changing Climate (available at https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/media/ccia/2.1.6/cms_page_media/176/AUSTRALIAS_CHANGING_CLIMATE_1.pdf).

There is strong congruence between what we are seeing in current climate trends and what has been consistently predicted. And what has been predicted, is that droughts will be more common and more severe in the years ahead.

This drought will break. At some point in the future, whether it be one year from now or five or ten, the rains will come and Australia will once again bloom to life. In some places, we will still have farmers, doing it tough, waiting for the Dry to end. For a while, there will be celebrations.

But this drought will have permanent, irreversible consequences. When trees that are 100 years old die, they don’t grow back. The land is permanently changed. It is less able to absorb and hold the water when the rains do come, leading to erosion and land degradation and a further reduction in the water table.

And how long will it be until the next drought arrives? Everything we know and everything we learn tells us that droughts will become more frequent and more severe. This current drought is not the worst we will have.

Australia is a land where the cycles of drought and flood are etched into the landscape. But trees that are 100 years old survived the last drought, and the one before that. In some respects, this drought is no different to the ones that came before. Yet the straw that broke the camel’s back is for all intents and purposes identical to all the others.

This is just a drought. But it is also an inevitable outcome of the new normal climate that we have created, that we are still creating. This is the natural outcome of a changed climate and the sooner we get used to the idea, the better. Only then can we start to think about longer-term solutions – which probably do not include farmers and graziers staying on the land as they have done in past decades.

NEG – guarantees nothing

By Stephen Fitz

All the debate, all the policy, all the smoke screens and diversion, all the pain and all the suffering inflicted on energy consumers, and for what? What it boils down to is reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuel, the key components driving elevated global temperature and subsequent climate change. And, this has been going on for how long?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in New York on 9 May 1992. Back then atmospheric CO2 was 356ppm. In 2018 we have recorded a staggering 412.6ppm and rising exponentially. To get a grip on “parts per million” – A headache pill goes to every cell in your body to relieve pain. 500mg (1/2gm) of paracetamol = 5ppm of 100kg of body mass. You would need to take 80 headache pills for your body to reach 400ppm.

Reducing CO2 emissions by 20% or even 45%, as targeted, still adds to the problem of ever increasing atmospheric CO2, the key component driving global temperature, extremes in weather and rising sea levels. We can reduce CO2 emissions but, we still have a splitting headache when it comes to climate change and, it’s not going away.

It doesn’t matter how much politicians argue about climate change and it doesn’t matter how much they debate % reductions in CO2 emissions and, it doesn’t matter how much financial pain they inflict to reduce our electricity consumption. CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise! Reducing CO2 emissions by 50% or even 75% defers the problem but not the inevitable catastrophic climate change staring us in the face.

The negative response, taken by Government, to penalise and tax C02 emissions has met with wide ranging opposition and I refer to the failure to agree on emission reduction targets in Paris and the Australian Federal Governments deferred implementation of an Emissions Trading Scheme and subsequent abolition of that CO2 taxing scheme. The tax now is hidden from us, only to be felt in our pocket.

The solution then for Government and mechanism to gain across the board public support would be a positive response. This aims at atmospheric CO2 management including, in particular, removing CO2 from the atmosphere, reforestation, incentive-based emission reduction guidelines, support for alternative energy and a bipartisan approach to climate change policy.

Time for a rethink … Along with CO2 emission targets we also need to take the bull by the horns and manage atmospheric CO2 levels. We need to reduce atmospheric CO2 to pre-industrial levels or at least, the original “92 Convention” safe target of 400ppm. Going hysterical about what we pump into the atmosphere won’t save us – reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration is the only real solution and none of our politicians seem to get it. If they stick with the band-aid solutions we all burn – literally.

We changed it, so we need to fix it: Irrespective of the compelling arguments for and against the reasons for climate change there remains one fact that can’t be dismissed and that is the ever-increasing level of atmospheric CO2. Regardless of our opinions, the very least we can do, for future generations, is to address this issue and reduce or stabilise atmospheric CO2 to below critical levels. We have an obligation.

O.K. What we need is a concerted effort by global governments, the scientific community and big business to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. It doesn’t matter what it costs, we are talking survival of the species. Instead of adding 2ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere every year, lets strip 2ppm of CO2 from the atmosphere every year and, that guarantees the future of humanity. What governments and fossil fuel conglomerates are doing, at the moment, guarantees nothing.

A National Energy Guarantee without provision for extracting CO2 from the atmosphere is worthless. To even suggest that we can restrict global temperature increase to 1.5°C without capping atmospheric CO2 levels is moronic and yet, that’s what global governments have given us. We are rapidly running out of time and our sorry governments need to get involved in finding solutions rather than pissing in the wind:

In a nut shell, it doesn’t matter what our CO2 emissions are – they need to be extracted from the atmosphere and contained or re-cycled.

Carbon Engineering and Harvard find way to convert CO2 to gasoline

Converting CO2 to carbon fibre for use as building material

CO2 Conversion and Utilization

To save a planet think as big as a planet – do what nature does

You see, there are solutions and there are ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but our politicians do not listen. With sea levels rising and when the saltwater crocs are snapping at our arses … it will be way too late to drain the swamps.

The Lasting Condition: Drought in Australia

Humans are a funny species. They create settlements along fault lines that, on moving, can create catastrophe, killing thousands. They construct homes facing rivers that will, at some point, break their banks, carrying of their precious property. Importantly, they return in the aftermath. Existence continues.

The same follows certain settlements of parts of the planet where hostile, environmental conditions discourage rather than endorse a certain form of living. Changes in weather have been vicious catalysts for the collapse of civilisations; extreme climactic variations prevent and retard stable and sustainable agriculture.

“The flourishing of human civilisation from about 10,000 years ago, and in particular from 7,000 years ago,” notes earth and paleo-climate scientist Andrew Glikson, “critically depended on stabilisation of climate conditions”. This had its due results: planting and harvesting of seed; cultivation of crops; the growth of villages and towns.

Australia, the second driest continent on the planet, has never been exempt from such patterns of disruption, and those stubborn, pluckily foolish farmers who persist in the notion that they can make a living in parts of it risk going the same way.

Australia’s agrarian purveyors have certainly been persistent, hopeful as pilgrims in search of holy land. Disasters have not discouraged. A sense of a certain attendant fatalism can be found in the scribbles of Nancy Fotheringham Cato’s “Mallee Farmer”:

You cleared the mallee and the sand blew over

Fence and road to the slow green river;

You prayed for rain but the sky breathed dust

Of long dead farmers and soil’s red rust.

You ploughed up the paddocks with a stump jump plough

But the gates were open and the drought walked through. 

The Settlement Drought (1790-1793) threatened but did not overwhelm early European settlers. The Goyder Line Drought (1861-5) savaged but did not kill farming in parts of South Australia. The recent Millennium drought (1997-2009) was spectacularly ruinous, but Australian agriculture moaned and stuttered along.

Farming in Australia remains precarious, an occupation of permanent contingency. Droughts ravage, kill and annihilate. Crops and livestock perish with gruesome ease. But the Australian farmer, rather than being portrayed as a dinosaur awaiting extinction, is seen as resilient, durable and innovative. Yet each drought brings a certain narrative.

One aspect of that narrative is the sense of singularity. Droughts are often seen as unprecedented. This alleviates the need to consider stark realities and inefficiencies that characterise the problem of farming in naturally dry environs with inappropriate crops or livestock, to up stakes, as it were, and finally admit to the brutalities.  Such determination often flies in the face of the work conducted by climate science researchers, who tend to occupy a certain high terrain of gloom. Recent publications float the suggestion that the droughts this year may be some of the worst in 800 years.

The response from the prime minister has been an urging against the predations of nature: to fortify “resilience” in light of more unpredictable rainfall. The fear from such figures as former Nationals leader John Anderson is that matters of climate change will be co-opted in an act of politicisation. This would suggest inevitability, doom and acceptance.

Climate change watchers Andrew King, Anna Ukkola and Ben Henley do not shed much light on these matters, logically pointing out that drought, being a “complex beast” can be “measured in a variety of ways. Some aspects of drought are linked to climate change; others are not.” The entire field of drought studies reads like a sophisticated, taxonomical manual of expertise and foreboding, noting variations in their spatial effects, duration, seasonality and intensity.

Such studies are intriguing, and tend to ignore the withering human consequences that invariably follow. Figures like Edwina Robertson of Trangie, west of Dubbo supply the viewer with a pathos and desperation, her tears the only moisture in an arid setting. The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was there to capitalise. “It’s worse,” he was told, “than anything you are seeing in the media, it’s far worse.”

Drought brings with it a whole platoon of agents and variables. Cash relief payments are provided through the Farm Household Allowance (additional payments of up to $12,000 have been promised); mental health services are boosted (the Rural Financial Counsellors feature in this scheme). Australian farmers are being encouraged to come forth with their anxieties and strains.

These are salutary reminders that some parts of Australian farming can only be kept on life support for so long. As Richard Eckard, director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre at the University of Melbourne explained in 2015, the limits to adaptation are unavoidable. The odds for the more fortunate wheat farmer in a hotter, drier climate will be better than those cultivating chickpeas, walnuts and peaches. No matter, argues Eckard; Australia’s farming adaptation technologies will ensure that the country never has a food security problem. “We’re heading for quality, rather than quantity.”

Perversely, as the federal government and a host or bodies tend to the drought, and as is in the manner of the Australian environment, northern stretches of the country have been and are being drenched. More flooding and cyclones are being promised in the future. Australia, that most untamed environmental miracle of all; but Australia’s agrarian inhabitants, permanently subject to trials they are often poorly prepared for, buttressed by an obstinate faith that sustains them.

A business as usual approach to climate change

By Keith Antonysen

Previously, whenever climate scientists have talked about the ills created by climate change they have spoken about the end of the century as being a time when bigger tribulations can be expected such as sea level rise, acidification of Oceans, and higher temperatures. Unfortunately, the time scale has moved towards contemporary times.

What has happened in past epochs gives clues as to what can be expected in the future.

Towards the end of the referenced video, Michael Benton Palaeontologist, speaks about the mass extinction at the end of the Permian Epoch 252 million years ago. It had been greenhouse gases that had been created through volcanic activity that created an almost uninhabited world.

A study of rock samples taken by Dr Benjamin Berger, a Geologist, from an area in Utah that he identified as an area that might be associated with the Permian mass extinction provided some remarkable insights. The chemical analysis of the rock samples showed that he had identified correctly an area where greenhouse gases created from coal seams being ignited had almost completely wiped out all life forms. In comments made introducing his pre-published research, he suggests that humans are creating similar circumstances to those happening during the end Permian period.

Dr Burger states: “In Payne and Clapham’s 2012 review of the Permian-Triassic boundary they suggested “the end-Permian extinction may serve as an important ancient analog for the twenty-first century …” The results of this study amplify that statement, as evidence gathered in this study suggest that large emissions of burning coal and other hydrocarbons during the Siberian Trap volcanic event was largely responsible for Earth’s largest mass extinction 252 million years ago.”

Professor Michael Mann has stated: “Extreme weather has struck across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to Greece, and across the world, from North America to Japan. “This is the face of climate change,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University, and one the world’s most eminent climate scientists. “We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change.””

The issue with increased greenhouse gases and warm Oceans is that they do not rapidly change when mitigating strategies are employed. Greenhouse gases can take centuries to dissipate. Through a business as usual approach there is a continuing to increase in the release of greenhouse gases creating warmth in Oceans and Atmosphere. According to Frydenberg, Canavan, Joyce, Abbott, Kelly et al, these views are held by people holding an extreme left-wing ideology. But, a more rational view is that climate science is underpinned by Physics and Chemistry and other science disciplines. Climate science is independent of political ideology.

Already millions of people have been killed by fossil fuel emissions, we are now observing numerous people being killed by extreme events in Western countries caused through climate change.

The choice is continue with fossil fuels … or continue on the path to the 6th extinction.

Bibliography

Heatwaves from the Arctic to Japan: a sign of things to come?

Japan evacuates 36,000 as powerful Typhoon Jongdari takes aim after more than 300 dead and 40,000 hospitalised from floods and landslides

Scientists draw new connections between climate change and warming oceans

State of the Climate in 2017

The conversation we don’t have but desperately need

By Sean Hurley

We need to have a conversation about economics. Not the prototypical economic conversation; there’s no need to discuss regulation, interest, inflation, derivatives, or even the type of money we use. Our conversation should instead address the foundation of our modern economic system. Examine our economy from a broad perspective, without getting bogged down in the mire of levers and mechanisms which mask the fundamental simplicity of the system. It’s time we looked at the impacts of earning a living.

To start, we should have a basic understanding of how as a species we have arrived where we are from an economic perspective.

Social Development

As homo sapiens, we’ve existed on this planet for over two hundred thousand years.[1] For the vast majority of the human record, our species lived nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles with an egalitarian economy. That is to say we shared, the needs of the community were met above and beyond the needs of the individual. Hoarding and restricting access to food made no sense when being on the move to find food was a primary function of one’s culture.

We have a strong degree of certainty about this way of life, based on archaeological discoveries and findings made by anthropologists who studied the behaviours of uncontacted tribes. This way of life went fundamentally unchanged until between ten and two thousand BCE (before common era), or between twelve and four thousand years ago.[2] During this eight thousand year period, our species went through the first agricultural revolution, experiencing dramatic change in our social and economic history. We learned to farm.

With farming came job specialisation, a surplus of goods, redistribution of those goods, private property, and more defined rules or social expectations and cultural norms. The ability to remain in one place for longer periods of time allowed for rudimentary housing, the establishment of villages, then towns, and finally cities. As a necessary adaptation to managing larger groups of people living in close proximity, social expectations moved away from being implicit (this is how we behave it is how we have always behaved), to becoming more regimented. These changes gave rise to trade, facilitated by barter, tokens such as shells, precious metals, and culminating in modern money.

While this profound change in human society enabled unforeseen and fantastic advances for our species, taking us from planet bound nomads to space travel, it also allowed for poverty and inequality as egalitarianism gave way to modern capitalism.

Perspective

It’s important we take a step back to get a broad perspective look at what we’re doing as a species from the confines of our modern economic system. We work, engage in a form of employment, so we can be paid a financial sum for our time and in turn, use those funds to pay to live. This is the fundamental premise of our system, work to pay to live.

For those with relative access, this design promotes participation in the economy driving innovation and social progress. It’s difficult to argue that hasn’t happened. Indeed, since the industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries there have been vast social and technological advances, thanks in part to the incentivised participation in the economy. Yet, there are also a plethora of social and environmental pathogens, many being an outgrowth of behavioural propensities directly resulting from our competition based economic model, rising to overshadow the benefits of capitalism in human society.

The questions we need to ask ourselves and each other in 2018 are, have our advances reached a point which leaves the detrimental outcomes outweighing the positive? And, are the negative externalities of working to pay to live eclipsing the benefits of the participation incentive? Where are we headed as a society if we’re to persist with our current economic model?

As a caveat, it’s important to understand this is not about saying our species should never have learned to farm, or that capitalism was something we should have avoided at all costs. It’s necessary to recognise and acknowledge the social gains made as a result of these historical experiences. What we need to do now, and arguably should have been doing for decades, is consider the social and environmental implications of the system itself as set against the abilities it has afforded.

Challenges

At times, the causes of social and environmental instability we’re experiencing are suggested to stem from “crony capitalism” (the allowance for preferential regulation and other favourable government intervention based on personal relationships[3]) or, our use of inherently inflationary fiat money. This is a truncated view with respect to the mechanics and causality as they relate to the work to pay to live system, which underpins the market economy. The type of money we use to facilitate trade, or whether a market is regulated or free of legal interference, has no bearing on the need for cyclical material consumption. Without repeat customers, an employer cannot retain market share to produce income and pay an employee for producing or providing a product or service.

With the wages we earn through employment dictating our standard of living, the customary competition between the employee seeking higher wages and the employer attempting to cap or drive down wages results. From the employer’s perspective, this is an outgrowth of competing to retain market share, in the provision of products at the lowest cost against other similarly positioned companies. Further cost-cutting measures can result in dirty and dangerous production methods, reductions in workplace safety spending, and offshoring of manufacturing to developing nations where worker rights are near non-existent.

Competition also extends to the national level. Developing nations engage in “the race to the bottom” as they slash environmental regulations and labour laws in an effort to appear more attractive than competing nations to corporations seeking to reduce overheads by offshoring manufacturing. Given such competitive dynamics occurring within the capitalist system, corporations who maximise incentives via regulatory apparatuses are revealed as expressing fundamentally resonant behaviour within this broader context.

Competitive pressure to cut costs is also leading employers to adopt automation technologies as they are proving to increase efficiency, reduce errors and long-term costs. Unlike their human counterparts, machines don’t need breaks, holidays, or sick days. Nor do they require pay increases, join unions, strike, or suffer long-term effects from injury which can attract legal costs. In Australia alone, it’s been suggested that automation could replace forty per cent or five million jobs by 2030.[4]

Extreme disparities in wealth distribution are another outcome of the competitive market system. The nine most affluent people on our planet control more combined wealth than the total held by the poorest four billion.[5] This social inequality is linked to an increase in crime,[6] causing negative mental and physical health outcomes amongst both children and adults[7] and having a detrimental impact on the education of children from poor families.[8] Another concerning reality is the finding that the workplace and finances have been found to be the leading cause of chronic stress in the world today, which is the leading cause of chronic disease, and in turn the leading cause of death.[9] All of this an outgrowth of working to pay to live.

The negative outcomes of economic inequality are in part what led Dr Johan Galtung to express, in 1969, that inequality was a form of structural violence.[10] Dr Galtung described structural violence as social arrangements embedded in the political and/or social landscape which result in injury to people, and that is visited upon those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress. As we come to terms with the health implications of inequality, the work environment, and finances themselves, it becomes difficult not to see this system as structurally violent. This brings into question the idea that our market economy is based on voluntary trade, for what is our choice in a system which is imbalanced towards deprivation, and is culturally installed as the dominant economic paradigm?

Consumerism

Consumerism occurs in human society today without question. Like sharing in our ancient history, material consumption in modern times has become an implicit facet of our existence, “this is how we behave it is how we have always behaved”, even though it’s categorically untrue outside the temporal spans of our own existence.

Indeed, as recently as the early 20th century we see western cultures were not as fixated on materialism as a way of life. This began to change in the 1940’s, at the conclusion of World War II and with the economy having recovered from depression, jobs were abundant and Americans were ready to spend.[11] By the spring of 1955, when Victor Lebow described the importance of material consumption to the American economy, the United States was well on its way to being a nation of consumers,[12] taking the rest of the world with it.

Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats – his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.

These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever-increasing pace.[13]

It’s this rapacious appetite for stuff which has led us as a global society to strip-mine our planet for resources; tearing down forests, cutting away the tops of mountains, and digging holes in the countryside. The extraction and refining of resources has resulted in the pollution of the environment through; the extraction and refining process directly, energy production to drive machinery, shipping of materials and commodities around our planet, and finally, when the created products themselves inevitably become waste. This pollution of the ecosphere is culminating in anthropogenic climate change and ecosystem degradation, threatening the future of life on Earth for our and many other species.[14]

Retrospect

From the simple life of our hunter-gatherer ancestors through to the complexities of our modern economies, the process of refining our social approach has provided our species with prodigious intellectual and technical advances. During this period, particularly since the beginning of the industrial revolution, we have broadened our understanding of the Earth’s natural systems, our own biopsychosocial nature, and the negative impacts of our behaviour. However, with this new-found knowledge, and our unprecedented productive capacity to create abundance, we have not challenged our economic modus operandi.

Failing to do this appears to be leaving us cornered in a progress trap. For all our wondrous understandings we seem to lack the intellectual tenacity to question the antiquated basis of our modern economic system. Even in the face of overwhelming data which describe the deep and troublesome problems with our competitive, and consumption-driven social model, discussion about finding a way to manage society beyond the work to pay to live structure feels taboo.

The next logical step in our economic evolution – with the productive capacity and knowledge we have obtained during this capitalist era, is to transition to a system which better cares for our mental and physical well-being, and which nurtures the environment. For this to happen, we must discuss what an economy looks like devoid of the need to work to pay to live. That is the conversation we don’t have but desperately need.

References
    1. Barras C. Our species may be 150,000 years older than we thought. New Scientist. 2018. Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2133807-our-species-may-be-150000-years-older-than-we-thought/. Accessed June 8, 2018.
    2. Daly R, Lee R. The Cambridge Encyclopedia Of Hunters And Gatherers. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press; 1999.
    3. What is crony capitalism? definition and meaning. BusinessDictionarycom. 2018. Available at: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/crony-capitalism.html. Accessed June 8, 2018.
    4. Automation, robots and the future of work – RMIT University. Rmiteduau. 2018. Available at: https://www.rmit.edu.au/study-with-us/levels-of-study/postgraduate-study/why-rmit/automation-robots-and-the-future-of-work. Accessed June 8, 2018.
    5. Jacobs S. Just nine of the world’s richest men have more combined wealth than the poorest 4 billion people. The Independent. 2018. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/richest-billionaires-combined-wealth-jeff-bezos-bill-gates-warren-buffett-mark-zuckerberg-carlos-a8163621.html. Accessed June 8, 2018.
    6. Fajnzylber P, Lederman D, Loayza N. Inequality and Violent Crime. The Journal of Law and Economics. 2002;45(1):1-39. doi:10.1086/338347.
    7. Murali V, Oyebode F. Poverty, social inequality and mental health. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2004;10(3):216-224. doi:10.1192/apt.10.3.216.
    8. Wilkinson R, Pickett K. Spirit Level. London: Penguin Books Ltd; 2011.
    9. Walsh D. “The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares”. Stanford Graduate School of Business. 2018. Available at: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/workplace-killing-people-nobody-cares. Accessed June 9, 2018.
    10. Galtung J. Violence, Peace, and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research. 1969;6(3):167-191. doi:10.1177/002234336900600301.
    11. The Rise of American Consumerism | American Experience | PBS. Pbsorg. 2018. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/tupperware-consumer/. Accessed June 9, 2018.
    12. Economy in The 1950’s. Shmoopcom. 2018. Available at: https://www.shmoop.com/1950s/economy.html. Accessed June 9, 2018.
    13. Lebow V. Price Competition in 1955. Journal of Retailing Spring 1955. 1955.
    14. Ceballos G, Ehrlich P, Barnosky A, Garcia A, Pringle R, Palmer T. Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction. Sci Adv. 2015;1(5):e1400253-e1400253. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1400253.

Sean is a contributing editor at Social Rebirth and has been involved in social and environmental activism since 2008. He can be followed @socialrebirth.

 

At what date do you wish to see a dystopian world, or your children or grandchildren dead?

By Keith Antonysen

Lately, when there is discussion of climate change there are two conversations going on; one pushing the need for reliable energy sources, and the other being in relation to climate change. Climate change has to a great extent been subsumed by discussions in relation to energy.

But, the lack of water, breakdown of crops, and sea level rise will lead to the creation of a dystopian world creating refugees by the score. Reticulated water problems have already been experienced in California, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia etc, a recipe for community breakdown. Lack of water resources have been stated to be a background influence in the Arab Spring. Sea level rise has already been experienced in a number of locations.

It seems like a hysterical title, but it is promoted in all seriousness, people are dying through climate change, a very recent example is 33 deaths in Canada from heat stroke.

Professor James Anderson who alerted the world about the ozone layer has stated … “The chance that there will be any permanent ice left in the Arctic after 2022 is essentially zero,” Anderson said, with 75 to 80 per cent of permanent ice having melted already in the last 35 years.”

He has also stated; “Can we lose 75-80 per cent of permanent ice and recover? The answer is no.”

A number of Australian habitats are breaking down, including:

  • “kelp forests shifting to seaweed turfs following a single marine heatwave in 2011;
  • the destruction of Gondwanan refugia by wildfire ignited by lightning storms in 2016;
  • dieback of floodplain forests along the Murray River following the millennial drought in 2001–2009;
  • large-scale conversion of alpine forest to shrubland due to repeated fires from 2003–2014;
  • community-level boom and bust in the arid zone following extreme rainfall in 2011–2012, and
  • mangrove dieback across a 1,000km stretch of the Gulf of Carpentaria after a weak monsoon in 2015-2016.”

The IPCC is in the process of compiling research for a Report to be published later this year, leaked documentation indicates that the minimal standard set at Paris of a 1.5C above pre-Industrial times is virtually not attainable.

Permafrost is thawing at quite a rate causing the breakdown of infra-structure and public and private buildings. Also, with the breakdown of permafrost greenhouse gases are emitted. Anton Vaks et al studied caves in permafrost areas, in areas where permafrost was intermittent, and non-permafrost areas.

Robertscribbler a week or so ago gave warnings about weather forecasts for extremely hot weather to be experienced in the following days. Scientists have stated that a fingerprint of climate change is the increasing warmth of night time temperatures, Robertscribbler gives a later breakdown of the temperatures on the film he has attached to his article showing how night time temperature has been increasing along with other records. It has been a neutral ENSO period which does not bode well when there is a 50% chance of changing to an El Nino later in the year.

James Hansen in 1988 created 4 scenarios to display what can be expected depending on how serious climate change was taken; contrarian fraud misrepresented two of his scenarios, and then argued he was wrong. The hyperlinks provide the details.

Just lately two studies have been published in relation to Antarctica; one showing the degree of melting of the Antarctic, interestingly the other study supports the first study in a way, on the basis as volume of ice is lost causes the bedrock is lifting slightly.

People die from climate change. Also visit epidemiological studies.

A New York Times article warns that 800 million people are at risk in South Asia.

James Hansen et al have provided research in relation to sea level rise, they postulate that sea level rise will be far greater than what the IPCC has predicted.

So if you don’t mind people dying or being placed in survival conditions; then continue to push the status quo; a business as usual approach promoting coal, gas and coal powered stations. The risks created for young people increase with time; the warning provided by Professor James Anderson is certainly not the only one provided by scientists.

Please prove me wrong, though to do so it will be necessary to debunk the references provided. The article is about the exceptionally high risk of ignoring climate change, the risks are increasing rapidly. Though civil strife and war are the most likely matters; rather than, excessive warmth that pose the greatest danger as essential resources are lost.

This article was originally published in the Tasmanian Times.

Keith Antonysen has been researching climate change for several years. Apart from reading about climate science, Keith also views pseudo-science presented by contrarians. It seems that the material referenced by contrarians is continually recycled. Doctoring graphs is something that has been used on occasion. Fossil fuel companies have known for decades about the impact of their products.

The Sixth Extinction & The Third Book

It may come as something of a surprise to many to learn that we are currently in the midst of what is called the ‘Sixth Extinction’ – that is, the sixth wave of mass extinctions of plant and animal species since the demise of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

What is particularly concerning about this event is that it is unlike the past five extinction waves which were caused by natural phenomena like asteroid impacts and volcanic eruptions. The Sixth Extinction has been caused by the actions of Mankind. 99% of flora and fauna species currently identified as threatened with extinction have been linked to activities like land clearing, habitat destruction, air and water pollution, and warming induced by human activity.

Noted conservation scientist David Wilcove estimates that there are between 14,000 and 35,000 endangered species in the United States alone, which represents 7-18 % of all US flora and fauna.

What is patently clear is that thousands of species of plant and animal will disappear forever from the face of the Earth in the coming decades.

Perhaps one of the most striking elements of the present extinction crisis is the fact that the majority of our closest relatives, the primates, are severely endangered. This is the group that includes monkeys, lemurs and apes (as well as humans) and many are fast disappearing. In addition to the primates, marine mammals including several species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises are among those mammals slipping quickly toward extinction.

It is notable that the latter mammalian group – whales and dolphins – have inhabited the planet for just over 50 million years, and in that time they have successfully populated all of the major oceans of the world as apex species. Mankind, by comparison, boasts a heritage of a mere 2.5 million years, yet despite their relatively short tenure they have caused a level of destruction and imbalance which has culminated in the first planetary mass extinction event brought about by a native species.

For all of our supposed intellect and sophistication, what is it that we are missing with respect to how we interact with our natural environment?  Put another way, what are whales doing right, that we’re doing wrong? Is the simple fact of the matter that there are just too many of us for the planet to sustain? Land clearing for cattle grazing remains the largest contributor to the wholesale destruction of natural habitats. Overfishing and the high attendant level of by-catch wastage are causing the collapse of fish stocks across the world’s major fishing grounds.

Our lax attitudes toward effluent and pollution also play a major role. Steadily increasing demand for water, the damming of rivers throughout the world and the dumping and accumulation of various pollutants have made aquatic ecosystems some of the most threatened on the planet. 21% of the planet’s fish species evaluated were deemed at risk of extinction by the IUCN in 2010, including more than a third of sharks and rays.

It appears there are two factors in operation here – firstly the natural pressure on the planet caused by sheer population numbers, and secondly our collective attitudes toward our planetary ‘footprint’; the impact our activity has on the environment.

For many years I have championed the causes of animal rights and environmental protection, and I can observe in both arenas that there is always a common element of human superiority coming into play. By and large, we still hold to the view that the planet and its non-human co-habitants are limitless resources put there for our use. We naturally resist changes to lifestyle, energy, dietary and consumer patterns when confronted with the notion that those natural resources are threatened or under strain. And often the moves to make change are stymied by the actions of government and big business who have a vested interest in things remaining as they are.

Having authored reports on localized decline of small whale and dolphin species in Japanese waters, and having documented the dolphin captivity industry, my recently published work ‘Home’ is my first foray into the field of literary fiction as a vehicle for delivering a message. And just like the story itself, the writing of it came with a twist.

When I found myself in confinement in an immigration detention centre, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would personally experience all the cruelties of captivity which I had spoken out against so passionately.

I was detained in one of Australia’s cruellest gulags – Christmas Island. The name is deceptive and there was little cause for celebration or festivity in what is the equivalent of a maximum security prison, set into a lush ancient forest on a remote island in the Indian Ocean. There was no possibility of seeing my wife or my family, and I lived daily amongst people broken by misery and despair. Many had lived there for years, in a prison with no definable release date.

I wrote in order to survive mentally and emotionally. To keep my mind strong. I held to my firm belief that we should always reach out to others with compassion and respect. That we must carefully consider our relationship with our fellow co-habitants of planet Earth; both human and non-human. This is a central theme in the book ‘Home.’

‘Home’ is based on real events. Research has always been a primary consideration for my work, and ‘Home’ is no different in that respect.  One of the greatest challenges in writing and researching was the difficult conditions under which I worked. Computer and internet access was limited and I was forced to rely on the good old ‘analogue’ method of pen and paper writing a lot of the time. My wife chided me recently and suggested there was really no need to go to the lengths I did to research captivity!

I was routinely searched for contraband and weapons in the detention centre, and this added to the sense of powerlessness and humiliation one experiences in confinement. Yet I took a secret pleasure in the fact that, as far as I was concerned as a writer; my pen was the greatest weapon anyone could ever carry, and it was with me constantly. I like to think I have done some major damage with it, and perhaps Parker might consider giving me a sponsorship deal, or at the very least a new pen to replace my battle-weary old veteran!

 “Never pull a tiger by the tail. Never lock a writer in a cage”

As you can probably see, despite the paralysing misery of my situation, I never lost my sense of humour or my spirit, and hopefully my writing is imbued with these qualities.

So this book has become something of a statement about captivity, written entirely in captivity. You might be forgiven for thinking that this is just another book with a “greenie anti-cap” message. You may be partially correct in this appraisal, however ‘Home’ goes beyond that now familiar ‘Save the whales’ dialogue and touches on a spirituality and a sense of deeper mystery and intrigue that should appeal to a far broader audience.

The tale is told from the perspective of Adam Svenson, a man we meet as he is entering prison. At the same time, a parallel tale of the capture of two young orcas is told. We learn that Adam, who has been drawn to the oceans, has been somehow involved in their capture.

Steadily the loose weave of connection between man and orca tightens. When Adam is increasingly confronted by visions of a mystic whale, the story takes an unexpected twist and the reader is drawn into an unexpected mystery.

In a surprise ending, the concept of ‘home’ takes on a far deeper spiritual meaning

‘Home’ is something of a modern day parable, suggesting some deeper secrets of life and universal harmony, presented in the vehicle of a compelling story of whale and human captivity.

It is a book I would recommend not just to those with a ‘green conscience’ or the lovers of animals; but also to the dreamers, the wanderers and the wonderers, and those who simply enjoy a mystery and a good read.

So, what are whales doing right, that we’re doing wrong? Read the book and find out…..

“At the end of the day, we are all just walking one another Home”

‘Home’ by Leo Jai is available in both Paperback and E-Book formats.

“Not something we would wish our children to face”

By Keith Antonysen

Below is a copy of an email sent I to a senior worker (Alistair Webster, Director of Policy) from Mr Shorten’s office, whom I met at a Town Hall-type meeting on Monday 4th June 2018. Rather than give a political talk Mr Shorten responded to questions from the audience on a range of matters. The LNP has no policy on climate change, and Direct Action has proven to be shambolic as anticipated by Turnbull prior to becoming Prime Minister.

Dear Mr Webster

My wife and I were most impressed with how Bill was able to answer off the cuff questions last night. We certainly hope that Justine [Keay] is re-elected.

My concern is that climate change is not getting enough attention; it has been subsumed by attention to energy requirements by the LNP. I believe that Australia is not taking the matter serious enough.

Turnbull often pushes the view that terrorists present a high risk; the science in relation to climate change suggests it presents far higher risks than terrorists. Some examples:

Professor James Anderson who made us aware of CFCs creating the hole in the ozone layer states we are in dire danger. World wide we must spend huge amounts of dollars to ward off extreme climate change, and have only a few years to do so.

Paleoclimate research does not present a happy picture, as Dr Burger discusses in his preliminary comments attached to research yet to be published.

Dr Burger’s research clearly provides convincing evidence in the role greenhouse gases had in causing mass extinction at the end of the Permian period. He reaches his view through chemical and mineral artefacts he found in the samples of rock he obtained.

Permafrost is thawing, which potentially provides further danger in pingos exploding in Siberia; to date 7,000 pingos have been found. One of the original pingos to explode was found to have 9.6% methane in the atmosphere of the crater formed by the explosion. Normally methane is measured in parts per billion.

While not all of the pingos discovered might have methane gas, they do present concern.

Copy of article given to you last night with hyperlinks.

My main worry about climate change is that people will be dislodged through extreme weather events when lack of fresh water, sea level rise, and crops being damaged with all sorts of nasties through flooding, create a dystopian world where insurrection, and break down of communities will be outcomes. A major tipping point is an ice free Arctic Ocean which is extremely likely to happen within thirty years when taking into account the most conservative scientist’s view point. Grounding lines of ice sheets in Antarctica are going in the wrong direction.

Not something we would wish our children to face.

Yours Sincerely

Keith Antonysen

A Fragmented Review of Climate Change

By Keith Antonysen

Munich Re which underwrites insurance companies has indicated that 2017’s high costs for climate change are the “new normal”. It could be regarded as merely an argument to increase premiums; except, a number of climate parameters suggest otherwise. Carbon Brief provides a summation of situations which have progressed over time:

  • Oceans act as a sink for warmth, it takes them a long time to warm or cool through their sheer volume.  In 2017 they were the warmest  ever recorded.
  • 2017 was the second or third warmest year recorded, depending on which dataset was used. Of significance, 2017, was the warmest year recorded without the influence of an El Nino event.
  • The Arctic sea ice extent and volume have continued to decrease, the lowest extent in September was the eighth lowest ever recorded. Volume has changed downward by about 80% since 1979.
  • Antarctic is being investigated quite profusely at present, its sea ice has been at low levels. The huge 5,698 square kilometre Larson C ice sheet  broke clear in July 2017. A number of major ice sheets are considered to be at risk as grounding lines are moving shorewards.

The significance of the Arctic, Antarctica and oceans are that they virtually act as a thermostat influencing global temperature

Oceans warming is causing coral reefs to be severely damaged, dead spots  are beginning to form in Oceans, a slight decrease in ocean oxygen production, a slight slowing down of the AMOC (Gulf Stream), and phytoplanton dying; these are matters of huge concern.

The cryosphere also presents huge concerns … thawing of permafrost, release of methane and CO2, has an influence on climate generally. The Siberian continental shelf and tundra have a huge potential to release copious amounts of CO2 and methane. The clathrate explosion scenario is a remote possibility; though, we have already had explosions of pingos in Siberia. Arctic sea ice is in poor condition with the bulk of multi year ice having been lost and about 80% of volume having  gone since 1980. Arctic sea ice could be lost within two years, a somewhat remote possibility; but, being lost in ten plus/minus years is a real possibility (follow the maths); regardless, the situation is not good.

Attribution has been an area scientists have been researching lately, the terrible hurricanes experienced in 2017 have the finger print of climate change though not caused by climate change.

California has had wild fires in winter.

With continuing use of fossil fuels more aerosols are pushed into the atmosphere; ironically, once fossil fuels are no longer used aerosols will dissipate and the atmosphere will warm initially.

A number of hyperlinks have been provided which give only an extremely small fragment of information in relation to climate change, thousands of papers are published in reputable science journals each year.

Climate change is already having an impact on individuals, communities and countries through extreme storms, drought, and huge wildfires. The dollar costs of climate change are increasing, hardly a legacy to pass onto younger people.

 

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