Terrorism deaths in perspective

Bernard Keane has been tracking the numbers at Crikey. Since the Hilton Hotel bombing in Sydney in 1978 a total of 113 Australians, at home and abroad, have died from terrorism.

In a New Matilda exclusive Chris Graham brings us the shocking death toll of Australians on Australian soil at the hands of Muslim terrorists – zero!

In the 10 years from 2003 to 2012 a total of 417 people in Australia died from falling out of bed, 230 from falling off ladders and 198 from falling off chairs. Rational analysis tells us that we are more at risk from ourselves and our loved ones than from terrorists. Suicides come in at 22,800 and homicides at 2,617. Somewhere between 700 and 1000 women and children have been killed by their parents or partners.

The toll from car accidents (excluding pedestrians and other vehicles) was 8,500 in the 10 years.

Now Keane has had a look at workplace safety:

As of mid-September, 129 Australians have been killed at work, compared to 125 people killed to the equivalent point in 2013, Safe Work Australia statistics show. The mining sector has already exceeded the death toll for the whole of 2013, with 12 people killed, and the construction industry has already claimed 18 lives, already one more than for the whole of 2013. Transport, the biggest sector for workplace deaths, is also performing worse than 2013, while agriculture, second biggest, is tracking around the same as last year.

The rise in workplace deaths this year defies years of improved workplace safety data: the incidence of workplace deaths rose from 2003-04, peaked in 2007-08 and has fallen dramatically since then, with an overall incidence rate in 2011-12 nearly half of what it was in 2002. Even so, 186 Australians went to work in 2013 and didn’t come home…

Here’s a graphic of select causes of death in 2003-12:


There are some preventable health and social justice issues that jump out of the statistics. Indigenous Australians, for example, are seven times more likely to die from diabetes than are other Australians. Keane questions our resource allocation priorities.

Problem is that many causes of death are ‘normal’ in terms of our emotional reaction, unless someone near to us is involved or there is emotional engagement for some other reason. Terrorism is, of course, designed to strike fear.

Our spooks have used this fear to gain ‘improvements’ to the security laws. Matthew Knott has an excellent explainer at the SMH:

So what’s in the new laws? They cover four main areas:

  • greater protection for intelligence officers who commit crimes while conducting operations;
  • cracking down on the leaking and publication of information about secret operations;
  • expanding ASIO’s access to computer networks;
  • making it easier for Australia’s spying agencies to work together.

The second is likely to have a chilling effect on reporting. For example, if a reporter was tipped off that surveillance equipment was being installed in the East Timor cabinet room under an Australian aid project, he or she would be reluctant to report it and risk up to 10 years jail.

On the third, it seems the spooks will be able to go anywhere they choose on the internet.

Labor has waved these laws through in the Senate, leaving critique to the Greens and some of the cross-bench:

The bill passed the Senate, 44 votes to 12. The Government, Opposition and Palmer United Party voted for the legislation, along with the Motoring Enthusiasts Party Senator Ricky Muir, and Family First’s Bob Day.

The Greens, Senators Xenophon, Leyonhjelm, and Senator John Madigan were all opposed.

This spineless approach from Labor bespeaks political pragmatism rather than principle.

Climate clippings 107

1. No more pauses in global warming

Temperatures are likely to rise dynamically for the rest of the century, according to two separate studies.

Masahiro Watanabe of the University of Tokyo colleagues found that over the past three decades natural influences are diminishing.

In the 1980s, natural variability accounted for almost half of the temperature changes seen. That fell to 38 per cent in the 1990s and just 27 per cent in the 2000s.

The implication is that temperature rises will respond more directly to emissions with fewer pauses.

Matthew England and associates used 31 climate models to chart future temperatures. He found that if emissions keep rising the chances of a pause of 10 years or more fall to practically zero. If emissions peak by 2040 we might get a pause by the end of the century.

If we wait until 2040 for peak emissions we’ll be cooked.

2. Rockefeller family moves from fossil fuels to clean energy

The Rockefeller family is turning its back on the industry that made it its vast fortune.

As more than 120 heads of state gather in New York for a UN summit on climate change, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund is pledging to move $50 billion worth of investment in fossil fuels into clean energy.

3. War and Peace revisited

At Fair Green Planet Val has reproduced her talk at the Australian Climate Action Summit 2014. It’s about organisational form in relation to climate change action and sustainability. Val suggests we need to change from forms based on competition, hierarchy and exploitation to forms based on co-operation, egalitarianism and sustainability:

From both my research and my lived experience, it seems clear to me that the approach we need to address climate change will not be produced by the hierarchical, top down, unequal organisations that are dominant in society today – but rather by an approach like this:

team earth

These “Team Earth” posters were of course produced in response to Tony Abbott’s “Team Australia”. The posters express to me the values we really need to address climate change: a recognition that we’re all in it together, and an inclusive approach.

We need:

to go beyond climate change and live in sustainable communities – communities that are flatter, networked, egalitarian and inclusive, and recognise themselves as part of an ecosystem.

In other words, we need to change ourselves.

4. Arctic sea ice report

Arctic sea ice melting has now reached its maximum extent. This year was almost exactly the same as 2013, and the sixth lowest on record.

Sea ice Sept_cropped_600

The black line is the 1981-2010 average, the dotted line the 2012 record and the blue line the former 2007 record. Shading represents plus or minus 2 standard deviations.

Volume was also up a bit but still in trend decline.

What this masks is a continued decline in the proportion of older, thicker ice. An increasing proportion is first year ice. At Carbon Brief:

During the 1980s or 1990s, in an average year, around 54 to 58 per cent of ice in the Arctic would be first-year ice. Last year it was 77 per cent.

5. New York UN meeting

Last week some 125 leaders met with the UN Secretary General and each other in New York to indicate what their post 2020 emissions reduction targets might be. I reported on the outcomes here, but it seems that readers of this blog are put off by titles like the one I used.

Problem is, the bad news is getting worse and is not being addressed sufficiently by world leaders. Emissions increased by 2.5% in 2013. Every year the emissions increase the harder the problem becomes. It’s not a case that action is just delayed; we are using up a carbon budget that by some estimates is already in the red.

Of the major emitters only the EU was specific, nominating 40% by 2030, subject to confirmation. Not enough. There were indications that China will give concrete numbers when formal proposals are submitted next March. However, their current rate of increase is quite dramatic, as this graph shows:


My expectation is that at best, when the bids are in, our path will match the RCP4.5 scenario (the scenarios are numbered according to the climate forcing pertaining to CO2 levels with the forcing expressed in watts per square metre).


A new report puts the situation this way:

Nevertheless, the report said there is still a “gigatonne gap” between governments’ current carbon-reduction pledges and what will be needed to limit overall warming to 2C.

Delivering on current policies would only succeed in reining warming back from 4C to 3C, it predicted. The United Nations’ New York 2014 and Paris 2015 climate summits will be crucial in securing an improved deal, the report said. (Emphasis added)

Indeed. In New York on our behalf Ms J Bishop said the Government would consider what post-2020 emissions might be, but consistent with the need for economic growth. I think in her mind this means banking on cheap coal as our dominant power source.

For another view, see Christine Milne at the National Press Club:

I believe that Australia should put on the table for the 2015 negotiations a trajectory of 40 to 60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030 and net carbon zero by 2050.

Red Centre holiday: the challenge of the Simpson Desert crossing

This post follows Red Centre holiday: overview.

To cross the Simpson Desert you need a pass which cost us $150 per vehicle. I understand that about 15 vehicles a day* do the trip, so it is not an entirely exceptional thing to do. However, it is not routine either and requires careful planning. Continue reading Red Centre holiday: the challenge of the Simpson Desert crossing

Saturday salon 27/9


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Jacqui Lambie blows herself up

Jacqui Lambie will be forever known as an anti-Muslim bigot after her comments on Sharia law on Insiders last weekend. She said that anyone who followed sharia law could get out of the country. Since then she has stuck to her guns, insisting it involves terorism.

Now she is being likened to Pauline Hanson. Then it was Asians, now it is Muslims.

Barrie Cassidy too could have used an explainer.

Palmer was clearly embarrassed.

2. Ebola outbreak

The ebola outbreak in West Africa ia already the worst in history, with a possibility of 20,000 cases.

The BBC reports:

While the outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria were “pretty much contained” and the situation in Guinea had appeared to be stabilising according to the WHO, there appears no indication of a reversal in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Transmission is continuing in urban areas, with the surge in Liberia driven mainly by a sharp increase in the number of cases reported in the capital, Monrovia.

The situation in Sierra Leone also continues to deteriorate with a sharp increase in the number of newly-reported cases in the capital, Freetown, and its neighbouring districts of Port Loko, Bombali, and Moyamba, which are under quarantine.

Sierra Leone quarantined 1.2 million people for three days. Researchers fear there could be up to 1.4 million cases by January. I heard calls for the effort to counter the outbreak to be increased by 20 times.

A vaccine is being developed in Oxford and another in the USA. Both could be fast-tracked and used experimentally in the field in West Africa by the end of the year.

3. Polls stay roughly the same

Newspoll came out on Tuesday showing the ALP in a winning position at 51-49 TPP (two party preferred), compared to 52-48 two weeks earlier, essentially within the margin of error, with the trend starting to flatline.

Abbott has now edged ahead of Shorten as preferred PM 41-37. Abbott’s performance rating has improved from 35-54 to 41-52 for a net -11. Shorten is 38-43 for -5, but more people seem to be unsure about him.

Roy Morgan always favours Labor and has Labor up at 54.5-45.5. Morgan says they ask people about their preferences, whereas Newspoll allocate them on the basis of voting at the last election. We’re dealing with about 25% of the vote here, so the difference could be substantial.

So Morgan see no gain for Abbott from his decision to ‘send in the troops’.

Morgan’s demographics are interesting. Only the 65+ group favour the LNP whereas the 18-24yr olds favour the Labor by a staggering 76.5 to 23.5. In Qld the parties are even, Morgan has the ALP ahead everywhere else.

4. Slight medical issue

I’m having a colonoscopy early on Monday, so I’ll be having an ordinary 24 hours. Expect no posts. I think my GP is just curious but it’s been a while. I’m still traumatised from the last one!

The road to Perdition

Six years ago I penned a post Last exit on the road to Perdition. It began like this:

    “Damn! I think we just passed the last exit for the Holocene!”

    “I’m sorry, honey, I wasn’t looking.”

    “We have to get off this highway. What’s the next exit?”

    “It’s a long way ahead. Goes to somewhere called Perdition.”

Those words were from a column by Gwynne Dyer, who had just spent a couple of months talking to leading climate scientists and security officials for his book Climate Wars (2009). He saw no happy outcomes.

Unfortunately the post falls in a gap in the Larvatus Prodeo record in 2008, but I was reminded of the analogy when I saw this graph from the Global Carbon Budget 2014 report (thanks to John D for the heads-up at Saturday Salon; there are articles by Canadell and Raupach at The Conversation and by Mat Hope at Carbon Brief):


Armageddon is RCP8.5 and a 4°C climate. That’s where civilisation as we know it is in play. Also there is nothing to suggest that the climate would stabilise at that level. Vast beds of methane could be released, the tropical forests would likely burn off, fertile river deltas would be flooded, corals could disappear for a few million years and climate could head for 6°C or more.

Canadell and Raupach say that

    economic models can still come up with scenarios in which global warming is kept within 2C by 2100, while both population and per capita wealth continue to grow.

2°C is still attainable, which is at best borderline dangerous, but would require beyond zero emissions, that is:

    the deployment of “negative emissions” technologies during the second half of this century, which will be needed to mop up the overshoot of emissions between now and mid-century. This will involve removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in safe places such as saline aquifers.

    These technologies are largely unavailable at present.

If we keep on growing emissions at 2.5% per annum for a few more years, the best on offer will be peaking by 2040, in other words RCP4.5. That’s the road to Perdition. On current form I suspect that’s where we are heading. The following graph shows that the EU was the only major emitter to reduce emissions in 2013:


In per capita terms China has now surpassed the EU:


Please note the y-axis is calibrated in tonnes of carbon. For CO2 multiply be 3.67.

As John D pointed out:

    There have been other striking changes in emissions profiles since climate negotiations began. In 1990, about two-thirds of CO2 emissions came from developed countries including the United States, Japan, Russia and the European Union (EU) nations. Today, only one-third of world emissions are from these countries; the rest come from the emerging economies and less-developed countries that account for 80% of the global population, suggesting a large potential further emissions growth.

    Continuation of current trends over the next five years alone will lead to a new world order on greenhouse gas emissions, with China emitting as much as the United States, Europe and India together.

For a couple of years now, the world had decided that we will make up our minds about what post-2020 targets we will aim for by Paris in December 2015, but the implementation phase does not begin until 2020. Kyoto was a top-down mitigation strategy. This time it will be bottom-up. Every country will set it’s own pace within a framework of “common and differentiated responsibility”. The worry is that the national interest trumps the common good. The UN meeting in New York gave some idea of the early form.

Carbon Brief tried to pick the eyes out of the announcements. Here’s a selection:

  • The US has directed federal agencies to consider climate resilience when designing programmes and allocating funds, and will share data from NASA and NOAA and help train developing countries’ scientists. Oxfam says it’s not revolutionary.
  • China will peak emissions “as early as possible”. That’s new for official language, perhaps they’ll put a date on it next year.
  • The EU will aim to cut emissions by 40% by 2030, subject to confirmation by the European Commission.
  • The Netherlands and Belgium both pledged to cut emissions in line with the EU’s regional goal of cutting emissions by 80 to 95 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. Denmark reminded the conference it aims to be fossil fuel free by 2050.
  • India did the usual – called on developed countries to show more leadership, said it would act on climate change, but on its own terms. It aims to double the amount of energy from wind and solar by 2020, they’ve said that before.
  • Indonesia said it will cut emissions by 26% by 2020, rising to 40% if it gets international help to do so.
  • Malaysia said it has a target to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020, and was on track to do so. Ethiopia said it was still committed to making its economy zero carbon by 2025.
  • Some money is flowing into the UN’s Green Climate Fund to help developing countries. France pledged $1 billion, Denmark $70 million, South Korea $100 million, Norway $33 million, Switzerland $100 million, Czech Republic $5.5 million and Mexico $10 million and Luxembourg $6.4 million. Before the summit, Germany had pledged $960m. The EU also announced it would channel $2.5 billion to developing countries during 2014-2015, with a focus on adaptation and mitigation.
  • One of the big announcements at the summit was the New York declaration on forests, signed by 27 nations, eight regional governments, 34 multinational corporations, 16 indigenous peoples’ groups and 45 NGOs. It builds on a range of existing agreements including the Warsaw framework for reduced deforestation agreed last year.

    The declaration is a voluntary commitment to “at least halve” loss of natural forest by 2020 and “strive to” end it by 2030. It is not legally binding and Brazil, one of the world’s largest rainforest nations, is not a signatory.

All that is fine and good, but frankly underwhelming. As I have already quoted David Spratt:

    We have to come to terms with two key facts: practically speaking, there is no longer a “carbon budget” for burning fossil fuels while still achieving a two-degree Celsius (2°C) future; and the 2°C cap is now known to be dangerously too high.

We dawdle towards 2015 and 2020 while options close off or become harder. Perdition looms.

The oligarchs are here and active in our midst!

Rob Oakeshott tells us he “poked power in the eye and got an almighty punch on the nose in return.” He laments the influence of the monied class in politics, which he sees as subverting democracy.

Swan is very clear about how a small but growing number of very rich people penetrate the political system in a reflective chapter of his book, The Good Fight. There is a negative review in Newscorp and an amazingly positive one in Fairfax. Who would have thought! I’m not sure they read the same book! I’ll not attempt a review here. Rather, I’m focussing mainly on his chapter Enemies worth having and his paper The 0.01 per cent: the rising influence of vested interests in Australia originally published in The Monthly, now included in an appendix.

Swan accepts the market economy and the value of entrepreneurship, and accepts that many business leaders are concerned about the national interest as well as the welfare of their corporations. Unfortunately a growing number, he says, suffer from ‘the blindness of affluence’ based on materialism and selfish individualism, and are aggressive and ruthless in pursuing their ends. He says:

Many of the winners from our prosperity just don’t see poverty and injustice any more, let alone the persuasive case that a fairer society produces an even more prosperous economy. The logic and the economics put forward by Joseph Stiglitz and Thomas Piketty, and in Australia by people such as Andrew Leigh, are ignored. And in their world, higher quality universal education and health services are a drain on the budget, not a platform for a fairer and more prosperous economy. (Emphasis added)

Such selfish corporates preach competitiveness and productivity for the economy as a whole, but in practice are only interested in the short-term benefits to their own corporations. What they are seeking is wealth transfer to them from consumers and taxpayers.

This small but growing group throw their weight around quite directly. The classic case was the public campaign over the mining super tax, where they sought to destroy a government rather than offer up one cent. They blatantly lied about consultations that had been held with them and mounted a $20 million media blitz against the Government.

In this case their bluff was called by Gillard when she attained power. She told the miners that the tax would be implemented in spite of them. They had a choice of entering discussions to have an input, but only on condition that they withdrew their campaign. This worked and the discussions were amicable.

I’ll leave it to others to judge whether the miners nevertheless got much of what they wanted. I’ll just note that it is a super profits tax and that the industry pays considerable normal royalties and taxation. Nevertheless the point in question is that the minerals are owned by the people, not the companies, and the people should get a fair reward.

This example encouraged the club industry, where the independents, Oakeshott and Windsor, were certainly spooked by their campaigning against the proposed pokies legislation. The extent to which the Labor Government was similarly spooked is not clear.

The tobacco industry is one case where the Labor Government stared the industry down.

A case where the industry won hands down was the superannuation industry. The fees accruing to the funds management industry are in the range of $20 to $40 billion each year. The industry can thank Labor for creating the industry and Labor had just approved a graduated increase from 9 to 12%, thus increasing the size of the industry by a third through that decision alone. Swan details how he planned to close the super tax loophole for the very wealthy, looking for funds to pay for the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme).

John Brogden, head of the Financial Services Council, requested a meeting, which was arranged with Swan, Shorten and advisors. Brogden advised that his industry had a media campaign against the Government ready to go, and if they altered super in any way at all they would launch it.

Swan told Brogden he didn’t play that way and terminated the meeting, but in fact in the end he soaked the universities instead.

In looking at the Henry tax review a Business Tax Working Group was formed. When considering reducing the corporate tax rate, Swan wanted to pay for it by rescinding a raft of business tax concessions. The BTWG insisted that it be paid for by consumers with an increased GST. The BWTG subverted the consultations by backgrounding the media, producing negative press commentary. In the end nothing happened.

Business too lined up against carbon pricing and the greenhouse mafia appear alive and well in the current consideration of the Renewable Energy Target.

Swan sees the conservative political parties as tools of business with sections of the media playing their part.

Swan says you enter politics to make a difference and if you forget the little people you sacrifice part of your nation’s soul. Strange he doesn’t mention what happened to unmarried mothers under his watch, but he does regret that fiscal discipline is a brutal game and often brings into play what he would call Labor values.

In the end he gives himself a tick. A bit over a month after he resigned as Treasurer the ABS Household Income and Income Distribution data was published showing that inequality had fallen again between 2009-10 and 2011-12.

According to Swan, Obama described income inequality as the defining issue of our time. I wonder whether he too would get a koala stamp!

Gillard interview

The Daily Telegraph is calling it “explosive”, the SMH has latched onto Gillard calling Bob Carr lazy.


Ray Martin’s interview with Julia Gillard is being broadcast on Channel Nine at 7pm tonight (Tuesday), promising bombshell after bombshell and the whole truth. Unlikely!

For the record, I agree with Wayne Swan and Stephen Smith that Rudd had become dysfunctional and needed to be replaced. They say, however, he should have been left in the chair until after the 2010 election, which he would have won. If history had taken that course Gillard would still be prime minister, we’d have the full version of the NBN, Gonski, NDIS and health would be funded into the future and we’d be heading for a surplus. Abbott would be historical detritus.

But that didn’t happen and Gillard took over. Then Rudd should have left politics. If so, Gillard would still be PM we’d have the NBN, Gonski etc etc.

Given that Rudd didn’t go away, early in 2013 after it became clear that Gillard couldn’t show her face in Western Sydney, she should have resigned for the good of the party. Probably we’d still have Abbott as PM, but it would have been the honourable thing to do.

But what happened happened and we as Australians have to come to terms with it. The way we, the media, the Abbott led Opposition and yes, Kevin Rudd treated Julia Gillard is simply not acceptable in a mature, civilised society. We are all implicated in some way.

That’s why I’ll be watching. The wound is still open.

Pushing back the African exodus

Back in January 2011 I wrote about contact between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis in Neanderthals r us as modern humans moved out of Africa about 45,000 years ago. I was troubled by the lack of mention of Australian Aborigines in the article the post was based on. At the time, from memory, it was thought that Australian Aborigines had been here 10,000 years earlier than that. Continue reading Pushing back the African exodus

Red Centre holiday: overview

Last year, Eoin, a friend of my brother Len’s from university days, being newly retired, hatched a plan to drive across the Simpson Desert, as you do! Eoin’s wife Betty is not a camper, but agreed to go. Len was keen also, but his Nissan X-trail doesn’t do deserts. Len’s son Geoff offered his 15 year-old Nissan Navara twin cab, so the trip became a possibility for Len. Len recalled my wife Margot saying she’d like to see Simpson Desert before she turned 70, so he invited her. Since Len’s wife Nola doesn’t do camping, then yes there would be room for me, should I so desire, although it was well known that I was a very reluctant camper at best and had mostly avoided it in my 70-plus years.

I agreed to give it a go. Continue reading Red Centre holiday: overview

Saturday salon 20/9


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Margaret and David call it quits

After 28 years Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton have announced their retirement and At the Movies will be no more.


For a wonderfully scripted and acted review of Margaret and David, here’s Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush.

2. Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers

From Friday 19 to Sunday 28 September we have the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers. As they say:

Spectacular gardens, country touring, live music and local food & wine, plus much more.

3. NZ goes to the polls

From The Guardian:

New Zealand prepares to vote after ‘strangest, dirtiest’ election campaign

Allegations of online subterfuge and deception over state surveillance have sidelined conventional policy arguments

From Roy Morgan:

Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows National (46.5%, up 1.5%) set to win a third term in Government on Saturday as support for a potential Labour/Greens alliance slumps to 37.5% (down 4.5% – the lowest since November 2011). Support for both main opposition parties has slipped – Labour (24%, down 2%) and the Greens (13.5%, down 2.5%) less than a week before Saturday’s NZ Election.

New Zealand First (8%, up 2%) appears to be the biggest beneficiary of the Labour/ Greens slump as the election approaches and former Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters looks set to have a prominent role in the new Parliament with NZ First projected to win as many as 10 seats. This is the highest support for NZ first for nearly ten years since August 2005.

4. Vlad will attend the G20

A couple of weeks ago Abbott, Julie Bishop and others, Bill Shorten too, were calling for the banning of Russian president Vladimir Putin from the G20 leaders summit in Brisbane later this year. But it’s not our call. The Fin Review says the feeling from other G20 leaders is, let him come so we can tell him what we think of him. Anyway China says he should be allowed to come, so I guess that settles it.

The Courier Mail says his security people have been here looking the joint over.

Meanwhile Obama’s security arrangements should be quite spectacular. The Daily Mail tells us he might use a bunch of helicopters to fly from the airport to his hotel. Will Hagon said the other day that the Americans would be bringing 50 cars, using their own rather than the high security BMWs we are leasing. That may include The Beast, which weighs about 3.5 tonnes, can turn within its own length and take off in any direction like you wouldn’t believe.


5. Meanwhile our politicians are talking

To each other, in a new mood of reasonableness and bipartisanship, according to Laura Tingle.


Talking about terrorism, about dealing with Islamic State, about renewable energy, about a referendum on indigenous recognition, and possibly even the budget.

We’ll have to see where all this leads, but for Abbott dealing with Labor emerges as an alternative to talking with Clive Palmer and the cross bench. Even Christine Milne is talking about talking about renewable energy and direct action.

Shorten, however, is laying down markers where (he says) he will not go, for example he’s OK with attacking ISIL in Iraq, but not in Syria.

On that score Bernard Keane and Guy Rundle are questioning whether our support of the Americans exposes us to more terrorist attention, and whether the action is calling the caliphate into being, plus whether it really has much chance of success. It’s all very troubling. From the outset it was clear that ISIL would do whatever it takes to get the West involved.

Climate clippings 106

1. Abbott adviser warns of threat of ‘global cooling’

Nevertheless with the certainty only possessed by fools, the Abbott government’s chief business adviser, Maurice Newman, has warned that Australia is ill prepared for global cooling owing to widespread “warming propaganda” in his latest critique of mainstream climate science.

The suggestion is that temperature change is due to changes in solar activity, cosmic rays and stuff. The science is heading in the opposite direction.

“The sun doesn’t have as much influence on the climate as we previously thought, the latest estimates are that it explains only 5% of the warming over the last 150 years,” he said.

How can the government be advised by someone who is so ill-informed about arguably the biggest single influence on business conditions over the next century.

2. August hottest ever

We’ve just had the hottest August globally since records began being kept in 1880, according to NASA. The year to date has been the fourth hottest on record. Hot years usually coincide with an El Niño either in the year concerned or the previous year. An El Niño has not yet arrived but does look likely according to the latest information.

NASA_ 2014_Ag_600

It has been especially hot in West Antarctica. Bear that in mind when you see stories of record sea ice around Antarctica:


This is not incompatible with global warming and could in fact be caused by it. Melting ice produces cold water, and the tightening wind pattern tend to blow the ice further north.

There is no information as yet on ice volume.

3. Australian Climate Action Summit 2014

The Australian Climate Action Summit 2014 is on this weekend. Since my life is governed by work, the weather and medical appointments I am unable to go.

On Sunday there will be a People’s Climate March, organised by an outfit called Avaaz. Marches will be organised all around the world, and indeed, all around Australia, including, for example Mt Isa and the Gold Coast. If you click on Brisbane you get the Summit, but if you click on the Summit you don’t get a march. So if there is a march in Brisbane, I can guess where but I’d also need to guess when.

The march is meant to impress the leaders gathering in New York on Tuesday 23 September. That’s the UN Summit Tony Abbott will not attend although he’ll be in New York on Wednesday.

4. Surviving in hot, acidic oceans

I think this is a good news story.

More than 90% of the extra heat in global warming ends up in the oceans, as does 25% of the CO2 we create, which makes the oceans more acidic. Shell-making organisms such as plankton are expected to be in trouble. The good news is that it seems one species of plankton, the Emiliania huxleyi, can survive the changes underway.

5. Climate Council report on sea level

The Climate Council has taken another look at climate change and coastal flooding. The focus is on 1.1 metres sea level rise by 2100, all too possible if West Antarctica is in play, as it seems to be.

We are told that the frequency of flooding events can treble for every 10 cm of sea level rise. The risk multiplier depends where you are. In Sydney, Bundaberg and Hobart, for example a current 1 in 100 year event now could be happening every day by 2100. In Adelaide, the least at risk city, it would be only once every year.

At risk we have $87 billion worth of commercial and light industrial buildings, $72 billion worth of homes and $67 billion worth of roads and rail infrastructure.

6. Capitalism v The Climate

Joe Romm tells us about Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate. Klein, he says, makes three essential points:

1. Because we have ignored the increasingly urgent warnings and pleas for action from climate scientists for a quarter century (!) now, the incremental or evolutionary paths to avert catastrophic global warming that we might have been able to take in the past are closed to us.

2. Humanity faces a stark choice as a result: The end of civilization as we know it or the end of capitalism as we know it.

3. Choosing “unregulated capitalism” over human civilization would be a “morally monstrous” choice — and so the winning message for the climate movement is a moral one.

The time for ‘evolutionary’ strategies is long past. Now only ‘revolutionary’ strategies will get us there. Unregulated capitalism is a Ponzi scheme, which must collapse. The real choice facing us is a moral one.

Unchecked capitalism is immoral and will destroy civilisation as we know it. Just what Klein says we should do will be covered by Romm in a subsequent post.

Who voted for this man?


T. Abbott, our illustrious PM, continues to embarrass us all.

On the Scottish independence referendum first he said he would not presume to tell Scottish voters which way they should vote. Then he said this:

“As a friend of Britain, as an observer from afar, it’s hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland.

“I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that would cheer at the prospect … are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.”

No doubt we should invade Scotland, or bomb them into submission!

That was last month. Next Tuesday 125 world leaders including US president Barack Obama and UK prime minister David Cameron will attend the UN secretary-general’s Climate Summit in New York. Tony Abbott will not be one of them. Yet the very next day he will be in New York to attend a UN Security Council meeting. He says he has more important things to do in the Australian parliament early next week.

While the New York meeting has no formal part of the climate talks leading up to the preliminary commitments countries will be asked to make by next March leading to the formal renegotiation of the Kyoto treaty in Paris in December next year, when the UN Secretary General says, “Come to New York, the planet is in trouble and needs you”, normally you would go, unless you want to make a statement about how you view the talks. In this regard Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate supremo, said:

“At least 125 heads of state have sent a strong signal to the rest of the world that … climate change is important, and they know they have a role to play and a responsibility to take in order for the world to address climate change.

“I do not know what the reasons would be behind it, but, of course, the world will interpret who is showing up and who will not be showing up.

“So that’s for your Prime Minister and your government to decide, what kind of profile they want in this.”

Hedegaard counsels us not to make too much of the fact that the Indian and Chinese leaders won’t be there. We know they are taking climate change seriously. We know, however, that Stephen Harper of Canada, Abbott’s ideological soul mate, has similar views to Abbott’s and also won’t be there although he too will be in New York a couple of days later. We know that Abbott is smugly satisfied with our pathetic 5% reduction target by 2020. He doesn’t appear to understand that this is about post 2020. His vision is clouded by denialism and the coal lobby.

The Pedestrian laments the fact that we are not the slightest bit surprised – Abbott is running true to form.


Bernard Keane at Crikey finds that Abbott’s form is changing. He’s shedding the carefully scripted, softer-spoken persona he presented before the election and is returning to the more pugilistic Abbott of the Gillard years.

If you are not a Crikey subscriber but are on Facebook you might be able to read the piece here, courtesy of Mark. It begins:

“Tony Abbott is a man in a hurry. There’s a blue on, and he wants in. The Prime Minister has regressed from statesman to pugilist. He’s back to Punchy Tony, the Rocky of the Right, a bloke who’s up for any fight, even if he has to start it himself, the former boxing “blue” and front rower ready to deck anyone (including a young Joe Hockey), if they get in his way. Or even if they don’t.

Keane is speaking of Abbott’s statements hyping the terrorist threats:

But they also reflect Tony Abbott’s aggression, a trait he laboured hard to keep under wraps as opposition leader and harder still in his early days as Prime Minister—remember that parliamentary transition to the soft-voiced Prime Minister from the often shrill Abbott of the Gillard years.

But bit by bit it has re-emerged—the boyish grin sitting in the cockpit of a mocked-up F-35 (appropriately, on the ground, where the F-35s spend all of their time), the near-hysterical rhetoric about the threat of Islamic militants, and now dispatching tonnes of military hardware and some of our best troops to the United Arab Emirates, there to await whatever America wants them to do.

For a truly scathing assessment of the first year of the Abbott government, however, take a look at Nick Feik, the editor of The Monthly.

Feik says he’s passed six pieces of legislation and

After almost a year, the Abbott government has repealed one tax, a move that left the nation without a climate-change policy but had no discernible impact on prices, and implemented an increasingly inhumane, secretive and quite possibly illegal asylum-seeker regime designed in large part by the ALP.

And it has been good at undoing things:

It has cut funding to social, educational, health, research and advisory bodies. Any and every environmental action, movement, organisation or legislation has been made a permanent target.

Feik sees incompetence and incoherence everywhere. He concludes:

Beyond the budget, it’s unclear whether the government has a legislative agenda of any kind. Perhaps this explains recent efforts to reposition Abbott as an international statesman, in charge of keeping Islamic terrorism, Russian tyranny and Scottish independence at bay. He needs to be above the fray, because domestically his troops are stuck in the trenches, and they’re starting to turn on one another. They must be relieved the Opposition is showing no stomach for a fight.

I’ve used the cover image from The Monthly as the featured image on the home page.