Home > Regular Features > Weekend reflections

Weekend reflections

August 13th, 2010

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:
  1. Jill Rush
    August 14th, 2010 at 16:39 | #1

    I have seen a lot of discussion about the female vote and the support that Julia Gillard will get from women as a result of their identification with her. Of course this is quite a spurious claim as the sisterhood is just not that strong and women know about voting quite well. It is as insulting to women as the line that they vote the same way as their husbands. There will be women however who will like Julia Gillard and believe that there are a lot of bullies who have not been able to make her step backwards and will like her guts and support her for showing that a woman can be in charge and do it with style.

    There has been little on the other hand about men who will for the first time in their life have to think about whether they will vote about gender. There are older men in particular who may not believe any woman can do this as if she doesn’t have children she is not “natural” and if she does have children that she should be spending time with the family not gallivanting around the country side. Those often older religious men will have a lifetime of habits associated with women doing as they were told by God the Father. Catholics in particular have yet to agree that women have anything to offer in a religious sense except as nuns who are definitely under the control of priests.

  2. Donald Oats
    August 14th, 2010 at 20:13 | #2

    @Jill Rush
    I agree that it is a largely spurious claim, with a very small number who might choose to vote for Labor “because Julia Gillard is a women”. I only mention this at all, because somehow the TV journos have dug up a couple of (retiree) women to say that to the camera. I’d imagine that they probably hadn’t been following the campaigns and probably weren’t terribly interested in the whole political business anyway. At least women have the freedom to call it whichever way they personally see it, these days. Not that long ago the working assumption would be that the woman would vote as the head of the household did, and that was that (although the ballot box tally indicated that women didn’t necessarily follow the husband’s choice :-D ). Mentally, those days feel like a vastly different age, an era one can only read about in the history books, see in an old ABC filmclip, or in a current Liberal campaign brochure :-) .

    I reckon you are quite correct concerning women (and men) who like the way that she handles aggressive opposition (aka bullies, both genders) with aplomb and wit, rather than abuse. Of course, the over-testosteroned Lathams of the world are difficult for anyone to manage, especially the intimidating stand-over tactic he so artlessly employed on Julia Gillard. She would have been within her rights to show him a deft knee to the wedding tackle; that would have cooled him down quick smart!

    As for the Catholic order their problem is largely one of thinking that boys are okay, so long as confession is practised and a few “Hail Mary”s performed. This just adds to the evidence that the inner sanctum of Catholicism don’t see any need for women at all, except in a most peripheral sense. Strange, given the role of a women in the fable of Jesus; on the other hand, I suppose the creation myths, and the exile from Eden parable, don’t necessarily portray women in a favourable light…

    Julia the atheist is free of the rigid and sadly deformed belief structures of the historical Christian sects. She has had to earn the right to be called a moral person, earned through thinking about what it is to live a moral life and acting on it, rather than just quoting the text that suits a person’s current whim and fancy.

    I have hopes that one day there will be a government and a prime minister who will put a stop to the utterly immoral habit of using the education system as a means of indoctrinating children with religious fables – Intelligent Design and its predecessor, Creationism take centre stage today. Religion dogma displaces other more valuable subjects, of which there is no shortage. Religous indoctrination of children so that they believe ID/Creationism, and tacitly reject the scientific alternative is reprehensible. Instead of saying “God made everything 6000 years ago. The End.”, a child could be taken on a field trip to see fossils embedded in rocks, and let them figure out some of the mystery behind it, some of the logical ordering of fossils and rock ages. Goodness, mystery and scientific thinking interwoven: what a revelation!

    Oh, “New Tricks” is on, gotta go!

  3. August 15th, 2010 at 07:32 | #3

    Here is a systematic review of ZCA’s Stationary Energy Plan

    ZCA 2020.

    It would be interesting if those who are sympathetic to theis path would comment on this review.

    In summary, it shows that the assumptions made by ZCA are heroically optimistic, and that ZCA hgas radically underestimated the attendant costs, which are likely to be several times the $120MWh they assume, and not to be built on the timeline thay project.

    On a day when, along with many others, I will be at a walk against warming, it is germane to take a sober look at the options for a zero emissions path.

  4. August 15th, 2010 at 07:35 | #4

    I should say that I am feeling extremely pessimistic about action on climate change right now.

    The reality is that we need to do a lot more than reduce the rate at which we force atmospheric CO2 concentration up. We actually need to foreclose concentrations down to about 280ppmv (the point at which we began serious warming), and do it before the warming we already have and to which we are committed has catastrophic consequences.

    Slowing emissions growth is a necessary condition of foreclosing catastrophe, but it is not a sufficient one. If you are driving off a cliff into an abyss, the speed you are travelling when that happens doesn’t make a lot of difference.

    It seems unlikely that we will achieve anything like the reductions we need before we are committed to catastrophe because even at 2degC overall, we are getting 3.5degC at the poles, and therewith, the loss of the permafrost, the release of its CH4 payload, loss of the major ice masses etc …

    I regard a serious and early look at both active and passive geoengineering measures as demanded. We need both programs that can capture and resequester CO2 and which at least temporarily balance the the Earth’s radiation budget (perhaps augmentation of high altitude jet fuel with small amounts of sulphur?).

  5. Donald Oats
    August 15th, 2010 at 09:48 | #5

    @Fran Barlow
    The basic problem is to get agreement, international agreement, to try geo-engineering tricks out. Because geo-engineering is expected to have a global effect, the old winners-and-losers bunfight is sure to take place first. Some mob, somewhere, will feel that the shorter-term effects of AGW are to their economic benefit so they don’t want it halted; another mob will say that they didn’t cause it, so why should they pay the cost of geo-engineering; yet another mob will be saying that AGW doesn’t exist and “climate change is a load of crap!”

    In other words, geo-engineering is fraught with the same problems as emission reduction agreements. An extra concern is that many of the geo-engineering proposals are laden with unexplored consequences quite aside from the intended effect.

    An additional difficulty is not so much with geo-engineering per se, but rather with the interpretation that media may give it; the media will almost surely play geo-engineering as fixing AGW rather than as mainly an exercise in delay (of AGW impacts) for only as long as geo-engineering is in action – stop the action and the full-force of the still unabated Greenhouse Gas emissions growth rate hits us squarely in the face.

    I’m afraid that I don’t know the answer(s) to dealing with AGW, or even whether solutions still exist to get off our BAU trajectory. Every attempt at getting going on the more sensible parts to the overall solution, that was in front of us a couple of decades ago, have been thwarted quite successfully through delaying tactics and bluff. Nature may ultimately solve it for us in a way we don’t much like.

    Even one year ago I was against investment in geo-engineering, in part because of the drain on capital that might otherwise have been invested in dealing with the root causes of GHG emissions. I don’t like nuclear power for a whole host of reasons, once again diversion of capital is among those reasons. Now though, I am more inclined now to think that time’s up! All bets are off; trying the damn lot is looking more like the last roll of the dice, and one we’ll need to make.

  6. Salient Green
    August 15th, 2010 at 10:37 | #6

    #3 For all the Brave New Climate Nuclear flag waving breast beating partisanship cornucopian shilling by so many highly educated clever people, not one had the wit to do some work in regards to the cost of delay by rapidly rising resource costs. Their prefered power source would entail a much larger delay during which time renewables, which can be rolled out now, will be reducing costs with new technology, economies of scale and the benefit of lower resource costs than in 15 years time. In fact, many of the renewables will be paid off before effective penetration of their (and your) preferred power source.

    A review of a massive investment in Renewables by a bunch of nuclear shills is about as credible as a review of a massive investment in wool by a bunch of cotton growers.

  7. August 15th, 2010 at 12:02 | #7

    @Salient Green

    Most disappointing Salient. This was a substantial critique and you failed to find a single fault with it. If the review lacks credibility, you ought to have been able to point to at least one flaw in it. Instead, you opted for the emotionally more satisfying option of hurling abuse. FTR, this critique concerned itself exclusively with the credibility of the claims made by ZCA 2020.

    You at least affirm its force by failing to show that any of ZCA’s claims were sound, or any of the critique was unreasonable.

    @Donald Oats

    Because geo-engineering is expected to have a global effect, the old winners-and-losers bunfight is sure to take place first.

    This objection is more apparent than real because the biggest potential objector on ths ground — Russia — is now finding out that it is not likely to be a beneficiary at all. China, so foten said to be at the heart of the recalcitrants, is both likely to be a beneficiary of geo-engineering and is in any event currently amongst the principal remaining emitters of SO2. There is ahuge difference between wanting to reatin the continuing right to beurn or sell coal and gas, and wanting to be shielded from conditions which subvert food security or the happiness of concentrated urban populations. Russia has suffered an increase in heat-related morbidity of about 20,000 in this latest 1 in 1000 year heat waves, and China, a country that is suffering from serious water shortages is simulataneously experienceing flooding and mudslides in its NW. I don’t see Canada, the other mooted beneficiary as being able to object much.

    the media will almost surely play geo-engineering as fixing AGW rather than as mainly an exercise in delay (of AGW impacts) for only as long as geo-engineering is in action – stop the action and the full-force of the still unabated Greenhouse Gas emissions growth rate hits us squarely in the face.

    Doubtless that is what will occur, but right now that is the lesser evil. Unless we succeed in rapidly reversing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (i.e. before it is too late to stop 1.5degC of Arctic warming) we are committed to catastrophic consequences. We will argue that long term geoengineering is unsustainable — because apart from anything else it will not prevent the steady decline in the value of marine sinks (with concomitant outgassing), massive disruption to marine and terrestrial ecology etc. We would present it as buying us the 50-70 years we might need to reduce concentrations to the 240-280ppmv we had in the mid -19th Century and retool to make that sustainable. We would assert moral hazard a lot.

    Now though, I am more inclined now to think that time’s up! All bets are off; trying the damn lot is looking more like the last roll of the dice, and one we’ll need to make.

    Agreed. We have to throw everything plausible that we can at the problem and if for political, technological and capital raising reasons doing what is needed on mitigation doesn’t fit onto the timeline we need, then it follows that something else effective must be done or we must accept catastrophe. Those are the options. When you are on a dangerous course, slowing down one’s rate of acceleration is not enough. Nor even is slowing. You need to stop and then head someplace else.

  8. Donald Oats
    August 15th, 2010 at 14:18 | #8

    Then there is the approach being taken by 350.org.

    As Bill McKibben says (he is an American, BTW):

    I wrote the first book for a general audience on global warming back in 1989, and I’ve spent the subsequent 21 years working on the issue. I’m a mild-mannered guy, a Methodist Sunday School teacher. Not quick to anger. So what I want to say is: this is fucked up. The time has come to get mad, and then to get busy.
    For many years, the lobbying fight for climate legislation on Capitol Hill has been led by a collection of the most corporate and moderate environmental groups, outfits like the Environmental Defense Fund. We owe them a great debt, and not just for their hard work. We owe them a debt because they did everything the way you’re supposed to: they wore nice clothes, lobbied tirelessly, and compromised at every turn.
    By the time they were done, they had a bill that only capped carbon emissions from electric utilities (not factories or cars) and was so laden with gifts for industry that if you listened closely you could actually hear the oinking. They bent over backwards like Soviet gymnasts. Senator John Kerry, the legislator they worked most closely with, issued this rallying cry as the final negotiations began: “We believe we have compromised significantly, and we’re prepared to compromise further.”
    And even that was not enough. They were left out to dry by everyone — not just Reid, not just the Republicans. Even President Obama wouldn’t lend a hand, investing not a penny of his political capital in the fight.
    The result: total defeat, no moral victories.

    It would be sad if it wasn’t so funny – as in gallows humour. However, the rest of his letter goes on to explain how 350.org are tackling the support of local initiatives to make things happen where they can be done now, not later. Aim for community initiatives now, and let the politician/politics trott along behind, at its own pace.

    That’s got to be better than just engaging with politicians and entrusting it to parliament. The Labor party’s first real effort at establishing a price on GHG emissions, even with a clear mandate as the climate policy was front and centre of the 2007 campaign, got compromised to oblivion, and then killed at a minute to midnight by the opposition! As clear an example of Bill McKibben’s point as any.

  9. Jim Birch
    August 15th, 2010 at 15:07 | #9

    Interesting and/or amusing piece from Not Rocket Science blog on some Sydney Uni research indicating that slime moulds can make economically irrational decisions when their options are manipulated (just like us): Brainless slime mould makes decisions like humans.

  10. Salient Green
    August 15th, 2010 at 20:54 | #10

    #7, I disappointed you? What was I thinking? That I wasn’t here for your edification?

    I found too many faults with BNC’s critique to be bothered actually. They set out to do a hatchet job.

    The most basic metric used for the ZCA plan was changed by the BNC critique without any analyisis of why the metric should be changed. It’s like someone putting up a plan for a highway from Adelaide to Perth using 1000mm/Metre and another company critiquing the plan using 995mm/metre. All calculations that follow from these differing assumptions will show different results. Who says ABARE is correct?

    BNC also brought politics into their critique. The ZCA plan is absent politics for good reason. There is no accounting for personal taste and other human foibles – corruption, egos, greed, selfisness – in a plan of technical feasibility. I would say that BNC’s preferred power source is even more vulnerable to bringing politics into a critique.

    The last straw was BNC finding that ZCA’s plan would result in wholesale electricity prices being nearly 10 times above current costs. Give me a break. Even large scale PV costs aren’t that high.

  11. August 15th, 2010 at 21:33 | #11

    @Salient Green

    I disappointed you?

    Well yes. We don’t agree but I credited you with more than you offered.

    What was I thinking?

    Nothing much, plainly

    That I wasn’t here for your edification?

    That you weren’t in a position to edify. You want to do analogy but you fail to refute a single specific claim. You don’t like the reasoning on costs? Show it is wrong, and not by 0.5%.

  12. breath-relic
    August 15th, 2010 at 22:03 | #12

    - at aged 60, experiencing an embarassing and improbably silent inner voice has been real for 30 uncomfortable years so far – earthly challenges welcome!

Comments are closed.