Climate clippings 52

7 billion and counting

With the world’s population passing 7 billion there have been reports and analysis all over the media.

George Monbiot, clear-headed as usual, says the real problem is consumption. He also takes a look at the UN calculations, and is not impressed, but one way or another the graph is going to go up for about four decades.

Fred Pearce is not an economist, but he may have a point in saying that ageing is the trend and with that your economy goes down the tube. Japan has become the land of the setting sun.

Those two are part of The Guardian’s Crowded Planet series. Our ABC has 7 challenges for 7 billion put together by 7 academics.

Population and dust-bowlification

Climate Progress has a post on the world’s population passing 7 billion, highlighting the need for women to have the power to control their own fertility. The post links to several other posts, including one on Joe Romm’s article in Nature on the looming dust-bowlification of large areas of the planet. It includes this image;

A reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought. Go here for an enlargement.Strange, that blue/green patch in Africa.

This image tells roughly the same story for the USA:

Future rainfall for the USA

Science in America

The New Scientist recently published two articles. The text of the first link is available here via this post.

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann thinks global warming is a hoax, Rick Perry thinks the science is not settled and here’s Mitt Romney, the one John Quiggin thinks likeliest to get the nomination:

When leading candidate Mitt Romney said: “I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer… humans contribute to that”, conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh responded with “Bye bye, nomination”. Romney back-pedalled, saying, “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”

From this article we are told that he always believed climate change was occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn’t know to what extent.

It’s just that he used to think that it was worth spending money on mitigation but now he doesn’t.

Much splendid science is done in America and scientists are held in high regard, ahead of doctors and second only to fire fighters. But some areas of science are highly politicised. Apparently 96 of 100 new Republican Congress members are climate change deniers or have signed pledges to oppose its mitigation.

This graph is a bit of a shock:

Darwin's doubters

The claim is made that the more educated we become the more we adopt the views of our cultural group. The messenger is important. Al Gore has probably done more to turn Republicans against climate science than anyone.

An inconvenient graph

You may have seen temperature plotted against CO2 for the last 800,000 years. Here’s a scary one for CO2:

To find the source go here and download Global Climate Change.

Of course the relationship between CO2 levels and temperature is not linear. You have to introduce the notion of climate sensitivity. Fast-feedback sensitivity is considered to be 3°C for doubled CO2. See this post for more detail. Nevertheless the graph highlights what violence we are doing to the earth system in what is an instant of geologic time.

DESERTEC switches on

jumpy linked to this on the last thread, but it’s worth highlighting again. The first phase of DESERTEC will begin in 2012 in Morocco.

DESERTEC, a 20-member consortium headed by Deutsche Bank, Siemens, the Munich Re insurance giant and energy heavyweight E.on plans to build solar thermal power plants across 34,740 square miles of the Sahara from Morocco to Saudi Arabia.

Nine European countries – Germany, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Britain – have drawn up plans to link clean energy projects around the North Sea within the next decade by means of a high-voltage direct current network within.

Meanwhile Swedish company Vattenfall plans to sue Germany for compensation for closing down two of their nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster.

Hardening our coal addiction

Fred Pearce suggests that delegates to the Durban climate conference should take a trip up the coast to Richards Bay, a huge deep-water harbour that is home to the world’s largest coal export terminal.

When the [climate] talks began half a decade ago, 25 percent of the world’s primary energy came from coal. The figure is now 29.6 percent. Between 2009 and 2010, global coal consumption grew by almost 8 percent.

Last year global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 5.8%, marginally exceeding the global rise in energy consumption. Coal is the reason.

Global production is set to rise by 35% in the coming decade. Indonesia is set to surpass us as the world’s largest coal exporter.

BTW, Pearce says that Britain is scaling back on its green energy investments.

Fossil fuel subsidies

The situation is complicated, but Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator reckons the effective coal subsidy in NSW amounts to around $4 billion each year. International fossil fuel subsidies amount to around half a trillion dollars each year.

Meanwhile Opposition finance minister Andrew Robb last week reckoned that subsidising clean energy was like putting money on the horses. Subsidising Big Oil in the US, it seems, is justified by Republicans as rewarding success.

Is CSG cleaner than coal?

Climate Spectator discusses a WorleyParsons report on the life-cycle emissions of CSG exported to China compared to coal.

The first thing to understand is that China doesn’t close older coal plants in favour of CSG, so the comparison should be with newer, cleaner coal-fired plants. In this case the ultra-supercritical coal power plants are comparable to open-cycle gas plants in terms of life-cycle emissions. Combined-cycle CSG plants have a base case of 0.55t/Co2e for every MWh compared to ultra-supercritical coal plants with 0.78t/Co2e.

In exporting gas 22% of the life-cycle emissions occur in Australia, compared to 2.7% for export coal.

In Australia by locating the power plant near the gas field you could save on the liquefaction process. John D reckons Santos said this takes 10% of the energy in gas. The bottom line appears to be that if you are replacing old coal-fired plants in Australia with gas you would still be making savings.

This is how the Fairfax regional papers tell the story.

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW says that the Government should commission its own report as WorleyParsons is involved in the construction of gas powered power plants worldwide.

99 thoughts on “Climate clippings 52”

  1. Climate Progress has a post on the world’s population passing 7 billion, highlighting the need for women to control their own fertility.

    Ouch! I clicked through and read the article, and it’s not really saying that it’s up to women to control their fertility. It says that when they are given the resources to do so, people choose to have smaller and healthier families. So part of the solution is to ensure that women have access to, and good information about, the use of effective contraceptives, and the power to use them.

  2. …highlighting the need for women to control their own fertility.

    Errr, yes, Deborah. I think that might have been a rare moment of infelicitous phrasing on Brian’s part.

    I agree with you — phrased in that way above, it can be read as “hey! it’s all up to you wimmins, wreckin’ the planet with yer bebbies, to stop it already!” but I’m 100% sure that sentence contained some silent letters in the word ‘need’ and ‘control’, and that the intended meaning was something along the lines of…

    …highlighting the need for (a global commitment to policies, programs and legislation that enable) women to control their own (bodies and choices; and for opposing forces based on ignorance, irrationality and misogyny to be relegated to the history books).

    Or am I just man-splaining? 😉

  3. OK, I’ve changed the text to read ” highlighting the need for women to have the power to control their own fertility.”

    Is that acceptable?

    Deborah, I don’t know whether you realise it or not, but getting pummelled over small mistakes like that have the effect on people like me of just leaving it out next time.

  4. Brian

    While I agree with Merc that the original phrasing was capable of being interpreted as he suggested, the phrasing ellipsis was at worst ambiguous and would easily admit a reading locating control by women of their bodies within a context in which women were in practice empowered.

    It doesn’t occur to me that you would have intended otherwise.

  5. Environmental Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology. Rich nations have a lot of T and there’s no backing off from that, while poor nations want more T which will increase their I.

    Rich nations could decrease their A quite a lot without great discomfort but can you hear the squeals of dismay from the rich at having their lifestyles threatened? It’s going to happen anyway but I’m talking crisis avoidance here not crisis survival.

    Poor nations want their A. Too late. Sorry. Rich nations have squandered your hope of their level of affluence in an orgy of macmansions, holiday homes, boats, electronic toys, movies and lashings of wonderfully extravagant, high mileage, high carbon food.

    Which brings us to Population. Rich or poor, it’s there having the Impact.
    Many poor nations are having a terrible Impact even without the A and the T which means they are overpopulated.

    Rich nations are having a terrible Impact because they have high A and T AND P. This means that rich nations are overpopulated, over consuming and treading very heavily on the environment. In fact, much of the Impact in poor nations is due to the high Impact of rich nations.

    Humanity’s Impact is currently 1.5 Earths with a P of 7 billion. That means we are going to crash even if we halt growth of P, A and T now.
    Which one should we tackle first? Which one ‘could’ we tackle first?

  6. Fran @ 4, thanks for that. The problem in compiling these posts is to select, highlight and summarise some of the points made in the linked articles, so that the result is more than a simple links post, while staying within an average of 100 words per segment. On this occasion I was already over the limit and in fact stayed over the limit. The whole post averaged 131 words per segment. In complex matters I like to use quotes, but they are very usually expensive in chewing up my word allocation.

    On this matter Monbiot said:

    This should not prevent us from strongly supporting the policies which will cause population to peak sooner rather than later. Sex education, the report shows, is crucial, as is access to contraception and the recognition of women’s rights and improvement in their social status. All these have been important factors in the demographic transition the world has seen so far. We should also press for a better distribution of wealth: escaping from grinding poverty is another of the factors which have allowed women to have fewer children. The highly unequal system sustained by the rich white men who fulminate about population is one of the major reasons for population growth.

    And this is just part of a larger point he was making.

    In the case of the Climate Progress piece, in order to avoid distortion and it would be safest to quote this:

    One timely example: Over 200 million women want, but currently lack, access to modern contraceptives like condoms, pills and IUDs. As a result, 76 million unintended pregnancies occur every year. If all the world’s women had access to the basic contraceptives they want and need we’d see a huge increase in human well being, including a 1/3 reduction in maternal mortality, a 1/5 reduction in infant mortality, and a substantial reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions that endanger us all. An added bonus: experts tell us that if we gave women this choice, the world’s population would not reach 8 billion until 2050.

    Giving women the power to plan their pregnancies is one of the most obvious, and most overlooked, solutions to many of the most pressing problems we’re facing – what many have called the flock of “Black Swans.” Prioritizing women’s rights, especially reproductive rights, is central to meeting the unprecedented challenges of the combined environmental, social and economic crises we face.

    When we fully empower individuals and families to make decisions related to reproduction and sexuality, we create more sustainable and just communities. So we see it as a global responsibility to secure access to basic sexuality education and contraception – the tools many of us take for granted – as a means of advancing both reproductive choice and sustainable development. We also know that these interventions are not only the right thing to do, they’re the smart thing to do: We could meet the needs of all 200 million women for $3.7B, and the world would save $5.1B in healthcare costs along the way.

    To be sure, funding contraception is just one part of the puzzle. The way we consume and use natural resources and the underlying social inequities of resource distribution and consumption are the other side of that coin, and must be addressed.

    But as the largest generation of young people ever comes of age, we see an unprecedented, and fleeting, opportunity to invest in sexuality education and reproductive healthcare for people and the planet. As we have seen in recent events, the bottom line for this new generation is justice and rights for all. It’s time for us to rise to that challenge.

    One problem for me is that I read what I had written three or four times without noticing the defects in my phrasing, which means that next time I’ll be more likely to play it safe and just leave it out.

  7. Salient Green @ 5, I would question whether more technology inevitably means more environmental impact. Mini renewable power systems may replace highly polluting practices of burning cow manure, or scarce wood.

  8. Brian @6,

    don’t do that. Often the nuance becomes an important part of an issue. (The communicator is always in the cross-hairs for touchy subjects). Here, capacity is probably the key word. Education and access to microfinance to name two. I like the phrase highlighting the need for women to have the means to control their own fertility.

    Once asked someone at international bank level (can’t remember who) whether the known relationships between birth rates and the ability of women to manage their fertility was enough to reduce the P part of IPAT to sustainable levels (understanding it as a macroeconomics problem, a bit like the Kuznets curve). The answer was no.

    Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done – it should be one of the central planks of international relations, but it’s no magic bullet, either. The US refusal to fund aid tied to fertility control has been extremely damaging because it affects the ability of people to self determine. Research from Ethiopia suggests that when women have the means to choose to have smaller families, they do.

  9. Brian, there’s no doubt some technology can reduce Impact but can it be selected over the technology which increases impact? Can poor countries select renewable power, sustainable homes etc while only sparingly making use of energy intensive broadacre agriculture, steel and concrete production, manufacturing – in short most of the technology which is used to excess and sustains the Growth economies of rich nations?
    Yes, if they are wise and forward thinking. No, most likely I think as they will aspire to the Growth fetish.
    Interesting little essay here titled “Sustainability – Doublings, Halvings, and Footprint”

  10. Take cooking for example, if you use gas, wood or dung (GWD) about 90% of the energy generated is wasted. If you use wood or dung in a poorly ventilated hut you will get very sick kids. Oh yes there are more energy efficient ways to use GWD but the benefits are marginal.
    I have been researching a vastly more efficient method to cook food that will fit with virtually all cultural constraints. The technology part is easy in fact the units can be economically solar powered ( no it is not some thermal concentrating gimmick).
    The real issue is the obsolete central generation power network model. This, by it’s very existence, makes the implementation of modern energy efficient techniques difficult to justify.
    To explain, if the energy use is (say) 20% of that used at present then the cost of energy can be 4 times that at present and we come out ahead. Not only that but the network losses are vastly reduced and networks that are of a scale suitable for developing countries become economically justifiable.
    However to justify GW scale power generation of any type you need transmission network as well as distribution networks and avast technology infrastructure.

  11. About the population growth thing … reducing infant mortality also leads to smaller family sizes and increases household wealth. Reducing infant mortality is a simple, cheap process and is intimately connected with women’s empowerment; not just consequentially, but causally.

    Also, I think that the ageing population “issue” is way over-egged, and Japan is a classic example of westerners blathering on to no good purpose about the issue from an essentially deficit-terrorist position. In fact, the ageing society could be good for Japan and the region socially, environmentally and economically.

  12. I’m assuming in light of your clarification then Brian that “George Monbiot, clear-headed as usual” is also some kind misprint resulting from word pressures and elision.

    It’s certainly a phrase that few people could take literally without bursting into raucous laughter.

    sg can you elaborate on how Japan’s ageing can be good economically for Australia? I find it hard to understand how a population reduction of about a quarter by 2050, with an even greater reduction in working age population – with a concomitant fall in GDP and demand, and enormous fiscal impact for a government already deeply in debt – taking place in Australia’s second biggest trading partner and a major source of investment, can possibly be a positive. Any paper I have seen from Australian Government sources seems to say the same. But I am willing to be educated – I accept that the Japanese are pretty good at innovative approaches to issues of this sort.

  13. Thanks for your work Brian.

    With respect to women having the opportunity to control their own fertility one of the Guardian article’s on population described the efforts being made in Zanzibar to get religious consent to population control by referring back to the Koran. Tanzania has 450+ maternal deaths per 100,000 births.

    Desertification will effect Australia very badly. Are our food prices rising now because of early effects of climate change or is it simply price gouging by the supermarket oligopolies.

    Ageing population is more of a problem in equitable societies where people have universal access to health care. Universal access to quality health care is reducing in Australia so that poor people will die younger and there aren’t enough middle class older people for doctors to practice on so everyone’s health care will deteriorate.

    An expatriate Australian doctor has a large scale study of Britons and Americans aged 65 – to test the effect of the 2 health systems over a lifetime. He found the health Americans in the top income quintile was worse than the health of Britons in the bottom income quintile.

  14. I haven’t been paying attention, however . . . .

    Wozza –
    Do you think climate change is happening?
    Do you think desertification will reduce Australia’s food production capability?
    Do you recognise the need to restrict Australia’s population?
    Do you think that Australia can feed 36 million people at the same standard as today?

    Impact of ageing Japanese population on Australian economy. Nil
    Japanese have off-shored manufacturing to lower cost nations like Thailand, Korea etc
    As Australia has lost Japanese commodity markets the Chinese have become larger commodity customers and the Indian markets have just opened.

  15. Brian,

    As you say, temperature increase is logarithmic wrt atmospheric CO2. This may lead some into a false sense of security as the capability of the oceans to absorb CO2 decreases with increasing atmospheric CO2 and temperature. The net result is that temperature is expected to increase nearly linearly with aggregate CO2 emissions.

    Ray Pierrehumbert makes this clear in his response to comment #26 on this RealCimate thread:

    I think this is a very important point to keep in mind.

  16. Re population, yes consumption is the problem, but noone wants to live on a planet where n billion people live on a bowl of rice a day.
    The answer is for developed countries to start paying people not to have children. Once the population starts to decline in developed countries and the world doesn’t end (in fact it gets better), developing countries will follow suit.

  17. Salient Green @ 9,

    You’re argument is fairly solid.

    However, the fact is that for some third world communities the very first real technology that is available to them is in the form of cell phones and small solar panels to charge them as well as a battery for night lighting (see Africa and India). I think that in time it will be revealed that these tiny accesses to the technology overflow from the wealthy west are also devices that aid in the reduction of the birth rate. Access to knowledge through communication and education with the ability to stay awake at night to read or communicate are the building blocks of free choice.

    Add to that HuggyB’s point about cooking technologies along with simple bicycle technology, and you have a picture building of minimal technology having a huge impact on lives of billions without a huge drain on global resources. Further it is possible to develop technologies that do not drain resources very much at all. ie solar powered manufacturing using non fossil fuel carbonaceous material stocks can be to core substance of many of the technologies mentioned.

    The strength of your argument is in the minimal resolve of most governments to see past their own internal needs and greed.

  18. The Nationals have just released their CSG policy framework. It looks sane and sensible at this stage with the emphasis on protecting water sources (surface and below) as well as prime agricutlural land.
    The important messages I took from the Worley Parson’s report was:
    1. The relative merits of gas compared with coal are reduced substantially if we are talking about Australian fuels being used to fire overseas power stations in places like China. The big difference is the transport related emissions (including liquefaction of the gas.)
    2. We really need to look at specific cases before making decisions. Different coals will generate different amounts of CO2/kWh depending on things like coal composition, transport distances, the fate of carbonaceous waste and seam emissions. Gas will be affected by composition, what happens to any CO2 in the gas and transport.

    In the short term I am strongly in favour of using Australian gas to generate CCGT power in Aus to replace high emission coal fired and to provide a buffer for variable renewable power sources. Having said this, investments must be made on the understanding that we are talking about a gas transition with replacement of gas fired with clean alternatives getting serious by 2030.

  19. The predicted rainfall anomaly map is very interesting, thanks Brian. I think the increase in rainfall over Kenya etc is just the result of higher equatorial evaporation over the Indian Ocean (there’s a similar blob over Indonesia et al also).

    But I think the more interesting bit than the US southwest is the gigantic red blob over the Himalaya – water source to billions. Will be interesting to see how China and India ‘adapt’ to having less water coming through their major river systems.

  20. HuggyB @10
    There are a number of companies developing technology for electricity generation in the home or for industry which, by my reading are significantly more efficient than centrally generated electricity (as you eliminate transmission losses). Companies such as Ceramic Fuels in Australia and others in the UK and US. When the unit costs are more attractive, I’d expect them to become widely used. The efficiency gains would go a long way to reducing C02 emissions. They can generate electricity from a number of fuel sources but gas is probably the best option – infrastructure to deliver it to homes etc already in place by and large.

  21. Bilb: The pattern of developing countries overtaking developed countries that we have seen over a long period of time is often a result of the developing countries having a competitive advantage because they are using the latest technology. Older technologies are too busy defending their going out of date technologies.
    Hopefully, we will see countries without Huggy’s beloved macro power systems developing around things like solar PV.

  22. Wozza (et al), I’ve put a post on my blog explaining why I think japan’s “demographic timebomb” is overrated and misunderstood as a problem, and the opportunities it presents. For those who don’t want to wade through my turgid prose, a brief summary here:

    it’s not a problem because Japan has low taxes, low inflation, low female workforce participation, low proportion of economy in services, and low immigration so is ideally placed to fix the problem (c.f. the UK which is in deep trouble).

    It’s misunderstood because discussion of Japan’s shrinking workforce is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how Japanese family life works, and western critique of the reasons for the declining birthrate is generally ignorant of key issues in Japanese labour relations (especially, the way workers in their 20s put off life decisions due to punishing workplace culture).

    It’s an opportunity because the reduced birthrate will liberate women from caring responsibilities to their parents (again, you have to understand Japanese family structure to see why this will happen), will increase immigration, and will lead Japanese women (further) into a feminist wonderland (which is good for men too).

    Ageing societies in general are a good thing because they mean less crime, less war, more development aid (private and public) to developing nations, and a redefinition of what it means to be young and old, in both cases in a positive way. The immigration/development thing is particularly important with Japan because a) they have difficulties attracting immigration due to the language issue, and the ageing population may kick their govt to a proactive stance on promoting Japanese language and culture in the region and b) they are of huge importance for aid and development in Asia.

  23. Yes, Jess, there is a lot to take from that image.

    One obvious lesson is that a prudent Mediteranean country would be starting to build long tunnels north now to transport water from the scandinanian countries. There are only thirty years, maximum to react.

    Scotland and NZ Southland are the places in our Anglophile world to have some realestate.

    The US will history as a super power.

    A lot of people are going to die within my children’s life time.

    Life in Australia will return to equal or harsher difficulty of the early days of colonisation.

  24. Thanks billie and thanks Roger @ 8 for the encouragement. I take your point. It’s just that I’m a bit battle-scarred on issues relating to gender and feminism.

    I was born a pre-baby boomer and not many generations away from when women didn’t have a vote, married women were considered a possession of their husbands etc.

    By the time I was studying philosophy and literature in the early 1960s I’d developed a personal philosophy of interpersonal relations which placed a premium on respect, equality, the independence of the individual and the desirability of having a strong personal sense of identity, irrespective of gender. I hadn’t heard of Germaine Greer or other feminists at that stage.

    To have a philosophy is one thing, to review, modify and eliminate where appropriate ingrained habits and attitudes in real life settings is another. It’s been a work in progress ever since, assisted by some strong and frank women, who were also kind and considerate. Around a decade ago Mark did a lot of writing in this area, so I had the opportunity to update as to how issues had been rethought.

    Nevertheless I still find myself out of step sometimes, most gloriously when I posted something here over a year ago which everyone in my generation thought was hilariously funny but was treated like peeing in public by everyone born later. I’m fairly resilient, but being viewed as though fundamentally defective as a human being by people I respect is something I’d prefer to avoid.

    Some day, when I’m brave, I might elaborate on why I think generational differences are so fundamental, but I’m aware that my generation is in the process of disappearing as comrades fall around me, so if it’s a problem it will be a self-curing one.

    Anyway, the current incident is not of that order of seriousness so we’ll carry on regardless.

  25. Carrying on, I’ve heard a demographer recently say that from memory half of the women in the world now reproduce at or below the replacement rate. This is an increasing trend which seems to be continuing. Monbiot:

    In just 60 years, the global average number of children each woman bears has fallen from 6 to 2.5. This is an astonishing triumph for women’s empowerment, and whatever your position on population growth, it is something we should celebrate.

    Monbiot says that the UN had previously assumed that the rate would fall to 1.85 by 2100, but they had now arbitrarily changed this assumption to 2.1. In other words the trend would stop when it reached the replacement rate. Monbiot thinks this stretches credibility.

    Wozza, Monbiot is one who responds rationally when the available information changes. This is actually fairly rare, I find.

  26. BilB @24
    “”One obvious lesson is that a prudent Mediteranean country would be starting to build long tunnels north now to transport water from the scandinanian countries. There are only thirty years, maximum to react.””

    Sacktly, a prudent Australia should be building water storage infrastructure ASAP.

    Brian, ” world biggest coal port” is , reportedly, Qinhuangdao in China.
    But watch this space, we could take that crown at Hay Point.

  27. Jess @ 20 and BilB @ 24, I don’t think the models can be too precise as to where the actual lines are drawn and there may be places where the sign is wrong. I’m not sure that we can be certain how the monsoons in the subcontinent will be affected. But most seem to agree that the areas where the staple grains are grown – wheat, maize, rice etc – will be drier.

    Most of the food in the world is grown and consumed in an arc from around Pakistan to Northern China. There is trouble in store there, as there is in Southern Europe, or even Northern Europe if the map is right.

    One of the problems with alpine areas is that winter ice may disappear in spring floods, followed by dryish river beds during summer. I’m not sure what is in store for the Rhine, for example, but it can’t be good. Likewise I’m not sure how soon this will become an issue in the major river systems flowing from the Himalayas.

  28. sg thanks for analysis of the ageing Japanese society.

    One point that everyone overlooks is that in our society young people consume without contributing to the economy until they are 17 at the earliest or more usually 25.

    Much to the disgust of teachers faced with large, dangerous, disruptive students, the school leaving age is now 17, which does nothing for the learning environment for other students keen to learn or for the self-esteem of those kids forced to remain at school being ‘babysat’. If you go onto to tertiary education you are likely to be earning a graduate salary by the time you are 28, after doing part time and unpaid work to get the work experience to be worth paying.

    So these young people forced into an enforced dependency still consume, they consume food, gadgets, entertainment, clothes at a greater level than their income and their parents are forced to support them. Additionally society educates them so we pay for their schools and their teachers as well as providing health care.

    I am not anti-youth. I am anti those commentators who fail to count the costs of extended childhood on the national accounts whilst bemoaning the costs of aged care that mainly accrue in the last 2 years of life. Most aged people look after themselves in the housing they own outright.

  29. Thanks sg. Have my doubts, personally. I don’t see how an ageing population is going to reduce the taking care of elderly in-laws responsibility (though changing culture is), since the characteristic of an ageing and declining population is more elderly, living longer, and fewer children on whom the responsibility devolves. Also the immigration expansion is very optimistic: it is not language difficulties that hold levels down, it is very long-standing and deeply rooted suspicion of foreigners (the whole 我我日本人thing) and opposition to immigration. And ageing societies generally become more conservative not less.

    You don’t touch on the fiscal impact either – declining tax base, greater pressure on health services, and an already highly indebted government.

    Still, it is 20 years since I lived in Japan and I could be wrong.

    Even if I am though, and it is all good for Japan, the point I was making was in response to your belief that it will be economically good also for the region. Australia is part of the region, and frankly the economic impact here can hardly not be nett bad, as the Japanese economy contracts – less demand for our exports (and not just resources, billie), less money for foreign investment, fewer tourists and students, etc. It’s (more arguably) not great for our strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific either.

    Sorry, getting a bit O/T I guess.

  30. Oh dear. I read and commented on this post early this morning, then organised myself and my children out the door for a day long event, and then what with dinner and ironing school uniforms and all that, I’ve only just gotten back to the interwebs now.

    @Brian, many thanks for the re-wording.

  31. Quite right BilB @ 18 and Huggybunny @10.
    Great analysis SG. Shows how adaptible Humans can be. While the natural world will be inflexible in it’s constraints, society is malleable. There is nothing to fear from a Steady State Economy, an Aging population or even a declining population as long as jobs and resources, wealth in other words, are shared fairly.

    Sharing wealth fairly is anathema to the Neoliberal, Globalized, Growth economy of rich nations.

  32. billie @ 15, not sure why I am singled out for the inquisition (though I know that NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition), but delighted to be transparent about my position, of course. The answers to your questions are:

    1 Do I think climate change is happening? Yes, the world has warmed over the past 30 years. The question is though what what will happen in the future – not least the significance of the slow down in the past 13 years, and increasing divergence from models. On that the jury is out. Moreover, whether climate change is happening, and what the appropriate policy responses are, are two different questions

    2 Do I think desertification will reduce Australia’s food production capability? No, if you want to phrase the question in those precise words. Even the CSIRO does not as far as I know use the emotive “desertification” about rainfall projections. Rainfall may decrease on average, but the CSIRO say that the decrease will be minor for at least the next 25 years, that there is no unequivocal climate change signal detectable in current rainfall trends, and that even in the longer term variability is such that a prediction of what will happen where in Australia is very uncertain. Does that mean “desertification” in your lexicon?

    In any case agricultural productivity will continue to increase if it is allowed to even if rainfall decreases. Water collection (eg dams) is important; so are new technologies increasing drought tolerance like GM. I always find it strange that those who most vehemently preach the desertification apocalypse also generally oppose the best ways to avoid it.

    3 Do I recognise the need to restrict Australia’s population? That is a “have you stopped beating your wife?” question. You take it on yourself to define the need , and ask me to respond within your parameters. What is your objective evidence that it is a short term need? And if the need is not short term, it can be left to a future generation which – can you believe it? – will be richer, closer to the problem, technologically more advanced, and able to make its own decisions without nannying from the past.

    4 Do you think that Australia can feed 36 million people at the same standard as today? Given that it feeds more than that – with exports – today, and technology will continue to increase productivity if it is allowed to, yes. The ‘if it is allowed to” is in the hands of those who think like you (apologies if I misinterpret your position, of course) rather than those who think like me though.

  33. Brian @ 26, yes you’re right. I was taking the proffered opportunity to tease a bit re Monbiot, sorry. I agree he does often respond to new evidence, which is rare in most participants in climate debates, including I suspect both you and me. He was certainly the only committed AGW proponent as far as I know who responded rationally – that is, didn’t just close ranks and insert fingers in ears – at the time of Climategate, and he is objective on nuclear as well.

    Still, you gotta admit though that he remains prone to the occasional fit of the crazies, and some would use a different adjective.

  34. Brian: I appreciate the two rainfall maps are for slightly different periods but the 2060 – 2069 shows all of the US getting dryer while the 2050 graph shows the higher precipitation area about the same as lower with only the border states significantly lower.
    Correct me if I am wrong Jess but I would have thought that global warming would result in higher oceanic evaporation giving higher average precipitation? Changing weather patterns and serious winners and losers?
    Jess: The Himalaya prediction is a bit scary given that three major nuclear powers depend on the rainfall there.

  35. Wozza at 30, in response to your points …

    the caring for the elderly thing … it’s numerically impossible for Japan to continue its current system of private care for the elderly. My friend Miss Wisteria is an only daughter; her parents put a lot of pressure on her to not marry a first son (it’s the first question they ask her about a boyfriend). This is because she will be expected to move in with his parents and care for them; but with a decreasing number of second sons being born, they can’t expect her to be able to stick around for them. It’s an inviolable physical fact that Japan needs to find a new approach to caring (which they are looking into), and people like Miss Wisteria are going to be the generation who buck the old ideas and tell their parents to go into a home; not by choice, but because someone has to. And it’s a net plus for the generation that follows Miss Wisteria if this system dies.

    As for the “long-standing and deep-rooted suspicion of foreigners,” it’s a lot easier to migrate to Japan to work than it is to go to the UK (I’ve done both). Japanese immigration processes are simple and easy and amenable to allowing foreigners in; people don’t come here because it’s impossible. And you will not receive a better welcome anywhere else in the world, despite the massive language barrier. I am continually astounded at the generosity and kindness of this country, their fascination with and love of foreigners and simple willingness to accept difference. It’s so far from 我々日本人 (though perhaps driven by awareness of difference). That isn’t to say that opposition to immigration doesn’t exist here (and more will come) but it’s not anything like the UK. And this despite the fact that white (english-speaking) foreigners in Japan are, in general, scum, and if migrants to the UK or Oz behaved the way australian and British behave in Japan, the gates would be slammed shut very quickly indeed.

    In my post I touched on the fiscal issue: it’s essentially bullshit. Japan is in a very sustainable fiscal position even if they do nothing, and they’re in a very good position to be able to raise taxes (e.g. VAT is 5%, compared to 20% in the UK). But the gripes about the fiscal position are mindless deficit terrorism, with no basis in reality.

    Japan’s ageing population will be economically good for the region because it means they will buy more services from overseas. Countries like the Phillipines that recognize this will make money from trading services – especially health and aged care – with Japan. Korea is already doing it with health. Australians – as shown in the responses in this thread – can’t see trade except through the prism of mining. But we could easily start trading nurses with Japan instead of Britain, if we improved language education or encouraged Japanese universities to set up courses here. For us, it’s an opportunity. We don’t have to export only ore, you know. We can export value-added humans.

    Salient Green mentions steady state economies as one of the outcomes of the ageing population issue. I think this may be a part of it, but I don’t see why ageing economies need to mean stagnation. On the one hand, the population isn’t growing; but on the other hand the length of time people are adult consumers is growing. And while old people consume less of some products, they consume more of others. And with more money, they prefer high-end products. That’s a perfect niche for Australian industry, surely?

  36. “people don’t come here because it’s impossible.” wtf? I don’t know what I meant when I wrote that, please ignore…

  37. Deborah @ 31, I started the day very tired and probably over-reacted to your @ 1. Nevertheless it’s a bit of a raw spot with me and one of the few to disturb my equilibrium. Glad the rewording is better.

    John D @ 19, to me the Qld LNP CSG policy lacks detail so far.

    @ 35, the figure in the post is from Figure 11 in this 2010 study, which derives from “the 22-model ensemble-mean surface air temperature, precipitation, humidity, net radiation, and wind speed used in the IPCC AR4 from the 20th century and SRES A1B 21st century simulations.”

    Here is Figure 10.12 of IPCC AR4, WG1. You’ll notice that precipitation increases in many areas, but so does evaporation. Unfortunately I can’t get the relevant chapter of IPCC to download, so I don’t know the projected date.

    So I assume that the 2010 study is a sophisticated combination of the modelling of various factors. Nevertheless it would be based on science available in 2006 or earlier, so I’d just note it with interest as a broad projection which may change and not worry too much about the detail.

    We don’t know the pedigree of the US map from New Scientist but clearly it’s precipitation only.

  38. John D: Yep – it seems from the modelling that we may actually see an increase in runoff over a lot of land areas. The problem can be approached in Roger-esque fashion, by looking at the coupled balances water and energy over the land and the oceans – this can be done quite easily from both measurements and climate model predictions.

    Roger probably knows more about this stuff than me, but from memory, the basic idea that gets tossed around is ‘the wet get wetter and the dry get drier’. I think the wet-get-wetter part is ok, since over the oceans you can increase evaporation quite a lot. So places which currently get a lot of ocean-derived rain will get even more with a warmer atmosphere. But I’d read the ‘dry get drier’ part with caution (especially in places like the Murray-Darling) since already dry areas won’t significantly increase their evaporation rate since they’re already limited by the amount of runoff they receive.

    The other issue for Australia is that the westerly wind belt will move further south in a warmer atmosphere. So all those nice lows that dump rain on Australia will dump it in the ocean to the south rather than in WA or SA. Bit of a problem if you’re in the wheat belt.

  39. Thanks sg. Still think you’re wrong on Japanese immigration. For one thing you’re talking about the equivalent of the 457 visa, not permanent residence let alone citizenship which they remain very reluctant on. Even on strictly employment related entry, latest (that I can find) OECD figures are an annual 72,000 for Japan, a very small number for its population. Australia, a sixth the size, takes 111,000.

    And a full half of Japanese work visas are for “entertainers”, and we know what that usually means.

    There would have to be huge changes in future for this route to make a big impact on Japan’s economic partners.

    And Australia does poorly on services exports on the whole anyway (hardly a surprise to anyone who has to put up with abysmal domestic Australian service industry standards). Unless it quickly and unexpected pulls it socks up, it won’t be Australia benefiting even if Japan’s services imports do grow significantly.

    Still, there is a lot of food for thought in the info you have provided – much appreciated. (And I will cease dragging the thread further O/T in this direction now Brian – sorry about that.)

  40. Japan is still over populated in the sense that it would struggle to feed itself. It is also a place where most people live in small apartments that are not particularly suited to raising children.
    I would suspect that what is really happening is that the Japanese population is moving back to a level where high standards of living can be sustainably maintained. (Not the only factor but….)
    Ditto for much of the developed and developing world.

  41. The Australian diet has changed considerably since WWll in response to outside influences, relative cost of various foods health reasons and just plain curiosity. We can be optimistic and hope that the developed world will be open to changes that reduce the area required to feed the average person.

    Captain Cook got his men to eat sauerkraut for the health by feeding the officers on it first and then “giving in” to demands that the ordinary sailors get this special food too.

  42. John D,

    Jess has it. The mid-latitudes where descending air from the tropics has strengthened are becoming drier already. Areas likely to become wetter are high latitudes, central equatorial regions, some of the monsoon regions, the high mid-latitude westerlies and easterlies though they will be poleward. Aerosols can potentially disrupt precipitation patterns.

    An ex-associate of mine Paul Durack doing his Ph D looked at areas of increased salinisation in the ocean. The patterns of where water is evaporated from can also change, accentuating the fresh-saline distribution of ocean waters. This can also potentially affect rainfall patterns.

  43. John D:

    Japan is still over populated in the sense that it would struggle to feed itself. It is also a place where most people live in small apartments that are not particularly suited to raising children.

    I don’t think this is true. Japan struggles to feed itself because it has a highly protected rice market that is extremely inefficient, and eats a lot of wheat-based products by choice. If it needed to, Japan could produce a lot more rice than it is; but to do so would need to destroy its traditional farming practices and the characteristics of its countryside. It’s a political and social choice to suffer high rice prices in exchange for maintaining its agricultural heritage.

    Also Japanese raise their children in large multi-generation houses, as well as quite spacious apartments called “mansions.” They certainly live in smaller homes than we do but families living in a little box is something of a myth.

    What is true is that the housing market is structured here to make transport efficient and environmentally friendly, and enable peopel to live alone even on quite low incomes. It makes cities dense and affordable to live in.

  44. Brian: The IPCC graph looks a lot more like what I would expect than your first graph above. It is also more in line with what Jess and Roger are saying.
    Sg and others. Comments on Japan are interesting. I like the wild woods and have lived much of my adult life in the outback so perhaps so perhaps there is a bit of bias when i see falling birthrates as a response to a perception of over crowding. The parts of Japan i have spent time in (Nara/Narita) certainly gave plenty of room to get away from crowds.

  45. Roger: Thanks for the link. It’s good to see that the Age is giving you a chance to respond to some of those tropes.

    That said, the profile of Stephen Harper the ‘skeptic’ was pretty bizarre. He talks about keeping an open mind, and then comes out with this pearler:

    4. What are your main sources of information?
    I’ve read about 15 books. The first one was An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming by former Thatcher government minister Nigel Lawson. Then there was Climate: The counter-consensus by Bob Carter. Websites? I look at and Those two I find very interesting and fair.

    Wow, 15 books. Isn’t that a lot of information! Obviously more than enough to overturn all those jumped up scientists who are twiddling the models right? And nothing to do with this of course…

  46. Roger 45,

    That article was crafted to make the skeptics argument the predominate “facts” and the explanations a waffle of unnecessary detail. More of the same obfuscation from the press. The cleverness of the lie is that you and others will be accused when there is no longer any scope for denial for not arguing your case strongly enough despite having been given the opportunity.

    Harper and Hoston get the first and last say in clear strong language. You get to talk about a “theory” in long paragraphs, too long to bother to read. You were snookered by the liars.

  47. @BilB: I know it was a fairly denial-friendly piece, but it did allow Roger and the others to directly counter a lot of the ‘arguments’ that the denialists raised. So maybe that’s a good thing. I think most people would read the rebuttal of each point if they were interested.

    Ultimately you have to beat denialists with the facts, and that starts by getting them out there point by point.

  48. Jess,

    So true. But you only win a point if people actually read what is said.

    Print that article out and view it from a distance to see whose arguments shouted from the page, and whose were a mumble. That is not a fair presentation at all. You see this as being an opportunity because you are a fast and confident reader familiar with the terminology. But a casual reader will take in the repeatedly chanted pub language of Harper and Hoston and glaze over at Roger’s part.

    It is christians and lions …….entertainment in the guise of science.

  49. BilB is right, the points taken by the ” ridiculously uneducated masses ” , from that article are not Rogers.

    I should know.

  50. What a total knuckledragger Harper is

    “I’m just a product of the Enlightenment. If the people who want to put windmills all over the place were in charge 100 years ago, we wouldn’t have half the technology or the lifestyle we’ve got today. They would have stopped everything”

    100 years ago there were windmills everywhere, and were the precursor energy system that preluded the industrial revolution. But lets not get bogged down with reality when there is gossip and inuendo to dabble with.

  51. Great article from Energy Bulletin titled Capitalism and Environmental Catastrophe which puts the best case I have read yet for an end to Capitalism, replacing it with Democratic Socialism.
    It identifies 9 environmental catastrophes, actual and looming, derived from Capitalism. 3 have crossed planetary boundaries to be actual catastrophes, climate change, species extinction and disruption of the nitrogen cycle.
    The rest of the article clearly illustrates the link between environmental catastrophe and the pursuit of profits and accumulation.

  52. BilB,

    Michael Bachelard, who wrote the article, is a good guy. I know what’s been going on – don’t reckon I’ve been snookered at all. It’s more at the editorial level where there’s balance of opinion and let the facts speak for themselves. This has been the case throughout this series. My most pithy remarks (which weren’t at all professorial) were left out, probably a good thing. Going on the attack doesn’t work. Ian Harper was at pains to make himself sound reasonable, wasn’t he?

    The questions were interesting because they are blueprint denial memes. Climate science is already being blamed for not communicating its message properly, but it’s becoming clearer to the science community that appeals to reason aren’t enough. I’m also something of a contrarian but come from within the broad consensus of AGW. The message I have is not the stock ignore the variability look-at-the-trend communication, but is more to do with explaining things such as why climate is non-linear and how the dynamics of warming is largely driven by the ocean. In the long run, giving good explanations for what’s going on and communicating info so it can be used in problem solving will win out.

    The current “balance” that does not distinguish between belief and knowledge is a problem that won’t be sorted out soon, but the issue needs to the emphasised repeatedly. I’m constantly trying to understand how to get round this. What I don’t have are carefully scripted arguments and need to work on them. With new and changing science, that’s difficult.

  53. Today in the Senate, Abetz, commenting on the birth of a child to a fellow LNP senator, declared that “this {would} be the last baby born in a carbon tax free Australia”.

    Let’s put to one side Abetz’s terminological obfuscation and pretend he instead said: this {would} be the last baby born in an Australia without an explicit carbon price.*

    This statement can be justified in a number of ways.

    1. The LNP has abandoned its plans to repeal carbon pricing.
    2. The LNP plans to repeal carbon pricing but prevent future births occurring here. Perhaps this is part of the direct action plan to reduce emissions.

    Neither of these has received much media coverage, if any, but I’m inclined to think #2 is a little unlikely, even for Abbott and Hockey. I can see that being a bit of a wedge issue, perhaps even less saleable than workchoices, though stop the babies does have a certain ring to it.

    * I’m also ignoring the reality that explicit carbon pricing starts on July 1 2012 and I doubt that there is going to be a hiatus in births in Australia in the interim.

  54. Roger,

    I did a bit of a look at Bachelard to see what he was about and I could not determine if he was either good or evil. I suspect good.

    And you are right. The Editorial and Layout departments went to work on the content in this …..exposee….. Now this is significant and everything that transpired should be recorded for future reference, because it is very obvious from this one article at least that there is an executive agenda for the news. Do the smart thing. Save the printed material, and do screen grabs of the internet based publications.
    This will come back to bight these ratbags very hard in the near future.

    What ever you do, stay on the offensive and maintain that pithy approach. Cross publish everything here so that there is an audit trail on this public deception. If you have wit, and I am sure that you do, drive that hard because that is the only thing that the media respects above its own self obsession.

    If you can’t tell, I am angry and totally pissed off about that article.

  55. Roger,

    “What I don’t have are carefully scripted arguments and need to work on them. With new and changing science, that’s difficult”

    This is important, especially when you are dealing with massive corporations totally versed in manipulating public perceptions. The very greatest of scientists count for nothing in this arena. Consider scientists such as Sir Ian Axford, a giant in the scientific world, who foresaw the melting of the Russian Tundra and the flushout of methane now beginning. Even his position of influence counted for nothing in this looming tragedy, and now he is dead.

    What is under way is a battle for the minds of the public for the channeling of wealth to the 1%. Like I said Christians and Lions.

    Strategy is everything.

  56. BilB, I have a past in public radio and am pretty good at verbal communication. Rob Gell and I converted John Faine from mild climate scepticism on ABC 774 way back when. Really happy doing face to face communication to individuals and all types of groups.

    News stories and features are tough. Op-eds are easier because you’re in control. But the role of world views and cultural-ideological overlays on risk perception, and overcoming that in 30-second soundbites or the dead tree media is the toughest gig of all. My downfall is wanting to push the envelope instead of delivering easy to digest public messages.

    Discussions are are good when there is a sharing of views. The Sunday Age 10 questions project was an effort to do that by asking the public what they wanted to know. It was gamed by blogs (mostly Bolta), but that’s ok. The let-down was an unsophisticated editorial stance towards balance. Stating that all reasonably-held beliefs need to be respected is a good place to start. However, the body of knowledge can inform the reader when certain beliefs, if followed up on, are inherently risky and which may be safer. This message is not getting across. Nor is what serves as valid public knowledge, what is not and what is in the realm of open debate.

    You can’t sustain a planet with 7 billion people (if that is at all possible) over the long term without a strong body of public knowledge. That’s a message worth repeating ad infinitum.

  57. John D @ 47, to sum up, Roger @ 44 is referring to the expansion of the tropics as illustrated here or take your pick from this lot. That matches the IPCC precipitation map. I think that is a strong story and seems to be already happening.

    The map in the post is of projected drought from a study by Aiguo Dai. I’m not sure he’s got it right, but we are told that in the future precipitation is likely to be more irregular with more floods and more droughts.

  58. Roger and BilB, FWIW this article towards the end talks about communication strategies that might be used. One is termed “framing” and suggests that economic opportunities might be a good way of engaging Americans.

    The other is the use of graphs and graphics, which is where the Bachelard article falls down and Roger’s post does well.

    BTW it’s a bit of a hobby horse of mine but this graph shows the HadCRU graph falling away from the pack, probably because they don’t pick up the polar warming.

  59. More strength to you, Roger. I am a one of your fans. Maybe we need a radio station of our own.

    Some selected quotes from a kiwi friend who is a director on a number of US company boards on behalf of an Australian venture capitalist….

    “Thanks for the climate info. (Climate Clippings 52) I have no doubt we are trashing the planet and have as a race squandered (and still are at an ever increasing rate) precious irreplaceable resources on trifles and follies …….

    Humans have a date with disaster. No single country can stop the rot, and no assembly of nations can avoid descending into their usual bureaucratic mire from which only token statements and token gestures emerge……..

    So, I have purchased a nice new Harley so I can at least cruise through the demise of the industrialised period as an observer/chronicler in some sort of style.”

  60. One of the most dynamic adventures in radio broadcasting was New Zealand’s Radio Pacific talk back radio in the 90’s. This was political communication at its very best….open to all, and from all sides.

    One of the key performers was, always interesting, ex ABC journalist Pam Corkery.

  61. I do love how some people can rail about how the liars are manipulating the media (though you’ve really got to be single-minded in your beliefs to suggest the Age is a den of denialists, evilly snookering the good guys, but leave that be), then without a shred of consciousness of the irony move on to discussing how their side should manipulate the media better. So manipulation of the message is OK provided you’re doing it? But of course, that’s as it should be, your motives are pure, and nobody else’s are.

    “I did a bit of a look at Bachelard to see what he was about and I could not determine if he was either good or evil.” There’s one of your message problems right there. AGW enthusiasts so often start with believing that the key point is the messenger and deciding whether he is on their side (good) or not (evil). The corollaries are (1) unwillingness, indeed refusal, to assess the content of the message objectively, address its substance, and, most of all, acknowledge that sometimes messages which are not just about underlining what you already believe can contain accurate information you should learn from; and (2) an inevitable descent into ad homs and abuse. The public are tired of being shouted at by their self-appointed betters about how evil/uneducated they are on climate matters.

    “what serves as valid public knowledge”. And there’s another one. So there is stuff which it is “valid” for the public to know (what you think), and stuff which is “invalid” and should be kept out of the public domain (what you disagree with)? The public increasingly believes that this is precisely what has been happening in media presentation of climate matters, and whether they are right or not (and I will say that anyone who thinks that the public discourse is slanted to denialism is probably, I dunno, let’s say an LP regular), an overt assertion that “validation” – by of course the good guys – of public knowledge is needed, is unlikely to persuade them that they are wrong.

    “Maybe we need a radio station of our own”. Nah, on the evidence of comments here, I think the audience would be rather restricted. You’re much better off going the Bob Brown route. Just close down the ones that are not “validated” by Bob’s committee. You can certainly be sure that it will be people like you who are appointed to it.

  62. Good on you Wozza, on the ball.

    I would be happy to accept the verdict of an advertising specialist on the impact of that article based on its layout rather than its content.

    The “(good) or not (evil)” evaluation is to see if the journalist has a history of content distortion. Now tell me, Wozza that you believe that Andrew Bolt is a fair and balanced journalist, as I suspect that you do.

    “Nah”. That would be the stock answer from someone who had not experienced what Radio Pacific achieved during those years in the 90’s.
    With the adjudication of Pam Corkery and others this talk back radio station brought all major politicians, heads of corporations, leading thinkers to the mike and with national access to the public via phone in. It was brutally powerful and absolutely direct. This was open public debate on a national scale. No hiding behind press releases and email trash bins. Decision makers were called to answer for their decisions by the callers. It was a brilliant period of radio journalism. The likes of Toxic Tony Abbott would be torn to shreads in that forum.

  63. Wozza said:

    what serves as valid public knowledge”. And there’s another one. So there is stuff which it is “valid” for the public to know (what you think), and stuff which is “invalid” and should be kept out of the public domain (what you disagree with)?

    Your framing is misleading here. In context here, “valid public knowledge” refers to its utility and by inference, its rigour and salience. If for example, something is asserted wthat may seem intuitively reasonable to a substantial number of people but find no support after careful examination, then it is not “valid public knowledge” whatever sentiment people with a certain cultural paradigm bring to it.

    Thus, the persistent flow of arrivals of irregular maritime arrivals to Australia’s north-west carrying putative asylum seekers has become an existential crisis or a failure to maintain border security, at least in the minds of some. Careful analysis shows that the flow, in extremis, is far too trivial to pose any substantial existential challenge to Australia, nor is it composed in ways that raise serious questions over “border security”. Nor is asylum seeking illegal or the means by which one applies circumscribed by law. Thus, claims of “there are floods of illegal boat people” is not and example of “valid public knowledge”. It’s a cultural claim.

    Much the same has arisen over climate change, most spectacularly over the often misused and decontextualised “no significant warming since 1995” trope used by the deniers to attack the case for mitigation.

    Once one severs the critical connection between public policy proposals on the one hand and salient evidence and robust modelling on the other, regarding mere cultural claim as having equal or greater standing, then the ground is prepared for very poor public policy outcomes indeed.

  64. Wozza:

    Wozza said:

    what serves as valid public knowledge”. And there’s another one. So there is stuff which it is “valid” for the public to know (what you think), and stuff which is “invalid” and should be kept out of the public domain (what you disagree with)?

    Wozza’s framing, besides being misleading, is the result of projection. Climate change deniers, as we can see from the history of this mode of thinking (Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes et al) manipulate knowledge and try to manipulate public thinking. Therefore, they can’t conceive of people like Brown having different motivations.

  65. Just so, Helen and Oreskes, in her invocation of the term agnotology* explores this point.

    * I’m inclined to agree with Roger Jones that the term agnotology isn’t quite right, given that it is also used for the study of culturally-produced misinformation. I would regard agnosophism as perhaps a better term, but I think I may be a little late to the party to make new suggestions that will be taken up. Perhaps we will have to use context to distinguish.

  66. “what serves as valid public knowledge”

    Wozza, are you paying any attention at all, or do you just like to make stuff up?

    And you’ve made Fran go all prolix.

    Let’s take two areas of knowledge:
    1. The taxonomy of tooth fairies
    2. The epidemiology of malaria

    Which knowledge is more likely to save lives and which is more likely to amuse the hell out of a six year old? No-one except you has brought up the idea of with-holding information. The idea is to have fair and open public discussion and to be able to sort out which is good for what.

    You are have an immense talent for miscomprehension. Good to see you’re not letting it atrophy.

  67. Woz:

    The public are tired of being shouted at by their self-appointed betters about how evil/uneducated they are on climate matters.

    Maybe the ‘self-appointed betters’ are tired of self-appointed know-nothing ignoramuses shouting ‘your science is crap’?

  68. Wozza @ 64:

    I do love how some people can rail about how the liars are manipulating the media (though you’ve really got to be single-minded in your beliefs to suggest the Age is a den of denialists, evilly snookering the good guys, but leave that be), then without a shred of consciousness of the irony move on to discussing how their side should manipulate the media better. So manipulation of the message is OK provided you’re doing it? But of course, that’s as it should be, your motives are pure, and nobody else’s are.

    I think this is to completely misrepresent what was being said. The Age’s problem was the old one of framing the issue in terms of ‘balance’. This elevates the status of junk knowledge to presumed validity. One of the creationists’ strategies is to “teach the controversy”. Contrast the BBC’s brief to journalists which is that they should be seeking the truth.

    When scientists and others wanting to communicate with the public about climate change it should not be presumed that in choosing strategies their aim is to deceive and misrepresent. There is always a choice of what you say, how you say it and which venues you participate in. This can and must be done with integrity.

  69. Brain, thank you for the enormous and educative effort you devote to these climate clippings. I read them with interest and concern, though seldom comment because the matters you raise are at a level of complexity beyond my ability to make useful comment.

    My one observation is that “climate science” is in fact a complexity of scientific fields and disciplines. Climate scientists are members of great webs of academic interest and institutional membership and academic oversight. In other words, their work is being scrutinised constantly in the great darwinian struggle for publication, promotion and funding.

    If climate science is a conspiracy designed to promote a deliberate deception then a huge slice of the academic establishment is part of it or at least aware of it.

    This being the case, honest denialists would be consistent only if they demanded that a large number of today’s leading scientists were denied publication in respectable academic journals, demoted, denied funding, and sacked.

  70. Katz, I live in fear of making the same mistake with my name!

    The point you make about a “complexity of scientific fields and disciplines” is a good one and similar to environmental science. A rain forest ecologist pontificating about dry-land farming is a problem, but it has happened.

    Some specialist fields, like Roger on risk for example, requires climate scientists to cover many fields and be good generalists. Hansen as boss-man at NASA GISS needs to be across a range of fields. It is his insights across the board and power of integration that make what he says especially interesting.

  71. Oh. look, a whole bunch of responses, and none of them agreeing with me. Funny that. Well, I was partly trying to liven up a rather boring thread, but I stand by my previous comment in substance and I am not going to add to it. A few comments on the comments.

    Without wanting to divert into the merely epistemological, if one defines “knowledge” as anything like the classical “justified true belief”, then “valid public knowledge” is either a tautology in respect of the valid, or suggests that public knowledge needs to be somehow beyond merely true to be valid. Knowing that Roger, as he has so modestly pointed out himself, has outstanding verbal communication skills and would never commit a tautology, I concluded that he meant that some other form of validating filter should be applied to knowledge, to make it fit for the innocents in the public and ensure they don’t get ideas that might make them uppity..

    And as far as Fran’s belief, that I should have known from the context that the meaning was something about utliity, then can I point out that context can’t change basic meanings, and utility is quite different from knowledge (as it is from rigour; you cannot infer the latter from the former. Ever eg done any engineering maths?).

    Furthermore the context was remarks like ‘an unsophisticated editorial stance towards balance’, ‘there is an executive agenda for the news’, ‘the current “balance” is a problem’. If I read that as not an idealistic commitment to truth but a concern that the media should be corrected to avoid these problems – and I contextualised too the general support round here, repeated by Helen above, for the Brown moves to teach any media outlet that disagrees with him who’s boss – I don’t think I would be the only one.

    If nobody actually thinks “guidance” for the media is the issue – merely subtle manipulation – I’m pleased to hear it. Which is not to say I necessarily believe it. It will be interesting to see what the Brown witch hunt comes up with, and how it is received around here.

    BilB believe it or not I had a bit of time for Pam Corkery too (as an ex-kiwi; I know nothing of her ABC work). But as I’m sure you know, Radio Pacific in that format went tits up a few years ago, and has been reinvented (I am told) as a horse-racing station. Whatever you and I think, the public voted with its ears. I’m not sure there are many lessons there for successful communication.

  72. Roger, I forgot you in the above. How could I?

    So your contention is that climate science is as thoroughly understood and at the same level of complexity as the epidemiology of malaria? Whereas the work of a number of climate scientists holding professorships and with lengthy records of peer-reviewed publication, such as – well, I won’t name any because using the unholy words triggers the spaminator and I spend hours in moderation; let’s say three names begin with C, L and P – is actually on a par with studies of the tooth fairy?

    Arguments by simplistic analogy are of course almost always crap and a tacit admission that arguing the substance of the actual case is beyond the capacity of those advancing them, but you do seem regularly able to find even crapper analogies than most.

    Pleased that you too are not letting your talents atrophy.

  73. wozzawozzawozzawozzawozzawozzawozzawozzawozzawozza

    It sounds like a really old car with a wobbly front wheel when you say it quickly.

    Actually I know nothing about Radio Pacific beyond 1997. Though Pam’s Wiki makes good reading. Always original.

    What do you think about Australia finally being able to make a real contribution to Global Warming Action?

    It is exciting isn’t it?

  74. BilB we were almost being friendly – or at least that was my intent – so I’m not going to bite.

    I think you know very well what my views are on a fraudulently introduced piece of legislation which will not make an iota of difference to global carbon dioxide levels.

    Have you looked at the Minerals Council’s modelling of the impact of the legislation and what it shows about the porkies told by Treasury? Little matter of six times the Treasury GDP reduction by 2020 – but hey what’s $180 billion between friends, and won’t someone think of the little children? – and $11,000 off real wages for each of us. Don’t worry, rhetorical question, I know it’s all about the messenger and round here one doesn’t have to read, let alone refute, anything not from approved sources.

    Yes, I probably didn’t choose my moniker wisely but it is too late now. Anyway, if I say BilBBilBBilBBilBBilB very quickly, it sounds like someone farting in the bath.

    Bugger, perhaps I did bite. But with the friendliest of intents.

  75. You don’t actually need to be committed to any particular positions in the debate to nonetheless accept that the scientific issues at stake will be resolved through the scientific literature – and not through the blogosphere or the political arena. The main problem with the media treatment is that they regard the controversy as the story rather than the resolution of uncertainties with the consequence that all kinds of sources get lifted up to positions of authority – because they can provide controversy, regardless of their capacity to actually contribute to the development of the field.

  76. Ahhh Wozza,

    Projecting well beyond what I said as usual. I was comparing science and not-science, that’s all.

    Have resisted the urge to pile onto BilB’s crack (craic?)

    Must … be … strong ……….

  77. BilB if I didn’t have a sense of humour I wouldn’t last long around here.

    Roger, if you have to resist the urge to pile onto BiB’s crack you have greater problems than I can advise you on. So perhaps does BilB.

    Let’s see if the spaminator regards that as a sense of humour or ejects me into oblivion.

  78. Wozza

    Without wanting to divert into the merely epistemological, if one defines “knowledge” as anything like the classical “justified true belief”, then “valid public knowledge” is either a tautology in respect of the valid, or suggests that public knowledge needs to be somehow beyond merely true to be valid.

    I’m inclined to agree that knowledge (if it is to be something distinct from un(der)tutored or un(der)informed belief implies salient data and robust modelling, and that the qualifier “valid” is superfluous (though public is not, since private knowledge is a subset of knowledge in the usual sense). One suspects that the argy-bargy over this matter has put the defenders of knowledge into a position where they feel the need to distinguish their episteme expressly from the agnosophists.

  79. Fran, Philip Kitcher has just released a book on it: Science in a Democratic Society that I wrote a long post on a month or so ago. Your last sentence is spot on. Wozza doesn’t require validation of his knowledge, however, because he knows. So for him that is superfluous.

  80. Ootz I think that every year the IEA finds a new way of alarming us. But the story is alarming, and the 2011 version doesn’t disappoint.

    I’ll have a closer look tonight, but I think Joe Romm is saying that if we don’t act now, or by 2017, it becomes very expensive and politically impossible. Romm disagrees with the last bit, as he feels the effects will be so obvious by 2020 that politicians will be ready to take drastic action.

    Jumpy @ 86, you did notice I suppose the date on that paper. I have no idea what it means.

  81. Ootz, on a quick look I think that they are saying that all permissible emissions compatible with a 450ppm scenario will be locked in by 2017. That sounds quite plausible.

  82. “I have no idea what it means.”
    You can bet jumpy has no idea either, although I would be pleased for him to prove me wrong.

  83. Sorry Brian, I don’t do tongue in cheek very well, as my last remark was intended to engage our resident distracted heads in you know where.

    Yes, that is what I thought >450ppm here we come, as I doubt with the current w@nking political leadership or elite, financial irresponsible mayhem and relentless push for unsustainable economic growth/consumption as well as wall to wall mickey mouse msm, that any serious and systemic change will occur in time.

    As I said before, the time old proven solution for human folly will take hold again, with a blood letting that will make the previous WW’s look like Hollywood movies. Probably 2017-2020 sounds about right. How’s your Doomstead going DI (nr)?

  84. I’ve hit a couple of speed bumps on the road to the Doomstead, Ootz, but I’ll get there. The design for the Hovel is about to go for council planning approval.

  85. Tom Wigley uses some simply modelling to consider a scenario where emissions stabilize at 2000 level by 2020 and then linearly to zero by 2050. You still get a 1.7C warming and max CO2 concentration of about 420 ppm.

    This is quite consistent with the IEA’s message (and what everybody else is saying) and that is if emissions do not fall sharply from the second half of this decade onwards then the likelihood of maintaining a safe climate becomes very small.

  86. @85: “ Wozza doesn’t require validation of his knowledge, however, because he knows”.

    Roger have you read a single thing that I (or Fran) have said, or do we just use too many big words for you?

    This was about your invention of the concept of “valid public knowledge”. For something to fall under the definition of “knowledge”, it has to be true. It therefore doesn’t require validation to be factual.

    Yes, I and every other person on the planet (including, believe it or not, you) hold some views that certain things could be, even almost certainly are, true. But these are just that, views. Not knowledge. They are therefore irrelevant to any reference to knowledge, public, valid or described with any other adjective.

    You have just underlined again, whether you realise it or not, that your “valid public knowledge” concept is about validation by some criterion other than truth. A criterion which it appears you believe should be devised and applied by those who think like you. Do you understand how anyone with any belief in freedom of information or speech could find this repugnant?

    Alternatively of course you are just so muddled in your thinking that you don’t realise what you are saying. I think – as a view, not a piece of knowledge – that this is probably the conclusion that most readers of your comments over the months, not least Occam if he were around, would reach. If so, though, a saying about glass houses comes to mind: you are scarcely in a position to accuse others of lack of comprehension.

  87. BilB @83

    From the Minerals Council’s account of its modelling released on 8 November, as referenced in my earlier post (“Real wages will decline by $11,360 …. and electricity prices will have jumped by nearly 30 per cent by 2020”) See:

    I do of course take this with a grain of salt, as I have not seen any detail of the modelling and its assumptions. I take Treasury’s modelling though with a considerably larger helping of salt. It has been quoted for months in the sustained barrage of government spin, but despite repeated requests from a variety of people the government has refused to release the actual modelling, merely a handful of allegations about its findings all – surprise! – helpful to its cause. That it is dodgy and the government knows it is a conclusion hard to avoid.

    The lack of media coverage of the Minerals Councils modelling incidentally does not exactly help the credibility of the belief of many round here who claim the media are actively promoting the denialist cause

  88. I think this dialogue is becoming a bit personal and pretty boring.

    FWIW, while the phrase “valid public knowledge” may be logically tautological I think it has a use. Part of the mission of science is to validate or invalidate ‘knowledge’ which is held to be valid by the public.

    On Treasury modelling, I don’t think it matters much, because as I went into here the scientific assumptions underlying the CEF package are so hopelessly inadequate that they will have to be replaced in the not too distant future. If they aren’t then we should question why we should have a Climate Commission.

  89. Wozza,

    To use the Minerals Council figures as you have done is to endorse their validity. I suggest that even the slightest amount of applied brain power would show how false these figures are.

    based on

    Gasoline carbon dioxide emitted per gallon: 9.1 kilograms (2.4 kg per litre)
    Coal = 800 to 1050 grams CO2 emitted per kwhr
    Natural gas (combined cycle) = 430 (average) grams CO2 emitted per kwhr

    The average household uses 6000 kwhrs per annum, say 10,000.
    The average 2 car family will use 6,000 litres of fuel per year (high side)
    So what that means in terms of CO2 emissions is 10 tonnes CO2 for electricity and 14.4 tonnes for petrol.

    This would then cost $561.20 in carbon charges for a family where both adults were working, 1 full and 1 part time, and both using vehicles. That does not include carbon content of purchases.

    The other end of the calculation is that the total CO2 emissions for Australia across all sectors is 576 million ton of CO2. The average house hold size is 2.3 persons. So if the total CO2 emessions were charged for and shared amoungst hoseholds the the total charge per household would be $1,385. So for a 2 parent household with 1.5 incomes the top end figure is 1385 divided by 1.5 or $923 per Australian income….absolute maximum.

    Now that is a Huge difference between the minerals Council’s $11,300.
    So I invite you, Wozza, to validate the figures that you have so enthusiastically endorsed. Else, leave your credibility in the trash can at the door on your way out.


  90. BiB if you think that, when I say “I take with a grain of salt”, I mean “I enthusiastically endorse” there is little point in holding a conversation with you that involves the English language.

    Yes, Brian I agree, though I don’t think I threw the first stone, that this has become pretty pointless, so I am not going to go any further by addressing BiB’s highly simplistic, indeed straight out wrong, calculations.

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