Monday Message Board

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link


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62 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. James Wimberley,

    World total energy consumption in 2015, by fuel, was;

    Oil 33%
    Coal 30%
    Natural Gas 24%
    Renewables 9%
    Nuclear 4%

    I doubt percentages have changed much since then… a few points perhaps. Something like 87% (or lets call it 85% now) of world total energy consumption still comes from fossil fuels. This is at a time when global warming is palpably accelerating and new heat records are being established all the time and all over the globe.

    The strategy of waiting for the current global economic system (capitalism with regional variants) to address the issue has failed. The current economic system has not addressed the problem in a timely fashion. Capitalism has failed us comprehensively. Time to try a new approach. Socialism and statism with mandated targets is the viable and adaptive alternative.

  2. Ikonoclast, what sort of ecological damage would be caused by keeping native animals as pets? and how would it be harmful to the animals?

  3. Iko: I show you a revolution in progress and your reply is that in a better world it would happen tomorrow. Sure. But if by a miracle Morrison, May and Trump were to be replaced overnight by Shorten, Corbyn and Warren,, would it really make much difference to the rollout of wind, solar, and EVs? There is no socialist argument that state-owned firms like EDF do a better job of building these than Engie, Vestas, Jinko, Tesla and Berkshire Hathaway, ErkshireDave Roberts has a balanced piece at Vox reporting on an expert debate between pessimistic and optimistic economists. The optimist (of course he’s the one I’ll cite) madea striking point about the mathematics of the logistic curves that are standard for the adoption of new technologies. The collapse of those they replace is not linear; initially they lose market share slowly (which is what we are seeing with EVs now), but it speeds up dramatically. The data I linked to on US coal suggest that its decline has reached that part of the curve.

  4. James,

    No, in a better world it would have started happening in earnest 30 years ago. The first point I make is that progress has been too slow and is still too slow. The second point I make is there is a systemic reason why progress has been and is too slow and that systemic reason is the system of capitalism itself.

    Established capital has fought against progress every inch of the way. Established capital has had the financial reserves to obstruct the rapid implementation of new technology in the energy sector. When we rely on capitalism for a revolution in technology, the revolution is slower than science and society could make it. One of the reasons is the battle of established capital against entrepreneurial capital. Established capital sticks to its known and proven ways of making money. One reason is lack of vision, Vision comes in the early entrepreneurial phase. Once an innovative company has forged a new way of making its money, it becomes less innovative and more conservative sticking to the things it knows work. it It also has large fixed investments which it does not want to see turned into stranded assets. Thus overall, the cycle of innovation is too slow and deliberately impeded in the established sectors in advanced capitalism.

    Most of the great R&D advances of the 20th C (at least since the great depression) were made by government funded labs. Capitalist firms have been remarkably uninnovative in this period. They basically privatize the profits from government research. Their focus is on profit not innovation per se. Certainly, the new innovators are there, but they face a long uphill battle starting from scratch.

    The issue of statism is not just about state-owned firms. It is about having a state directed plan and state funded plan. Command economies are more effective at facing existential crises. Why do you think every nation, democratic or not, turned to command economies in WW2? The only way to win an existential war for survival, in the modern context, is with a command economy. In the climate crisis we face an existential war for survival. Without taking a more statist and command economy approach we are certainly doomed.

  5. J-D,

    “… what sort of ecological damage would be caused by keeping native animals as pets? and how would it be harmful to the animals?”

    I believe that you know the answers to this question as well as I do. Therefore, I question your motives in asking it. It seems clear to me that you are now trolling, which is your favorite pastime on this blog, so far as I can see.

    But to spell it out, taking native species compromises viable native populations, especially for at-risk species in terms of conservation status. The captivity environment always differs markedly from the natural environment. The animal is adapted to its native environment, not to any highly artificial captivity environment. Therefore the native animals suffer higher pain, stress, disease, injury and mortality rates in the majority of cases. These problems will be severe in the case of amateurs keeping native animals as pets.

  6. Ikon: “Current figures suggest that cats kill more than one million birds a day in Australia. Feral cats are responsible for 316 million bird deaths a year, and pet cats kill 61 million. There are now an estimated 2.7 million domestic cats and over 18 million feral cats in Australia.”

    Careful with some of these figures, Ikon. Greg Hunt was talking about “18 million feral cats” four or five years back in support of his policies. Current modelling suggests it’s more like 1-2 million during drier seasons, and arguably 4-6 million following floods.

    I have to say in principle I’m not a fan of the kind of “conservation biologists” who kill things for a living, and are constantly inventing new ways to kill things, and have a long history of causing far more ecological knock on effects than they solve.

    As I understand it, the number one reason we have so many feral cats in Australia is due to our previous ‘population suppression’ policies that wiped out dingoes and foxes.

    I also don’t believe there’s any solid evidence that suggests our feral cat population has much if anything to do with spayed pet cats.

    The authors who published “61 million birds killed each year by pet cats” regard the evidence they based that modelling on as unreliable and scant, and certainly don’t conclude that pet cats are endangering any species.

  7. The main obstacle to getting large scale solar built in Australia is uncertainty about whether or not renewable capacity built in the future will render the solar farm you are considering building today unprofitable. Fortunately, states are stepping in with Power Purchase Agreements and Federal Labor is planning to do the same if (when at the moment) they win this year’s election.

  8. While it would be very difficult to breed a cat that won’t hunt at all — at least not without heading into animal cruelty territory — it shouldn’t be difficult to breed cats that have little interest in hunting.

    It would also be possible to track household cats and have a drone chase prey away before the cat can pounce on it or alternatively inject a dose of pain numbing heroin into pests. The advantage of this approach is addicted cats will then start to selectively seek out pest animals — although we may be verging into animal cruelty territory again here.

  9. Nick,

    I take your point about estimates of feral cat numbers but do not accept any implication (if intended) that I am aligning with Greg Hunt. I haven’t ever looked at what Greg Hunt says and recommends (about anything).

    ABC Fact Check has a little more to say:

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-13/greg-hunt-feral-cat-native-animals-fact-check/5858282

    The takeaway message from Fact Check is;

    “The number of feral cats (in Australia) and how many native animals they kill is (sic) unverifiable.”

    The statements from researchers about feral cat stomach contents are certainly confronting and illustrate that there is a real problem. The inability to get good estimates of feral cat numbers (with allowances for population booms and crashes) is indicative of a general failure to fund adequate ecological impact science in Australia. There’s really no excuse these days with drone technology and night-time thermal imagining. Automated drones could fly search grids and count data by thermal image. I am pretty sure they could thermal image each adult feral cat hunting at night. Grid sampling in a statistically valid manner could provide excellent data samples in many of the flatter, more open terrain types. Other methods might be necessary for other terrains (mountainous, dense canopy etc) but Australia does have a lot of relatively flat and open terrain.

    The smear on “conservation ecologists who kill things for a living” seems a bit broad to me, to say the least. The farming, grazing and agricultural lobby, and the relevant government support agencies were behind dingo control. Leaving foxes to control feral cats would have been a dubious course of action based on a premise somewhat akin to “cane toads will control cane beetles without doing other harm”. I don’t think the farming or the conservation communities would have bought that line of reasoning re foxes.

    Logically;

    (1) IF controlling A (dingoes) and B (foxes) then makes C (feral cats) harder to control;
    (2) AND B is still vital to control
    (2) AND C is still vital to control;
    (3) YET the precise control of A can possibly be reassessed;

    THEN,

    (i) reassess A (dingo control)
    (ii) intensify B (fox control)
    (iii) intensify C (feral cat control.

    Of course methods still matter. The devil is in the detail of the methods and the collateral damage from the methods.

    Of course, the feral cat population can have nothing to do with spayed cats. It has something to with unspayed domestic cats past and present and something to do with the current breeding population of feral cats. I think we would both take that as axiomatic. Domestic cats still kill native animals but I am not sure how much spayed cats hunt.

    There’s an interesting side issue. How long does an introduced animal have to be extant and ubiquitous to be considered a native? Dingoes were introduced by man, albeit about 4,000 years ago by most estimates. It seems dingoes may have originated from Sulawesi (the latest theory based on dingoes lacking multiple copies of a starch digestion gene).

    Look up “Genome Sequencing Highlights the Dynamic Early History of Dogs” on PLOS Genetics.

    Disclaimer: I just follow article links, I am not a scientist.

  10. Yes, the smear on conservation ecologists is ill informed and unhelpful. The facts regarding feral foxes and cats are well known even without a gold standard million dollar plus study.

    Anyone naive enough to Nick’s smear about “kiling things” seriously should pay attention to the relative success of the western sheild baiting program in WA.

    The spayed cat argument is also complete nonsense since a large proportion of cat owners are not that responsible. I am at the moment literally only ten metres away from a feral or aba doned unspayed urban cat and its litter of 4. I would happily dong them with back of a shovel but my daughters insist on trying to find them an owner.

  11. Iko : command economies were certainly pretty effective in WWII. But apart from the Soviet Union, can you call them socialist? In Britain, the USA and Germany there was IIRC substantial state direction of labour and allocation of critical raw materials. In Britain – I don’t know about the other two – there was also a centrally planned effort to cut demand for non-essentials like furniture through rationing. But the war factories did not change hands; they wete still owned and run by the prewar capitalist owners and managers, at Vickers, Rolls-Royce, Boeing, GM, du Pont, Kaiser, Thyssen, Krupp and IG Farben. The procurement was (again SFIK) done through arm’s-length capitalist contracts. Clearly there was a strong element of coercion in these, and profits were I suspect limited to a normal rate: the lessons of WWI profiteering had been learnt.

    It’s a stretch to call these ad hoc arrangements socialist.

    Do we need them? It’s an academic question, as there is no political or intellectual movement anywhere advocating for wartime mobilisation – the GND falls far short. On the merits. I will just observe that we do have a little more time than Beaverbrook faced at the Ministry of Aircraft Production in the summer of 1940.

  12. James,

    There is a climate mobilization movement. Various socialist movements are saying much the same thing. I agree that overall the idea does not seem well known yet.

    https://www.theclimatemobilization.org/

    I don’t think I called the WW2 arrangements socialist. I pointed to the command economy element. However, we must ultimately challenge capitalist ownership as things always revert as we have seen in the neoliberal era since the early 1970s. By “revert” I mean revert to a relatively few owners and corporations controlling the main elements of production, the direction of the economy and buying politicians and governments by donations. This has led to a situation where the reaction to climate change has been completely inadequate.

    All we can do at this point is call for more government action. This would mean, for example, the withdrawal of all subsidies for fossil fuels. Of course, our societies and infrastructures are geared to fossil fuels and we need a phased changeover. Thus a formal government plan for that phased changeover needs to be developed and implemented by withdrawal of fossil fuel subsidies over time, along with a carbon tax increasing over time and subsidies for renewable energy developments to meet targets.

    There is much low-hanging fruit in removing energy inefficiencies from our economy. J.Q. has pointed to this issue. A great deal of that inefficiency is in our transport system, predicated as it is on automobiles moving people and road trucks moving freight. Again, we need a transport plan for a new mass transit and freight system.

    Simply mentioning these two elements highlights the need for a fully integrated plan to address all aspects of our climate emissions. Other planks to the plan, to pull a few issues out of the air, would be a reduction in meat eating and a reduction in pet keeping. There are many other discretionary and non-essential forms of consumption going on in our society.

    Merely imagining this, shows the size of the problem we face. We are an enormously self-indulgent society in the West, addicted to over-consumption. It will be tremendously difficult politically to get people to accept these changes willingly. Equally difficult will be running an economy without over-consumption and ever-expanding consumption.

    But when things get desperate enough, it will be feasible (though not certain) that socialist governments will take over democratically. The majority of people will be on board in agreeing that stern and coordinated measures are necessary to save their societies from collapse. Of course, there is another possibility. Matters could descend into chaos, war, barbarism and the collapse of global civilization. This latter result is very likely if we cannot transcend capitalism.

  13. Ronald, that’s not far off the methods I have seen proposed recently. Namely, using AI mounted in trees to identify cats and spray them with poison. What could possibly go wrong with an AI deciding what to kill based on low contrast infra-red video shot from above.

  14. http://www.publish.csiro.au/zo/ZO14024

    Western Shield was “relatively successful” for a few years, then began causing more problems than it solved. As I said. There are many other examples across Australia. I thought it was well recognised that all fox culling has achieved is to increase feral cat population, thereby increasing the net death rate of native fauna. Do you have evidence that contradicts this, Hugo?

    Meanwhile, climate change will do more in the next few decades than bait manufacturers ever could to reduce the populations of feral cats *and* native Australian fauna.

    “The spayed cat argument is also complete nonsense since a large proportion of cat owners are not that responsible.”

    Try re-reading what I wrote.

  15. Nick, there are quite a few things that can go wrong with an automatic mammalian poison sprayer. For one thing, it would be horribly cost ineffective. What you really want is a robot that creeps up on feral tom cats and gives them a surprise vasectomy. That way the toms will still defend their territories from other males while producing no kittens. Ideally, at the same time they are given a vasectomy we would inject them with some sort of super cat serum like the Americans did in World War II to the Original Captain America to increase their ability to defeat other tom cats. Alternatively, they could be given some sort of cybernetic enhancement. Perhaps a rail gun mounted in the skull or they could have their fangs replaced with venom injecting steel teeth.

  16. The way foxes are controlled in parts of Melbourne is to place contraceptives in buried eggs that are discovered by the foxes. Then matings are unproductive. Poisoning foxes in one area generally leads to in-migration from other areas – foxes have even been known to swim across waterways – such as bays in Port Phillip – to colonise vacated areas. Foxes are now resident in almost every part of urban Melbourne.

    Some of the discussion above isn’t very sensible. Cats and foxes clearly have an enormous environmental impact. It is clearly hard to put a figure on this but the evidence is overwhelming. Pet cats too that return each morning to their owners with a proud display of a killed bird or reptile are not innocent of the massive degree of biodiversity destruction that is occurring.

  17. That’s a bit of a furphy re dingoes and cats, movement cameras have recorded dingoes and cats in the same vicinity without interaction. Cats tend to hunt at night, dingoes by day so they are unlikely to cross paths except at water holes. The current theory is that cats are wary of dingoes and won’t compete with dingoes for territory.

  18. Ikonoclast

    I believe that you know the answers to this question as well as I do.

    Please don’t believe in conclusions for which you don’t have evidence. It’s a harmful habit.

    It seems clear to me that you are now trolling, which is your favorite pastime on this blog, so far as I can see.

    Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I thought it was goats that were infallible troll-detectors.

    But to spell it out, taking native species compromises viable native populations, especially for at-risk species in terms of conservation status.

    It’s difficult to believe that this is a generally reliable conclusion given the frequency with which the breeding of endangered species in captivity is resorted to as a conservation measure. Obviously it would be better if species were not endangered and conservation measures were not required, but given the evidence it’s not clear that keeping members of a species as pets further endangers them; at least sometimes it appears that the opposite may be true.

    The animal is adapted to its native environment, not to any highly artificial captivity environment. Therefore the native animals suffer higher pain, stress, disease, injury and mortality rates in the majority of cases.

    Again, this may be true of some species, but given that there are many examples of animals thriving in capacity it’s not clear that the evidence supports a general conclusion.

  19. When amateurs (random, often numerous, members of the public) takes animal and plant species from the wild for pet keeping or gardens, they can and do compromise and damage native animal and plant communities. That’s why signs in national parks tell you not to take plants and animals. Conservation breeding programs managed by credentialed experts are quite a different thing. It’s a mistake to conflate the two processes. The first is uninformed and uncontrolled. The second is informed by science and done in a controlled manner. That’s not to say the second process is perfect but it may have “on balance” benefits for preserving native species.

    Relatively few wild animal species, if any, genuinely take well to captivity. Most claims that wild animals thrive in cages and aquariums are not supportable. It probably relies on the minimal definition that they don’t lose weight, become diseased or die in the short to medium term. It’s a bonus to certain people if the animals actually breed in captivity because then they can be commercialized for pet sales (if permitted by law before or after lobbying). Many of the “engaging” behaviors animals exhibit in cages and aquariums are really distress behaviors and/or escape seeking behaviors.

  20. rog: “That’s a bit of a furphy re dingoes and cats, movement cameras have recorded dingoes and cats in the same vicinity without interaction.”

    Any two species can co-exist depending on what food sources they have available to them. A hungry dingo (or any canid) will naturally hunt a cat if it can’t find anything less challenging, but of course a cat can just run up the nearest tree. It can’t take its kittens with it though…

    In short, it’s a not a furphy but an active and hotly debated area of research. For a reasonably balanced overview, and some of the major problems with that research:

    https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1365-2664.12250

  21. Nick,

    These statements from that paper seem to be conclusive to me.

    “Finally, following their introduction, foxes and cats were ultimately able to spread across Australia despite the presence of dingoes.

    At best, dingoes can structure ecosystems to create safer areas as predation refuges for native species.”

    The conclusion would be dingoes that are not enough. Cats and foxes need to be controlled and even eradicated if that were possible.

  22. The latest “Integrity Initiative” leaks make a very strong case for the “Skripal” case being a stage-managed false flag.

    The MI6 linked/created “White Helmets” also get some coverage.

    “Russiagate” is dying faster day by day.

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