Saturday salon 18/11

1. The future of humanity

Set aside an hour to listen to the IQ Squared debate on “Humanity is designing its own demise”

Toby Walsh, Professor of Artificial Intelligence UNSW, Signe Dean, science and health journalist, Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics CSU, and Kristin Alford, Futurist go at it with zest, intelligence and learning.

Unbelievable progress has been made, especially in health and wealth. Among the things I learnt was that we don’t need to fear AI, just the people behind it, and that Elon Musk is actually mad, but will have a colony of 1,000 people on Mars by 2050. Continue reading Saturday salon 18/11

Climate change: the end of civilisation as we know it

James Hansen said in his book Storms for my Grandchildren that if we burnt all the available coal, tars, and oil then the ‘Venus Syndrome’ would be a dead certainty, extinguishing life as we know it on the planet. He has now thought further and says that is not going to happen, the time-scales make it impossible. It would take 100 million years to get enough carbon into the atmosphere, and by that time much of it would be back on the sea floor.

However we are on a path to make living at low latitudes impossible, plus more than half the major cities in the world cling to the coastline and are subject to sea level rise. The world, he says, would become ungovernable.

How likely is this? The short answer is that we appear to be on a path to achieve an ungovernable world within a century. Continue reading Climate change: the end of civilisation as we know it

Saturday salon 11/11

1. Bier her

Bier her, Bier her, oder ich fall um, juchhe! You can hear the German drinking song here.

Today we could remember Armistice day, ending the First World War 99 years ago, or Ned Kelly hanged on 11 November 1880. Then there was the dismissal of Gough Whitlam 25 years ago, and the important Harvester Case on November 8, 1907. Before we get too far past it I want to remember 31 October 500 years ago when a cranky friar in Saxony let it be known he was not happy with the Catholic Church. However Martin Luther’s biggest contribution to modern life may have been to liberate German beer. Continue reading Saturday salon 11/11

LNP pledges cheap electricity for Queensland – vision splendid or hoax?

Here is the vision splendid. The promise is to save a typical Queensland family an average of $160 a year over the next two years, and then a further $300 per year from 2020. LNP leader Tim Nicholls said on TV that the average family would save about 10% on their bills.

I don’t know why that is supposed to be so stunning. Labor is promising $50 pa immediately, plus $146 pa in 2017-18 and $216 pa in 2018-19 from actions taken to put downward pressure on prices since the Queensland Competition Authority struck a new standard price for 2017-18 in early June. Here it is:

Continue reading LNP pledges cheap electricity for Queensland – vision splendid or hoax?

The Adani Project: – is it good for Australia?

This is a guest post by blog commenter Geoff Henderson. It is particularly strong on the structure and standing of Adani as a company, and on the truly pathetic contribution the project would make to both jobs and the coffers of the state government in royalties. I’ve added some links of other recent material at the end. Enjoy!

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A Four Corners program[1a] made serious claims about the Adani Conglomerate corporate profile in India. Credible allegations of bribery, corruption, money laundering, environmental destruction, tax/royalty avoidance and more were leveled at Adani.[1b] Continue reading The Adani Project: – is it good for Australia?

Saturday salon 4/11

1. JFK assassination theories revive

Seems Trump is keen to release all the JFK assassination files, but on CIA and FBI advice they have been redacted and some withheld.

The fact that the CIA and the FBI are doing this gives conspiracy theories more energy. The BBC gives some details of the new material, which basically confirm that something strange was going on.

Here we have an outline of the key theories. Continue reading Saturday salon 4/11

Cherry picking electricity prices in Qld election

It’s the season for cherry picking on electricity prices as an election is called in Queensland. This can happen because no-one, not journalists, not ABC radio hosts, and unfortunately not ‘experts’, reads Queensland Government media releases. The offending politicians from the opposition LNP are getting a free ride, with statements like ‘Prices increased 70% under Labor’ (Tim Nichols on TV) and, ‘We will put downward pressure on electricity prices’ without saying how.

I’ve assembled a fair bit of information in two posts – Queensland powers up for a warm summer and Electricity bills – Queensland acts because it can. In this post I’ll summarise what I think has happened, and then mention some of the cherry-picked claims being made. There is some new information in the post. Also there is a particular problem with Steve Austin on Mornings on local ABC radio. I don’t mind the bloke, normally, but on electricity he’s lost the plot.

I’ve provided some links here, but there are many more in the earlier posts. Continue reading Cherry picking electricity prices in Qld election

Where will we be in 250 million years time?

A bit longer than 250 million years is when we had the Great Dying, the Permian–Triassic extinction event, when up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species became extinct. A mere 65 million years ago saw the extinction of the dinosaurs and the dawn of the Cainozoic Era. From a screenshot of this YouTube, this is how the continents were placed around the globe:

Continue reading Where will we be in 250 million years time?

Saturday salon 28/10

1. China has arrived

The biggest story of the week was probably the Chinese Communist party congress. Leader Xi Jinping is looking to stay for at least another 10 years and putting his “socialist thought” into the party constitution, places him alongside Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in the pantheon of revolutionary leaders. But Richard McGregor says the real star is the party itself, and the West should wake up: Continue reading Saturday salon 28/10

Electricity bills – Queensland acts because it can

There is no doubt that electricity in Australia has become expensive. Here is a graph on the National Electricity Market (NEM) states, other than Tasmania, against European countries:

It’s from a Carbon + Energy Markets report cited by the ACCC Retail Electricity Pricing: Preliminary Report, September 2017 comparing May 2017 Australian prices with 2015 European prices. The ACCC also note that:

    There are currently no national surveys conducted in Australia that inform price reporting around what customers are actually paying.

Which is disconcerting. The one above was based on the weighted median offer of the three largest Australian retailers. Continue reading Electricity bills – Queensland acts because it can

NEG will probably win

According to Giles Parkinson at RenewEconomy, energy minister Josh Frydenberg has written to the Energy Security Board (ESB) to make sure they stay focussed on the task at hand. He has asked them “to restrict its modelling to only one specified short term target, and then assume emissions would “flatline” after that.”

Parkinson says:

    The intention of the order is clear: If the ESB were to factor in a long term target that matched the over-riding goal of the Paris climate treaty (keeping global warming well below 2°C), it would no doubt produce a document for the rapid decarbonisation of Australia’s grid.

Obviously we can’t have any of that nonsense to distract us! Continue reading NEG will probably win

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff