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Category Archives: Environment

Climate Snippets #2

Electric cars

Chris Mitchell wrote in The Australian, July 6, 2020 (pay walled) attacking the ABC again:

“Panic is most obvious in reporting about climate change, where our ABC never misses an opportunity to publish wild claims no serious scientist believes.”

He does not provide examples from the ABC, but he goes on to provide some unsubstantiated climate claims of his own.

An interesting claim he makes is about electric cars. He writes:

“As this paper revealed at the time of the launch of hybrid cars in Australia, even motor vehicle renewable technologies have enormous carbon footprints in their manufacturing, in mining for rare metals they rely on and in the case of electric cars in base load power they need to recharge. They are a con.”

So what is to be done? Ban electric cars? Make cars out of plastic? Ban all cars? Mitchell does not say.

Wikipedia gives us a clue with Phase-out of fossil fuel vehicles. A list of countries proposing bans on vehicles, especially passenger vehicles, appears at this site. Reasons for the bans include meeting CO2 targets, health risks, risks from pollution particulates, meeting a compliance target without a carbon tax or phase-out of fossil fuels.

“The automotive industry is working to introduce electric vehicles with varying degrees of success and it is seen by some in the industry as a possible source of money in a declining market.”

In 2018, China led the world in the global production of electric cars (45%) and buses (90%).

At another site, The Driven tells us that the “Volkswagen factory produces last ever combustion engine car, shifts to EVs only“:

“Volkswagen factory produces last combustion engine car ever, shifting to EVs only. A factory owned by Volkswagen in Germany’s City of Cars, Zwichau, has produced its last ever combustion engine vehicle, closing a 116-year chapter on fossil-fueled cars and switching to electric vehicle production only.

“From today on, only electric models of Volkswagen and in the future also sister brands Audi and Seat will be produced in Zwichau…

“… the Zwichau factory is expected to start producing the first of its fully electric vehicles by the end of this year [2020], including the ID.4 and possibly an SUV from the sister brand Audi.

“As it happens, the ID.4 all electric SUV – a competitor to the forth-coming Tesla Model Y – is expected to be the first all-electric Volkswagen to come to the Australian market with a loose date set for 2022.

“The switch at Zwichau is part of Volkswagen’s plans to spend nearly 60bn euros ($97.3bn) over the coming few years on a large transition to EVs, with plans to roll out 75 all-electric vehicle models along with around 60 hybrid models.”

It is surprising that Mitchell had written about EVs back when they first came to Australia – how long ago was that? – but he has not caught up with latest technological developments. Something about the fossil-fuels ideology?

Facts about warming

Something ominous from The Conversation, 23 July 2020 – “The climate won’t warm as much as we feared – but it will warm more than we hoped”. They report that:

“… the exact amount of expected warming remains uncertain.

Scientists study this in terms of ‘equilibrium climate sensitivity’ – the temperature rise for a sustained doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations. Equilibrium climate sensibility has long been estimated within a likely range of 1.5 – 4.5 degrees Celsius.

Under our current emissions trajectory, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will likely double between 2060 and 2080, relative to concentrations before the Industrial Revolution. Before that, they had changed little for millennia.

A major new assessment has now calculated a range of 2.6 – 3.9 degrees Celsius. This implies that alarmingly high estimates from some recent climate models are unlikely, but also that comfortingly low estimates from other studies are even less likely.

The results indicate that substantial warming is more solidly assured than we thought…drastic measures are needed to curb climate change.”

Denier thinking

Here is an interesting and “intellectually curious” way of looking at global warming. It claims the atmosphere warms during the day even more than it does in years of climate change – and it does not harm us much, if at all. Ingenious.

Another idea among deniers is that we do not need to do much about climate change because we can simply adapt to the extra heat and spend the money on some other matters, such as eradicating tuberculosis.

Another concern of deniers is that ‘carbon’ might be taxed (“taxing air”, Bob Carter called it) now again in the present. John Howard himself contemplated a tax on carbon because concern for carbon emissions was stirring in the community. The idea for Howard did not last long.

Rudd and Gillard tried a price on carbon – and Gillard tried a minerals profits tax as well – and strangely they had some success, but the minerals super tax did not raise a lot because minerals were down in profits. Gillard made the mistake of allowing her price on carbon to be called a ‘tax’. Judith Brett, in her Quarterly Essay #78 “The Coal Curse: Resources, Climate and Australia’s Future”, lets Peta Credlin explain what happened:

“Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms, but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. It was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and when he cut through, Gillard was gone.”

So it was “brutal retail politics”. That is, it was a lie, and we had a few more lies to come in that era. And in a couple of years Abbott was gone.

In Brett’s essay (op.cit), she explains how deniers/sceptics mount elements of their “rigorous debate” and expand their false arguments (p. 68-69):

“The first is that the planet is not heating, so there is no need to cut fuel emissions;

second, even if it is, it is not caused by humans;

third, even if it is, Australia’s emissions both from what we burn are what we export are so small that stopping them won’t make any difference;

fourth, the drug dealer’s defence: if we don’t sell the coal and gas, someone else will:

fifth, the predicted damage will not be that bad and doesn’t warrant the economic costs.”

And there are people who will pay big money to support purveyors of denial/scepticism. Dr Peter Ridd gained $800,000 in crowd donated funds to appeal against his dismissal from James Cook University. In the IPA publication “Climate Change: The Facts 2017”, you can read an essay by Ridd about corals, and in the last part he criticises “the science,” which he himself opposes.

In that same publication you can read Ian Plimer telling us that climate science of the IPCC kind is a religion, whereas denier science is the real science. And there is a poem by Clive James in which he plays a contrarian role and piles together many denier/sceptic talking points, easily debunked. There is no coherent denier/sceptic “science” – just a collection of home-baked opinions.

Jennifer Marohasy, the editor of the IPA publication, tells readers they might find few “surprises”:

“I am referring to the snippets of apparently anomalous information scattered through the chapters. These can hopefully, one day, be reconciled.”

Ian Plimer, just recently, has been criticised for a number of silly things he has said, such as that there have been no “carbon emissions” because carbon is a black substance.

Well, the anomalies have not yet been reconciled, obviously, but they are still trying with another collection of essays this year.

With regard to special treatment for coal miners, consider their requests that special consideration not be given to Indigenous people over land rights, but subsidies, special allowances or lesser penalties are acceptable to the miners.

For example, Acland New Hope mine was fined just $9,461 for 34 separate noise violations in 10 weeks. Last year the same miner drilled 27 illegal bores in the Darling Downs and received a $3,152 fine. The New Hope Group was worth about $2.3bn at the time.

Meanwhile, while the National Party associates itself with coal, agricultural farmers have formed a group, Lock the Gate, to protect themselves from the demands of miners. Coal mining is not welcomed by everybody.

Mining in the 1980s campaigned “to make ordinary Australians with no direct involvement in mining to feel they had a stake in disputes happening far from where they live.” (Brett, op.cit, p 42-43). But more recently faraway people not directly involved in mining have been told to butt out.

Judith Brett writing about coal, etc

Judith Brett (op.cit) gives an interesting short history of the development of the Australian economy, in particular the development of industry. She repeats the story told by John Button, minister for trade, when Carlo Benneton, of the Italian fashion house Benneton, came to Australia to invest in a weaving mill, but he could not find a suitable one. He said: “We have not had machines like that in Italy for 60 years.”

Brett goes on to explain that despite many attempts to revive competitiveness in the decades following WW2, “none of it worked.”

Brett mentions the loss of the car industry and the inability of the French submarine company to find 50%of its production from Australian sources. (pp. 36-37).

The fragile recovery of our manufacturing at the turn of the century could not survive the rise of China, nor Hockey and Abbott’s reckless abandonment of the car industry.” [my emphasis] (p. 37)

“Under Abbott, denial and scepticism about climate science spread to science generally. It is scientists who have uncovered the evidence of global warming…Abbott made his feelings clear by failing to include a minister for science in his first government…

“The denigration of science has not only affected climate science [my emphasis]. It has undermined the nation’s commitment to research and development more broadly and fostered a silly hostility to new renewableenergy technologies… [my emphasis]

“If we look at federal spending, the picture is even worse…the federal government spent just 0.4% on R&D, putting us down at the bottom of the pack…There is a link. Research and development seeds innovation, developing new sources of growth in the economy, in manufacturing and in agriculture [my emphasis]” (p. 59).

So now Australia continues to depend highly on the coal industry as number one export and source of ‘cheap’ energy, part of the fossil fuels cause of climate change. But the fossil fuels industry is in decline while it advocates a hard fight back and infiltrates many parts of society, especially in influential areas of power, where the money is and where money has influence by promising jobs for the workers, even if there are not so many mining jobs in the age of robotics.

“Capital is deserting fossil fuels, in part because renewables and falling prices are threatening future returns, but also because of shareholder and customer campaigns for banks and superannuation funds to diverse from fossil fuels.” (p.77)

Brett points to ways Australia could ween itself off the curse of coal.

Mining companies, meanwhile, will have to find ways to rehabilitate the landscapes and agricultural lands. Environment is not just for exploiting, selling and buying.

“A bipartisan climate policy can help the economy recover by supporting investment to build a zero-emissions economy.” (p.74)

Meanwhile, there are those who boldly spruik the denier/sceptic ideology, especially those involved in the fossil fuel industry and those invested in it, such as media outlets like Murdoch’s NewsCorp, Fox News and the IPA, determined to carry on with business-as-usual.

James Murdoch has shown a way – by stepping down from the NewsCorp board.

Link to Climate Snippets #1

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Climate Snippets #1

Reef Bleaching

From James Paten Gilmour, Research Scientist, Coral Ecology, Australian Institute of Marine Science writing in The Conversation (July 15, 2020):

“With no work in lockdown, tour operators helped find coal bleaching on Western Australia’s remote reefs.”

“This most recent event (2019/20) is significant because of the extent and duration of heat stress. It’s also notable because it occurred outside the extreme El Nino – Southern Oscillation phases [my empasis] – warming or cooling of the ocean’s surface that has damaged the northern and southern reefs in the past.”

Chris Mitchell has claimed (6/7/2020) that only natural events, such as El Nino and the Southern Oscillation, not human actions, have affected the Antarctic. Not so, according to Gilmour:

“The impacts from climate change are not restricted to Western Australia or the Great Barrier Reef – a similar scenario is playing out on reefs around the world, including those already degraded by local pressures.”

WA’s reefs stretch from Geraldton to the Kimberley and there are still some healthy reefs.

Dr Peter Ridd, claims reefs can survive bleaching, soil and fertiliser run-off in North Queensland and can recover in a decade.

Gilmour says:

“…we’ve seen the same reefs [in WA] recover over just one or two decades, only to again be devastated by mass bleaching – this time with little chance of a full recovery in the future climate.”

Last year, James Paton Gilmour and Rebecca Green reported: ‘Bright white skeletons’: some WA reefs have the lowest coral cover on record. (The Conversation, May 22, 2019).

The Great Barrier Reef has suffered 3 bleaching events in the past 5 years!

Rising Seas

There are still people who insist that they can see that the ocean at the local beach is not rising because when they go down there, the water rises no more than it did when they were children, years ago.

Rising sea can be, like the coronavirus, invisible – but the effects can be disastrous.

Recently our attention has been drawn to the plight of people and their houses at Wamberal on the mid-coast of NSW. People there tell us that there was a similar problem there 40 years ago and in 2016. And there are other places in Australia which have been affected by surging seas in recent years.

As well, various places have been named as being in danger from sea rises.

From The Canberra Times, August 5, 219, the terrible prediction that:

“WA beaches, homes and roads at risk of crumbling into the sea.”

And from The Guardian, 5 August 2019 a similar threat exists in WA:

“Port Beach in Fremantle and South Thompson Bay at Rottnest Island top list of 55 locations where coastal erosion poses serious threats.”

Other places in the world, such as Venice, Florida, and Pacific islands are suffering from rising seas. In the case of Pacific islands, some are seen to be expanding in area, especially as smaller islands are eroded and island sand and gravel is washed onto the larger island. Some will say the increase in size will provide more agricultural land, but the islanders themselves are not so convinced. They suffer rising heat and infrastructural damage from rising seas.

This focus by some on the addition of more land area might remind us of the Groucho Marx joke in which he describes some cloth. Don’t think about the quality, he says, feel the width.

In the case of Wamberal, does the existence of high cliffs of sand suggest any long term danger from erosion? And what would be the cost for the local council to build a high protective wall?

And yet further risks:

“Unwelcome sea change: new research finds coastal flooding may cost up to 20% of global economy by 2100.” (The Conversation, July 31, 2020)

Chris Mitchell raised the issue of some Pacific Islands expanding in size by wave action as discussed by Paul Kench from a New Zealand university. But Mitchell did not take into account the impacts of heat, destruction of infrastructure and surging seas on the islanders.

Interestingly, Kench transferred to Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada in 2018. A report from two universities, Simon Fraser and Princeton Environmental Institute in New Jersey:

“… point to overwhelming evidence that the world oceans are rising at an accelerating rate. At the same time, the oceans are heating as much as 40% faster based on research done at universities across the US and the UK.”

States Professor Paul Kench, Dean of Science at Simon Fraser, said:

“We know that certain types of fossil corals act as important recorders of past sea levels. By measuring the ages and depths of these fossil corals, we are identifying that there have been periods several hundred years ago that the sea levels have been lower than we thought in the Indian Ocean.”

“The study, published in ‘Nature Geoscience’ on December 16, 2019, concludes that the last two centuries have seen the central Indian Ocean around the Maldives rise by nearly a metre. The threat lies in the rate of sea level rise over the past 200 years which suggests an accelerating trend posing a threat to coastal cities and human habitation around the Indian Ocean. The rate of acceleration and sea level rise will exceed anything in recorded history.

“Last Sunday, on the American news magazine show ’60 Minutes’, Michael Oppenheimer, Professor of Geoscience and International Affairs at the Princeton Environmental Institute, stated that ‘Sea level is rising almost everywhere on Earth…Not only is sea level rising, the rise is accelerating – it’s happening faster and faster…By the year 2050, which is only 30 years into the future, many places around the world, including in the US, are going to experience the ‘historical’, ‘once-in a hundred year’ once a year or more frequently.. Let me repeat that: An event that used to cause severe flooding once a century, we are going to get that same water level once a year.’”

And that is going to lead to more forced migration – another story.

And so the deniers prefer to claim that all this is panic, catastrophic alarmism and apocalyptic fear-mongering. Because they know if the burning of fossil fuels leads to massive destruction, then their fossil fuel business model is in tatters.

Prudence, Panic, Catastrophism, Apocalyptic Pessimism

Henry Ergas, The Australian, 16 July, 2020, informs us about the virtue of prudence:

“Prudence seems a lost virtue in coronavirus pandemic response…[prudence] was the disposition, acquired by experience, of thinking well in order to act well…[prudence ] involved proceeding cautiously, carefully defining the aims being pursued and the consequences of pursuing them… costs, economics, personal, etc…

“But while these factors are clearly at work, they would hardly be so powerful were it not for the growing pervasiveness of apocalyptic thinking.

“From bushfires to hailstorms, climate change to the coronavirus, every occurrence seems to trigger a race in which commentators compete in predicting the worst and in demanding ever more draconian remedies. Every lump of coal, we are told, hastens Armageddon: adaptation to a changing climate is pointless – only driving carbon emissions to zero can save the planet. And by exactly the same token, every coronavirus infection heralds an unstoppable pandemic; which only the most curtailing of economics and social activity can possibly avert…

“However, it is not just the trade-offs that would have to be set aside, so would the democratic process that gives voice to the many Australians who neither believe humanity is huddled in the ante-room of its own extinction nor share the doomsday hunger for drastic action. Rather, were the extremists to prevail, society would, as in a war, retreat from democracy into a perpetual state of emergency, invoking the ancient principle that is notoriously associated with Pyrrhus, the Macedonian king who suffered such crippling losses in prevailing over the Romans at Asculum at 279 BC as to ensure his campaign’s eventual collapse.”

There are a number of things we could say about this heavy-handed rhetoric. One is that it is itself a harbinger of panic and apocalyptic pessimism. Ergas and associates are very concerned, to the point of panic, and express their concerns to the extent we might come to the opinion they are more concerned about the money than about the people.

Another point is about the matter of prudence, about prudence being thinking well, acting well, cautiously, defining aims and costing them – and they are happening now, but then there is this “growing pervasive apocalyptic thinking”. Yes, his own panic and that of the right-wing politicians obsessed with costs.

As well, there is Ergas’s fear of “drastic action”, which destroys democracy and makes people fear for their lives, he says, “as in war”, when they might simply adapt, just as we might adapt to climate change – no need for “drastic action”.

All this is summed up by Ergas in the historic story of Pyrrhus, the Macedonian king who defeated the Romans in 279BC, but in the end was destroyed by his victory. It is the kind of Ancient History by which the leaders of the British Empire were educated in the C19th, along with Greek and Latin. Whether it applies to the way we are attacking the pandemic is not clear, but it stirs up fear and apocalyptic thinking so much that people are not able to comprehend exactly what they should do, so much conflicting advice is given. Medical experts are being accompanied by a chorus of homespun ideologues who have no real practical advice to give.

It is not clear exactly what the Murdoch media empire, for example, would have us do, with a prudent, well-considered plan of the kind which Ergas wants, but does not reveal in his writing.

More about the Money

Judith Sloan, in The Australian, 21 July, 2020 [pay-walled] tells us: “Labor forced to walk back from fantasy emissions targets.” Labor’s radical policies, she says, were firmly rejected in the last election. By how much? By a seat or two?

She briefly lists some Labor policies: half cars to be electric, CO2 emissions to be reduced by 2030 relative to 2005 levels, a price on carbon, subsidies for renewables (failures overseas, says Sloan), transition out of coal and support for workers and communities. Fantasy? Radical?

But Labor did not give the costing of their policies up to 2030/40/50, she says. And the Coalition has had trouble with costing too, which is a matter not mentioned by Sloan!

So Sloan calls on Brian Fisher, director of the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Research Economics, to do the costing. We have heard him before and we could give at least a rough idea of what he might say. He can model economics in advance, but the IPCC, apparently, cannot model climate.

“Fisher’s work,” Sloan tells us:

“… conceded the government’s policies would lead to adverse economic effects, but they were small. But he estimated that Labor’s would lead to a cumulative loss of GDP between $264bn and $542bn by 2030, with real wages falling by 3% and 167,000 fewer jobs.”

Jobs, says Sloan, and paying the bills are among top concerns now, and COVID-19.

Just domestic family matters. No science, please. Too expensive. Just look at Mr Fisher’s numbers!

Link to Climate Snippets #2

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Seagrass paves the way for a carbon-neutral Rottnest

Edith Cowan University Media Release

The stunning turquoise bays of Rottnest Island could be key to a carbon-neutral future for Perth’s favourite island getaway, according to new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) and The University of Western Australia.

For the first time researchers have accurately measured the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the seagrass meadows that fringe the island.

About 810 tonnes of carbon dioxide are being absorbed annually by the seagrass meadows – around 22 per cent of Rottnest’s total annual carbon emissions.

Dr Oscar Serrano from ECU’s School of Science said the research lays the groundwork for a greener future at Perth’s favourite holiday spot.

“Quantifying the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed by these ecosystems is an important first step to potentially offset the island’s carbon dioxide emissions through conservation and restoration of seagrass meadows,” he said.

“Carbon dioxide absorbed by marine ecosystems is known as ‘blue carbon’ and has huge potential to offset carbon emissions and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“Seagrass absorbs carbon dioxide up to 40 times faster than tropical rainforests and they have an amazing ability to store that carbon in their soils for thousands of years.”

Conservation for a cause

Camila Bedulli from the University of Western Australia co-authored the paper and said seagrass meadows also provided an important habitat for many species of fish, turtles and dugongs, as well as helping to prevent coastal erosion.

“Seagrass meadows are fragile and can easily be damaged by storms, marine heatwaves associated with climate change or human development such as moorings and dredging,” she said.

“When that happens, the carbon dioxide stored in their soils is released back into the atmosphere.”

Dr Serrano said it was extremely important seagrass meadows around Rottnest Island, and elsewhere in Australia, were protected and any damage restored.

“By protecting and restoring these important ecosystems, we’re helping to preserve our precious marine environments,” he said.

Marine heatwave had a devastating impact on marine life and seagrass (Image from abc.net.au – photo supplied by Joan Costa)

A green attraction

ECU tourism expert Associate Professor Sean Kim said a ‘clean green’ image would be a positive marketing tool for Rottnest Island, especially for international tourists.

“Rottnest Island has huge potential to become a pristine tourist destination compared to the many island destinations that have been adversely affected by from large-scale tourism development,” he said.

The research was published in Frontiers in Marine Science and can be accessed at the journal’s webpage.

Background: The role of blue carbon

  • Australia is home to around 10 per cent of the world’s blue carbon ecosystems.
  • In Australia it’s estimated there is four times more carbon sequestered in soil beneath marine ecosystems over a given area than in terrestrial environments.
  • Coastal vegetated ecosystems account for 50 per cent of carbon dioxide sequestered by the oceans, despite covering just 0.2 per cent of its total area.
  • Restoring just 10 per cent of blue carbon ecosystems lost in Australia since European settlement could generate more than $US 11 million per year in carbon credits.
  • Conserving blue carbon ecosystems under threat could be worth $US 22-31 million per year in carbon credits

 

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Coronavirus/climate computer modelling failures

In The Australian (18/6/2020) Adam Creighton, Economics Editor, wrote: “Coronavirus: Inflated pandemic estimates weaken climate forecasts.”

It is obviously an attempt to make some connection between the measuring of the pandemic and climate change. What does it mean?

Creighton’s opening gambit makes reference to Tony Abbott, our recently royally decorated ex-PM – and a prediction as well:

“Tony Abbott’s suspicion that climate change modelling was ‘absolute crap’ soon will resonate more broadly – so spectacularly bad was expert modelling of the spread and lethality of the coronavirus, faith in all modelling must surely suffer.”

So there we have it. Or as he emphasises:

“Why trust the experts to forecast the climate decade into the future when they were so wrong about the disease related to the common cold.”

As simple as that. It is all about the modelling. Is that how computer modelling works? Just throw numbers in and press the button? What kind of data do they use and what are the sources of that data?

Here is some information about computer modelling here in Australia. It comes from The Conversationunder the heading “How Australia’s supercomputers crunched the numbers to guide our bushfire and pandemic response,” by Sean Smith and Mark Stieckells, 30/6/2020.

“NCI is the home [Canberra] to Gadi, the most powerful supercomputer in the southern hemisphere, which can do in an hour what your average desktop would take in around 35 years running flat out. The Pawsey centre [Perth] hosts the nimbus cloud which is specially designed for data intensive research work in cutting-edge fields such as space science.

“Data-driven models running on supercomputers can provide earlier and more accurate warning of firestorms, floods, hailstorms, cyclones and other extremes.”

For Creighton, the raw numbers for the pandemic in Australia are not very big, yet much larger numbers around the world were predicted as possible. So he just ignores the hard work undertaken by pandemic experts according to experience from the past, computer modelling, doctors, state premiers and the National Cabinet, the citizens of Australia in lockdown. No attribution to them for reducing the predicted numbers. It is all the fault of computer modelling getting it all wrong in the first place. And he is not alone. The magazine Quadrant, edited by Keith Windschuttle, for the past couple of months has accused pandemic scientists of being failures.

But Creighton does not give up easily. He goes on:

“Climate modelling was struggling even before the pandemic, given the planet has warmed about a half as much as forecast by the IPCC report back in 1992. ‘Almost the entire alarm about global warming is based on model predictions. If you just look at the last 30 to 40 years of data, nothing spectacular has happened. ‘There’s no sign temperature is accelerating’, says Benny Peiser, founder of Global Warming Policy Foundation in London.’ “

Now, before we go on, it will be of interest for readers to know that Adam Creighton published this very same article in Peiser’s Global Warming Policy Foundation publication on 17/6/2020. Peiser is the founder of the GWPF (2009) and has been involved in skeptic/denier publications, but would say that the GWPF is an “all-party and non-party think tank and registered educational charity.” Its purpose is “bring reason and balance to a debate that has become seriously unbalanced, irrationally alarmist, and all too often depressingly intolerant.” (desmogblog.com)

In a debate at the Cambridge Union (Oct 26, 2017) Peiser said:

“Denying the world’s poor the very basis on which Britain and much of Europe became wealthy – largely due to cheap coal, oil and gas – amounts to an inhumane and atrocious attempt to sacrifice the needs of the world’s poor on the altar of climate alarmism.”

We have heard such talk before. Some call it “virtue signalling”. But while the intent of the GWPF might be saying they care for the poor, and they say climate change is real, they seem to ignore the real effects of climate change not only on the poor, but also on the whole world – with its advocacy for fossil fuels, ignoring the science of the IPCC.

A member of the GPFP’s academic advisory board is Professor Ian Plimer, who “argues volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans.” Plimer also tells us that CO2 has nothing to do with climate change (despite the fact his fellow skeptic, the late Professor Bob Carter, says in Taxing Air, that CO2 is a powerful greenhouse gas!)

And Plimer, in The Spectator Australia, Editor Rowan Dean, (Feb 1, 2020), has an article “Global Warming, meet Creationism”; subtitled “There’s something familiar about the new religion of climate change”. This same article appeared in the IPA publication ‘Climate Change: The Facts 2017’.

Plimer claims in this article that:

“Human-induced global warming is an unproven scientific hypothesis that has become an article of faith.”

How does Plimer link that statement with the statements by fellow sceptics that they believe climate change is real? Could we not say that the adherents of fossil fuels are in the grip of a religious doctrine such that politicians will take a lump of coal into parliament like a religious icon?

We see that skeptics sometime contradict each other, or claim that they believe climate change is real but say the presentation of it is too apocalyptic, too alarmist, too much like a take-over of sovereign governments, or is simply “crap”.

As a further example, Creighton tells us that in the late 1990s it was predicted that the Great Barrier Reef would bleach every year until 2020:

”but in the last fifteen years parts of the reef have bleached on only three occasions, with each event affecting only one third of the reef,” says physicist Peter Ridd, a former professor of James Cook University.

We have seen even here that some claims are extremely baseless and unscientific, based on vested interests and ideologies. What do scientists of the IPCC kind say? What factual reports are reported in the media, for example?

Let us start with Peter Ridd, who has frequently criticised climate change warriors, especially with matters to do with the Great Barrier Reef. Take for example, “Great Barrier Reef’s third mass bleaching in five years the most widespread yet.”:

“(Professor Tony Hughes), director of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies at the James Cook University, surveyed 1,036 reefs from a plane over 9 days in late March. The marine park also had an observer on the flights…

“Hughes has released maps showing several levels of bleaching occurred in 2020 in all three sections of the reef – northern, central and southern – the first time this has happened since mass bleaching was first seen in 1998… Hughes said previous observations had shown bleaching at that extent leads to ‘high levels of mortality’ of corals…

“The Great Barrier Reef has experienced 5 mass bleaching events – 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017, 2020 – all caused by rising ocean temperatures driven by global heating… In February the reef was subjected to its hottest sea surface since records began in 1900.”

And by the way, 95% of kelp forests on the east coast of Tasmania have been wiped out, where these waters are warming up are warming up at four times faster than the global average.

So, what are we to make of Creighton’s confirmation of Benny Peiser’s claim that: ”There’s no sign temperature increase is actually is accelerating.” Perhaps Peiser covers himself with the weasel word “accelerating”?

Let us look at the hottest global temperatures since 2000 (see for example NOAA, January 2020).

“Earth’s warming trend continued in 2019 – making it the second-hottest year in NOAA’s 140-year climate record just behind 2016. The world’s five warmest years have all occurred since 2015 with 9 of the 10 warmest years occurring since 2005 according to NOAA’s Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

“It was also the 43rd consecutive year with global land and ocean temperatures, at least nominally, above average.

“The average temperatures across the globe in 2019 was 1.71 degrees F (0.95C) above the C20th average of just 0.07 F (0.04C) cooler than the 2016 record.”

Image from NOAA

An article about heatwaves since 1950 appears in The Conversation, by Sarah Parkinson-Kirkpatrick, “The world endured 2 extra heatwave days per decade since 1950 – but the worst is yet to come.”

Ian Plimer says that CO2 has nothing to do with climate change. What does Tony Eggleton, as Emeritus Professor at the ANU, say in his book ”A Short Introduction to Climate Change” (Cambridge University Press, 2013)?

“CO2 is a potent part of the atmosphere’s blanket that keeps the world at a habitable temperature [> 14 C]. Its amount in the atmosphere has increased by [>] 35% since pre-industrial times [280ppm – currently 415ppm] and that increase creates more heat absorption by the atmosphere. In 1970, the International Radiation Investigation Satellite (IRIS) measured the Earth’s radiation. The measurement was repeated by the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) satellite in 2006. A comparison of those measurements shows there was a distinct decrease in the amount of heat leaving the Earth. The blanket is getting thicker and the setting of the thermostat is rising. The increased greenhouse effect of increased CO2 over those 36 years is observational fact, not theory.” (pp 55-56)

With regard to warming, Eggleton tells us: “At present the world is warming at the rate of 1 degree C in 60 years; that is, 20 times faster than any previous sustained rate of temperature change. (p 133)”

Twenty times faster!

For Adam Creighton, all this science and computer modelling is ”dodgy” nonsense:

“By April we knew the coronavirus was not as dangerous as feared yet modellers and governments doubled down on the catastrophic narrative. It’s almost July and people in our capitals are wearing masks in their own cars.

“How can we avoid the hysteria next time?… All the incentives are stacked in favour of dodgy doomsday modelling; apocalyptic scenarios allow politicians increase their power and appear caring. Public health experts enjoy more prestige. And some of the media naturally prefer models with horrifying forecasts to draw eyeballs.”

Is this man serious? It is all done with models?

“Models are almost cartoons, highly simplified versions of reality. History has provided a better guide to the future.”

Creighton will be dismayed to find that some sceptic/deniers use computer modelling for their purposes. As well, data collated from a wide range of sources and sciences is used; it is what the IPCC does.

Contrary to Creighton’s claims, Greg Sheridan in the WE Australiantells us in his article “In the war against humanity, the coronavirus is winning”.

“Barely dented, reversed in only a few small territories, the virus is surging… It is a bushfire finding plentiful fuel… ”

One can see Sheridan’s recent obsession with war and bushfires. But what has happened to climate change reporting in these days of many distractions?

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New study sparks fresh call for seagrass preservation

Edith Cowan University Media Release

An increase in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to 5 million cars a year has been caused by the loss of seagrass meadows around the Australian coastline since the 1950s.

The stark finding was made possible by new modelling done by marine scientists at the Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research at Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Western Australia.

PhD student Cristian Salinas calculated that around 161,150 hectares of seagrass have been lost from Australian coasts since the 1950s, resulting in a 2 per cent increase in annual carbon dioxide emissions from land-use change.

The figures derive from Mr Salinas’s research into the current carbon stocks of Cockburn Sound off the coast of Western Australia.

Cockburn Sound lost around 23 sqkm of seagrass between the 1960s and 1990s due to nutrient overflow caused by urban, port and industrial development.

Mr Salinas said the finding is significant because seagrass meadows play such a vital role in mitigating the impacts of climate change.

“Known as ‘Blue Carbon’, seagrass meadows have been estimated to store CO2 in their soils about 30 times faster than most terrestrial forests,” he said.

“Seagrass meadows have been under constant threat in Australia through coastal development and nutrient run off since the 1960s. On top of that climate change is causing marine heatwaves that are catastrophic to the seagrasses.

“This study serves as a stark reminder of how important these environments are.”

Mr Salinas said the study provided a clear baseline for carbon emissions from seagrass losses in Australia and warned of the need to preserve and restore the meadows. The inclusion of seagrass into the Australian Emission Reduction Fund could contribute to achieve this goal, he said.

Carbon flushed away

The ECU researchers assessed how environmental factors such as water depth, hydrodynamic energy, soil accumulation rates and soil grain size related to changes in soil carbon storage following seagrass loss.

Results showed that the degradation and loss of seagrass alone was not enough to cause the carbon loss from the soil — hydrodynamic energy from waves, tides and currents also played a significant role.

“Without seagrass acting as a buffer, the hydrodynamic energy from the ocean releases the carbon by moving the seabed sand around,” Mr Salinas Zapata said.

Researchers found hydrodynamic energy from water movement was much higher in the shallow water and associated low levels of carbon were recorded in these bare areas.

However, seagrass meadows established in shallow waters were found to have significantly more carbon stored compared to those growing in deeper areas.

“This means that nearshore meadows are particularly important to preserve,” Mr Salinas said.

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Drinking water under threat from bushfire

Edith Cowan University Media Release

Rainfall after fire brings immediate relief but the environmental effects can sometimes be as significant as the fire itself.

Edith Cowan University (ECU) environmental experts Professor Pierre Horwitz and Dr Dave Blake are investigating the long-term impacts of water supply contamination after fire has swept through a region.

Over the next four years in collaboration with the Water Corporation, the ECU researchers will lead a comprehensive investigation of forested water catchments in the Perth Hills from Mundaring Weir to Collie.

Dr Blake said that water quality is not at the forefront of people’s minds during the management of a fire, but this could result in problems with community’s water supply for years.

“After vegetation cover is burned, and the soil is scorched, what’s left is the concentrated and chemically transformed ash, exposed and vulnerable to wind and water erosion. Heavy rainfall will wash this ash, topsoil and incompletely burned vegetation into streams and water reservoirs,” he said.

“All of this eroded matter is accompanied by dissolved organic compounds, carcinogens and heavy metals from the soil that are exposed and concentrated after a fire.

“Water treatment plants aren’t set up to deal with this sort of contamination and can suspend water supply if faced with this sort of contamination.”

Lessons from Yarloop

The ECU team completed an initial study in the Yarloop region in South West WA after the devastating bushfire destroyed more than 69,000 hectares of land in 2016.
Professor Horwitz said water was one of the big concerns of the Yarloop community after the megafire.

“After the danger had passed Yarloop residents were looking for immediate guidance on how to protect their water assets from the effects of the fire. So, having a better understanding of the long-term consequences for water would be a powerful tool to help to guide fire management protocol,” he said.

Investigations in Yarloop helped researchers map erosion hotspots and variable fire risk to determine potential contamination risks around water catchments.

“We found that in this region erosion was particularly harsh on steep terrain where the fire had been very severe,” Dr Blake said.

“Now we want to expand our work to a wider region, and consider land after fires of different burn intensities, like prescribed burns and wildfires, and wherever possible, collect pre-fire and fire history information as well.”

Professor Horwitz said the research would lead to tools for environmental managers to apply in their areas to prevent post-fire erosion and subsequent water contamination.

“By factoring in the land topography, fire severity and rain intensity we can identify how long it takes burnt material to make its way into reservoirs used for water supply, then perhaps we can prevent the contamination altogether,” he said.

“Understanding why some areas are particularly vulnerable will tell us where to go, and when and how, to stop particular sources of contamination from soil erosion after a fire.”

Assessment of post-wildfire erosion risk and effects on water quality in south-western Australia and can be read here in the International Journal of Wildland Fire.

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Solar farm powering Newcastle operations and revenue

City of Newcastle Media Release

A solar farm built by the City of Newcastle on a rehabilitated landfill site has exceeded expectations in its first six months of operation, generating almost twice the revenue it was expected to make annually.

The five-megawatt facility, which spans an area equal to five football fields at the City’s waste management centre, generated more than $420,000 in revenue between mid-November and the end of April, well above original forecasts used in the business case of $250,000 a year.

Selling energy back into the electricity market, the 14,500 photovoltaic-cell facility saw the Council become a net exporter of electricity when the January bush fires damaged the state’s energy grid.

A renewable power purchase agreement with a wind farm that came into effect on 1 January, making Newcastle the first NSW Council to be powered 100 per cent by renewables, saved the City a further $30,000.

“The business case showed the solar farm would save rate payers around $9 million, after costs, over its 25-year lifespan – and so far, it’s on track to do even better,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“The solar farm at our Summerhill Waste Management Centre has helped us exceed our renewable energy goals under the Newcastle 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan, which targeted 30 per cent of our electricity needs from low-carbon sources.

“By combining solar installations, battery storage and the purchase agreement to power all our operations, the City has created a resilient energy strategy that will protect us from future electricity price spikes.

“Working in concert with the power purchase agreement, these investments give us price stability, create financial savings for rate payers and have already enabled us to reduce our operational carbon emissions by 77 per cent, compared to the 2008 baseline.”

Partly funded with a $6.5 million loan from Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the solar farm is a “fantastic accomplishment” by a local government, says Climate Council of Australia’s Cities Power Partnership Director David Craven.

“City of Newcastle has again stepped up as leader in renewables and as a leader amongst local governments taking significant action on climate,” Mr Craven said.

“Renewable energy is the cheapest form of new energy generation and is proving to save Novocastrians millions, while creating a healthy future for this community.”

The City is also paving the way for electric transport by converting its fleet to electric vehicles and installing a charging network powered by solar panels and battery storage.

Meanwhile, the City is increasing solar-energy generation on its buildings.

“We recently added an additional 100-kilowatt roof top photovoltaic system to our Waratah Works Depot, doubling the capacity of the system installed onsite in 2013 and taking total generation of our 12 solar systems to almost 9 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy each year,” Councillor Nelmes added.

“Our five-megawatt solar farm and over 660 kilowatts of rooftop solar provide the equivalent energy needs of more than 1,770 Newcastle households a year with clean, renewable energy.”

For its commitment to renewables and reducing carbon emissions, the City won the prestigious Local Government Sustainability Award in 2019 and is currently a finalist for Environmental Leadership and Sustainability in the 2020 NSW Local Government Excellence Awards.

Aerial footage of the $8 million solar farm at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre west of Newcastle is available here.

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Anangu Mayatja say “no” to reopen Uluru

By Tjimpuna Ruby, and supported by the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders

Please refer to the media release from Parks Australia below.

My Grandfather and two aunties were not called into this meeting as decision-makers on the Board for this to be in concrete.

Our entire Western Desert Block is closed as a biosecurity zone and that includes ULURU – KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK.

Anangu are not happy with the threats from Tourism NT and Voyages to reopen.

 

Media Release from Parks Australia

Staged re‐opening plans announced for Kakadu and Ulur̲u‐Kata Tjut̲a National Parks

Parks Australia has today announced staged re-opening plans for Kakadu and Ulur̲u-Kata Tjut̲a and National Parks, with both parks to welcome visitors from Friday, 19 June 2020.

Director of National Parks, Dr James Findlay said due to COVID-safe arrangements and infrastructure upgrades, some areas of the national parks will not be open to visitors during the initial re-opening, but there will be plenty of opportunity to seek recreation and relaxation in these much-loved parts of Australia.

“Kakadu National Park will be open for day use only, between 8 am and 5 pm. Most boat ramps will be open, meaning visitors will once again be able to enjoy some of the Top End’s best fishing.

“Mamukala Wetlands, Mangarre Rainforest, Bardedjilidji, Gungural, the Yurmikmik area and the Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) region will also be open, allowing for some stunning walks and access to Kakadu’s wildlife and world-class rock art,” Dr Findlay said.

“Overnight camping will not be permitted in Kakadu during the first stage of re-opening, however there are many accommodation options for visitors at Jabiru, Cooinda and Mary River.

“In order to keep flattening the COVID-19 curve, all tour operators will be required to carry their COVID-19 plan when with visitors.

“Currently, we are continuing to make some urgent infrastructure repairs across the park, including at the Bowali Visitor Centre which will remain closed for several weeks, district ranger stations and staff housing. These are a priority in supporting increased visitation.

“At Ulur̲u-Kata Tjut̲a National Park, walking tracks and sunrise and sunset viewing areas will be open. Visitors can take a walk to Mutitjulu Waterhole, hike around the base of Ulur̲u or explore Kata Tjut̲a’s breathtaking views. There are plenty of opportunities for walking, wildlife watching, photography and other activities.

“The Cultural Centre and associated businesses will remain closed during this first stage of re-opening, as will organised group activities and tours.

“We ask visitors to continue maintaining social distancing. We’ll be conducting additional cleaning of high contact areas and extra hand wash stations will be set up at key high-contact locations throughout the parks. Some paths or areas may be one-directional or have other health and safety restrictions related to COVID-19, so we request visitors please observe arrows and signs,” Dr Findlay said.

 

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Glacier hazards on the increase in the warming world

University of Western Australia Media Release

A global team of scientists including The University of Western Australia has found glacier detachments, which are highly destructive events, may occur more frequently as the world warms.

Following two extreme events in 2013 and 2015 where glacier detachments at Flat Creek in Alaska caused landslides that travelled several kilometres at high speeds of up to 180 kilometres per hour, the research team set out to investigate the causes.

Researcher Dr Matthias Leopold from the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, an expert in shallow geophysics and soil and sediment analysis, joined an international team led by Dr Mylène Jacquemart from the University of Colorado, in the US town of Boulder. The research was carried out in August last year and published in Geology.

Dr Leopold used geophysical techniques to determine the thickness of sediments deposited during the catastrophic events. The team then looked for buried ice and permanently frozen ground, known as permafrost, to assess the general stability of surrounding areas.

The study had ruled out seismic activity as causing the detachment, but 10-year-old high-resolution satellite images showed a 70-metre-high ice bulge in the area above the glacier tongue.

“On analysis we found the glacier tongue not only blocked ice from flowing down the glacier but caused water to pool under the glacier, causing immense pressure which finally caused the glacier to detach,” Dr Leopold said.

Although many glaciers are formed in remote areas they have the potential to travel long distances when they collapse and have far-reaching environmental impact, making studies like these important.

Dr Leopold said as the Earth continued to warm, glacier detachments would continue.

“The results from the study will help us to identify the specific characteristics of sediments linked to catastrophic glacier detachments to better understand if this has happened in the past,” he said.

“So far we believe this is a new natural hazard linked with the global warming trend.”

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UniSA researcher joins new national program to protect the Antarctic

University of South Australia Media Release

UniSA and South Australian Museum invertebrates expert, Associate Professor Mark Stevens, will join a team of leading Antarctic researchers as part of a new $36-million program to track and respond to environmental change in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

The Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future (SAEF) program was announced today by Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan, to be funded under the new Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative for Excellence in Antarctic Science.

Over the next seven years, SAEF is set to deliver world-leading research that will monitor and forecast environmental change across the Antarctic and enhance environmental strategies to manage and protect the region.

Assoc Prof Stevens is an internationally renowned expert on the tiny invertebrates living in Antarctic soil, which are the dominant land-based lifeforms on the continent and, as such, play a key role in our understanding of how climate change is impacting the region.

“Antarctica and sub-Antarctic have been thought of as being some of the most isolated places on Earth, but there is actually a rich biodiversity there,” Assoc Prof Stevens says.

“However, we don’t know enough about the current status and trends in biodiversity and biogeography of the region to fully understand how it may be impacted by climate change.

“Changes affecting these tiny lifeforms can give important insight into impacts on the whole Antarctic environment, and those insights have huge significance for understanding how global ecosystems may behave in the face of globally-changing climates.”

The SAEF program will involve 30 organisations in Australia and abroad, including peak industry bodies such as the Australian Antarctic Division, Geoscience Australia, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, and the Bureau of Meteorology, with links to the national Antarctic programs of Chile, Norway, South Africa and the UK, and with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand.

The program will be hosted by Monash University and involve a collective of other Australian universities and museums, including the Queensland University of Technology, University of Wollongong, University of New South Wales, James Cook University, University of Adelaide, the South Australian Museum and the Western Australian Museum.

Associate Professor Mark Stevens

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Is a Food Crisis the next big hit for humanity?

By Julian Cribb

As the world reels under corona virus and the resulting economic meltdown, another crisis – far more serious – appears to be building: the potential collapse of global food supply chains.

For those who cry “We don’t want any more bad news”, the fact of the matter is we have landed in our present mess – climate, disease, extinction, pollution, WMD – because we steadfastly ignored previous warnings.

The first warning of a corona pandemic was issued in a scientific paper in 2007 and was blithely ignored for thirteen years. In it, the scientists explicitly stated “The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the re-emergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” [1]

Similarly, in 1979, the World Meteorological Organisation warned “… the probability of a man-induced future global warming is much greater and increases with time. Soon after the turn of the century a level may possibly be reached that is exceeds all warm periods of the last 1000-2000 years.” [2] And climate warnings have been coming thick and fast ever since, to scant avail.

Now we have a new warning from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, a cautious body if ever there was one, that states “We risk a looming food crisis unless measures are taken fast to protect the most vulnerable, keep global food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system.” [3]

Border closures, quarantines and market, supply chain and trade disruptions are listed as the chief reasons for concern. However, like many national governments, FAO insists “there is no need to panic” as world food production remains ample.

This, however, depends on fragile assumptions. It assumes that farmers and their families do not get sick. It assumes they will always be able to access the fuel, fertiliser, seed and other inputs they need when supply chains disintegrate. It assumes the truck drivers who transport food to the cities do not get sick, that markets, cool stores and food processing plants are not closed to protect their workers. That supermarkets continue to function, even when their shelves are stripped bare. All of which is starting to appear tenuous.

There is never a ‘need to panic’ as it does not help in resolving difficult situations. But there is definitely a need to take well-planned precautions – as we have failed to do in the cases of climate and corona virus.

The looming food crisis starts from three primary causes:

  • The global ‘just-in-time’ industrial food and supermarket system is not fit for purpose in guaranteeing food security. It is all about money, and not about human safety or nutrition. Its links are fragile and any of them can break, precipitating chaos – especially in big cities.
  • The agricultural system we know and love is becoming increasingly unreliable owing to climate change, catastrophic loss of soils worldwide, shortages of water and narrowing of its genetic base. Farmers are struggling with their own pandemics in the form of swine fever, army worms and locusts. This unreliability will become increasingly critical from the 2020s to the mid-century.
  • The predatory world economic system now punishes farmers by paying them less and less for their produce, driving them off their farms and increasingly forcing those who remain to use unsustainable methods of food production. This is causing a worldwide loss of farmers and their skills and destruction of the agricultural resource base and ecosystem at a time of rising food instability.[4]

The reason that a food crisis is far more serious than either the corona virus or its economic meltdown, is that the death toll is generally far larger. More than 200 million people have died in various famines over the last century and a half, and many of those famines led to civil wars, international wars and governmental collapses. That is why we need to pay attention now – before a new global food crisis arises. Not brush it aside, as so many inept world leaders have done with the virus.

The Spanish have a well-learned saying that “Lo que separa la civilización de la anarquía son solo siete comidas.” [5] The French and Russian Revolutions both arose out of famines. WWII arose partly out of Hitler’s desire to capture Soviet farmlands in order to avoid another WW1 famine in Germany. Many modern African wars are over food or the means to produce it. The Syrian civil war began with a climate-driven food crisis. Indeed, there is growing evidence that lack of food plays a catalytic role in around two thirds of contemporary armed conflicts. As US former president Jimmy Carter has observed “Hungry people are not peaceful people.” [6]

Food failures bring down governments and cause states to fail. In 2012 a drought in Russia and the Ukraine forced them to cut grain supplies to Egypt and Libya – where governments promptly fell to popular revolutions. It was a strange echo of history: in the third century a combination of climate change and a pandemic caused a failure in grain supplies from North Africa, an economic crash and, ultimately, the end of the Roman Empire.

While there is ‘no need to panic’ over food, there is a very clear and urgent need for plans to forestall major shortages around the world. Yet, there is very little evidence that governments worldwide are preparing to head off a food crisis, other than to reassure their citizens, Trumplike, that there isn’t a problem. However, lack of trust by citizens in their governments has already prompted a global rush to stock up on staple foods which has ‘upended’ the vulnerable ‘just-in-time’ food delivery system in many countries.[7]

Over four billion people now inhabit the world’s great cities – and not one of those cities can feed itself. Not even close. None of them are prepared for catastrophic failure in fragile modern food chains, on which they are totally reliant. It would appear almost nobody has even dreamed of such a thing. We are sleepwalking into something far larger and far more deadly than corona virus. The delicate web of modern civilization is fraying.

What is to be done? The short answers are:

  • Introduce emergency urban food stocks
  • Compulsory reduction of food waste at all points
  • Prepare for WWII-style rationing if needed
  • Pay farmers a fair return
  • Increase school meals programs and food aid to the poor
  • Encourage local food production and urban food gardens
  • Develop a global emergency food aid network as a priority
  • Reinvent food on a three-tier global model encompassing: regenerative farming, urban food production (and recycling), accelerated deep ocean aquaculture and algae culture.

There are few crises that cannot be avoided with careful forward planning, including the ten catastrophic risks now facing humanity as a whole. [8]

It is time we, as a species, learned to think ahead better than we do, and not listen to those who cry “no more bad news, please”. They only lead us into further crisis.

 

References

[1] Cheung VCC et al., Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection. Clinical Microbiology Reviews Oct 2007, 20 (4) 660-694; DOI: 10.1128/CMR.00023-07

[2] World Climate Conference 1979, http://wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/wcc-1979.html#flohn

[3] FAO. Will COVID-19 have negative impacts on global food security? March 2020. http://www.fao.org/2019-ncov/q-and-a/en/

[4] These issues are extensively analysed in my recent book Food or War, Cambridge University Press, 2019. https://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/food-or-war

[5] Civilization and anarchy are only seven meals apart.

[6] Carter J., First Step to Peace is Eradicating Hunger. International Herald Tribune, June 17, 1999.

[7] Lee A, How the UK’s just-in-time delivery model crumbled under coronavirus. Wired, 30 March 2020.

[8] Cribb JHJ, “Surviving the 21st Century”. Springer 2017. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-41270-2

 

This article was originally published on SURVIVING C21.

Julian Cribb is an Australian science author. His book Food or War describes what must be done to secure the world’s food supply.

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Climate Vse Corona Virus

Existential threat and the generational divide.

While the world as we know it collapses around us the politicians and pundits are in a tailspin. Words like “emergency, unprecedented, panic, collapse, economic meltdown and existential threat” are being tossed around like confetti. Raging firestorms, hail-stones the size of cricket balls, unseasonal floods, locust plagues, and now the Covid 19 pandemic. This is our world in 2020.

This pandemic is frightening, but in truth, it is far more frightening for some of us than for others. The young are largely unaffected, with relatively few deaths and a reasonably non-threatening prognosis. However, for those in their late 50’s or beyond the threat is immediate and palpable. They could die, and they could die reasonably soon.

Without casting criticism on global governments’ measures to stem the spread of Covid 19, one cannot deny the stark contrast between our response to the pandemic, and our response to the very real existential threat that is climate change. So now, all of a sudden we believe the scientists?

If the great toilet paper panic of 2020 has taught us anything, it is that many of us are shamelessly self-interested to the point of utter irrationality. So consider this, is it a coincidence that an existential threat that is beating down the door of the “power rich” demographic gets such unprecedented action; Whereas the looming disaster of climate change, that will impact heavily on the currently “power poor” younger generations is largely ignored?

The French have a saying, “Apres moi le deluge.” Which translates as “After me the flood.”

This pithy little epithet pretty well sums up the attitude of those who hold power.

Corona Virus has made a mockery of the economic excuses. When the bell tolls for the powerful no level of economic sacrifice is too great, but when it comes to economic realignment to stem climate change, our children and grandchildren can quite literally burn in hell.

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Morality

Because my maternal grandfather was a Minister in the UK Church of Christ – very similar to the Methodist Church – I grew up in a household with a library of moral tales.

Books like Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, with its Mrs Do-as-you-would-be done-by and Mrs Be-done-by-as-you-have-done, were the underpinning for developing a conscience and an awareness how our own behaviours affect others.

Like C S Lewis’ TheChronicles of Narnia, which was read by my children’s generation, there is an implied overtone of Christian values, yet it is actually morality rather than Christianity which is at the core of the message.

IMHO you do not need to believe in a god or gods in order to understand that, living in a community, we need rules for communal living which avoid covertly or overtly harming others.

Where I feel the religious have led us astray, is in planting themselves, as ‘believers’, between us and the goal. And by making the goal an after-life, they avoid a lot of awkward questions!

After all, no one has returned from that after-life to confirm its existence, and to think we can hurt other people, even killing them on too many occasions, say sorry to some omniscient being, directly or through some often self-serving intermediary, and waltz off to paradise when we die, is at the very least naïve. Or so, as a now agnostic, I am inclined to think.

I have my own philosophy on this issue. I try to help, not harm others, and if, after I die, a few people remember me favourably – for however brief a period – then I will have life after death!

I hasten to add, I am no saint, I have many regrets over past behaviours and I try (sometimes successfully!) not to repeat past mistakes.

Ethical or moral behaviour involves empathy and a high degree of selflessness to be truly effective, and leading by example is necessary if the message is to have an impact. If you hypocritically say “Do as I say, not as I do” then your message will fail.

My doubts over Christianity were probably triggered by the religious organisations’ strong linking of morality with sexuality.

When I was growing up, unmarried mothers were shunned and shamed, children born out of wedlock were bastards and would remain so for life, homosexuals who put a toe outside the closet were vilified and chastised, even killed, in many cases, and the fact the Christian missionaries followed closely behind ‘Christian’ colonisers has meant that a totally undesirable legacy for those colonised has been warped attitudes and ignorance about human sexuality.

Any education expert will tell you that what is learned early in life is best remembered and has most effect on future attitudes. The, in my opinion, appalling reaction of religious people – Muslims and Hindus as well as Christians – to the same sex marriage debate, highlighted how hard it is for deeply ingrained beliefs to be cast aside and new knowledge embraced.

In speaking or writing these days, I try to avoid using ‘I believe’, preferring to say ‘in my opinion’ or ‘I accept’ or ‘it appears to me’, because in my mind, to say ‘I believe’ implies acceptance without proof.

The Catholic Church ‘believed’ the Bible was the source of truth, so they accepted that the sun went around the Earth, and fought long and hard against the proof that they were wrong.

Countries like Australia are, IMHO, very slow in accepting that, as a multicultural country with no national religion, government must leave religious issues to individuals and develop Human Rights laws to ensure that people are free to follow a religion – or not – while avoiding adverse effects on others of the choices they make!

The law of Australia imposes on ALL its citizens an obligation to report to police if they know or suspect that an adult is abusing a child sexually, or if an adult is being abused by a present or former partner in a domestic relationship.

It is my understanding that the canon law of the Catholic church requires that anything divulged to a priest in the confessional cannot be disclosed to anyone. Therefore, if, during a confession, the priest learns that the one confessing his sins might be guilty of child sex abuse, the Vatican insists that cannot be reported to police.

The offender can be recommended to self-report, but who, if anyone, polices that?

What is so special about one group of religious believers that they can deny the law of the land?

What is more – what human being is entitled to judge that someone has truly repented of their sins and may then be forgiven?

The history of child sex abuse has clearly revealed that priests who preyed on children for sexual gratification, regularly did so over and over again, and the offender was often moved on by a hierarchy which was well aware of the offending, and of the likelihood of further offending.

What value can you put on a religious organisation which allows damage to children in preference to having its power limited?

So, we now have the Attorney General, Christian Porter, being tasked with over-sighting the drafting of legislation to protect people who wish to practice a religion! He has been so unsuccessful to date that it might be better if he instead drafted a bill to ensure the non-religious were safe from the religious practices of the rest!

Actually, it appears that defining a religion is a precarious business, because many genuinely harmful cults would seem to be covered by the definitions attempted to date.

Please can we have something simple like:

Each and every adult Australian citizen is entitled to worship such gods as (s)he chooses, and live according to the laws which her/his faith has dictated, if and only if, in so doing (s)he does not harm, mentally or physically, any other living being and (s)he continues to obey all laws of Australia.

Feel free to try to re-word that but, in my opinion, it captures the essence of what is required.

Because some cults and religion have practices and beliefs which contradict those accepted by mainstream Australians, it is my opinion that no religion should be taught in schools by religious leaders, but, instead, a syllabus leading discussion on Comparative Religion should form part of a common curriculum, required by all government funded schools, at least at secondary level.

At the same time, I think a group of educators and religious leaders should agree on the content of a course on ethics and ethical behaviour which, again, should be part of the common syllabus.

Whatever our current leaders might have learned during their own paths through education, ethics and morality must have been conspicuously absent or totally ignored by many of them.

There have been fears for many in recent years that we have been moving ever closer to fascism and a police state.

Under an immoral and clearly corrupt governing body, which fails to be bound by ethics, this is a frightening prospect. Given the urgent need for a proper policy to combat global warming and an equally urgent need to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, I am deeply concerned that the current government lacks both the motivation and the skills to lead us effectively – which is why I am exhorting everyone who shares my fears to engage with their local Extinction Rebellion group!

Once more – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Designing a city without cars – for the sake of the kids

UniSA Media Release

More than half of Australian households own two or more motor vehicles, while only seven per cent own none – we are, without a doubt, a car country.

However, while countless advertisements celebrate the freedom cars provide, University of South Australia urban planning researcher, Hulya Gilbert, says there are growing reasons to question the cost of that freedom, and even challenge whether it is freedom at all.

“There’s obviously the environmental impacts, and the health and fitness consequences of using cars, but there’s also a huge social impact,” Gilbert says.

“Despite the common view across the world that cars provide freedom and flexibility, increasingly we’re seeing the priority given to cars is infringing people’s ability – and right – to get around without one.

“That’s especially true of children, and the more we build our cities around cars, the more we rob kids and teenagers of opportunities to enjoy some independence and develop self-reliance.”

Gilbert’s research shows the assumption that most people travel by car dominates current transport discussions, which, in turn, has dictated the design and location of key places in children’s lives, such as schools and sporting clubs.

Once our cities are built that way, she says, it’s hard to move outside the plan.

“It’s not enough just to say, ‘kids need to walk to school more’,” Gilbert says. “In many situations, we have planned that possibility out of cities, and now it’s just not safe or practical for children to ride or walk to the places they need to go – so much so, that there are now perceptions that parents who do let their kids ride or walk are being negligent.”

Gilbert says a change in priorities by urban planners is needed to reverse this trend, and despite a growing interest in alternatives to the private car across the world, her research suggests we’re unlikely to see large scale shifts in travel behaviour unless we make the required changes to infrastructure first.

“That involves building and maintaining safe walking and cycling paths and associated infrastructure including green spaces, trees and pedestrian crossings, and reducing speed limits and traffic flow around those areas to ensure they’re safe.

“It also means ensuring public transport is connected to those active transport networks, and that key locations, such as schools and sports clubs, are located so they’re accessible by those modes.”

Developing these networks will not only benefit children and teenagers, Gilbert says, but also help other social groups currently disadvantaged by being unable to drive, including the elderly, vision impaired and lower income earners.

“At the moment, our cities and societies are set up based on the idea that having a licence and owning a car is the norm, and we often consider the lack of car ownership as a disadvantage. Our right to move around our cities without a car is not commonly considered.

“Now, even though it’s the case that most people have access to a car and travel by car in cities such as Adelaide, planning and thinking as if they don’t would open up many possibilities and opportunities which would accelerate progress towards less private car usage and the associated, wide-ranging benefits,” Gilbert says.

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