Weekly salon 23/8

1. The cost of pests

I recall we had some discussion about feral pigs, which rate fifth in a research study by Corey J. A. Bradshaw of Flinders University and Andrew Hoskins of the CSIRO in Pest plants and animals cost Australia around $25 billion a year – and it will get worse:

Shamefully, Australia has one of the highest extinction rates in the world. And the number one threat to our species is invasive or “alien” plants and animals.

But invasive species don’t just cause extinctions and biodiversity loss – they also create a serious economic burden. Our research, published today, reveals invasive species have cost the Australian economy at least A$390 billion in the last 60 years alone.

Our paper – the most detailed assessment of its type ever published in this country – also reveals feral cats are the worst invasive species in terms of total costs, followed by rabbits and fire ants.

Here is how they stack up:

It depends where you are:

Red imported fire ants are the costliest species in Queensland, and ragwort is the economic bane of Tasmania.

The common heliotrope is the costliest species in both South Australia and Victoria, and annual ryegrass tops the list in WA.

In the Northern Territory, the dothideomycete fungus that causes banana freckle disease brings the greatest economic burden, whereas cats and foxes are the costliest species in the ACT and NSW.

2. Humans are the biggest pest

I remember on our trip down the Rhine in 2008 a tour guide explaining that in Europe ‘nature’ had been mostly pushed into the mountains. Last week Gigi Forster and Peter Martin in the ABC RN program The Economists talk about Valuing nature, which economists mostly don’t. They tell us that humans and their domestic animals make up 96% of mammals on earth, with natural mammals squeezing into just 4%. Apparently domestic fowls make up 70% of the bird population. In the program:

A landmark report has urged the world’s governments to come up with a better form of national accounting from GDP, to reflect the value and depletion of nature. Plus, an update on carbon markets and the emerging field of biodiversity offsets.

Here’s the The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Full Report.

See also:

Economics’ failure over destruction of nature presents ‘extreme risks’Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study

This is what we amount to;

This is what we have done:

We will have to learn to live respectfully in nature, or we’ll destroy our nest. It won’t be easy. There was to be a UN biodiversity summit in 2020 in Kunming, China. This has now been delayed for third time due to the pandemic.

Can we stop the Sixth mass extinction event, the Holocene extinction, found to be accelerating?

Our future depends on what we do in the next little while.

3. Insects in trouble too

Dr Sanchez-Bayo, an honorary associate at the University of Sydney, undertook the first global review of studies of insect decline across the world and the reasons for it. See Insect population and species decline a ‘wake-up call’, scientists say:

“What we found is that 41 per cent on average of all insect species that we know are declining,” said Dr Sanchez-Bayo.

“Among those, a third of all the species are going into extinction. They’re in danger right now. The rate of extinction in insects is about eight times higher than the rate of extinction of vertebrates.”

Most of the studies surveyed were form the US and Western Europe:

One study, in Germany, saw a 75 per cent decline in insect biomass over 27 years. Another study in Puerto Rico reported losses of between 78 and 98 per cent over 36 years.

The rates of decline are so dramatic — up to 2.5 per cent a year — that Dr Sanchez-Bayo claims that at current rates there may be no insects in those regions within 10 years.

4. There is another story beneath our feet

For a long time now farmers and landholders have been told that storing carbon in soil was not only a good thing to do, it was something they could make money from by selling carbon credits.

Problem is that there is no solid science to back this up. Gabriel Popkin tells the story in A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change:

One teaspoon of healthy soil contains more bacteria, fungi and other microbes than there are humans on Earth. Those hungry organisms can make soil a difficult place to store carbon over long periods of time.

It’s a long article, but the short story is that the assumption that carbon molecules stored in soil cam remain there for long periods of time. What we know now is that no such molecules can be found. Everything can be munched, although some do stick around.

Climate modellers apparently ‘simplified’ the issue by leaving microbial activity out. Some scientists are :

pushing to replace the old dichotomy of stable and unstable carbon with a “soil continuum model” of carbon in progressive stages of decomposition. But this model and others like it are far from complete, and at this point, more conceptual than mathematically predictive.

Researchers agree that soil science is in the midst of a classic paradigm shift. What nobody knows is exactly where the field will land — what will be written in the next edition of the textbook.

In short, they are in a muddle.

5. Pests found inside a hill in Canberra

Here it is:

Every week Federal parliament is sitting Tony Burke, leader for the opposition in the house, sends around to party members on his mailing list some pithy comments. Last week he told of one of his constituents, a woman who is 102 and lives in:

Western Sydney, which is the epicentre of the current COVID outbreak. She’s been on the pension for 40 years – and yet the government sent her a letter saying she’d be cut off unless she left the house in the middle of the lockdown zone to present proof of age documents she doesn’t actually have.

Luckily Burke’s office was able to get the matter fixed by Stuart Robert’s office. However, it continues the narrative that there is no blunder beyond the capability of this government. Their fiercest critic however is possibly Dennis Atkins, now retired and liberated from writing for the Courier Mail. He is particularly eloquent about their leader:

Where would this man be without pollsters dictating his every utterance?

A good question. Michael Pascoe this morning asks another in a must read piece if you want to understand what is going on with COVID messaging and posturing:

The COVID political ground is shifting – is an election moving it?

Here are some other recent Atkins pieces:

Scott Morrison will weaponise climate crisis in pursuit of re-election

As Scott Morrison tries to ‘get out of Dodge’, Australia needs a political reckoning

61 thoughts on “Weekly salon 23/8”

  1. Maybe it is worth asking how fast new species are being created and what the natural rate of extinction was before the human plague took off by dramatically increasing both numbers and footprint per person.
    Curious about details re the relative endurance of various types of carbon containing material.
    Charcoal containing terra petra soils work in the in the Amazon and might make sense here. Turnbull was pushing the addition of charcoal to Australian soils at one stage.

  2. Dear Brian,
    it is great to hear from you again!!
    I don’t know why I haven’t heard anything for a long time – were you ill or am I meantime internettally so incompetent (most likely)?
    However WHAT we hear is bloody awful!
    Mich würde interessieren, was Du für ganz persönliche Konsequenzen aus unserer verzweifelten Lage ziehst!

  3. Greetings, Christoph, more from me in the while.

    The answer to both your questions is probably, yes, but I haven’t been really ill, just problems one gets with the decrepitude of age..

  4. John, I think the new science is questioning the Terra preta story.

    The way I understand it is that adding carbon to the soil, however done, can set up a new environment, and a virtuous cycle. There are big questions, though, about measurement and permanence.

    They say all carbon in the soil is munchable.

    I don’t understand the science well enough to say more.

  5. John, you said:

      Maybe it is worth asking how fast new species are being created and what the natural rate of extinction was before the human plague took off…

    If you want to ask that I fear you will need to become a biologist, whereupon you will find the truth quite hard to nail down.

    From Wikipedia:

      In The Future of Life (2002), Edward Osborne Wilson of Harvard calculated that, if the current rate of human disruption of the biosphere continues, one-half of Earth’s higher lifeforms will be extinct by 2100. A 1998 poll conducted by the American Museum of Natural History found that 70% of biologists acknowledge an ongoing anthropogenic extinction event.[36] At present, the rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than the background extinction rate, the historically typical rate of extinction (in terms of the natural evolution of the planet);[7][8][37] also, the current rate of extinction is 10 to 100 times higher than in any of the previous mass extinctions in the history of Earth. One scientist estimates the current extinction rate may be 10,000 times the background extinction rate, although most scientists predict a much lower extinction rate than this outlying estimate.[38] Theoretical ecologist Stuart Pimm stated that the extinction rate for plants is 100 times higher than normal.[39]

    So the short story is 100 to 1,000 times higher than the background extinction rate, and 10 to 100 times higher than in any of the previous mass extinctions.

    We are the champions!

  6. Theists in Canberra have a new looming crisis


    How many ways will they talk down this.

    The %’s aren’t high enough to be conclusive.
    The %’s haven’t been sustained for a 10 year period. By 2031 we will have a better idea.
    The surveyor isn’t reputable.
    Concerns are seasonal.
    The sample wasn’t representative.

  7. bilb, latest Newspoll out today has Labor ahead 54-46, so something isn’t working for them.

  8. Thanks for that one bilb. I attend to agree with Monash academic and political commentator Zareh Ghazarian who said:

      the polling showed there was obvious concern about climate change, but it was impossible to say how this would translate into voting behaviour.

    I think people are distracted by the virus, and are about to be quite significantly distracted by the economy. In a recent survey of four electorates the Nats are interested in, Climate change rated 11th.

  9. John, there was an amazing long-version interview on ABC RN with Matthew Evans – Celebrating soil.

    Healthy soil is virtually alive. Yes the terra petra thing works, but the whole system seems so dynamic that I see difficulty in measuring for genuine ‘carbon farming’.

    He says it is a myth that you can do more than anything for the climate by becoming a vegan. No-one has demonstrated any such claim scientifically.

    He also says that ruminants are not as bad as they are made out to be.

    Chemical fertiliser is bad, very bad.

    And Australia, with generally thin soils has lost roughly half its soil.

  10. Happy Fathers Day as appropriate.

    We are going out to a Thai restaurant where they have outside space, and there isn’t too much ambient noise.

  11. Thankyou, Jumpy, and thankyou for the veiled insult, and thankyou for revealing yet another flaw in the WordPress software.

    Now please vanish.

  12. I had some compulsory watching NRL finals this weekend.

    I’m working on a post on the ‘end of coal’ since we’ve been told 95% should stay in the ground. Should be done tonight.

  13. Brian: “Yes the terra petra thing works,” My understanding is that it really works in the Amazon. Whether it would work in most of Australia I simply don’t know.

  14. John, I’m also inclined to think it works, but I’d need to investigate to see whether it sequesters enough net carbon across the whole process of making it to make it worthwhile, and secondly measuring and ensuring it stays there.

  15. Covid post is closed so I have moved covid to here:
    Brian: ‘Held hostage in their own homes’: People forced to stay in isolation long after 14-day period
    People who have tested positive for COVID are being forced to stay inside their homes for weeks longer than the typical 14-day isolation period because of delays in paperwork, according to a member of a NSW public health call centre in a Sydney hotspot.

    Key points:
    A member of staff at a NSW public health call centre says people in isolation are waiting up to 38 days to get discharged from isolation
    The Mayor of Fairfield says he has heard similar stories from constituents
    Greg Barns SC says the situation is grossly unfair
    Colleen* said she was speaking out for fear of the mental health of people who had unnecessarily been forced to stay in their homes.
    “The longest that I’ve seen is up to 38 days, when it usually would be 14,” she told the ABC’s The World Today program.
    “Everyone gets told, ‘You have your COVID, you’re isolated for 14 days, if everything’s good, then you’ll be allowed out,’ and these people just aren’t allowed out.”
    Great incentive to do the right thing and get tested if you have some of the symptoms.
    One wonders how many people don’t get tested when they should because of the disincentives of long isolation.

  16. John, I’ll do a new COVID post ASAP, but not tonight.

    I’ve heard a lot of bad stuff about individual experience, and experiences of those who see themselves as marginalised, shamed, blamed or whatever. For example we had on ABC RN Drive “Fed up, irate and frustrated”: Cumberland Mayor says NSW Premier didn’t respond to pleas for vaccination hub. Several weeks ago she couldn’t find time to talk to them.

    Also mental health is an increasing worry, with Victoria now taking specific action.

    Here in Quinceland we are still OK with just one more school person infected, already in isolation.

    Authorities have established that the NSW person who brought the virus did not break any rules.

    I also heard that the Qld government is allocating $45 million to get Gold Coast businesses moving again.

    It’s a fair bet that none of that money will go south of the border.

    The NSW outbreak has had huge effects on Qld businesses, but I understand business aid from NSW and the Feds stopped at the border.

    It’s the way we are without decent national leadership or competence.

  17. Brian: “It’s the way we are without decent national leadership or competence.” Not just in terms of covid strategy.
    The first confirmed case in Australia was identified on 25 January 2020. Fast forward to 6 Sept 2021 and the Australian figures to date are 63154 cases resulting in 1044 deaths (Ave per month=52), significantly less than the average of 87/month road deaths for the 12 months to July 21.
    Part of the problem is that the main focus has been on the quick fix with not enough effort going towards reducing the damage being done as a consequence of strategies being used.
    Cracked record but I think the damage being done to those near the Qld border is just one example.

  18. Other examples, even worse, include parts of western Sydney – mental health, economic hardship, plus people dying at home without being tested or seeking help, and Wilcannia, where 10% of the population (that was a while ago) catching COVID, plus all the people in aged care who died last year.

    Many tourist ventures in Qld have has almost no business for heading for two years.

    40,000 jobs lost in universities, and uncaring, almost punitive attitude of federal government to fixing damage done. Citizens overseas who could not get back to Australia.

    I could go on.

    No new cases in Qld today, a bunch of our family going to NY art exhibition.

    I went to the city yesterday to visit my friendly dentist, who is expert in extracting money from my wallet, but a nice bloke and good dentist.

    Masks everywhere and people being very careful about personal distancing. Came home by bus at 4pm. Bus nearly empty, with people consciously distancing.

    There was always an option to move the Gold Coast checkpoint south, but NSW state authorities were never interested.

    I’d accept, though, that some Qld decisions on restrictions were over the top.

    ACT has officially extended its lockdown to mid-October, and today directly fingered NSW. They said they had wanted to ringfence the ACT, but NSW were not interested.

    Yes, and a national ‘leadership’ where the focus has always been to look as though they were in control, take credit for all the good stuff, blame others for the bad.


  19. There was always an option to move the Gold Coast checkpoint south, but NSW state authorities were never interested.

    Things got better when male deputy premiers started talking about the issues and agreed on a bubble.
    One of the key problems was that premiers were trying to do and control everything.
    We badly need a rethink of a lot of covid policies including whether state boundaries ae logical covid boundaries or whether smaller areas than the states should become covid control areas.

  20. John, to be honest, I don’t think Palaszczuk is heavily involved in COVID issues, but is willing to do the daily announcement because her strength and simplicity is what is needed at present.

    I think Berejiklian is up to her eyeballs in it, but is struggling because she is still Premier and other things demand her attention.

    We’ve now just landed 190,000 Pfizer jabs, and there is a big push this coming weekend to get vaccination really rolling.

  21. I had a heavy day yesterday, and was rather tired to begin with. I’ve been looking to get a real handle on the IPCC report, and when I turned on the computer after a while I found a couple of links that were completely fascinating.

    So many issues running at present. Have to work today, and some tomorrow, but I think I’ll do a new Weekly salon with issues in order of importance:

      Firstly, IPCC, how much time we’ve got (basically none) and the danger of tipping points. James Hansen reckons the AMOC is a goner, but more importantly the SMOC is in trouble. He thinks the fun will begin this decade.

      As it happens, the IPCC is saying that we have a ‘budget’ of 300 Gt CO2 that we can burn for an 83% chance of limiting temperature to 1.5C. At current rates we’ll chew that up in less than 8 years, so early action is a bit urgent, one might say.

      Secondly, Our fearless leader, whose name POTUS Biden couldn’t remember, has signed up for nuclear subs, which look like the thing to do, the diesel ones we were going to build are hopeless if we got into a real scrap.

      However, in foreign policy terms, we have chosen to tie ourselves to the waning colonial powers, and put ourselves in about the worst possible situation to have civil relations with China.

      Thing is, when the chips are down the one thing you can rely on is that the US and UK will act in their own interest.

      Then there is the possibility Trump may return.

      Yes, and the prospect here of a khaki election.

      Third, COVID. After watching on the 7.30 report the cameras pan through the empty public spaces in Sydney for 5 minutes to music from Simon and Garfunkel’s The sounds of silence I don’t think we should be lecturing NSW on what they do next. Nor should anyone else lecture us.

      However, an epidemiologist I respect (Raina McIntyre from Kirby in Sydney) reckons NSW is heading down a path which will likely give them a nasty outbreak just in time for Christmas/New Year.

      Christian Porter. Time’s up. He should go.

    That’s the outline.

  22. The AUKUS pact, born in secrecy, will have huge implications for Australia and the region
    Some nasty people might want to talk about a desperate prime minister seeing his only chance for the next election is to run a kaki election.
    For some strange reason the price of iron ore has just fallen dramatically.
    Other nasty people are suggesting that we will have a federal election in Nov. Good timing if the vac targets have been reached and the government suspects that the result may not be as good as some people are predicting.

  23. John, November election definitely an option, I reckon.

    Around the world Morrison has demonstrated that his word is not his bond, that he is an unreliable, indeed perfidious partner.

    Morrison has called this a ‘forever’ partnership. Well the French have long memories, have withdrawn their ambassador, and have quite a presence in this part of the world.

    Apparently Morrison had intended to call into Indonesia of his way back from his forthcoming o’seas trip. Seems they have cancelled. No point in talking right now.

  24. No, I have not been bodily abducted. Yesterday and today I had to attend to matters relating to our future in this family. This afternoon I’ve been trying to bring myself up to date with the flood of information that we have now on matters relating to climate and the future of the planet, as well as the deliberate and calculated perfidiousness of our leader, and other important and interesting matters.

    In relation to the PM, take a look at Laura Tingle’s weekly column Australia’s nuclear submarine deal fundamentally changes our relationship with the world:

      Just over three years ago, on August 22, 2018, at a press conference in the prime minister’s courtyard at Parliament House, the then treasurer was asked whether he had ambitions for Malcolm Turnbull’s job.

      He responded by throwing a reassuring arm around his prime minister’s shoulder and declaring: “This is my leader and I’m ambitious for him!”

      “Thanks ScoMo,” Turnbull responded, perhaps just a little uncertainly. Two days later, Morrison had replaced him as PM.

      Throw forward to June 15 this year, and Macron was welcoming Morrison to the presidential palace in Paris after the G7’s meeting in Cornwall.

      Scott Morrison and Emmanuel Macron bump elbows at a press conference.

      Excruciating COVID elbow bumps protocol almost prevailed, except Macron warmly threw his arms around Morrison.

      With Australia under pressure from China, the French President declared: “You are at the forefront of the tensions that exist in the region, of the threats, and sometimes of the intimidation. I want to reiterate here how much we stand by your side.”

      “We are good friends, we are good partners”, Morrison told Macron later in remarks over an official dinner. “We share common goals and we share common values and that’s why our partnership with liberty and affinity I think is one that we’ll be able to progress further this evening.”

      ‘It’s a stab in the back’

      What the PM didn’t mention was that he had just held talks in Cornwall with US President Joe Biden and UK PM Boris Johnson about a proposal for a tripartite alliance, the most spectacular immediate element of which would be dumping the $90 billion plan underway to build French submarines in Australia…

    And, according to the AFR, it wasn’t a recent brain fart. Morrison has been working secretly on dudding the French for 18 months.

    Now he wants everyone in the region to trust him as their powerful, take no nonsense from the Chinese, interlocutor.

    To acquire some subs in 20 years time, when they are actually needed now?

  25. I’ve been thinking about what I need to say on the IPCC report and climate. It won’t fit the ‘Salon’ format, and I don’t want to leave it longer. So that’s next cab off the rank.

  26. John, Cribb has been giving public lectures on the environment for many years, and I think the story goes that some years ago he suddenly found himself crying at the lectern.

    I googled but I can’t identify the incident, but that is what my memory tells me.

  27. Human rights watchdog criticises Queensland government over COVID-19 border exemptions

    Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall told ABC Radio Brisbane his office had fielded hundreds of complaints over strict COVID-19 requirements and restrictions, arguing some of which favoured celebrities and people in the media.
    “We had some complaints where people were wanting to come back to Queensland for dying parents and they were presenting proposals that, on the face of it, seem to address all of the risk issues,” he said.
    “They were just being met with blanket noes.
    “We’ve had several high-profile examples where people have been able to convince Queensland Health that they should be granted an exemption.
    “Obviously, the NRL WAGS is a high-profile example.”

    The 3 yr old Qldlander blocked from returning while the NRL wags got thru is one example that springs to my mind.
    My take is a lack of concern about what effect Qld actions have on people who live in both sides of the border somehow leaps to my mind.
    Generally speaking, problems with our covid system have been ignored on the assumption that covid will magically disappear in the near future.

  28. Interesting oneScattering rock dust on crops could soak up billions of tons of CO2

    With traditional carbon sinks like the Amazon rainforest facing an uncertain future, scientists are looking to get creative with their efforts to slow the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere. A new study out of the University of Sheffield makes a case for a technique known as enhanced rock weathering, which essentially involves supercharging soil’s ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere by sprinkling it with rock dust.



  29. John, I’ve run out of time on your grumpy one, but you might do some research on ‘Celebrity + covid + ballina + get me out of here’ and ask yourself why people aren’t getting into Gladys (I know thew are in your part of the world, but I mean seriously, nationally, the mainstream ABC and the Federal government) for favouring such frivolity over needy people.

    Scattering rock dust is new and looks good. In the bigger picture it is not going to do a lot (2-3 Gt vs total of 50+ Gt/y), and I wonder how long it takes.

    Is it like planting a seedling, and counting it as a tree, as the Europeans do with biofuels?

  30. John, the link in your COVID complaint doesn’t work.

    I’m not sure where you get your information about what happens this side of the border, but premier, deputy premier, health minister, CHO have been non-stop saying, “we can’t keep COVID out forever, it will come sooner or later. Please take this opportunity to get yourself vaccinated. I can’t stress this enough. We’ve been lucky so far, but it will come.”

    However, no-one elsewhere listens, and generally quote out of context, or just make sh*t up that makes Palaszczuk look a stupid imbecile. ABC joins in the fun, especially on local radio.

    Last year, around whenever that Caisip event happened, Jeanette Young was trying to look at all requests for access herself. Then I remember they set up a special unit of 7 or 8 people to do the job.

    If you scroll down your link, or it may have been a link from your link, that unit has just been expended from 80 to 100.

    If you can get consistency of judgements, as determined by people hostile and aggrieved, who are comparing just two incidents, then you are a genius, and maybe could also apply for the job as head referee in the NRL.

    As for Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall, he didn’t get to first base in understanding that the families of footballers was in a different ball park to mainstream quarantine. The two had nothing to do with each other, no impact on each other. Decisions were made at different times, by different people.

    His call for greater consistency and transparency is what one would expect. But be careful what you wish for. My better half gave up teaching, because getting up each day she couldn’t concentrate on what was best for the kids. She had to concentrate on what she could do that would show up in measurable test results conducted by a national body based in Melbourne and turned into a set of numbers that she could justify to the parents of her kids, as well as her bosses.

    BTW, Steven Miles says what the Feds have done is divert 100,000 vaccines from Qld to NSW. He doesn’t begrudge this, happy to help, but does not then appreciate being called a vaccine laggard, when all vaccines we receive go into arms.

    Palaszczuk a while ago said she wanted to have some discussion about how to keep kids safe while we vaccinate adults and open up. She was then accused of refusing to open up until the kids are vaccinated with a vaccine that didn’t exist.

    What a goose!

    Except she never said that.

    Have a think about what is happening now.

    She’s asked for an apology from Greg Hunt for continual attacks, when all she wants is civil discussion.

  31. Meanwhile, back in central Qld: Millions poured into gas plan for Bowen and Galilee basins, but not everyone is happy.

    A plan to open two gas basins in Central Queensland could create about 5,500 new jobs by 2030, but environmentalists warn the venture may impact farm water supplies.
    Key points:
    The federal government has invested $15.7 million for gas well trials in the North Bowen and Galilee basins, while $10 million in state and federal funding will pay for a pipeline feasibility study
    The opening up of the basins could create 5,500 jobs by 2030 and boost the economy by $2 billion a year
    But environmentalists say expanding the gas industry could damage groundwater and impact farmers
    Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt said the government was committing $20.7 million to the first stage of the North Bowen and Galilee Basin Strategic Plan.
    “It’s a tough nut to crack — in terms of the geology, it’s a difficult space,” he said.
    “That’s why this money is being committed.
    “So $15.7m will go towards gas well trials and $5m will go towards a feasibility study for a gas pipeline from the North Bowen Basin across to the east coast gas market.”

    The idea of a plan to start up new fossil gas facilities as late as 2030 is a wee bit mind boggling.

  32. John, it’s troubling to say the least. I can’t imagine this statement is true:

      Dawson MP George Christensen said a gas pipeline to the region could potentially lower power prices.

      “We don’t have a significant pipeline of gas to this region,” he said.

      “If we can get that in the mix, it drives down power costs, as having access to a lot of gas, means lower prices.

    Then there is this:

      Peter McCallum from the Mackay Conservation Group said the group was concerned about the impacts future gas developments could have on water sources.

      “We’re really worried about the enormous declines in the water tables that have occurred elsewhere where gas fields have been developed,” he said.

    If water tables have in fact fallen with CSG development, and I suspect they have (but it’s probably contested by gas companies) then we should all know. It would be insane to do the same again, climate issues apart.

  33. John, on gas, the global market is a bit strange at present. I think the main problem is Russia squeezing Europe, partly because they can, and there is some story about the Nord Stream gas pipeline which bypasses Ukraine and is bitterly opposed by the US, whereas Germany is absolutely dependent on Russian gas at present and it seems UK also needs it.

    Then gas has been affected by freak weather in South America, and higher demand in Asia.

    In Australia it’s a complex issue, because the SE of the continent is so far from where the gas now is. Twiggy Forrest’s import terminal looks to me like a good idea.

    Apart from that, if Ballina gets the AFR I’d urge you to buy it today. It has a 32-page insert on a Renewable Energy and Climate Summit they are running. Too much for me to cope with, frankly.

    I’m still looking for a dispassionate expert on the whole Australia gas market thing. I think Angela Macdonald-Smith in the AFR is fairly dispassionate and often has a different slant than you get from Giles Parkinson and the RenewEconomy gang, for example. However, she is not a full-on expert on gas.

  34. Just on COVID, I’m going to an NRL match tonight between the Bunnies and the Sea Eagles (Souths and Manly) because my nephew bought an extra ticket which turns out was spare.

    At the new walk-in vaccination centre in Pinkenba yesterday they were handing out 3000 free tickets to the match. then had to pull the plug, because it was against TGA rules unless it was the second jab. Then Greg Hunt in his usual style said, don’t be stupid, we would never enforce the rules.

    So more unpleasant exchanges.

    Net result, free tickets OK, but others who got the jab themselves are complaining it’s unfair people get rewarded for being slack.

    I think I’ll resign from the human race.

    At the footy there will be two pop-up vax facilities, which they have done in Townsville and other regional venues. Vax program here is picking up steam.

    BTW Pinkenba place was a brand spanking new ship cruising terminal, so that industry can get going with tours up and down the coast at first. While Palaszczuk was there she launches the sod turning at the Pinkenba Renewable Energy Training Facility (RETF).

    Unlike Gladys B, Palaszczuk has time to do her day job.

  35. Larisa Waters pointed out to me once that emissions from Qld coal used in super-critical power stations in China was less than emissions from a Chinese gas fired power plant that depended on LNG shipped from Gladstone. The problem with LNG is that it takes a lot of energy to liquify natural gas. Suggests that shipping LNG from WA to the East coast is not a good idea. (Particularly if all it is doing is replacing LNG being shipped from Qld to overseas markets.)
    My take on Qld is you should go hard on renewable electricity and green hydrogen, ammonia etc. Use thermal coal if you have to and leave the gas in the ground.
    The problem with fracking and water tables is that there can be saline and freshwater in different aquifers. Fracking may allow water to flow between these aquifers and freshwater to be contaminated.

  36. John, back in 2011, as part of a project on CSG between LP and Crikey I wrote three posts on CSG. In preparation I talked to a number of farmer, farmer reps, feed lot owners, and read through the hearings of a parliamentary inquiry on which Larissa Waters was a member.

    TBH I wasn’t altogether impressed with her meeting attendance and the quality of the questions she asked.

    Nevertheless what she told you makes sense.

    Companies always had a ‘make good’ clause in their arrangements with landowners on water. problem was, there is no way of actually making good. If the well the gives water to a feedlot fails, is the company going to truck in water forever?

    Answer, no. Water levels in wells go up and down over time, so there is a problem with establishing a baseline. And who is to say a failing well is not because the landowner is drawing too much water.

    And there was no way of telling whether there was a fissure existing, or likely to open. However, the coal seam aquifer was below the stock and house supply aquifer, and known to be not far apart.

    The CSG industry in Qld was a blessing left to us by the Bligh government. My recall is that they ignored warnings in a report prepared, suppressed it and substituted more ‘helpful’ advice.
    Don’t quote me, but it was something along those lines.

    CSG was not why the Bligh govt got the flick, but the 2012 election was memorable for a TPP split in excess of 62/38, leaving Labor with 7 members, Campbell Newman as premier, and Annastacia Palaszczuk as opposition leader, selecting from a very small field.

    Back to the present, gas appears to be becoming a bit short in supply in NSW and Victoria. many of the gas power stations and commercial users had longer term supply contracts which were quite cheap. Renewing them is a different ball-game.

    Most of Qld’s production is used to fill long-term export contracts. Santos sold more than they actually had at the time.

    The gas-led recovery is based on gas prices in NSW and Victoria which are lower than the cost of production at the well-head in Qld or NT.

    Nevertheless, imported gas is available at the price that Qld producers get for it after using all that power to liquefy.

  37. Bottom line, gas is a conundrum, but there is no way we should be opening new fields which need to become stranded assets if our progeny are going to have a half-decent planet to live on

  38. Yep:

    there is no way we should be opening new fields

    2030 is less than 9 yrs away. That is not enough time to develop a gas field and sell enough to meet break even. Some may think 2050 is the cut-off but, at the rate change is happening I think the cut-off will be much sooner than 2050 and idiots who invest in dirty gas will not get much sympathy.

  39. John, I think the donkeys who run the place think that CCS will be part of the deal. Even if technically possible it will always now be more expensive than cleaner energy.

  40. Brian: In the past I thought that CCS may make sense for steel production because the cost of green steel produced from green hydrogen could be quite high. The same might be said for green aluminum and green cement. CCS has no chance of being competitive with renewable electricity.

  41. John, I think people have a mental set against CCS. The best explainer I’ve heard recently was a Rear Vision program on ABC RN – Carbon capture and storage—an expensive distraction or the answer to global warming?

    I need to listen again, but from first hearing I was impressed with the two foreign guests, especially Dr James Dyke.

    I don’t think they mentioned one of the main problems with CCS, and that is that CO2 is around plus 3 times the mass of coal, so direct air capture would be the only realistic way of going about it. The really interesting thing is that sediment beds where you find gas is the worst place to store it. In Iceland they have experimentally stored it deep in volcanic structures after high compression into a solid form, and within about two years it mineralises and turns into rock.

    Lots of energy still involved and I have no idea whether scalable amounts could be stored that way.

    There was a warning, however, that every site is unique and the process is not scalable the way solar panel production is.

    I’d like to know more about what the ultimate potential is and whether CCS could be a significant part of a suite of solutions.

    Rear Vision usually does a pretty decent job of covering an issue, and I think this one is worth a listen. I’d appreciate your views, John, if you have time and inclination.

  42. Gladys Berejiklian has quit as ICAC open an inquiry into her possible conflict of interest when she has a secret boyfriend.

    Probably the only thing she could do, as running the state with a COVID crisis was already testing her to the limit.

    With my limited knowledge, the NSW Libs do seem to have a couple of decent candidates for the job, so I’ll be an interested spectator.

  43. Brian: Gladys brings the number of NSW premiers sacked by ICAC up to 3 but there may be more. (Griener, Farrell, Gladys – all Libs)
    No wonder the Federal LNP is strongly against ICACs. Imagine what an ICAC would do with the current mob including the current prime minister from the convict state?

  44. John, the Coalition will avoid a federal ICAC at all costs, I think.

    The main effect of Gladys B will, I think, confirm in the public mind that politicians are in it for what they can get personally. Helps the Indies, and perhaps minor parties like the Greens.

  45. Brian: “The main effect of Gladys B will, I think, confirm in the public mind that politicians are in it for what they can get personally. Helps the Indies, and perhaps minor parties like the Greens.”
    Yep. The Greens are in a good position to take advantage of negative perceptions of the majors. They already have elected Greens representatives at all levels of parliament including something like 58 councilors, 6 lord mayors and 6 state members.
    Labor had a smell of corruption when it was last in power.

    • Labor had a smell of corruption when it was last in power.

    John, do you mean NSW Labor, where the last premier was Kristina Keneally?

    I don’t think KK was corrupt, but corruption in NSW Labor politics was endemic for a very long time.

    Nationally Labor has been pretty clean for a very long time. Our enemies usually go back to Ros Kelly, who wasn’t corrupt, just used a whiteboard and then wiped it clean without taking a photo.

    Yet the ABC journos and presenters get splinters in their backside, sitting on the fence, saying repeatedly “both sides do it”.

    I agree, though, it helps the Greens.

  46. Brian: It was good.
    There was a stage in my life when I wanted to be a marine scientist. I can understand a kid that knows a lot about nature while getting poor results from school.
    In the meantime growing the species needed to rapidly set up/recover a reef is part of any reef protection plan.

  47. Veron is a man who has endured and prevailed on a personal level through extraordinary tragedy and suffering, and then in his work ends up in taking on the job of preserving what the human race is destroying.

    What pees me off is that he had to depend on charities and private fundraising, when the government is spending hundreds of millions.

  48. I have to work today. I’m about an hour away from finishing a post on Gladys B.

    Without all the links and stuff, here is the story, as I see it.

    While Gladys B has much admiration and support for her work on the virus, and is not bad as premiers go, she knew her boyfriend was up to no good, and failed to report him, as was her duty under the law. I think it is a pretty much open and shut case, but I’m not a lawyer.

    There is another issue as to whether she participated in decisionmaking on a grant to a facility in his electorate. If she did, again it is a clear problem for her.

    However, in both the law works in mysterious ways, and people can get by on technicalities.

    There is a lot of hot air coming from the Right in politics against ICAC, Sorry, but ICAC is accountable. People found to have done wrong have recourse to the law, and Greiner was exonerated.

    The bigger problem, for me, was the Stronger Communities Grants, which distributed $245 million, 95% to Coalition electorates, just before the election. Gladys B apparently approves with a circle or a tick, then the documents are shredded.

    Her defence seemed to be (a) that she reckons pork barrelling is common practice, and hence OK, and (b) that no-one instructed the papers to be shredded.

    Something like that.

    There are moves for her to go into Federal politics. With those standards, she should fit in well with the Morrison government.

    All this pisses people off with politicians and politicians, Labor gets painted with the same brush, and people are more likely to vote for independents or other minor parties if they put forward pollies that don’t look like pollies.

    The indies are all conservatives, and having the balance of power in the hands of parties that get about 3% of the vote is not democratic. Greens get a bit more, but 10-12% of the vote should not allow them to determine policy.

    In the German system, if you get 5% of the vote, you get representation equivalent to your vote. In the latest election, three parties will have to come together. Policy compromises are hammered out over 4 months or more, but the process is reasonably transparent. Voters have a better idea of what they can expect from the government.

    The German system could be improved upon, but ironically seems more robust than what is happening in other leading democracies.

    Perrotet is Gladys’ replacement. He is clearly upper middle class, and has had some very odd views on climate change and social issues.

    Gladys came from working class origins, and had a record of being open to ideas and needs expressed by people and representative groups. She had a notion that she was there to help people, which insofar as I understand politics and politicians in NSW (which is not much) was quite admirable.

  49. Brian: “having the balance of power in the hands of parties that get about 3% of the vote is not democratic. Greens get a bit more, but 10-12% of the vote should not allow them to determine policy.”
    The piddling vote the Nationals gets gives them more influence than the 10-12% the Greens get.
    It is unusual for a party or coalition to get more than 49.9% of the vote. We have a system that allows a winner to get all the power all the time. Power should be shared more.
    See for example: The Case For 3 Member Electorates

  50. John, I agree with all that. However, there seems to be a residual problem in the Senate. It sends shivers up my spine that the likes of Jacqui Lambie and Pauline H have so much power.

    In the German system the upper house is a genuine states house, ie. it is not voted for in the national elections.

    I don’t know enough as to how that works, but the fact that I don’t know seems to indicate it isn’t as potentially troublesome as ours.

  51. Interesting stuff on how an iron ore producer plans to eradicate its emissions as well as those of current and future customers.
    FMG pledges to eradicate customer emissions by 2040

    FMG has promised to eradicate its customers’ carbon emissions by 2040
    Fortescue had already pledged to achieve carbon neutrality in its own operations by 2030
    The plan includes converting FMG’s fleet of ore carriers to green ammonia-powered vessels

  52. A thing to keep in mind about our system is that the real power resides with the faction(s) that dominates the ruling party. In a tight parliament a faction that gets a bit over 25% of parliament seats may control the country. Then you have factions within factions and the number drops even further.
    Voters understand minor parties and what they stand for. But voters don’t often don’t understand factions and choose the party they vote for in part on the factions of their candidates in their electorate.

  53. John, the factional thing drives me silly, but the parts of Labor I’ve experienced have been faction free.

    Not everywhere though. Some factions don’t want to know anyone outside the faction.

    In Labor federally there seems to be a leadership inner circle, which goes beyond the four house and senate leaders and deputies, but is less than cabinet, probably 7-9. I think this is a common feature of large organisations.

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