The first Brexit happened a very long time ago. According to Richard Webb in Brexit, 10,000 BC: The untold story of how Britain first left Europe (New Scientist), the white cliffs of Dover did not exist 450,000 years ago, just rolling hills. However, as usual, there was an ice age, and a glacial lake was formed in what is now the North Sea:
The phrase “too big to fail, too big to save” in this case comes from an essay in Der Spiegel by Henrik Enderlein which says that the time to act is now, but also says that all the options available for action will fail. I take it he’s saying that Italy must take ownership for its debt, but Germans must also stand in solidarity or the speculators on the demise of the euro will have a field day.
AUSTRALIA’S lofty status as the world’s second richest nation remains intact, new figures reveal, despite household wealth stalling this year.
In the seventh annual Global Wealth Report from Swiss bank Credit Suisse, the “lucky country” posted an average wealth of $US375,600 ($508,900) for every Australian, second only to banking hotbed Switzerland, with an average net worth of $US562,000.
Whatever wave of migration we look at, someone was already there. Colin Barras in the New Scientist (paywalled) takes a look at the three ancestral waves of migration that founded Western civilisation.
First were the hunter-gatherers. Then came the farmers. These were followed by the Yamnaya, originating from herders on the steppes north of the Black Sea, who brought the horse and the wagon, and the Indo-European language that predominates in Europe, except for Basque, Estonian, Finnish and Magyar (Hungarian). Continue reading Deep origins: early Europe→
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.
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.
Cricket icon Richie Benaud, who distinguished himself first as a leg-spinning all-rounder, then as a daring Australian Test captain and later as the ‘voice of cricket’ in the commentary box, has died at the age of 84.
Benaud’s skills, drive and determination took him to the top on and off the cricket field, and made him one of Australia’s most recognised people, instantly identifiable simply as Richie.
He played 63 Tests for Australia, was the first player to score 2,000 Test runs and take 200 Test wickets, and never lost a series as Australian captain.
After hanging up his Baggy Green cap, he spent more than four decades as the king of cricket commentators, a man viewed around the world as one of the best callers, watchers and analysts of the game – and perhaps its best ambassador as well.
While acknowledging his record I’d rate him as a top-flight bowler who was a handy batsman rather than a genuine all-rounder, who would be selected for his batting and his bowling absent the other. Genuine all-rounders are rare. I can think of Garfield Sobers, Keith Miller and Ian Botham, also Adam Gilchrist in a sense.
Benaud, I think, gave some respectability to the Packer circus and was apparently quite influential in giving advice.
2. Opinion polls
In Great Britain Ed Miliband overtakes David Cameron in approval ratings, as Labour pulls ahead in the polls.
Here in Oz Newspoll studied quarterly trends with a larger than usual sample. The headlines and much of the reporting was about Abbott’s poor performance in WA. You had to dig to find the national TPP poll which had Labor ahead 55-45. Also:
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten leads Mr Abbott 44-34 as preferred prime minister.
He is now ranked as better prime minister in all states for the first time.
Australia’s imprisonment rate at 186 per 100,000 is historically high and getting higher. Moreover:
In contrast to most other developed countries, this rate is palpably high. The rate in Canada is 118 per 100,000. The incarceration rate in Australia is nearly three times higher than in Scandinavian countries.
Standing apart from these trends is the world’s greatest incarcerator, the United States, which imprisons more than 700 people per 100,000 – an increase of more than 400% in three decades.
It’s costing us a pile of money – we spend $A80,000 per prisoner per year compared to $A30,000 in the US. This wouldn’t be so bad if it worked, but it doesn’t:
Sentencing is the area of law where there remains the biggest gap between what science tells us can be achieved through a social institution (criminal punishment) and what we actually do.
our prisons [are] where the greatest number of human rights infractions occur.
The start and endpoint to the solution is to confine jails (almost exclusively) to those we have reason to be scared of: sexual and violent offenders.
Thanks to John D for bringing this article to my attention.
4. Keep an eye on Greece – something unusual is happening
James Galbraith has been to Greece to consult on their problems and reported in an amazing speech to the European Trade Union Institute.
So as these manoeuvres, as I call them, mature, there emerges an interesting possibility. And that is the possibility of a politically stable, anti-austerity government in Europe, led, as I think you probably have observed, by forceful personalities, and presiding over an economy which is so far down that it has no place to go but up. And that may well be, within a short period of time, on a track of some recovery, some improvement in jobs performance and stabilisation of its external debt situation.
This would be in the wake of a crisis that was brought on by the neoliberal financial policies of the early part of the 2000s. Which was then aggravated and prolonged by the austerity ideology that succeeded the crisis, by the profoundly counterproductive policies with which Europe has reacted to the crisis. And so the possibility that an anti-austerity government might lead the beginning of a recovery from the austerity regime is, I think, a present reality and it is, of course, a nightmare in certain quarters.
Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have faced a wall of grief and pain from a hostile media and European finance authorities. If they prevail it will be because in the end Angela Merkel is pragmatic rather than doctrinaire. The stakes are high:
It goes beyond that to the future of Europe and beyond that, to the meaning of the word democracy in our time.
that a hectare of lawn in Nashville, Tennessee, produced greenhouse gases equivalent to 697 to 2,443kg of carbon dioxide a year. The higher figure is equivalent to a flight more than halfway around the world.
These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.
This edition is mostly about the doings of our new government, prospective EU targets, a statement by religious leaders and a couple of items on health implications.
1. Greg Hunt’s role diminished
Whether or not Greg Hunt gets to go to the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) Conference of Parties (COP) in Warsaw from 11 to 22 November. Julie Bishop will henceforth be the lead negotiator in international climate talks.
The story in the AFR says Hunt has been “stripped of responsibility for global climate change negotiations”. He still gets to go and hang out at the talks. One might say that Australia’s representation has been upgraded. Suspicious minds might also think that Hunt couldn’t be trusted. He actually believes human activity causes global warming and might join the warmist urgers if not kept on a tight leash. Continue reading Climate clippings 84→
A recent study by Abram et al showed that the ice on the Antarctic peninsula was melting about 10 times faster than it was 600 years ago, concluding that further melting was particularly sensitive to temperature increases. The headline and the text of this story perhaps gave the impression that the whole continent was ready to go.
A more sober assessment was found at The Carbon Brief where the study was linked with another study by Steig et al that finds recent changes in the West Antarctica ice sheet “cannot be distinguished from decadal variability that originates in the tropics.”
Nevertheless Antarctica overall is losing mass (see also here). Antarctica contributed strongly to sea level rise during the Eemian and the Andrill study showed that “the West Antarctic ice sheet has collapsed and regrown over 60 times in the past few million years”. Any complacency would be misplaced.
2. New review of ice sheet studies
The Carbon Brief has also posted on a new major review of the latest research on ice sheets. The last IPCC report (AR4) relied on about 10 years worth of reliable sea level data, from 1993 and 2003. Greenland and Antarctica together were found to be raising sea levels by about 0.42 mm per year. That has now doubled to about 0.82mm per year.
So while we are still dealing with short time periods, a clear acceleration is in evidence.
Dr Jenny Riesz of the University of NSW reports on Garnaut’s recommendation to the Climate Change Authority which is currently deliberating on the Caps and Targets Review. He favours a 17% target by 2020 to put us in line with the US, Canada and other major economies.
At the Cancun United Nations negotiations in 2010, President Obama committed the USA to an emissions reduction target of -17% by 2020 (below 2005 levels). This has been somewhat ignored in Australia’s carbon targets debate, because policy to implement a national carbon pricing scheme to achieve this target was filibustered by the US Senate.
However, the USA remains committed to this target, both in spirit, and in writing with the UNFCCC.
Canada has promised to match the USA.
He suggests that the EU has found it much easier to meet their targets than originally anticipated, which is a typical experience. This, he says, is in part why their carbon price has collapsed.
Garnaut points out that:
the biggest change of all is coming from China, in terms of quantity of emissions reduction from business as usual. They have set truly ambitious targets, and are meeting them through a wide range of activities, including substantial structural change in the Chinese economy. These actions are driven by a wide range of objectives, including environmental drivers, desire for expansion of the role of services in the economy, and desire for more equitable income distribution.
Over the last three years, the global carbon market has more than doubled in volume but almost halved in value. In that time a further eight countries, states or cities have adopted a carbon market as their primary means for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the price for one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent has dropped by as much as 100 per cent in some markets.
That last sentence looks like an oops! A 100% drop gives you nothing!
While it is premature to pin the heavy rainfall on climate change, it could be partly to blame, says Stéphane Isoard of the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, Denmark. But he says bad land management is just as important.
Nevertheless wetter weather is predicted by climate change, making more floods inevitable.
Deutsche Wellegoes into more detail, saying that while individual events can’t necessarily be linked to climate change, they’ve had once in a century floods now in the 1990s, in 2002 and now in 2013. We’ll have to expect more and prepare accordingly.
They make reference to Stefan Rahmstorf’s blog (which is auf Deutsch), but this paper is in English. On a quick look I think he’s saying they have found a mechanism linking floods, droughts and heat waves to climate change and if they are right expect more. And, yes they need money for research of the kind expended on the Higgs boson.
7. Interest grows in the Arctic
Now that the Arctic is increasingly becoming trafficable during the summer many countries are becoming interested. The politics of who sits where at the Arctic Council is complex, but China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India and Italy have now been admitted as permanent observers.
According to the New ScientistChina is the one to watch. They’re interested in the Arctic as a shipping route, but also in fish and oil.
“It’s fair to say China will drive development of Arctic resources,” says Malte Humpert of the Arctic Institute in Washington DC.
The Arctic is fragile so we hope they take care.
8. US and China agree to cooperate on phasing out HFCs
For the first time, the United States and China will work together and with other countries to use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), among other forms of multilateral cooperation. A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions.
William S. Becker explains that China had always wanted to consider the issue in the context of the current round of climate talks, which would delay action, whereas the Montreal Protocol already exists. HFCs were introduced as an alternative to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which were destroying the ozone layer. Unfortunately HFCs have a greenhouse effect like CO2.
Last week when the European Parliament voted down a proposal to prop up the EU Emissions Trading System’s languishing carbon price by postponing the sale of 900 million emission allowances until the back-end of this decade the price fell to below AU$4. There are obvious concerns about the legislated linking of the Australian carbon price to the EU scheme in mid-2015. Treasury had forecast an EU price of at least $29 in 2015.
I’ve used a random image for the featured image of this post. I was going to use the one that once was my gravatar (to the left) but the original is quite small and it came up fuzzy. Continue reading Climate clippings 67→
A rise of 1°C is unacceptable. For example, at that level the coral reefs of the world are under threat. At 4-5°C, which is where we’re heading if the do nothing brigade had their way, we have nightmare territory. Continue reading Climate clippings 29→