Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A “famous” typo recalled – and Trump beating it

2019 Melbourne rainfall to today. With nothing forecast Melbourne seems very likely to not merely receive less than the city’s existing record low (332.3 millimetres), but receive less than the existing Victorian record low calendar-year total
Victoria’s record low annual rainfall up to 2018 – almost certain to be beaten by a substantial portion of the state in 2019 – from Kyndalyn Park (latitude 34.71° S, longitude 142.93° E)
In recent days with only 43 millimetres of rain in Melbourne for 2019 and a probable record dry year by a factor of four or more – likely Melbourne will beat even Kyndalyn Park’s 1967 state record low rainfall of 75.9 millimetres – I have gleefully recalled a personally famous typo from Perth’s Sunday Times on 27 April, 2008:

What you're paying

Unleaded petrol prices in Brisbane and on the southern Queensland coast today hit $1.46 a litre, according to petrol price monitoring website Motor Mouth.

But unleaded fuel was available at some northern Brisbane outlets for as little as $1.30. Prices on the Gold and Sunshine coasts have also reached $1.46, but some fuel could be found for up to 15 cents a litre less, according to petrol price monitoring website, MotorMouth. Queensland has an eight cents a litre petrol subsidy.

Unleaded prices in Adelaide are nearing $1.55 a litre. Sydney prices range from $1.47 to $1.55 a litre. Melbourne drivers are paying up to $153.90 a litre, while Perth motorists are faring better at $1.40 a litre.”
Seeing this text, nobody would miss the typo. The typist writing for the Sunday Times obviously meant to write
153.90¢ a litre,
which the news.com.au system apparently automatically would change to $1.54 a litre, whilst automatically changing 153.90$ a litre to $153.90 a litre.

Rather than ignoring the typo, I – who has long known Australian petrol as untenably cheap – saw it as one typo I wished were true. Such increased fuel prices would – even with much less fuel sold – give Australia’s governments funding for neglected environmental projects like:
  1. complete closure of coal-fired power stations
  2. a large-scale renewable energy plan and budget to decarbonise the whole continent
  3. a nationwide high-speed rail network to reduce pressure on Tullamarine and Kingsford-Smith Airports
  4. public transport networks in all major cities and their surrounding semi-rural districts surpassing the world’s best extant networks
  5. complete revegetation of southern Australian farmland certain to be aridified by the rapid poleward widening of the subtropical arid belt
When I told Mummy about the Sunday Times typo a day ago, I was told that Donald Trump has made a much worse blunder when discussing a major Sri Lanka attack on Easter Sunday, whereby eight bombs exploded in churches and hotels. I will quote Trump:
Heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels that have killed at least 138 million people and badly injured 600 more. We stand ready to help!
My mother has always been extreemly critical of President Trump, seeing him as a racist, sexist populist appealing to the emotions of white rural Americans who feel left out with modern technological changes. Mummy, who knew the 2008 typo and my admittedly emotional response to it, said that Trump “surpassed” the Perth newspaper’s typo by a thousand if I recall correctly. Actually, Trump’s error surpassed the 2008 typo by ten thousand. Some of his critics believe Trump magnified the death toll intentionally, presumably to make Americans more scared of Muslims.

However, one difference exists that stands far more critical than the magnitude of the errors. There would exist major benefits to Earth’s ecology, frequently discussed on this blog, from less cheap Australian petrol. There would exist no benefits to anybody or anything from terrorists achieving a death toll corresponding to a nuclear mini-holocaust. If it were true that terrorists could murder on the scale President Trump claimed, there would be the danger of terrorism killing entire civilisations.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Plotting actual versus parity per capita greenhouse gas emissions

In recent posts about the failures of the Kyōtō Protocol, I have expressed extreme anger that:
  1. the highest per capita greenhouse gas emitters – excluding a few remote small tropical islands – are desert states whose natural ecologies are based on extreme limitation of energy consumption
  2. excepting Least Developed Countries (LDCs) there appears to be an anticorrelation between actual per capita emissions and the relative per capita energy consumption allowed by ecology
  3. (1) and (2) are poorly noted by either ecologists or climatologists
    • even Tim Flannery, who would be expected to be the most aware person in the world of this, seldom makes the connection so explicit as it should be made
In order to have a reasonable look at the actual situation, I have plotted a graph of actual per capita emissions against those which I believe reflect relative ecological parity of each nation (for methodology see below):
2013 per capita emissions versus relative ecological parity emissions. The actual Pearson correlation coefficient is +0.06
Being aware that very poor Least Developed Countries would distort any observable anticorrelation, I did another experiment without the Least Developed Countries, but Least Developed Countries actually had less effect on the result than I expected. However, when I included only the upper-middle and upper-income countries, I did find a very clear negative correlation between actual and ecological parity per capita emissions:
2013 per capita emissions versus relative ecological parity emissions for upper-middle and upper-income countries. The Pearson correlation coefficient is -0.27
This observed anticorrelation does suggest that in the Enriched World there exist inherent political or resource limitations to the growth of per capita greenhouse emissions that are absent from the arid subtropics of the Eastern Hemisphere or from the humid tropics (e.g. Årts and Janssen, 2006, Cornwallis et. al, 2017). In resource-exporting nations, extremely high energy consumption by the ruling classes is actively supported by suburban citizens who gain a low-tax, high-energy lifestyle based around large, comfortable cars. This is one reason for the exceedingly high emissions of Australia and the Gulf States. In the Enriched World ruling classes lack such cheap energy, while demands by lower classes for redistribution are much stronger. This serves to limit per capita energy consumption to a level frequently exceeded in the resource-richest nations.

Such an anticorrelation is wholly untenable and ignorance thereof a significant problem. It also suggests development in historically poor tropical and desert nations as fraught with severe danger for the planet’s climate.

Methodology for Parity Emissions:

  1. Each point of land was aligned to one of the ecoregions outlined in the second Kyōtō Protocol post
    1. high mountain regions of the tropics – if wet enough to qualify as humid under the Köppen classification – had the same weighted emissions as the Enriched World
    2. in the cases of New Zealand (Milewski, personal communication) and the Iberian Peninsula and southern Mediterranean (McMahon and Finlayson, 1991), ecological peculiarities allowed me to lower the parity emissions from 3 to 2.75
  2. For each country, the weighted geometric mean of the parity regions for each point of land was assigned as its parity emissions
  3. To make the graph, these parity emissions were graphed on the x-axis against actual emissions from 2013 (World Resources Institute, 2014)


  • Cornwallis, Charlie K.; Botero, Carlos A.; Rubenstein, Dustin R.; Downing, Philip A.; West, Stuart A. and Griffin, Ashleigh S.; ‘Cooperation facilitates the colonization of harsh environments’; Nature, Ecology and Evolution, vol. 1 (2017) article 0057
  • Flannery, Tim F.; The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australian Lands and People; ISBN 0730104222
  • Lovegrove, Barry G.; ‘The Zoogeography of Mammalian Basal Metabolic Rate’; The American Naturalist, vol. 156, no. 2 (August 2000), pp. 201-218
  • McMahon, T.A. and Finlayson, B.L.; Global Runoff: Continental Comparisons of Annual Flows and Peak Discharges. ISBN 3-923381-27-1
  • World Resources Institute; ‘Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) Version 2.0. (Washington, DC: World Resources Institute, 2014)’
  • Årts, Paul and Janssen, Dennis; ‘Shades of Opinion: The Oil Exporting Countries and International Climate Politics’; The Review of International Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 2, Winter 2003, pp. 332-351

Sunday, 7 April 2019

How Kyōtō needed to be done – elevated-emissions Enriched countries

In my previous post, I demonstrated the the Kyōtō Protocol of 1996 almost entirely targeted countries of limited significance, and whose ecology (Lovegrove, 2000) does not dictate low energy consumption. The Enriched World, where every “Annex 1” country bar Australia was located, constituted the ecological bloc least required to lower emissions for ecological parity (Koch, 2003, p. 147; Najam et. al, 2003). Thus, the countries set emissions targets were – with the paramount exception of Australia – the very countries with least requirement therefor.

Nonetheless, within the Enriched World a sub-bloc of nations with elevated per capita emissions did exist. This sub-bloc comprised three Anglophone Western Hemisphere nations in the United States, Canada and New Zealand, plus four countries in Northern Asia: Russia and the former Soviet republics or satellites of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia. The following facts confirm these nations as a distinct sub-bloc:
  1. excluding New Zealand, they occupy one continuous area centred upon the North Pacific
  2. all except New Zealand at least substantially occupy dry, highly continental steppe and/or taiga
  3. all except New Zealand are rich in mineral resources, although completely lacking greenhouse-intensive bauxite
  4. the Pacific Northwest and New Zealand occupy similarly mountainous maritime zones substantially too wet for agriculture
  5. none are high mountain states (as Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan are) because:
    • all have substantial contiguous lowland areas
    • most of North America’s and Mongolia’s highland is plateau-like rather than steep mountains
  6. their relatively high per capita emissions are due to:
    1. low population densities and absence of energy-efficient transport, though this issue is not so pronounced as in Australia or the Gulf States
    2. high heating requirements due to freezing winters
    3. generally abundant fossil fuel reserves (except for New Zealand and Mongolia)
If we combine these countries with China, which borders this region on its southwest flank, we create a continuous bloc of seven countries accounting for over forty percent of total global emissions.  On this ground, targeting this bloc for punitive emissions reductions (demonstrably necessary for Australia and Gulf oil states) would have appeared desirable.

However, the economic disadvantages of their cool climates, plus their low ecological fragility (Huston and Wolverton, 2009) and their void in bauxite deposits, mitigate against severe relative targets for even the worst Enriched polluters. Moreover, historical climate politics demonstrates the likelihood or the United States and Canada siding with Australia rather than lower-emissions Enriched nations (Flannery, 2007). New Zealand, Russia, and the former Soviet satellites behaved similarly. Consequently, I have made a 20% allowance above parity targets for all nations in the sub-bloc. Essential emissions cuts by Australia and the Gulf States would mandate large efficiency improvements elsewhere, which would have reduced this elevated-emissions Enriched sub-bloc’s emissions beyond the targets listed below.

Country 1990s per capita emissions
(Australia = 1)
Requisite Kyōtō emissions target
(relative to 1985-1995)
Actual Kyōtō emissions target Notes
United States 0.83 -35% ±0% — “Red” states substantially resource-rich mineral exporters
— Over one-quarter of global coal reserves, primarily in Appalachia and the Ozarks
— “Blue” states typically resource-poor Enriched World
15% allowance for political effects
Canada 0.73 -35% -6% — Allowances for political divides much less than in United States
New Zealand 0.67 -35% ±0% — Does possess certain ecological peculiarities due to chalcophile-poor rhyolitic geology
— High per capita emissions due to low population density caused by remoteness and extreme natural resource poverty
Turkmenistan 0.48 -28% — Intermediate in character between other elevated-emissions Enriched States and wealthy Arab oil exporters
Russia 0.51 -25% ±0% — Second largest coal reserves in world.
Kazakhstan 0.51 -18%
Mongolia 0.41 -18% — Exceedingly high emissions relative to GDP
China 0.11 ±0% — By 2010s accounted for over ¼ of global greenhouse gas emissions
— 2010s per capita emissions already above world average
— Highly abundant coal reserves (13 percent of global total)
— Target was to develop without increasing emissions
— Inability to do so potentially  result of lenience towards resource-exporting nations’ emissions
Suspicions that after-effects of the Kyōtō Protocol have been a major factor in the United States’ growing partisan political divide has led me to propose a substantial allowance for that nation. This allowance has the virtue of simplifying matters for the sub-bloc as a group.

I have tabulated China although it differs from the other nations of this sub-bloc in its dense population because:
  1. China’s very high total emissions make it important to global warming mitigation regardless of its per capita emissions, and
  2. China shares with the US, Canada, Russia and Kazakhstan abundant coal reserves which would reduce the after-effect of severe emissions cuts in the wealthy subtropical desert resource exporters
  3. China was similarly reluctant to commit to large emissions reductions proposed by the EU and AOSIS
Overall, these proposed direct reductions in the elevated-emissions sub-bloc would triple those from the much severer reductions ecologically demanded from the oil exporters and Australia (see previous post), totalling 14 percent of global emissions. Unlike the radical infrastructure projects that were ecologically essential in Australia and oil states, reductions in these nations would have merely required improvements in efficiency from nations that for the most part were already wealthy, such as improved fuel efficiency technology in American and Russian road vehicles and homes, and altered product cycles for consumer goods to deal with the reduced supply of metals from Australia.


  • Flannery, Tim (2005); The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change; ISBN 1920885846
  • Huston, Michael A. and Wolverton, Steve; ‘The global distribution of net primary production: resolving the paradox’; Ecological Monographs, vol. 79, no. 3 (2009), pp. 343-377
  • Koch, Max (2003); Capitalism and Climate Change: Theoretical Discussion, Historical Development and Policy Responses; ISBN 978-1-349-32328-9
  • Lovegrove, Barry G.; ‘The Zoogeography of Mammalian Basal Metabolic Rate’; The American Naturalist, vol. 156, no. 2 (August 2000), pp. 201-218
  • Najam, Adil, Saleem-ul-Huq and Sokona, Youba; ‘Climate negotiations beyond Kyōtō: Developing countries’ concerns and interests’; Climate Policy 3(3) (September 2003), pp. 221-231