Friday, 31 January 2014

Calbick and Gunton have it half-there ‒ back to the 2008 Sunday Times

Suspicion that Australia’s rock-bottom energy prices are largely responsible for it ‒ with as Zhang et. al have demonstrated the lowest allowable per capita emissions in the world owing to its extremely low-phosphorus soils ‒ having actually the highest per capita emissions, yet being treated with extreme lenience by all amongst:
  1. international treaties on global warming
  2. international environmental lobby groups
  3. academic works on the problem of greenhouse emissions
have been with me for a very long time.

However, it is only now that Thomas Gunton and K.S. Calbick have provided the first evidence that Australia’s excessively low energy prices are the cause of its high emissions, as much as its low population densities and dependence on energy-intensive metals. In a new study titled ‘Differences among OECD countries’ GHG emissions: Causes and policy implications’, they show that:
  1. energy prices alone are by far the best predictor of total greenhouse gas emissions
  2. that if Australia raised energy prices to the highest levels in the OECD, it would reduce its greenhouse emissions by sixty percent.
Demographic problems in the Enriched World make taxation rises dubious as a policy recommendation for the US and Canada. What will reduce their emissions without pushing them further into a demographic mire and eroding their ability to accept people from overpopulated Australia is unclear and I will not attempt such here.

However, with Australia, raising energy prices is an absolute necessity. Even a 60 percent reduction would put Australia’s emissions in the range of most Enriched countries, when the allowable value based upon soil available phosphorus cannot be higher than 5 percent the Enriched World average, or about 0.4 tonnes CO2 equivalent per person per year, or about 1.5 percent of Australia’s current per capita emissions.

The question that Calbrick and Gutton need to ask is what energy price would reduce Australia’s emissions by the requisite 98.5 percent?? It might not, in fact, be as high as the extreme prices described on 24 April 2008 in the Sunday Times; indeed, political problems might step in at such high energy prices. Nonetheless, it would certainly be higher than the most expensive Enriched World nations, and such high prices would potentially have even more economic and ecological benefits than respectable emissions for by far the worst offender in greenhouse emissions.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Are Australians clearer?

For a few weeks now, I have noticed the following discussion where it is hard to tell which speaker the writer actually is:
“Did you watch the game anon?”
“What game?”
“The football game, Pats vs Saints.”
“I’m sorry my friend, I don’t know of any football teams that have that name.”
“Dude of course there are, do you not watch football?”
“Do you mean handegg?”
“What the (expletive) is handegg?”
“The American sport, handegg, where you use your hands and throw an egg-shaped ball around?”
“What? No it’s called football.”
“No. It’s handegg.”
What looking at this makes me think is that Australians, who refer to various codes of football by names like “soccer” and “US gridiron” are actually much clearer than Europeans or Americans saying “football” without even a simple qualifier like “American”.

Whilst some English people laud that “soccer” is translatable only by a word related to football in most foreign languages, they overlook that there are no languages where a word derived from translating “hand” and “egg” or adapting “handegg” is used for gridiron (American football). The same is even true for the non-pejorative “gridiron” which accurately described the shape of the field and its intensely collision-based nature.

So, perhaps people should think of a way to describe these different forms of “football” without resorting to pejorative terms?? It would be so clear if people said “the gridiron game” or “soccer teams” or “Australian rules game”.

Facing up to our responsibility

This Law Dome snowfall series has been used in Tas D. van Ommen’s and Vin Morgan’s ‘Snowfall increase in coastal East Antarctica linked with southwestWestern Australian drought’ (Nature Geoscience, 7 February 2010) to demonstate how un-natural modern observed low rainfalls are.
Tonight, after a rather quiet afternoon and evening in the State Library, I was told by a tired mother that it was 42˚C today. This could lead to a record number of days over 40˚C this summer with another forecast and no sign of mild weather again – after a promising start to January. Whilst I feel I have said too much too “noisily” over the years about the solution to the problem, I will note very clearly two utterly false denial signs:
  1. Greenhouse scepticism – whilst it reigns supreme amongst those who fear loss of convenience or privacy in Australia’s suburbs, the scientific evidence from studies such as those of the Law Dome ice core and Perth water flow data is too strong.
    • What needs to be done is for education series, instead of being focused fuzzily on abstract temperature series, to be focused instead on practical cases like changes in SWWA, Central Chile, or CWA rainfall, where easily understood, precise data can be seen.
  2. Denial of responsibility – an all-too-common problem is belief that Australia’s emissions have no significant impact by themselves on the global climate. This occurs even in peer-reviewed articles like ‘Halving global CO2 by 2050: technologies and costs’ and ‘Illustrated implications of the Terrifying New Math of Meinshausen and McKibben’ which do not go into details about Australia’s emissions and instead focus on China, India, Russia and the United States. There are several problems with this attitude:
    1. As Zhang et. al. have shown, Australia’s extremely low soil phosphate means that it has much lower absorption capacities than other major emitters, and hence a lower allowable emissions value
    2. Australia’s per capita emissions are the highest in the world so that each Australian – living on the lowest-energy land in the world – makes the greatest contribution
    3. Most greenhouse emissions in China and India, and to a lesser extent other Eurasian and Western Hemisphere nations, are built from Australian coal and aluminium so are indirectly the responsibility of Australia
For these three reasons, there needs to be a culture of responsibility amongst the next generation of Australians – one where it is acknowledged Australia bears unique responsibility for creating and hence for solving climate change. This responsibility is one that must extend to both ordinary Australian citizens – most especially when doing the responsible thing and cycling or using public transit for every journey is uniquely tough – and for tourists who, used to higher-quality public transport in countries with incomparably less need for it, must not sacrifice keeping emissions lower for convenience even if they could at home. In fact, the attitude towards Australia’s environment among tourists is one that has to change a great deal: although Australia may seem peculiar and strange to those used to uniquely fertile and young soils, it is not peculiar but how Eurasia and the Americas looked a mere 20 million years ago.