Home > Environment > Running out of water

Running out of water

September 12th, 2007

A couple of months ago, there seemed to be some hope that the record-breaking drought in south-eastern Australia was breaking. There was good rain, and the switch from El Nino to La Nina seemed to be established. Now, it seems, those hopes are gone. The really good rain was confined to coastal areas, most notably Sydney. Temporary water entitlements are now going for $1000 a megalitre, and irrigators are likely to receive something like 5 per cent of their normal allocations.

The water market should do some good in ensuring that water flows where it is most needed, most obviously in keeping tree crops alive. But water is also needed for cities and towns in the Murray-Darling Basin and for Adelaide, so the market will have to be combined with administrative allocation, and there may be a need for emergency measures.

In these circumstances, the last thing we need is the continuing squabbling between Federal and State governments, and within the Federal government between Nationals and Liberals, which has led to only marginal progress under the National Water Initiative. It’s likely that nothing much will happen until after the Federal election and, to be fair, there’s not much that can be done until we see how bad the summer is going to be. But it seems clear that the incoming government will have an emergency on its hands.

Nanni at RSMG has more on the limitations of demand management. This is not going to be an easy problem to solve.

Meanwhile, and relatedly, several species of coral and many seaweeds have been listed as vulnerable or critically endangered as a result of climate change, specifically the increasing frequency and severity of El Niño events.

Categories: Environment Tags:
  1. September 13th, 2007 at 07:30 | #1

    i’m more inclined to say the people of australia have an emergency on their hands: the climate is becoming more harsh, and their national management system is hopelessly unsuited to dealing with environmental change.

    the government, on the other hand, will have 3 years to enjoy the perks and lurks of office, and probably 6 or more. they have no emergency, they’re at the top of their tree, and laughing at the fools who persist in putting them in this cushy spot against all logic and experience.

    being a ‘fan’ at a football game is ok, but identifying with politicians is a mistake. even wildebeest are smart enough to be clear about the role of hyenas.

  2. jquiggin
    September 13th, 2007 at 08:31 | #2

    I understand you don’t like politicians, al, but you don’t have to keep reminding us. Could you try to keep comments on-topic and save remarks like this for threads that are explicitly about political topics, or open threads where you can say what you want.

  3. mugwump
    September 13th, 2007 at 08:39 | #3

    Meanwhile, and relatedly, several species of coral and many seaweeds have been listed as vulnerable or critically endangered as a result of climate change, specifically the increasing frequency and severity of El Niño events.

    More irresponsible and ill informed alarmism.

    1) The link between El Niño frequency/severity and global warming has not been established. If you think it has, please give references (published papers in reputable journals, not just environmentalists/lefty economists claiming it is so because it suits their politics).

    2) This is the first time coral and seaweed have been surveyed for their “endangered” status. Given that at any point in time (with or without global warming) there will be some number of endangered species, it is next to impossible to attribute endangerment of the species found in the first survey to global warming.

  4. jquiggin
    September 13th, 2007 at 09:20 | #4

    Before I bother responding, mugwump, do you agree that peer-reviewed research published in reputable journals is what we should be relying on here, or are you going to keep on basing your views on amateur efforts in blogs, and bogus journals like E&E?

  5. AnnaK
    September 13th, 2007 at 09:40 | #5

    Mugwump, do you have a reference for statement “2″?

  6. mugwump
    September 13th, 2007 at 10:32 | #6

    I guess you’re referring to McIntyre, who despite being an amateur has just managed to shame Hansen into releasing his source code, has been published in leading climatology journals (GRL), and none of whose research you have ever tackled directly. So yes, let’s add well-researched amateurs of his calibre to the list of authoritative sources.

    AnnaK, the reference for this being the first coral and seaweed survey is JQ’s link:

    The Galapagos marine research was conducted by the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA), a joint initiative of IUCN and CI launched in 2005 with the support of dozens of experts and research institutions. The GMSA is studying a large portion of Earth’s marine species to determine the threat of extinction.

    and

    The GMSA is the first strategic global review of the conservation status of marine species, including every marine vertebrate species and selected invertebrates and plants.

  7. Hermit
    September 13th, 2007 at 12:50 | #7

    I’d say Howard needs to call the election before a final call is made on the national wheat harvest, down at least 20% and maybe double that. Also before Hicks gets out but that’s another story. The feeble climate declaration at APEC, the collapse of the NSW carbon trading scheme due to giveaways and procrastination on a national scheme won’t help. I think bread prices could get a double whammy not only from wheat but cutbacks to irrigated dairy. The public mood shift will be palpable by mid November.

  8. September 13th, 2007 at 13:27 | #8

    Does anyone here think that increasing Australia’s population, when natural stocks of water are inadequate for existing Austalians, is a good idea?

    Does anynoe believe that adding 1.1 million people to the population of South East Queendslnad alone by 2026 as planned in the South East Queensland Regional Plan of 2004 will improve our circumstances?

    Does anyone question the sanity of former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie who recetnly called for Australia’s population to be increased to 50 million?

  9. Razor
    September 13th, 2007 at 13:45 | #9

    daggett – there is no problem with increasing the population. We just need to develop more water infrastructure. And part of that strategy is to diversify water sources.

    There is no shortage of water. We’ve got oceans of the stuff. Just a lack of infrastructure is the problem.

  10. jquiggin
    September 13th, 2007 at 13:48 | #10

    Mugwump, I was also referring among others to the late John Daly and Benny Peiser, both heavily cited by delusionists and to the recently touted E&E piece by Schulte (sp?). Do you want to claim these guys as reliable sources, too? If so, I don’t think there’s any point in further discussion.

    Assuming you’re talking about actual scientific research, I’m happy to count the M&M GRL paper as part of the relevant literature, and to agree with the NAS summary of the relevant debate. Working on this assumption, I take it you agree with the mainstream scientific consensus on AGW and are only disputing specifics like the interaction with El Nino. Again , if not, I see no point in debating side issues.

  11. observa
    September 13th, 2007 at 20:52 | #11

    Meanwhile in SA, after copping a bucketing for a week or so by the gardeners having to bucket water on their gardens, Media Mike overrules his Water Minister Karlene and announces they can use their drippers once a week for 3 hours and he’s waiting on approval for massive desal plants. Obviously our Mr 60% CO2 reductions by 2050 believes they run on Kyoto promises. This on top of new power sattions to run our mining boom.

    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,22403460-5006301,00.html

  12. RDM
    September 13th, 2007 at 21:15 | #12

    My parents are dairy farmers (Yarrawonga channel) who are still required to pay for 100%, but are only going to receive 5% of their water right this season and feed prices (hay, grain, anything that cattle can eat really) are going through the roof too. We have a practical duopoly in the supermarket sector so there is little to no chance of domestic milk prices rising, fortunately the world price is high, but who can afford the feed costs to maintain production in a climate where feed prces are likely to continue to rise?

    The purpose of my comment is to have you consider one of your premises a little more deeply John.

    OK, so the orchardists need water to keep fruit trees alike, but cattle need to be watered and crops need to be grown to feed the cattle so we have beef and milk both this season, next season and into the future.

    Meanwhile, we have the wine industry also whining about a lack of water. When is someone going to question the premise that it is good for grape growers to keep getting water? Has ‘let them eat cake’ transformed into ‘let them drink wine’? Frankly, I have as much concern for the wine growers as the coral.

  13. mugwump
    September 13th, 2007 at 21:35 | #13

    jquiggin, your avoiding the question:

    1) The link between El Niño frequency/severity and global warming has not been established. If you think it has, please give references…

    So as not to be diverted by your stalling tactics as to what constitutes a valid source, use any sources you please. If they’re lame, you’ll know it.

  14. mugwump
    September 13th, 2007 at 21:40 | #14

    PIMF: you’re

  15. jquiggin
    September 13th, 2007 at 22:47 | #15

    As regards severity, the link is obvious. Add global warming to El Nino and you get a more severe El Nino. See 1998.

    As regards frequency, the fact that El Ninos have becoming more frequent seems pretty clear. Whether this is due to AGW remains uncertain, but there are plenty of people saying it is for example “Trenberth, K. E., 1999: El Niño and global warming. Proc. Amer. Met. Soc. Tenth Symposium on Global Change Studies. ”

    But regarding your implicit admission that you don’t believe the peer-reviewed literature, and your previous explicit admission that you form your scientific beliefs on political grounds, this leads me to the conclusion that I shouldn’t bother trying to convince you. It’s obvious that any such effort is futile.

    More importantly, In political terms, rightwing delusionists are an asset to my side of politics. You’ve already done (probably fatal) damage to the Howard government, and will with any luck assist in ensuring that the Democrats win convincingly in the US. So, keep it up.

  16. observa
    September 13th, 2007 at 23:45 | #16

    I’m old school John and whilst I might have got a bit hot under the collar on that account, I should be condemned for being insulting by that same standard. So I’d ask you to remove the last paragraph of my last post please.

    Done-jQ

  17. BilB
    September 14th, 2007 at 03:37 | #17

    I think that for Australia to have a future use for large tracks of land we will have to bite the bullet and start investing in Solar thermal power and solar desalination. The farmer of the future is going to have to be a very technologically capable person. Feedstocks might need to be greenhouse grown using desalinated water that is very carefully managed. It is distressing to see the wheat harvest heading for collapse. I think that this is more to do with needing to move that crop to other areas and find other crops that can cope with the new drier landscape. Perhaps there is a need to find a whole new financing formula for farming. A formula that allows farmers in climate failed areas to re establish without incurring great debt. In reality all debt that is written off is absorbed by the community as a whole, so why write off the lives of good working people in the process.

  18. mugwump
    September 14th, 2007 at 04:21 | #18

    test

  19. mugwump
    September 14th, 2007 at 04:24 | #19

    You refer to Trenberth. He looks like a solid guy. Here’s what he has to say on the subject:

    How El Niño changes as climate changes and global warming progresses is a critical question of great importance for many regions of the globe. While our exploratory analyses are suggestive and form useful hypotheses for future work, climate models do not yet simulate El Niño well enough and are too different from each other to have any confidence in their projections. This itself is an indication of a lack of adequate understanding of some aspects of El Niño and its role in the global climate system. Accordingly, we continue to seek improved analyses of the past and associated diagnostic studies that will clarify the role of El Niño and improve its prediction. A focus for some of the research is quantitative diagnostic estimates of the energetics of El Niño, so that we can track how the heat builds up in the ocean and is subsequently redistributed and dissipated during the El Niño event. The underlying hypothesis is that El Niño exists and plays a role in the Pacific Ocean as a means of removing heat from the equatorial regions of the ocean, where it would otherwise build up. An implication of this, if correct, is that further heat buildup from increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would lead to increased magnitudes and/or frequency of El Niño events. Nevertheless, we do not expect this to be simple, and nature always seems to be able to come up with surprises as to just what the future holds.

  20. jquiggin
    September 14th, 2007 at 06:08 | #20

    Indeed, mugwump, the situation is much the same as with hurricanes/cyclones now. The effect of GW on the El Nino cycle is plausible on basic physical grounds, consistent with recent observation, but not yet proven. The same could have been said about AGW 10 years ago, or 5 if you’re very cautious.

    But to repeat, an El Nino event of a given magnitude is still more severe in terms of its effects if overlaid on a global warming trend. So I don’t think there’s any problem with predicting damage to corals as in the post.

  21. mugwump
    September 14th, 2007 at 09:27 | #21

    Which statement do you think more accurately summarizes Trenberth, mine:

    The link between El Niño frequency/severity and global warming has not been established.

    or yours:

    As regards severity, the link is obvious.

    But regarding your implicit admission that you don’t believe the peer-reviewed literature…

    So implicit that it’s not even true. Some peer-reviewed literature is good, some not so good.

  22. jquiggin
    September 14th, 2007 at 09:49 | #22

    Let me rephrase – you pick and choose which peer-reviewed literature to believe in line with its political convenience, and impute political motives to anything you don’t like. Similarly, and even more so with the non-reviewed material on which you primarily rely, produced by rightwing hacks like M&M, Baliunas & Soon and the rest. I don’t need to worry about implicit/explicit – you said as much in the other thread, regarding Hansen and others.

  23. mugwump
    September 14th, 2007 at 10:26 | #23

    While it is true that I don’t trust Hansen and his acolytes, with good reason, it is not the case that I cherrypick the literature to suit my political predilections.

    In fact, my objection is to people like yourself, like Hansen, like Stern, who read far greater certainty into the literature than is justified in order to further your anti-capitalist, anti-growth, anti-freedom, pro-state-control political agendas.

    This whole El Niño/GW thread is a great example. You pointed me to Trenberth, whom I had not heard of but I took the trouble to read a couple of his recent papers. Turns out he is Dr El Niño, and lo and behold, we find his pronouncements on GW and El Niño far more equivocal than your self-assured but unsubstantiated assessment.

  24. BilB
    September 14th, 2007 at 10:58 | #24

    C’mon mugwump, you’re playing a bolted horse hand. You won’t believe it until you see it. Everybody else is trying to anticipate what will happen in order to avoid it. Anticipation carries risk of being wrong, but it is far better to anticipate and be out of the way of the steam roller as it goes by rather than underneath it, which is where your approach will place you.

  25. jquiggin
    September 14th, 2007 at 11:00 | #25

    A central part of your problem, mugwump, is that you seem to think that unless any particular point regarding the effects of GW is proved beyond reasonable doubt, we should act as if it is untrue. The relevant criterion in most cases is balance of probabilities.

    In the general debate about GW and mitigation, as many economists have pointed out, uncertainty goes in the exact opposite direction to what you want. The costs of taking action that turns out to be unnecessary is very small compared to the cost of taking no action and getting an outcome in the upper tail.

    And the same point obviously applies if you are describing species as vulnerable or endangered. If you want certainty, you can wait until they are extinct, and then you will never go wrong.

  26. frankis
    September 14th, 2007 at 16:09 | #26

    Shorter mugwump: Trenberth and anyone else I cherrypick from means precisely what I intend him to mean, nothing more and nothing less. And markets are free and perfect and government is evil and somebody stop me now I’m spinning, spinning …

    Trenberth:

    The underlying hypothesis is that El Niño exists and plays a role in the Pacific Ocean as a means of removing heat from the equatorial regions of the ocean, where it would otherwise build up. An implication of this, if correct, is that further heat buildup from increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would lead to increased magnitudes and/or frequency of El Niño events

  27. September 14th, 2007 at 16:56 | #27

    frankis,
    If that is an excerpt from Trenberth (whom I have not read) then I would have thought mugwump’s interpretation the more correct – Trenberth has clearly identified it as an hypothesis (adding in “…if correct…” seemingly for emphasis), not a theory – which would mean that the link is not proven.
    I am not trying to get involved in the argument, but I hope Trenberth makes a more positive statement on it than the above to make the link “…obvious…”.

  28. jquiggin
    September 14th, 2007 at 17:50 | #28

    AR, you appear to have ignored my point – no one except you and mugwump thinks proof is a relevant concept here.

  29. Chris Lloyd
    September 14th, 2007 at 23:31 | #29

    Dagget: “There is no shortage of water. We’ve got oceans of the stuff. Just a lack of infrastructure is the problem.” I assume you are talking about desalination. Quite expensive and it has to be pumped to where you want it. It seems pretty clear that an extra million people in Melbourne by 2030 can only exacerbate what you blithely call “a lack if infrastructure” problem.

    The glorious thing about zpg is that you can actually turn attention from the constant need to build houses, freeways and dams to building a better society.

  30. mugwump
    September 15th, 2007 at 03:01 | #30

    Trenberth’s Trenberth’s statement above seems definitive. Whatever else he is saying, he is definitely not claiming as you are that “the link [between El Niño frequency/severity and AGW] is obvious”.

    Trenberth is the leading world authority on the subject. So why should I believe your assessment over Trenberth’s?

    As I understand your argument, I should believe you because the negative consequences of not believing you and being wrong are far greater than the positive consequences of believing Trenberth and being right.

    But determining one’s degree of belief in X based on the consequences of ~X seems like a particularly unstable (not to say unusual) way to formulate beliefs. Specifically, instead of relying on the usual rules of logical inference, scientific method, etc, the veracity of your beliefs depends on your forecasting ability – notoriously less reliable (“20-20 hindsight” is not a common phrase for nothing).

  31. mugwump
    September 15th, 2007 at 03:11 | #31

    AR, frankis took that subquote from my September 14th, 2007 at 4:24 am post above (which it seems I can’t link to for some reason). I think the whole quote definitively rules out “…obvious…”.

  32. BilB
    September 15th, 2007 at 04:22 | #32

    Chris L,

    Australia does not spend copious amounts of effort building dams or freeways, that is part of the problem. As for building houses, that is what builders do for a living and they are happy to do so. In their spare time they participate in building the social network which makes up our society. I do not see any conflict.

    The issue with population growth is that the changing global environment will cause huge relocations of people. Look at what is happening in Europe where displaced Africans flood north to permeate into Europes all ready over populated cities. Those people are both environmental and economic displacees. We have the benefit of being reasonably isolated geographically, but international pressure will in due course force Australia to absorb many millions of people from unliveable lands. Where these people wind up living is more a matter of Australia’s monumental failure with strategic regional development. The “totally free market” proponents should all be lined up and…deported.

    As for the pumping of water, solar desalination produces both fresh water and electricity. The pumping is not a problem.

  33. frankis
    September 15th, 2007 at 07:45 | #33

    If Trenberth had a preferred hypothesis to the one he has been quoted on above, “… the underlying hypothesis is… that further heat buildup from increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would lead to increased magnitudes and/or frequency of El Niño events …”, he’d be sharing it with us.

    As he’s the authority and in good expert company with that hypothesis I’d call it “quite likely” that the hypothesis is good. Then it’s obvious that the consequences of his hypothesis turning out to have been correct should be considered seriously by serious people, now.

  34. Chris Lloyd
    September 15th, 2007 at 22:32 | #34

    Bill B. “International pressure will in due course force Australia to absorb many millions of people from unliveable lands.” I consider that statement close to treasonous. Forced to? No my friend. I don’t think the Aussie electorate will wear that, And if people like you start making public statements along those lines then we will end up with another 6 years of Howard as a byproduct of the backlash.

    There is hardly a place on the globe that would not benefit from a reduction of population by an order of magnitude. Australia is definitely one of them. It’s not just water. It’s traffic. Its pressures for high density developmetn against the wishes of lcoal residents, rising house prices and over-stretched public transport. All of these are problems caused by the mindless growth of population backed by an unholy aliance of refugee advocates and the BCA. Please read Shuhmacher.

  35. mugwump
    September 16th, 2007 at 05:40 | #35

    There is hardly a place on the globe that would not benefit from a reduction of population by an order of magnitude.

    You know what you have to do…

  36. mugwump
    September 16th, 2007 at 05:49 | #36

    frankis, the difference is between Trenberth, who is the leading world expert and is cautious and hedging in his assessment, and quiggin, who says the link is “obvious”.

    This is exactly the kind of alarmist nonsense that I object to. There is no basis for quiggin’s assessment. His only justification is that if he’s right, and we do nothing, then things will turn out really really bad.

    Well, I had the evangelists at my door yesterday and their argument was pretty much the same: “what if we’re right? you’ll burn in hell forever”.

    Unless you can do better than the evangelists, I’ll take my chances in hell.

  37. frankis
    September 16th, 2007 at 12:22 | #37

    mugwump in your case it seems you find it obvious that nothing ought to be done about the fact that we’ve raised the greenhouse gas level of our living atmosphere 40% above a multimillion year baseline in just 150 years, obvious that no harm should ever befall us as an unintended consequence of our own actions, perfectly clear that Steve McIntyre makes a greater contribution to climate science than anyone else on Earth, painfully plain that the sky would fall if we were to attempt to begin to treat our addiction to fossil fuels, and obvious that economists from Nordhaus and Weitzman to Stern and Quiggin must be fools for proposing that we need carbon taxes in a hurry.

    Generalising now: if everyone who disagrees with you seems to you an evangelist for their own idiosyncratic religious beliefs this may be because you yourself are a true believing evangelist for a religious belief system.

  38. frankis
    September 16th, 2007 at 12:25 | #38

    I should qualify the “greenhouse gas level” with a “non water vapour”.

  39. Chris O’Neill
    September 16th, 2007 at 14:12 | #39

    “leading climatology journals (GRL)”

    More like an average climatology journal that publishes lightly reviewed papers. Hint: the name “Geophysical Research LETTERS” should give you a clue.

  40. gerard
    September 16th, 2007 at 14:44 | #40

    If the evangelists had as much scientific evidence on their side as the campaign against greenhouse gas emissions, I would be taking them quite seriously. The science currently available is imperfect. It is impossible to do repeated control experiments in climate science, because there’s only one planet available and no time traveling permitted. All the scientific evidence available does point to the fact that the more carbon dioxide humans put into the atmosphere, the more the global climate is likely to change, but predicting when and what exactly will happen is impossible due to the chaotic complexity and unpredictability of the world’s weather system. The only ‘evidence’ that the anti-global warming movement has is the uncertainty that exists in trying to model such a complex system, but that uncertainty does not imply that it is equally likely that the all the evidence upon which today’s scientific consensus is based on is false and therefore the opposite of the consensus is equally likely to be true. Conjuring up an ideological conspiracy of anti-capitalist, anti-population, anti-human scientists, who are intentionally hiding all the evidence that doesn’t fit their political agenda from the public doesn’t cut it. Such unnatural levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are going to have costs which will be worse the longer they increase. The long-term costs of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions are vastly more predictable than the costs of increasing them and the odds are that they are also much lower. The improbable chance that the costs of increasing emissions are lower than the costs of decreasing them is not worth betting the future of the world’s environment on. The long-term costs of decreasing emissions are almost certainly much lower especially given that fossil fuels are nonrenewable and will continue rise in cost as they are depleted – necessitating a switch to alternative forms of energy either way.

    Denial is not quite but almost as ridiculous as saying that gaps in the fossil record cast doubt on consensus scientific opinion of human evolution. Prof. Quiggin’s point is that it is implausible that there is no connection between increased sea and air temperatures and El Nino, which is a sea-air heat phenomenon. Darwin could deduce an ‘obvious’ link between human and chimpanzee ancestry, even before this was confirmed the fossil record and genetic evidence, although many specific details of human evolution remain uncertain. In the paragaraph you posted Trenberth is deducing that based on how El Nino is known to work that “heat buildup from increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would lead to increased magnitudes and/or frequency of El Niño events.” His qualification that “we do not expect this to be simple, and nature always seems to be able to come up with surprises as to just what the future holds” is not a suggestion that it is at all likely that there is no relationship whatsoever, just that the relationship is probably one that is very complex and will require a great deal of research to fully understand.

    Unfortunately many climate research projects are being cut or delayed when they should be being expanded.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/14/science/13cnd-climate.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    Panel Faults Emphasis of US Climate Program


    “The loss of existing and planned satellite sensors is perhaps the single greatest threat to the future success� of climate research, the report said.

  41. Ernestine Gross
    September 16th, 2007 at 14:51 | #41

    mugwump, with due respect, your comparison with evangelists is untenable because the message of the evngelists is an untestable hypothesis, given the history of mankind as we know it. If you know of any empirical test that sutisfies you requirement of ‘scientific’, then please let me know and I shall apologise humbly.

    I suppose you may have never been involved in an investment decision involving long term (physical) capital and you may never have been at a board meeting where such decisions are made. I suppose this because you keep on objecting to JQ’s expositions as if the argument would not be akin to that which is quite widely understood (outside the merely rhetorical branch of ‘pro business’).

  42. crispinb
    September 16th, 2007 at 15:26 | #42

    mugwump: I’ve no doubt someone must have brought this up before, but a much better analogue to this ‘debate’ is that relating to the putative causal relationship, if any, between smoking and lung cancer. The association was admitted by all for many years, but causality couldn’t be demonstrated for obvious ethical reasons. This was presented by the tobacco companies to the public for many years, in the hope that the difference between pure philosophy of science and practical, probablistic decision-making would remain obscured. Fortunately, an advisory committe to the US Surgeon General ultimately recommended a set of criteria to sort out the issue of probable cause in the absence of controlled experiments. I’ve no doubt there are still tobacco company reps who think we should have awaited the experiments, but in the face of history they’ve largely moved on to more profitable activities (like addicting the Chinese).

    I don’t think anyone denies that the burden of proof is on those who think we need to respond to human-made global warming. But on most reasonable accounts that burden has already been met, and it is time to act. If you think you’re right, then perhaps if you’re young enough you’ll have the last laugh. But for now you’ve been well and truly rolled by history, and probably should follow the tobacco execs.

  43. BilB
    September 16th, 2007 at 17:14 | #43

    Chris L,

    I think that you are living with a fairly steady state impression of what will happen in the world in the next 50 years. The potentially dramatic pace of global warming may create population displacements of many hundreds of millions of people in one year. If that type of situation occurs then all territorial boundaries will become optional. As a mild pointer google the current BBC article on the opening of the north west passage. Things are changing and the consequences are unpredictable. So forget about treasonous talk, the US government takes massive population displacement very seriously and is formulating strategies. Australia should be doing the same. Howard’s grand strategy is to suck up to the US, but that may not work if some massive climatic shift leaves the US with it’s hands full at the time when Australia needs support.

    Contemplate the opposite scenario. Australia becomes unliveable over a 3 or 4 year span (not probable I know) and 10 million Australians have to move elsewhwere. What would you expect of our neighbours? Don’t forget, Golbourne was facing this prospect a year ago.

  44. mugwump
    September 17th, 2007 at 09:55 | #44

    frankis, your strawman argument is the weakest form of argument. All I am pointing out here is that quiggin is (yet again) making alarmist claims that are not supported by the science. I don’t care that he disagrees with me. I do care that he is misrepresenting the science.

    He has conceded as much with his argument that he doesn’t need scientific support because the consequences of his being correct and humanity not taking action are so dire. This is exactly the same structure as the evangelist argument.

  45. mugwump
    September 17th, 2007 at 10:04 | #45

    Chris O’Neill, which journal published your favourite climate sensitivity paper?

  46. jquiggin
    September 17th, 2007 at 10:28 | #46

    Mugwump, I think you need to read a good book on decision analysis or investment evaluation. As Ernestine says above, this reasoning is absolutely standard.

  47. mugwump
    September 17th, 2007 at 11:12 | #47

    Conjuring up an ideological conspiracy of anti-capitalist, anti-population, anti-human scientists, who are intentionally hiding all the evidence that doesn’t fit their political agenda from the public doesn’t cut it.

    I’m not claiming a conspiracy and I’m not claiming they’re hiding evidence. What I am claiming is that the most vocal advocates of large-scale state intervention over global warming are often guilty of grossly misrepresenting the science and underplaying the uncertainties.

    It simply comes down to values. If you by-and-large prefer state control to free markets, and nature over humanity, then you will place little value on the spectacular achievements and growth of mankind, and attach little cost to jeopardizing that growth through misguided state-intervention.

    Prof. Quiggin’s point is that it is implausible that there is no connection between increased sea and air temperatures and El Nino, which is a sea-air heat phenomenon.

    No, his point is that the connection is obvious, and that it is having obvious consequences such as extinction of coral and seaweed species. That’s a gross misrepresentation of the state of the science.

  48. mugwump
    September 17th, 2007 at 11:31 | #48

    Umm, don’t be so patronizing JQ. I probably know an awful lot more about decision analysis and decision making under uncertainty than do you JQ.

    This has nothing to do with decision analysis. Your claim is you don’t need scientific support for your statements on the connection between el nino and coral/seaweed extinction because the negative consequences if you are correct are so great.

    To spell out in simple terms why that’s such a ridiculous argument, suppose I want to get you to do X. Instead of looking for the usual rational support for X, I can invent any huge negative consequence I like and attach it to ~X. Eg, if we don’t do X then the world will be sucked into a black-hole tomorrow. So of course we should do X. The problem is, since by your argument we are unconstrained by science or any other rational process, we can equally attribute vast negative consequences to X, and hence that we should not do X.

    As soon as you claim you don’t need scientific support for your claims, you lose the argument.

  49. frankis
    September 17th, 2007 at 11:37 | #49

    mugwump I’m sorry, I thought I was accurately representing your position on a few things that you consider obvious. My apologies for any misrepresentation.

    Aren’t you claiming that should the world fail to heed you, should it in any way act to lessen the gay, wanton appeal of the burning of fossil fuels, then economic armageddon would be upon us? Isn’t that a fair-use paraphrase (not a strawman) of what you’ve many times said? It’s contrary to the opinions of a whole swathe of our best and brightest economists of course. Perhaps you’re complaining that we must focus here today on the provocative use of the word “obvious” in JQ’s opinion above, rather than on the way in which “obviousness” might be implicit in so much of what you yourself profess to believe. You do seem to me to hold a bunch of ideological truths to be self-evident despite your being unable to prove them.

  50. Chris O’Neill
    September 17th, 2007 at 11:57 | #50

    Publishing in GRL doesn’t make someone right and it doesn’t make someone wrong. Whether someone is right or not takes more than “has been published in “leading” climatology journals (GRL)”. BTW, GRL is a journal not a journals.

  51. MH
    September 17th, 2007 at 19:23 | #51

    Mugwump,
    In regards to your first proposition, global warming and el-nino, the relationship between el-nino and climate change is historically recorded and scientifically proven. El-nino events have caused the collapse of two very developed South American societies, so long ago no one remembers them, both cases extreme dry conditions. Whether or not global warming by Co2 accretion is the primary cause is irrelevant, anthropogenic warming is scientifically demonstrated. The forcing effect on a system like el-nino is very problamatic. El-nino events are imperfectly understood but they can be very severe and last longer than the span of a human life.

    It is my view that we will see no rational market solution to the continued shift to a drier and more arid climate in most of Australia. The PP curve for water as a resource has shifted inwards and there is a significant gap between what it used to be and what it is now. So there has to be significant destruction of aggregate demand. Water’s demand curve is quite inelastic at a household level so you will be left with a rationing system for reasons of social order and economic activity.

  52. Chris Lloyd
    September 17th, 2007 at 19:36 | #52

    BillB:

    I went to school in the 1960s and embraced the steady state vision of zpg and genuine environmentalism rather than the leftist crap the Greens call environmentalism, The goal was to achieve zpg or even population reduction. At that point , you have the right to increase our pollution per head. So one achieves an affluent even profligate life-style through the use of contraception. You can probably even water your lawn. Alas this vision is now lost. The modern sentiment seems to be that those with small populations must accept the world’s overflow.

    If there were millions of genuine refugees from climate change in our region then I would be inclined to accept as many as possible, not because of the Ming’s 1951 convention but because it is the right thing to do. It is the term “forced to� that I baulk at. However, I do not expect the human displacements numbers that you do – certainly not in the pacific.

    Over-population is the basic cause of global warming. The biggest single act of pollution you will commit in your life is to pro-create. Nobody talks about this because it intersects with PC topics like eugenics, reproductive rights and refugees. Too unconfortable. But remember that Mother Nature does not give a damn about pollution per head. She only cares about total pollution.

    Regarding the energy to pump desalinated water (finally getting back on central topic!), I should have checked before saying that the cost of pumping was high (I was quoting someone from work). Suppose a family household in Melbourne is 100m above sea level and uses 500 litres per day. If my calculations are correct then this requires about 140 watt-hours of energy which is basically the energy a typical house-light uses in 3 hours. So it is a modest proportion of household energy.

  53. mugwump
    September 18th, 2007 at 00:29 | #53

    Aren’t you claiming that should the world fail to heed you, should it in any way act to lessen the gay, wanton appeal of the burning of fossil fuels, then economic armageddon would be upon us? Isn’t that a fair-use paraphrase (not a strawman) of what you’ve many times said?

    No. I have never said anything close to this. I have attacked the premises and misuse of science and economics of the enviro-lobby, the anti-freedom and anti-growth lobbies, in calling for 50%-90% reductions in greenhouse emissions in short-order. But the opposite of an extreme viewpoint is not itself an extreme viewpoint.

  54. September 18th, 2007 at 01:18 | #54

    The biggest single act of pollution you will commit in your life is to pro-create.

    What a repugnant view of children. I wonder whether they will grow up to regard you with the same disdain.

    Nobody talks about this because it intersects with PC topics like eugenics, reproductive rights and refugees. Too unconfortable.

    Presumably you meant to say “Politically Incorrect” rather than PC. However now that we have thrown off the strictures of political correctness please ignore any minor displays of discomfort and share your views on eugenics, reproductive rights and refugees.

  55. mugwump
    September 18th, 2007 at 01:31 | #55

    The biggest single act of pollution you will commit in your life is to pro-create.

    To the extent that it is hereditary, this view is not evolutionarily stable.

    That aside, on your view Chris the greatest single act of pollution your parents committed was creating you. Don’t you therefore owe it to the planet to commit suicide?

  56. BilB
    September 18th, 2007 at 05:50 | #56

    Chris L,

    I went to school in the 60′s also and had all of the same arguments, and was equally troubled by population growth and over consumption of the scarce resources of the world. But on the population front the good news is that the then projected 20 billion population scenario looks unlikely to occur. By way of seeing what is happening, if you haven’t already you would do well to look at Hans Rosling’s brilliant statistical presentations on this and other subjects.

    What troubles me is that in the advanced global warming scenarios the ocean currents stop circulating globally and become local pools with very little mixing. If this happens then the world will take on a totally unfamiliar appearence and it may be that the only very liveable land will be the antarctic and the very northern parts of europe and canada. It is very unclear how far that scenario is away, and more importantly what changes will occur along the way. This is not being alarmist, it is being realistic. If the worlds future is left in the hands of George Bush and John Howard then I am buying a block of land in Australian Antactica, for my family’s future. Of course I am not expecting to have to do that, because I believe that there are easy solutions to the problem.

  57. September 18th, 2007 at 09:38 | #57

    Hans Roslings 2006 TED presentation is indeed brilliant and well worth watching. And the gapminder.org website now also features his more recent 2007 presentation that reinforces his earlier point and concludes with some great showmanship. As he shows fertility across the globe is in rapid decline, has been for decades and is headed towards mere replacement levels.

  58. September 18th, 2007 at 11:31 | #58

    Terje,
    I have said it before on this site and others – the greatest risk facing humanity in the medium to long term is under-, not over-population.

  59. September 18th, 2007 at 14:24 | #59

    Andrew – I don’t see that as any sort of significant risk. And even if it happens I can’t see too many negative consequences if it happens naturally. However feel free to elaborate.

  60. snuh
    September 18th, 2007 at 14:41 | #60

    If you by-and-large prefer state control to free markets, and nature over humanity, then you will place little value on the spectacular achievements and growth of mankind, and attach little cost to jeopardizing that growth through misguided state-intervention.

    since you’re all about being rigorous, mugwump, perhaps you can cite something for the proposition that “state-intervention”[1] necessarily conflicts with “the spectacular achievements and growth of mankind.” i mean it would be a tragedy if, in your noble attempt to correct jq’s alarmism, you were to fall into the same error.

    [1] obviously i have dropped the word “misguided” here. it doesn’t seem to add anything to what you say, except that it allows you to later claim that you don’t object to state-intervention per se, only that sub-category of intervention which is “misguided”. which would be a redundant thing to say.

  61. mugwump
    September 18th, 2007 at 21:31 | #61

    snuh, my proposition that “misguided state intervention jeopardizes the spectacular achievements and growth of mankind”, and your proposition that “state intervention necessarily conflicts with the spectacular achievements and growth of mankind” are very different, the latter being much stronger and something I don’t endorse.

    Examples of misguided state intervention jeopardizing growth are legion. Do you really want me to list them?

  62. BilB
    September 19th, 2007 at 01:28 | #62

    mugwump,

    On state intervention, all possibilities are true. Even “well structured state intervention dramatically enhances achievements and growth of mankind”.
    ie Roman empire, moon landing. Should I go on.

  63. mugwump
    September 19th, 2007 at 01:39 | #63

    BillB, I don’t disagree with you. But my original point was not that state intervention is always bad (although since most of the low hanging fruit has already been picked, state intervention today is more often bad than good), it was an observation on the political disposition of many AGW alarmists:

    If you by-and-large prefer state control to free markets, and nature over humanity, then you will place little value on the spectacular achievements and growth of mankind, and attach little cost to jeopardizing that growth through misguided state-intervention.

Comments are closed.