Quick blog admin note

Yes, the look of the site has changed yet again – sorry about that. WordPress is rolling out security updates every few days at the moment after a core vulnerability was discovered, and the updates break theme templates that try and be too fancy with non-core features.

So I’ve reverted to one of WordPress’ own standard themes, Twenty-Fifteen, in the hope that as further updates roll out they are less likely to break anything on this template.

Seeking answers on GM food

It began as a comment about Vandana Shiva on Saturday salon 28/3. It continued on the thread for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – cultist, guru or con-artist?

The topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is very broad, but where we left it the focus had been on the safety of GM foods.

I’d expressed a need for someone knowledgeable who was both engaged and detached to explain the topic. Frankly I get concerned when people, however well-informed, seek to shove the truth down my throat. Reliable information from someone who is not trying to convince me one way or the other, is what I need. Continue reading Seeking answers on GM food

Climate clippings 136

1. Will Hillary Clinton be too weak on climate change?


Campaign chair John Podesta tweeted:

Helping working families succeed, building small businesses, tackling climate change & clean energy. Top of the agenda.

Yet she herself has mentioned it only obliquely since announcing that she’s running. From the past we have this:

At the National Clean Energy Summit in September of last year, in her first major domestic policy address since stepping down from the state department, Clinton described global warming as “the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world”. Continue reading Climate clippings 136

Comments facility broken fixed


Unfortunately a WordPress update appears to have broken our comments facility. The “Submit” button has gone missing.

Unfortunately too our technical guru is on holidays with limited internet access, so I’m not sure when it’s going to be fixed. So I can only apologise and hope for better days. If anyone has any bright ideas, please let me know at climateplus@bigpond.com

I was going to do a post on GM foods, but I’ll leave that until the comments facility is fixed.

The Earth is getting greener

New research using satellite technology has found that overall, despite deforestation, the earth is getting greener.

For the period 2003-12, we found that the total amount of vegetation above the ground has increased by about 4 billion tonnes of carbon.

Deforestation in the tropics in South America, Southeast Asia and elsewhere “has been offset by recovering forests outside the tropics, and new growth in the drier savannas and shrublands of Africa and Australia.” Continue reading The Earth is getting greener

We Need a Conversation On Government Revenue

At the moment, the federal, state and many local governments are doing a poor job because they are suffering from a chronic shortage of revenue. It shows up as things like long waiting times for hospital treatment, endless arguments about the amount of money the states are getting from the commonwealth and Hockey’s  ridiculous and grossly unfair attempt in 2014 to solve our alleged financial problems by really screwing those at the bottom. Continue reading We Need a Conversation On Government Revenue

Abbott is making Australia a joke on climate change

Australia is increasingly drawing fire from other countries about its lack of ambition in climate change action, according to The Guardian and RenewEconomy. The Age has editorialised on the matter.

The context is this.

At its December meeting of ministers in Paris the UNFCCC will strike a post-Kyoto international deal on climate mitigation post 2020. Countries were asked to put forward their draft plans by the end of March. Abbott deliberately ignored the deadline, putting forward a discussion paper (see Emissions reduction the Abbott way) with a submissions deadline of 24 April. Australia will submit its proposals in May. In this way Abbott has the chance to look at everyone else’s homework before he writes his own. Continue reading Abbott is making Australia a joke on climate change

Dark energy: it all ends with a bang, not a whimper

We know that what we think of as ‘stuff’ in the universe is only a small part of it, right? The standard spiel is that ordinary stuff is 5% of the everything in the universe, dark matter about 25% and the rest – about 70% – is something called dark energy. Thereabouts. That’s on a “mass–energy equivalence basis” whatever that is.

Stuff, at least we can see it, although it goes very weird at the micro quantum physics level, where particles can be in two places at once, or in two different states at once, but if two particles are bonded, then change one and the other changes automatically and instantaneously even though kilometres apart in what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”. Continue reading Dark energy: it all ends with a bang, not a whimper

Climate clippings 135

1. Closing down dirty power

From Climate Code Red
, a recent Oxford University report:

identified the most-polluting, least-efficient and oldest “sub-critical” coal-fired power stations. It found 89% of Australia’s coal power station fleet is sub-critical, “by far” the most carbon-intensive sub-critical fleet in world.

The International Energy Association, within a framework that itself is probably inadequate, says that one in four sub-critical power stations should close within five years. Hence 22% of our power stations should close within five years if we are to do our part. Continue reading Climate clippings 135

Saturday salon 18/4


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. Hilary Clinton runs for president

As expected Hilary Clinton has thrown her hat into the ring to become the Democrat candidate for the US presidency. So far it looks like her against the Republicans, perhaps about 20 of them. Mashable Australia takes a look at alternative Democrat candidates.

It seems that Senator Elizabeth Warren is the only one that would cause real fear to the Clinton campaign, and she has said about 4,398 times she’s not running.

2. Neanderthals made jewellery 130,000 years ago


A team of American and Croatian scientists have uncovered evidence that European Neanderthals were manipulating raptor talons to make jewelry at least 130,000 years ago, or about 80,000 years before the first Homo sapiens even stepped foot on the continent.

In the popular mind Neanderthals are thought of as bumbling simpletons, but we should remember that their brains were bigger than ours.

The article also points out that catching three of four eagles to make the jewellery was no mean feat.

3. CEO radically redistributes staff pay after reading wellbeing research

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments in Seattle, decided to pay everyone $US70,000 after reading wellbeing research. He did this by reducing his own salary from $1 million to $70,000 and redistributing some of the company’s profits. He gave two reasons.

Firstly the research shows that increased wellbeing tapers rapidly after reaching $75,000. Secondly, happy staff are more productive.

A very rational decision!

4. Not so good news

There’s been plenty to be sad and sorry about on the intertubes lately. The stories of bestial treatment coming out of the Neerkol Orphanage in Rockhampton are beyond belief. It wasn’t just the priests and nuns who did the abusing. A Queensland Government official covered up the abuse. The former bishop allowed a priest to stay on at a parish even though he knew he was a paedophile, gave the priest a character reference and described reports of abuse at Neerkol as “scurrilous”.

On the box we were told that 31 women had died from domestic violence so far this year, shaping as worse than the 84 deaths recorded last year.

COAG laboured and came up with some measures which don’t cost money. It’s all well and good but probably won’t make much difference.

The biggest killer apart from probably tobacco has been suicide:

The National Mental Health Commission’s findings show more people die by their own hand than are killed in road accidents or by skin cancer. And it notes while Australia’s road toll has more than halved in 40 years, there has been little change in the suicide rate, which was double the road toll in 2012.

Health Minister Sussan Ley has sent the Commission’s report off to a reference group. She has “confirmed she won’t accept a key recommendation to channel $1 billion of hospital funding to community health programs instead.”

Truth be known we probably need additional funding to crank up community programs while then winding down hospital funding as the need diminishes.

5. Centre for Policy Development loses some sheen

The Centre for Policy Development is supposed to be a left wing think tank. Now it has supported a broadening of the GST base including a GST on fresh food. Mark Bahnisch, Eva Cox and John Quiggin have resigned as Fellows as a result. Here’s Quiggin’s statement.

Good on them!