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Fixing climate change: the future isn’t what it used to be

This is the last part of a series following on from the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report and looking at emerging alternatives to the UN climate agreement…

Optimism is lovely, but individual action won’t solve climate change. \!/_PeacePlusOne/Flickr

This is the last part of a series following on from the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report and looking at emerging alternatives to the UN climate agreement process.

State based action and sectoral agreements show some promise in dealing with aspects of climate change. But from humanity’s climate change experience to date and its failure to address the climate change problem through a global agreement, it’s safe to suggest we are headed for trouble.

Given our current path on generating and dealing with emissions, here are my predictions for the future of climate change and climate change action.

Individual action doesn’t and won’t matter

Much has been made of individual action as a means of dealing with the climate change problem, but what one does personally doesn’t on its own make the least bit of difference.

Put another way, the things individuals do in their daily lives, taken by themselves, have no effect. The planet doesn’t notice. It is collective action that matters, or what several billion people do.

Environmental economis Gernot Wagner argues that “[t]he changes necessary are so large and so profound that they are beyond the reach of individual action”.

Instead, what is required is policy that motivates individuals and major industrial sectors to reduce emissions and use resources more efficiently.

In any event, there is nothing to indicate that our behaviour is changing; if anything, it’s “business as usual”.

Policy focus will eventually be on adaptation

Climate change mitigation involves reducing emissions through, for example, price-based mechanisms like emissions trading. Climate change adaptation means coping with or adjusting to climate change.

With mitigation, adaptation becomes easier (and they are not alternatives). Together with mitigation, policies focused on adaptation are required, to make adjustments to the unavoidable changes that we now face.

The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and others have suggested that achieving a limit of 2C global warming above pre-industrial levels may be impossible. This raises the possibility of global temperature rises of 4C this century. This could result, as the Royal Society says, in the “collapse of systems or require transformational adaptation out of systems, as we understand them today”.

The world’s failure to mitigate, the potential severity of impacts, and the challenges (behavioural, societal, economic) in dealing with such failure and such impacts, all argue for renewed efforts on adaptation.

There will be ‘ever more people’

David Attenborough asks us to make a list of all of the environmental problems which afflict the planet – climate change, desertification, famine, loss of rainforest, collapse of fish stocks, shortage of arable land, and so on. He argues that these problems share one underlying cause: all of these problems become “more difficult – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people”.

The UN estimates (with qualification) that the world’s population will reach 10 billion and climbing by 2100. If families, on average, have half a child more than the UN projects, population will reach 16 billion by 2100.

In Reproduction and the Carbon Legacies of Individuals, statistician Paul Murtagh and others argue that a person’s reproductive choices must be considered together with his or her everyday activities to work out that person’s impact on the global environment. And it’s difficult to take issue with the view that the decision to have a child is an ethical decision.

Ethics also underpin any market-based approach to population control – how about “tradeable procreation credits”, for example, for buying and selling the right to have children? Market-based mechanisms – emissions trading schemes – are in vogue as a means to address the climate change problem. Why not use such mechanisms to address the population problem?

Perhaps, though, if having children is, as philosopher Michael Sandel says, “a central aspect of human flourishing, then it’s unfair to condition access to this good on the ability to pay”.

Growing global population amplifies a range of other threats, and they are all related to climate change: resource scarcity, for example, and the energy crisis. And energy of course goes to the heart of the climate change problem.

There will never be ‘enough stuff’

UCLA’s Laurence Smith poses this question:

What if you could play God and do the ethically fair thing by converting the entire developing world’s level of material consumption to that now carried out by North Americans, Western Europeans, Japanese, and Australians today?

Would you?

The world Smith depicts would be frightening. Consumption globally would rise elevenfold. Where would all that meat, fish, water, energy, plastic, metal, and wood come from in a carbon/climate-constrained world?

Suppose, though, that such conversion takes place gradually over the next 40 years. If demographers’ estimate that world population might stabilise at about 9.2 billion by 2050, and if the ultimate objective is for everyone on Earth to live like the developed world, we will need enough stuff to support the equivalent of 105 billion people.

Such a world is completely unsustainable – yet it is, as Smith points out, the “end goal implicit in nearly all prevailing policy”.

This is the ‘age of the Anthropocene’ and will be the end of the wild

Fully 80% of the world’s land surface (excluding Antarctica) is directly influenced by human activities. More than a decade ago, Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen suggested we were living in the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch inadvertently brought on by the influence of human activity and behaviour on the Earth’s atmosphere.

Further, studies suggest that Earth’s creatures are on the brink of a sixth mass extinction. Perhaps three-quarters of animal species will vanish within 300 years.

This leads MIT’s Stephen Meyer to refer to the “end of the wild” and to conclude that “the extinction crisis … is over, and we have lost”.

Two alternative conclusions

The optimist is comforted by humanity’s ability to come up with solutions. As Brian Schmidt, the Australian winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics, said (though not in the context of climate change), “Humanity is remarkably clever at figuring out how to do things that are not obviously possible”.

But Stephen Emmott, Head of Computational Science at Microsoft Research, may be more accurate when he says in his book 10 Billion, “I think we’re fucked”.

Part one of this series is here and part two is here.

Join the conversation

203 Comments sorted by

  1. Ben Marshall
    Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Writer

    When faced with the untenable, humans are capable of remarkable efforts en masse. One of the biggest problems I see in the way of humans dealing with climate change is that we have been prevented in facing it, primarily by the actions of vested interests, corporatised and corrupt governments, and a fourth estate crippled by the cancerous ideology of Rupert Murdoch.

    We can unite in times of crisis to act appropriately based on the evidence. Unfortunately, as the trolls inhabiting The Conversation…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      ...couldn't agree more, Ben - how this ever became a 'left wing' versus 'right wing' thing is really sad and scary.

      I'd just add, and include as a response to the article in general, we're miles beyond 'either/or' arguments - unless two courses of action are out-and-out mutualy exclusive then we need to take every kind of action we can come up with.

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    2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      What a depressing article, which, unfortunately, I think provides a pretty good summary of where we are at.

      One problem with adaptation is that if we keep polluting then we need to keep adapting as the climate keeps getting warmer.

      We should also remember that the IPCC reports are all pretty conservative. Whilst we might be lucky and reality ends up tracking a least bad scenario, because so many things have been left out which could make things much worse, it is more likely we will end up tracking a worse case scenario.

      We are definitely fucked. The question is now how bad will it be?

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    3. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Ben asks...."what are the ways to mitigate climate change, and how will we adapt to a hotter, more populated world."

      here's a start, not in any order

      1.Reduce poverty and increase middle class numbers in developing and third world countries-nothing stabilizes population growth faster than a middle class lifestyle and education.
      2. shift to base load nuclear energy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and in doing so also shift to a more environmentally friendly and sustainable energy source.
      3. R and D into improving solar, other renewables and compact nuclear
      4. Adopt and further research into GMOs to improve food productivity
      5. Safe guard critical infrastructure from future sea level rises (IPCC<80cm by 2100) and potential extreme weather events we are already familiar with. ie. Dams/levees/sea walls

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    4. Chris Owens

      Professional

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The observation - that the “end goal implicit in nearly all prevailing policy", is a sad indictment of the short termism of world political systems.

      The only thing the left and the right seem to argue about is the speed we are travelling as we drive off the cliff, with the right intent on pedal to the metal.

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    5. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Chris Owens

      Chris - It is worth remembering that if Labor had won the election then under them our domestic emissions excluding land clearing were planned to increase by 43% above 1990 levels in 2020.

      Labor were also just as keen as the Liberals in expanding coal exports.

      Though the rhetoric from Labor and Liberal was different, i would argue that Labor were planting their foot on the accelerator just about as hard as the Liberals.

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    6. Chris Owens

      Professional

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MWH I would agree on the question of CO2 emissions. However in relation to general environmental degradation, I think the coalition is way in front. In Vic it has been open slather since they got in by one seat in Nov 10. Unsustainable logging (and locking in 20 year contracts), cutting protections for threatened species, grazing in the Alpine national park and the Dept of Sustainability and Environment. Is now part of Dept of Primary Industries. Says it all really.

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    7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Chris Owens

      I agree Chris, on issues other than CO2 emissions the coalition is worse.

      I was very saddened when Gruen on ABC TV made fun of concern about a possum in Victoria. These Sydney people didn't know about or care that Leadbeater's possum, an emblem of Victoria, is on the verge of extinction just so that a few people can make a few dollars by cutting down a few more trees.

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    8. Georgina Byrne
      Georgina Byrne is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer at Farming

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      You are right to be attempting the positive as it is now all we, humanity has in this dire situation. The problem, however with several of your suggestions is that actual weather behaviour already shows variations which in many cases cannot be planned for. It is so easy to confuse the average with the actual...80 cm sea level rise doesn't sound much but the predicted storm surge in the recent super cyclone Bay of Bengal was 11 metres! That would surely pretty much take our Brisbane or wherever no…

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    9. Georgina Byrne
      Georgina Byrne is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer at Farming

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      The problem with comments like that is that comments like that are the problem. Whingeing gets nobody anywhere...The outcome we did get was the worst possible as now we not only have the denier wolves in charge of the flock but we also have a coal magnate with the balance of power. Plugging away with individual needling of individual pollies is the best thing to do...one direct phonecall or letter is worth 10,000 signatures, Don Henry once said. Squeaky wheels, folks...So best get to it right now so that a chastened and changed Labour Party can take back power in three years time! There is no other issue which matters as much as this one. As Peter Ormonde wrote...when food shortages and disasters start hitting home in our privileged armed to the teeth west life will become triply difficult!

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    10. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      I would add, phasing out of exploration of coal, oil and gas reserves by a set date. Some countries would do this but see how fast the energy companies either jump ship to countries who do not enforce such a law or alternately see how fast they develop renewables.

      The amount money spent on exploration would sort out the r and d required to develop renewables within 10 years at a guess. I am not completely convinced on nuclear, mainly due to the decommissioning issue. However I would add thatAustralia should be taking back and storing radioactive waste that ee have exported. We have a stable country from where the stuff came from. This would be a massive economic boost also.

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    11. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Georgina Byrne

      Please stop believing mathematical predictions of things like storms, sea level and so forth. They are not reliable, obviously. Check weather predictions 2 days out for the obvious. Sorry, bit individuals are not what is needed. Government committment to reduce carbon pollution, yeh the thing that makes people sick. Just ask people living in Beijing, even in parts of Japan still after their own serious problems with much more significant types of pollution.

      It is laughable to talk about children markets, fuck the poor then right, we don't want their type breeding.

      Whi are the trolls I would ask. Idiots.

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    12. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Georgina Byrne

      Sorry Georgina, but if you think Labor are the solution then you are part of the problem not the solution.

      Once again I point out that Labor's plan was to increase our domestic emissions by 43% when land clearing is excluded from 1990 to 2020. And Labor wanted to expand coal exports just as much as Liberal and Palmer.

      This isn't fine detail. It is the reality that Labor were one of the worst western governments when it came to action on climate change.

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    13. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

      In reply to Georgina Byrne

      Georgina, thanks for the feedback. Out of interest did you check to what the actual storm surge was? Cyclones are very common in the Bay of Bengal and many 100,000 people have died from cyclones in that area over a long period of time.

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    14. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Matt Stevens

      Mathematical predictions are key to our current way of life. The first time a new commercial passenger jet takes off is totally reliant on maths.

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    15. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Reports placed it a 10 or 12 feet so maybe 3-4 metres. Nothing explicit to be found in post Phailin search.

      The forecasting and preventative evacuations were a great boon to the minimization of human fatalities.

      The next thing is to get the Tsunami early warning systems working also.

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    16. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "if Labor had won the election then under them our domestic emissions excluding land clearing were planned to increase by 43% above 1990 levels in 2020."

      And now under the Abbott government with their ironically named and ineffective direct "action", Australia's CO2 emissions in 2020 will probably be at least 90% higher than in 1990.

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    17. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Georgina Byrne

      "we also have a coal magnate with the balance of power"

      who will be helped by a Family First Senator from South Australia who was elected with the help of Green and Labor preferences.

      As it turned out, the best hope of saving the Carbon price for South Australian voters was to vote for Xenophon's group, not Green or Labor.

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    18. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Matt Stevens

      Matt RE " I am not completely convinced on nuclear, mainly due to the decommissioning issue."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble-bed_reactor - there's lot of info around about this Generation IV type reactor. Multiple times safer on all aspects. I believe it is China's preferred long term option, yet still more powerful Gen III reactors are coming online due to their "demand" levels.
      Why China needs 75 million (?) unoccupied brand new apartments and tens of new cities with barely any people…

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    19. Trevor S

      Jack of all Trades

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      "Without Conservative support, no significant action on climate change will happen."

      I don't agree, we are the problem. Most people still want to emit CO2e, just take a straw poll of people who agree with the Science and then look at what their per annum emissions actually are. Do they have a meat eating pet, do they fly, do they use renewable energy, did they go for an aimless drive to view the autumn leaves a few months back etc Many people want to do the right thing, until it actually impacts…

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    20. Trevor S

      Jack of all Trades

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "One problem with adaptation is that if we keep polluting then we need to keep adapting as the climate keeps getting warmer."

      The only unfortunate outcome of that is those that emit the least, pay the highest price.

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    21. Trevor S

      Jack of all Trades

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      "here's a start, not in any order"

      None of that has any effect on CO2e emission with an efficacy with enough speed. I am not saying not to engage in supply side changes but as a solution for mitigation it's a useless series of steps.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RInrvSjW90U

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    22. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Dear Ben, re "When faced with the untenable, humans are capable of remarkable efforts en masse." Yes! "One of the biggest problems [...] with climate change is that we have been prevented in facing it, primarily by the actions of vested interests [...] the cancerous ideology of Rupert Murdoch." Yes! "We can unite in times of crisis to act appropriately based on the evidence." YES! "For this reason, I would urge commenters: don't feed the trolls." Yes. Do not engage in reactionary emotional dialogue…

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  2. Michael Kirk

    Software Engineer

    I completely disagree with the statement that individual actions don't and won't matter. Every ton of C02 you cause to be emitted is part of the problem. Clearly one individual's carbon reduction alone will not prevent climate change, but the the reduction by millions, and then hopefully billions will. And there are millions of people deliberately reducing their emissions, and their collective restraint is significant. So it is absurd to imply that you shouldn't trouble yourself with your personal…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      Under any emissions trading scheme the reductions by one person are simply made up for by another.

      But even without an emissions trading scheme if the government is setting policies to meet a target then unless the target is changed, cuts by one person or industry will again just be made up for by another person or industry.

      The changes needed to bring our emissions quickly down to zero are so huge that it is only government that can make this happen. Thus all our energies should be focussed on getting government to change and we should stop pretending the individual action will make any difference.

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    2. Michael Kirk

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Governments can only have an effect by forcing individuals to reduce their emissions. We should all do this anyway. If the bulk of the population came so appreciate that needless emission of greenhouse gas was wrong, this would go a long way towards solving the problem.

      Do you really think that if everybody switched to bicycles or public transport this wouldn't have an effect? And what's the alternative? Do we just say I can't do anything alone, so I may as well continue to pollute as is most…

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    3. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      Michael Kirk - The key point is that everyone won't all switch to low emission activities like cycling and public transport without major changes by government.

      One reason is that it would be impossible to convince enough people to do this voluntarily.

      Another reason is that our infrastructure already has trouble coping with the current number of cyclists and public transport users. Major infrastructure changes are needed, as well as properly pricing the polluting alternatives.

      The sad reality is that individual actions will make such a small difference that focussing on this is a distraction.

      The big picture is that

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    4. Michael Kirk

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Actually the sad reality is that individual actions make such a difference that we have collectively caused the climate problems we now face. And just as the problem is caused largely by individual emissions, the solution will require reducing the average individual emissions. Consequently, disparaging individual efforts to reduce emissions seems highly unhelpful, and to state they make no difference (as the article did) is simply wrong.

      By all means agitate for regulation on a government scale, but take responsibility for your own emission levels as well. It's not hard to do. It is not one or the other..

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    5. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      I agree that we have all collectively caused the climate crises. But on the whole we have done this via politics.

      You have ignored my key points that if there is an ETS or if government tweak policies to meet a reduction target, then individual actions literally make zero difference - what one person cuts another emits in their place.

      The article is correct to point out that individual actions are not the answer.

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    6. Michael Kirk

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I agree with you that governments could in theory implement policies that to an extent negate individual reductions. I don't think we have such policies at present, and let's hope we don't get them. And it's worth noting that under the new Australian government, if they get their way, there will probably be no ETS.

      Regardless of government policies however, the ultimate solution is to leave as much fossil fuels unburnt as possible, and to this end, I think it is our responsibility, as individuals, to reduce the amount we personally burn (either in our cars, or from using electricity generated by burning coal).

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    7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      A few people taking action to reduce their personal emissions will make next to no difference to our overall emissions.

      The article was correct to state that "Individual action doesn’t and won’t matter".

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    8. David Bindoff

      manager

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MWH, I think you are wrong on this one, the only things which have worked comprehensively are at the individual level, the knowledge and skills collected by individuals is the biggest embryo for change we have. The next most comprehensive successful changes have been at the small scale community level, municipal initiatives etc. The worst failures have been at the international level and next worst at the national . Politics has failed abysmally wherever it has been involved (politicisation of the…

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    9. Michael Kirk

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Yes a few people can only make a little bit of difference. This is so obvious it doesn't need stating, really, it doesn't. However individual emissions in aggregate do matter a great deal (in fact they are pretty much the whole cause of the problem). So to suggest that individual action doesn't matter is completely wrong. You could state that a single individual's emissions don't matter much, but that is a different statement, and not the one that was made in the article.

      Your argument seems to be equivalent to saying, there's no need for me to refrain from throwing my litter on the highway as I drive, because my litter is an insignificant part of the litter problem.
      The aggregate is important and the aggregate is made up from the many individuals, to discourage individuals, en masse, to not worry about their own emissions is wrong.

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    10. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Bindoff

      Sorry David, but I'm speaking as an engineer not as a politician.

      The planet isn't fooled by the greenwashing of individual actions. The planet will respond to our total emissions.

      The article is correct to say that individual action will not make any significant difference.

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    11. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      Do the figures Michael and you will see that individual actions, within what is likely to happen, make no difference.

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    12. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      Personally I don't think it is an either/or option Michaels...

      We should all try and act like grown ups and tread as lightly as we can manage - teach our kids and our neighbours by example - but at the same time I have friends down in Newcastle whose solar PV set up must be hosed down each weekend because of the dust from the passing coal wagons rumbling past their railside home.

      Our per capita CO2 emissions came in at 18.3 metric tonnes in 2009 ... 11th in the world. So we have plenty of room for improvement.

      But to actually tackle this issue we need both personal commitment and policies we can live with and sell to our mates.

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    13. Michael Kirk

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Now when you say "no difference", that's where you're making a mistake. Every litre of fuel I don't burn is a difference, tiny admittedly but not none. Mathematically there is a world of difference between zero and any number however small, for zero can be multiplied by any number and remain zero.

      If I "do the figures", obviously the answer will depend on the assumptions. Lets say I assume that enough individuals (across the globe) make enough of an effort to reduce the global emissions by 5…

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    14. David Bindoff

      manager

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael WH, if I buy a big solar panel and install it and faithfully look after the output for 30 years and it satisfies my energy demands, then I have made one capital purchase transaction at time zero, and demanded zero imports of fossil fuels, water, metals, transport, etc for thirty years. The economy has seen no further transactions,GDP records a black hole where, without that initial capital purchase and my faithful stewardship, the economy would have recorded a steady sequence of money transactions and cloud of emissions. Can you explain to me how that is 'greenwash' ?
      Also, in this case, how does another party gain a right to pollute if no certificates are created and there is no replacement demand? (is that by Jevon's paradox being socially communicable?)

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    15. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      I mean 'no significant difference'.

      Look at the figures and it is clear that the solution is political and not up to individuals.

      And even if the world's individuals did manage to cut emissions by 5% this would make next to no difference to the big picture. All it would do is delay the effects of climate change by a few years.

      I agree that if you are going to lobby for government to act then you should provide an example. For instance, I don't own a car. But I don't fool myself that this will make a difference.

      As the article said, "Individual action doesn’t and won’t matter".

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    16. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Bindoff

      David, if you do all that you say, and the expected number of other people do as you do, then we are fucked, because individual action doesn’t and won’t matter.

      You actions are a greenwash because you are pretending that your actions make a difference.

      As I said earlier, the best that the collective individual action can be expected to do is to delay the effects of climate change by a few years.

      Pretending that individual action will make a difference is ignoring the huge changes that are needed to actually prevent climate change.

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    17. David Bindoff

      manager

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael WH, I only claimed to make a local difference and the possibility of making a comprehensive difference locally and importantly, independent of politics. Also I see the knowledge gained as 'embryonic' . By that I mean that there are possible sequences of growth arising out of local success which can flow into the culture and wider society. Those types of sequences are not possible without individual initiators. I am not deceiving myself or anyone else (but I guess I have to leave it to you and others to judge that)
      The author says
      "Instead, what is required is policy that motivates individuals and major industrial sectors to reduce emissions and use resources more efficiently."
      I support that aim and see it as necessary for a comprehensive global solution - it is clear that motivated individuals is a prerequisite, individuals intrinsically motivated prior to policy is also a prerequisite and are highly valued by me.

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    18. Sherry Mayo
      Sherry Mayo is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      I read an interesting book on this issue recently called 'The burning Question' on exactly the issues raised in this article and the comments here.
      In the book it pointed out that individual actions wouldn't strongly affect emissions (because it would just increase the opportunity for other emissions elsewhere).
      However, it did say that individual actions were nonetheless worthwhile because it was part of creating a political climate that promoted real action from governments. I think this is a very good point.

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    19. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to David Bindoff

      David
      What I use is very minimal, when I signed up for the solar rebate, I persuaded three other neighbours to do the same. Two of the households were effectively rather nice red necks. As soon as I told them my free excess electricity would be going to them first, and they'd be paying, they signed.
      I now think countries can't be left individually with a mandate to chose to cut emissions, or not. A separate body should now be dictating incrementally increasing cuts to all countries. Without a long term plan and separate body planning it won't happen.
      All of us on this page now has to become an active advocate for action. Individuals have to start to fight government, business, and lobbyists for fossil fuels. It's all we have after changing our personal emissions, starting with this new government, and we have to all take this next step.

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    20. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      The problem is the same problem faced when people advocate naming and shaming companies over actual regulation

      Most companies do not have a public persona - think of all the energy retailers in your area.....you can name a few right?

      and now, what is the name of the company that generates the electricity you use? most people have no idea

      so naming and shaming only works for companies that give a toss what the public think, if you company sells products to toehr companies, it's close to impossible to shame them out of a business practice

      The same problem exists for emmissions, where even if you have the exact same emmissions now but in the negative - which is most likely impossible but lets assume you have negative emmissions - My Uncle drives a hummer to work and his hobby is 4wd on the weekend,

      also, every cent of petrol that pepole like yourself don't buy - means cheaper petrol for my uncle

      Government regulations worked for CFC's - why not CO2

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    21. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      "Governments can only have an effect by forcing individuals to reduce their emissions"

      Now your just talking absolute nonsense, when we banned lead in paint - did the government ban individuals from buying lead paint or did they ban the production and sale of lead paint

      "Governments can only have an effect by forcing individuals to reduce their emissions"

      you are either lying or confused

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    22. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      "just as the problem is caused largely by individual emissions, the solution will require reducing the average individual emissions. "

      You are clearly lying now, outright dishonesty

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    23. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to David Bindoff

      David you are either lying or mentally ill - when we banned lead - did we ban individuals from buying it or did we ban the production and sale of it

      all of you advocating for individual action are lying, dishonest frauds and you must know this

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    24. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Micheal these guys are liars

      like outright liars, every time they say that it comes down to indiviudal actions - look at CFC's, Lead, etcetera

      none of this was the gov asking individuals not to burn lead petrol - it was the gov intervening and stating that you can no longer sell or produce this stuff

      These guys are either lying or mentally ill

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    25. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Michael Shand

      @Michael Kirk.

      Almost all of Australia's current electricity generation infrastructure was built by government - and conservative governments at that.

      It is only in recent times that it has been sold off to private interests. And the notion that government cannot build power generation infrastructure is only a recent addition to conservative ideology via the zombie ideas of neo-liberalism.

      It is only ideology stopping governments from building a renewable energy infrastructure to replace the existing fossil fuel based infrastructure.

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    26. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Completely agree, all the arguments in opposition are outright dishonest, demonstratably dishonest

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    27. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to David Bindoff

      My experience with activism is that if you;

      Email 1,000 people......

      100 people may read your email......

      10 people might respond......

      1 person may take action.....

      This has proved itself over and over again and is a good rule of thumb so as not to get beaten down about things

      The idea that individual actions will create the shift is absurd based on experience in dealing with individuals

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    28. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Just to throw a cat among the pigeons, could it be that some of the warming we have seen in the last 60 years is a result of the depletion of ozone, yes the big ozone hole over thevsouth pole and that when this is expected to close to another 40 to 50 years that cooling will occur. Obviously this cooling effect of a closing ozone will be gradual. See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ozone-loss-warmed-southern-africa

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    29. Trevor S

      Jack of all Trades

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "The key point is that everyone won't all switch to low emission activities like cycling and public transport without major changes by government."

      I think you have that the wrong way 'round. Government won't do anything until people switch to cycling and public transport. Government will always follow the lead of the people. You can't expect climate leadership from some of the worst CO2e emitters on the Planet i.e politicians.

      "The article is correct to point out that individual actions are not the answer."

      Individual actions are the only answer. Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Climate Centre explains why here:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RInrvSjW90U

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    30. Trevor S

      Jack of all Trades

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "A few people taking action to reduce their personal emissions will make next to no difference to our overall emissions."

      That's the exact argument that Governments and many denialists make. That there is no use us changing in Australia, because we emit only a small amount of the global CO2e. It's as though everyone thinks we all need to form an orderly queue to do the right thing, as long as everyone else goes first.

      Single humans can have vast impacts, see Ghandi, Hitler atal We need…

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    31. Trevor S

      Jack of all Trades

      In reply to Michael Shand

      "Government regulations worked for CFC's - why not CO2"

      The crux of it to my mind :) Why ? Because there are no other options. Same with the lead paint argument.

      For example, Germany, that paragon of renewables get's about 2% of it's energy requirements met by solar and some 3.3% by wind . You can't just replace the other 94.7% easily let alone quickly enough and that's just Germany.

      http://theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/264361/renewable-energy-germany-growing-slower-you-think

      Then we need to replace some billion or so ICE vehicles, assuming a transition to EV's.

      and then we surely need to recognise the "rights" of the developing world to grow from poverty using fossil fuels.

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    32. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Yes Chris, exactly, and the CFCs are the probable cause of the relarively steep inreases we have see from 1950 to 2000. But I am certainly not saying they are respnsible for the leveling off observed over the last 15 years, but they may be in the coming 2 to 6 decades..

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    33. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Matt Stevens

      @ Matt & Chris - Maybe this "timing" question you could put to Gavin on RC - publicly or via email?

      eg btm of article :: "One final example is also worth noting. In all of the pre-AR5 figures (except Hansen in 2000), tropospheric and stratospheric ozone were considered separately. But while there are two separate effects going on (ozone precursors increasing in the lower atmosphere, and ozone depletion due to CFCs above), there is not a clean separation between changes in the troposphere and stratosphere. Thus the AR5 version correctly shows the ozone changes as indirect effects of the different emissions without delineating where the changes in ozone are occurring. This is a definite conceptual improvement among many."
      http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/10/the-evolution-of-radiative-forcing-bar-charts/

      Last time I looked up Ozone info the expected reduction in the antarctic 'hole' was occurring with some swings and roundabouts.

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    34. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Trevor S

      I think it is critical that we 'alarmists' start to become the change we wish to see... that we try as best we can to show that it is possible to live differently, consume less and do so without living in caves.

      A lot of people cannot envisage alternatives... they take what's on offer and try and get what they can for a 'good life' for them and their families. If they believe there is no alternative without loss and deprivation then they will reject it out of hand.

      Without making such changes…

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    35. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Less preaching more doing folks... " - it sounds reasonable but I believe that this misses the point a little

      We need the market to internalize the externality - that is, currently no one is accountable for the carbon they put out, so we need a price on carbon

      Even if everyone did become more sustainable - that doesn't address the coal burnt for industry - at all, at all

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    36. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Matt Stevens

      Probably, seems like those 2 things would have an impact on each other - better to ask a scientist, chances are, people that study this for a living, that have investigated sun spots, cloud coverage, earth wobbles, etc

      chances are they have covered this

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    37. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Shand

      No question that is what we need to do Michael. How we do it most effectively is open to question and is very time dependent. The ETS presents a low cost but relatively slow and comfy adjustment process. Given the likely delay in doing anything serious and the loss of time, we may need to dust off Ross Garnaut and the tax option in future - harder, quicker and decidely effective - but definitely not comfy.

      My point is more about how we sell the idea of change to our neighbours - how we show that well-being and a satisfying life is not dependant on having the biggest SUV, a speedboat, and a plasma screen that will fry eggs.

      Like I said before we can't expect to change the world's climate without first changing the political climate - create the demand for change and to show that life with less carbon is both comfortable and feasible. Slapping panels on the roof won't change the world, but it will change how your neighbours think ... and that's a start.

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    38. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Slapping panels on the roof won't change the world, but it will change how your neighbours think ... and that's a start."

      Yeah, great point, devestating point. I have often thought about trying to do this as a community, like raise money, fund the panels for a church, when the church committee get their first bill, they rave about it, word spreads in the congregation, others start to follow.

      Doing it where the multiplier effect is greater and therefor will have a greater impact.

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    39. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      It is not an exaggeration - that graph you refer to is the exaggeration as it only presents a linear trend from 1979! Try using a trend line with a higher level function and you will get a more accurate picture.

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    40. Michael Kirk

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael, how quick you are to rudeness.

      I'll respond anyway (but only once, feel free to have an abusive last word if you must).

      I am neither lying nor confused.

      To take your example of the government banning lead paint, this is exactly what I mean. By banning production of lead paint they are in effect forcing people not to use it. The way a government might "force" people to emit less greenhouse gas include such things as requiring minimum levels of fuel efficiency in cars, increasing the price of fuel, or, most obviously, by having a significant carbon price.

      As for "the solution will require reducing the average individual emissions", by average emissions, I mean the total emissions divided by the number of people. Hence this statement is equivalent to saying the solutions will require reducing total emissions - a reasonable uncontroversial statement I think.

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    41. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Michael Kirk

      So you are for a price on carbon is what you are saying?

      you recognise that we need to internalize the externality?

      that those who produce CO2 as a consequence of their business need to be held accountable for that CO2 and that the best way to do this is government to introduce new legislation that puts a price on this carbon

      "Governments can only have an effect by forcing individuals to reduce their emissions"

      If this is what you meant, then the reason for the confusion is that Corporations are not people my friend

      when you say "Forcing Individuals" - you actually do not mean individuals do you? I have never heard a corporation called an individual

      me thinks you are being very weasely here, lets see how you respond

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    42. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "Or in Australia's case, not introduce new legislation that removes the existing price on Carbon" - we could only hope

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    43. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Ah, I understand now Chris, you do not understand statistics, as I have observed in quite a few of your over 2000 comments on TC. You really should stay out of conversations for which you do not grapple the basics of. The IPCC5 acknowledge no rise or a levelling off in surface temperatures over the last 15 years. They go on to say that 2km deep in the oceans has warmed 0.2 degrees c. However, I would expect that would be a non significant change due to large standard errors. It is quite a difficult problem and very costly I would say to get a representative sample from the ocean at 2 km deep!

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    44. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Matt Stevens

      "you do not understand statistics"

      Since you're far better at understanding statistics than me, you will demonstrate that the "leveling off" in surface temperatures over the last 15 years is statistically significant.

      If, on the other hand, you don't disagree that the last 15 years shows no statistically significant "levelling off" in surface temperatures then what is your problem with me pointing that out?

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    45. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Now you are just maling thins up about what I said. I think it best to stop commenting on this Chris as you have sufficiently embarassed yourself. As the saying goes there are lies, dam lies, and statistics and you give it a very bad name if you think that graph has any meaning in the context of your point.

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    46. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Matt Stevens

      You still haven't said what your problem is with me saying there is no statistically significant "levelling off" in surface temperatures.

      You don't seem to realize that their are clowns like this one: https://theconversation.com/as-climate-changes-animals-move-fast-to-escape-the-heat-18511#comment_234936

      who come up with this unmitigated garbage:

      "There has been a 15/16 year statistically significant pause in atmospheric warming."

      Where were you Mr smarty-pants statistician when that was being spread around?

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  3. Fred Pribac

    logged in via email @internode.on.net

    Three articles leading inexorably to that last pithy sentance. Informative, funny and effective. Well done!

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    1. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      The growth of human numbers seems to be the key driver of all our ecological problems. Secondly, the (reasonable) desire of people in developing countries to live as large a lifestyle as people in the "West" will only cause us all to go down the gurgler so much quicker.

      What to do? Nuke the Vatican? Drone-strike all the world's imams? Doesn't matter. Let's face it, we're all basically templates for making new people. Look how much infertile folk are willing to pay for IVF. Nothing short of total…

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    2. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to Sebastian Poeckes

      Instead of nuking the Vatican, try the Federal Reserve in the USA and the Bank of International Settlements and perhaps the City of London where the original Central Bank was established.

      However that would be incorrect and policy failure for you would have joined them in their destructively ruthless control of the Planetary agenda.

      We can re-engineer our civilization. It is not lack of resources nor technology that stops us. It is willpower.

      I'm optimistic that we can address the problem…

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    3. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Sebastian Poeckes

      @ Sebastion, this should explain what the near future holds.
      Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast?
      2007 - Understanding exponential growth as a fundamental driver of global warming, environmental destruction, peak oil and natural gas, water and arable land shortages, social decay, resource wars, etc...... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM1x4RljmnE

      How did the denialist industry get away with myth-making and dis-information for so long?
      1) Softly spoken climate scientists and academics plus 2) neat little tricks like this :-
      The Medieval Warm Period -- fact vs. fiction (20 mins) - examines the internet feud over the hockey stick and the various myths and misinterpretations about the Medieval Warm Period
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY4Yecsx_-s

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    4. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Sean Arundell wrote; "Understanding exponential growth as a fundamental driver of global warming"
      Appreciate the link and have added to the list on the oxymoron of exponential growth. Here is another paying it forward, provided you haven't seen it already.
      _______________________________________________________________
      Sustainability 101: Exponential Growth - Arithmetic, Population and Growth;
      http://youtu.be/o0ghHia-M54

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    5. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Thx Paul, yes or seen similar - Bartlett aka "the old codger talking maths" ... here's a quip from a youtube vid comment "If you don't want to abide by the rules of math, then you're part of the excess population." <smile> Short version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1J_dE_aR_tw
      I am no mathematician either. I survive on the KISS Principle best.

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    6. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Appreciate the link it will be paid forward.
      Sean Arundell; "... survive on the KISS Principle best" Which is a very good baseline when our core values have evolved.
      Our fundamental problem is a meritocracy stuck on efficiency driving more efficiency. The logic seems plausible until the K5-K7 arithmetic is explored.
      Our problem is cultural, we have a centre of political gravity enamored with efficiency and it's partner austerity. This has left next to no investment in innovation and innovators across all areas of public policy, academia and business. Groups fearful of taking a risk on the failures necessary when innovating. Leaving just fall back positions onto the baby boomer models e.g. nuclear power with massive energy corporations distributing over large power grids.
      We need a generational change, a paradigm shift in thinking with investment in innovation and risk of failure.

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    7. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Yep ... we're still asking the wrong questions and surprised when are confronted by unpalatable or unacceptable answers.

      It's not a question of how do we keep doing what we've been doing ... it's what should we be doing in the first place ... living within our means ecologically speaking.

      But we've had some 200 years (enough to be considered an eternal truth) of behaving like there's no tomorrow and hey presto look - no tommorrow sure enough.

      Smaller, smarter, simpler and safer ... and that's only a few of the s's.

      You will like this: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/microgrids3a-hyper-distributed-power/5009274

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    8. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Appreciate the link and will and it forward like most of yours.
      Peter Ormonde wrote; "You will like this ... " I do, Future Tense is one of my podcast subs.

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    9. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Whilst not perosnally hopeful at the moment, if ever there was opportunity for a generational/paradigm shift all the planets are lining up right now and through next few years I believe. It may get ugly for a time but remain steadfast in your own self belief know-how and keep operating outside the box. It takes time for the rest to cacth up with the inovators. Think Bill Gates et al. also ignore the images out there and hold true to the vision within despite appearances mate. Best to you and yours. Sean

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    10. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Hey Sean,
      you wrote; " ... planets are lining up right now ... " ok, well if that works for you, it's all good.
      Wishing you well, looking forward to more comments and relevant links.

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    11. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Paul Richards

      " ... planets are lining up right now ... " it's a turn of phrase Paul.... from a particular point of view, the planets are always lining up. Depends how you look at it. <smile>

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    12. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Sean Arundell wrote; "... Depends how you look at it" Ok understand. Still we all have to be careful here, as there are a lot of value systems in play.
      The most disturbing are the dystopian Abrahamic variants.
      __________________________________
      *http://i.imgur.com/mOcGkVT.jpg

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    13. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Works for me Paul. I don't hide I like to consult the stars ahem planets.

      Mid to late April 2014. Big alteration.

      Everything in a system is connected and related. The Universe is or isn't a system?

      With any field of knowledge usually its those inside the discipline who gain the insights afforded by the study.

      They tell me that high level maths gives deep insight into the physical realm and its operation. How many understand these compared to how many accept their conclusions?

      It's always fair for a person to hold an opinion. The only question I'd ask is how he or she came by it?

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    14. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to greg rzesniowiecki

      Hi Greg, I'd be more inclined to question "Is it true?" And if it is then how does it work, and how could I and other use it? I'm all for accepting people have their own beliefs and opinions. It as primary as breathing. Still my favourite philosophical truism goes like: "All people do have a right to their own opinions. They do not have a right to their own facts." Therein lays my interest in the topic of climate science. Truth vs Fiction & False beliefs. I love your tag "being and doing" because I understand what you mean and where you are coming from. I believe I also know where Paul is coming from, and that's ok too. What we share is far more important than the side issues that might separate us. Well that's my opinion at least. Not worth a 'red razoo' [old aussie slang] <smile> Sean

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    15. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Paul Richards

      HI Paul, I am pretty sure you don't understand, it's a very vague hint. What I said originally had nothing to do with astrology per se. Let me have another go. Have another look at what I was saying and imagine you are in a space craft looking back at our solar system. In your imaginary space craft direct your point of view looking at the Sun, but also in perfect alignment with the plane that all our planets orbit around the Sun. Now what do you see? Yes, they all "line up", and they will always…

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    16. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Appreciate the reply and further clarity.
      Without the right values our imagination cannot see the maths or any other evolved human concept. Sean Arundell wrote; "Yes, they all "line up", and they will always "line up". Our "point of view" affects everything we observe, think, believe and do." Very true and unless we have grown through this thinking we can never understand others. The first reference to planets diverted my thinking to astrology, as there are many here who have unfalsifiable beliefs…

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    17. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Hi Sean, it works, in that a person comes to Earth at a point in time and space, never to be repeated in the eternity of existence. Each comes as a new impulse.

      There are many ways to gain an insight into to the workings, personality and character of humans. Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind. Biology is the study of the material organism, sociology, politics, economics, game theory etc. the study of the interactions, and relations of the many.

      We are curious. We have been…

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    18. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to greg rzesniowiecki

      @GregFullmoon Wow! My most important query is: Did you copy and paste that from a pre-existing article that you have written, or did you write that off the cuff for my benefit here? If the latter, then Greg, I sincerely thank you plus honour and respect you highly for doing that for, and the other readers here. Excellent article, words fail me here. I hear what you saying and I understand the broader picture you are wisely pointing to on multiple levels. I also know about most of the specifics mentioned…

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    19. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Off the cuff mate. And thanks for the proof read. Scots..

      And thank you for the acknowledgment.

      funnily I was commenting person to person last night to another, as to why and how I take less offense to others. I also try to listen, and thus can learn to adjust.

      I also did quite a job on another topic here, if you are keen;

      https://theconversation.com/kindred-souls-exposing-abuses-of-power-journalism-in-the-information-age-15287

      On learning I'm really wondering at the nuclear fuel…

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    20. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to greg rzesniowiecki

      @Greg, thx. The longer comment that started off with 'catholic church'? Nice insights. I am limited with how much I can explore ... burnt out from too much time online over the years, so sorry if I cant look at everything and respond. Have saved your blog into favourites and will browse that when time permits. My focus is currently narrow by necessity and good sense. take care, we will talk again. Sean

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    21. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Paul Richards

      @Paul Richards, I with you there Paul. Excellent additional comments many could benefit from by quietly reflecting upon. I suspect the turtle lady may have been an avid reader of Col. James Churchward, but missed the point. Or maybe lost the plot? grin TY very much, Sean
      PS Here's a favourite of mine by a Doctor of Philosophy (may he R.I.P.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ-hbpWlXNQ

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  4. Paul Richards

    integral operating system

    Appreciate all three articles.
    David Hodgkinson wrote; "The optimist is comforted by humanity’s ability to come up with solutions." This might be true, but is this realistic?
    Our dilemma is a global culture dominated by entities without the DNA of life, but uniquely with eternal life in law, designed to limit executive and any stakeholder's liability. These transnational corporations operating on a primary premise of exponential growth and profit generally with a 12 - 60 month view. Using the…

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    1. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Hi Paul, just one thing wresting the USA military away from the control of Wall st and the Vulture Capitalists you reference.

      At the moment it appears to me that governments and global bodies are acting out of fear. An example;

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/oct/13/world-health-organisation-iraq-war-depleted-uranium

      The other thing to support your point. The Noble for economics (actually called the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.)

      http://qz.com/135075

      Why didn't they give to this guy?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Weitzman

      ...who developed this back in 2007, when it was OK to be a bit Climate Alarmist;

      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2007/09/11/201854/weitzman-economics-climate-change-catastrophe/

      Life is rich in irony.

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    2. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to greg rzesniowiecki

      Thanks for the reminder on the WHO Summary report on the congenital birth defects study in Iraq.
      In the conclusion;"The study provides no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq." Another perfect example of the IAEA whitewashing the WHO reports around nuclear energy issues. In this case the widespread deployment of Q-metal, depletalloy or D-38 more commonly known as depleted uranium.
      Anybody with a rudimentary understanding of homeostasis and irradiation…

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  5. John Newlands

    tree changer

    Several events might come from left field to slow emissions. One is that Peak Oil (i.e. limited oil supply) might drag coal demand with it. Oil is needed to move things while coal helps make them. Less oil less stuff produced. According to some e.g. Gail Tverberg this is already happening.

    In a year or two China will have to put its money where its mouth is about reducing coal use; they currently burn about half the world's coal. Prof Helm of Oxford suggest the West carbon taxes goods made…

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  6. Mark Lawson

    senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

    As I have said all along, whichever way you cut the argument - whether you buy into the IPCC's apocalyptic visions or not - with the evident failure of attempts to arrange any realistic, enforceable international agreement on emissions (one was never possible), adaptation is the only possible response. If an when climate changes occur that require adaptation, then we adapt to them.. cutting emissions without an international agreement in place is a pointless waste of money..

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    1. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Okay, I'll just say, for the record, that I'm stunned someone with a science background, and a highly placed journalist, can say stuff like "if you buy into IPCC's apocalyptic visions" and "if and when climate changes occur".

      Putting aside your - how shall I put this - Murdoch-esque POV on climate change, one that's at odds with every reality I'm aware of, can I ask an economic question?

      Wouldn't a war-footing type rejig of a national economy to switch to a low-carbon / high energy efficiency…

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    2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Mark discounts the future, so to him apocalypse in the future doesn't matter because at say a 5% per annum discount rate the future is worthless.

      Mark also thinks that climate scientists are fools, and even though there are good reasons for saying that the IPCC reports are far too conservative, he likes to paint their view as 'alarmist'.

      Of course Mark also fails to understand that adaptation is an ongoing process if we don't reduce emissions.

      How high do you build a sea wall if the ocean is just going to keep increasing? And how do you prepare for the conservative science to be found wanting if, for example, the Greenland ice sheet suddenly starts melting at a much higher than expected rate?

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    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Yep Mark's been saying this all along ... he's absolutely brill really ... way out in front ... any subject you like ... just ask ... visionary...

      Here's a list of his best and most insightful pieces posted as an editor of On-line Opinion: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/author.asp?id=4:

      Mark has an almost oracular level of prescience: My favourite from 2003: (This is actually the headline, not the lead par): "Lots of reasons why removing Saddam is good for world peace and stability…

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    4. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Against the view that we're all as good as shafted, Bjorn Lomberg has edited a collection of pieces that examine how the world is trending on a number of measures, using a common methodology.
      To be published this month it's called "How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World"

      There's a heads up over at the New Scientist site.

      It sounds like a rose colored apologia for the optimistic view that there's nothing the human race can't overcome. Climate change? Pah! A mere bagatelle. Species extinction? No worries, agriculture will continue to become more productive, and richer countries will reforest denuded areas.

      I'll be interested to read it when it comes out, but maybe it's going to be just more obfuscation.

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    5. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Sebastian Poeckes

      It's always a challenge working out how much something costs 'us' ... big place this, and the costs are never distributed fairly or calculated easily. But heck statistics never lie ....specially economicish sort of stats...

      But how does one calculate the costs - say the economic cost of NY or Sydney traffic congestion versus the deaths of a few hundred Indian peasants. Biodiversity is even harder ... what's that last leadbeaters possum, really worth? Twice as much as the second last one I guess.

      But really we all no that those 'other things' biodiversity, Indian peasants ... aren't worth nearly as much as us ... if they're worth anything at all.

      I like all my problems nice and small so I can count them.

      Here's the NS piece: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029380.200-is-the-world-getting-better-or-worse.html#.UlumvRDzzIV

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    6. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      What's with the Murdoch obsession? I thought Rupert was a true believer?

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    7. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Ben - you missed the point of what I was saying entirely, and you might have missed the point of the article. You are proposing direct action, and the free spending of bucket-loads of other people's money when the result will be virtually no effect on emissions, as there is no international agreement.. This is clearly irrational. You say climate change is already happening. I want argue. but is it climate change that any ground need to adjust to, and should they be helped in any way? Asking and answering those simple questions calmly will go a long way towards a solution..

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    8. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MWH - we've been over this ground. The problem is that you're still dealing with scenarios taken from models that are not working very well so far. You may recall that the latest report admitted that temperatures have done nothing for more than a decade.. the story now is that the heat is going into the oceans. The rate of increase in sea levels has not changed since they started taking satellite readings 20 years ago.. you need to produce an acceleration in the sea level increase and, while you're on the job, an increase in temperatures. .. but the article itself says its already too late, so adaption is the only course. Reducing emissions without an international agreement is simply irrational..

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    9. Georgina Byrne
      Georgina Byrne is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer at Farming

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Looks good to me Ben....the bleeding obvious really...if only more goodwill could prevail! Funny that people do seem to behave more cooperatively in wartime...well that's the story anyway...if only this could somehow be seen as a crisis...in the way the poor benighted boat people have been portrayed...probably wouldn't cost much more either.

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    10. Georgina Byrne
      Georgina Byrne is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer at Farming

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Solutions need to be nice and small too...building that dam wall with one basket of rocks each...if only the world's military budgets could be redirected....or the sports ones...imagine if the cost of the World Cup and the Olympics could be redirected to sustainable infrastructure in Brazil! "Every little helps, as the old woman said when she widdled in the sea"...that's what my own granny used to tell me anyway...I refuse to believe otherwise...collective will must somehow be marshalled for the task of turning this disaster around..meanwhile everyone still must do his or her own private bit.

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    11. Murray Holdom

      Student

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      "cutting emissions without an international agreement in place is a pointless waste of money"

      Per election cycle - yes
      To achieve notable reductions in emissions at a cost effective price - no

      If a country, lets say Australia, acted alone, our level of competitiveness would definitely decline - in the short term. Then when other countries start to act, we would have all that previous time building up R&D and meeting targets over a longer timeframe.

      Assuming business as usual, would it be…

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    12. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, you do not accept the science, therefore cannot be a part of the solution. You studiously avoid my posts and have called me an activist, as though this is something dirty. I had no seen myself as such until you mentioned it, but thank-you. Because being an activist is in fact what is needed.
      Your posts are not based on science, but obscure inconsequential intellectual acrobatics which you alone can understand. Good luck.

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    13. Jenny Goldie

      population and climate activist

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Sorry Mark but we're headed for 4 degrees warming and adaptation won't be possible. The only solution is mitigation by a rapid move away from fossil fuels. If that hurts all your fossil fuel baron friends then tough. The world is at stake.

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    14. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Interesting article Peter and when I read
      " In 1970, arch pessimist Paul Ehrlich, a population biologist at Stanford University in California, predicted that by 1999 the US population would be decimated to 22 million people living on 2400 calories a day – less than the 2560 calories the average African gets today. Economist Julian Simon, his opposite number from the optimist camp, cheerfully claimed that everything was getting better. "
      I thought Oh yeah! and you would wonder if Paul Erlich is…

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    15. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Georgina Byrne

      " Funny that people do seem to behave more cooperatively in wartime. "
      Georgina, we are as a country of vastly different stock to what we were in WW1 and WW2 and so how all our citizens might behave depending on who was involved on what sides in a major conflict could be questionable, perhaps a heap of detention and offshore processing centres needed to be used as internment camps.
      That would be a significant cost just as boat people are.

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    16. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      My first post was advising people not to feed the trolls and, because I hadn't heard your name before, I took you at face value - assuming a senior role at a leading financial newspaper would give you solid insight into the basics of economics. Boy, was I wrong.

      It's you, Mark, who didn't read my comment. I spend my own money and I'm ready to join the rest of our nation to sacrifice for a better future for the kids. Your responses (and, as I now see, your opinion pieces in AFR) are entirely…

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    17. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Mark Lawson is a noted Climate Denier and Contrarian

      "Your responses (and, as I now see, your opinion pieces in AFR) are entirely negative, innaccurate, misleading, and contribute nothing to the real conversation except to steer it onto the rocks. "

      Your observations are accurate, just note that this is not accidental by Mark, he intentionally spreads misinformation in attempts to undermine any talk or action on limiting fossil fuel use

      not sure if he is paid or if he just does it as a hobby but either way it is a pretty disgusting thing for any individual to be doing, essentially he makes a habbit of lying to children

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    18. Hugh McColl

      Geographer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      ". . when climate changes occur that require adaptation, then we adapt to them. ." I wonder how we should adapt when a major tropical city like Townsville is blown over by a direct hit from a big cyclone AND THEN inundated and flooded by a storm surge of two or three metres? In a few years it will be nearly impossible to insure domestic dwellings on the Great Barrier Reef coast - at any price. Even if there is no increase in the occurrence of cyclones there is already irrefutable evidence that…

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    19. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mr Lawson, I agree with you that attempts at international agreement are a waste of time - photo opportunities for diplomats and poseurs only.

      However, the ideology expressed in this article with which I take most exception is "Individual action doesn’t and won’t matter": without putting to fine a point on it, what a load of fatuous nonsense.

      Individual action (ie consumer choice to replace fossil fuel-using technology and equipment with alternative technology is the big driver of profit-seeking…

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    20. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      "You may recall that the latest report admitted that temperatures have done nothing for more than a decade."

      If you're talking about the last 15 years then you're not telling the truth. The report said the slowdown was not significant, as in, not statistically significant.

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    21. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Without getting bogged down with Mark Lawson in useless ping pong RE ".. the story now is that the heat is going into the oceans. ..." Bzzzzzzzzt, factually untrue ... the IPCC has ALWAYS SAID THAT 90% +/- OF THE HEAT WAS GOING INTO THE OCEAN. It's called Physics meeting Climate Science. Never let the truth get in the way of good "story" right? <smile>

      RE "Reducing emissions without an international agreement is simply irrational.." only if ones reason for being is pure Economics as if nothing else matters in Life. Truth is NOT Reducing emissions is simply irrational. Period. But that is exactly what Humanity has not done despite 30 years of warnings thus far. But yes, it is already too late. Thanks to people like you Mark Lawson. Good job, I hope Rupert gives you an award or something for first class Journalism ... a gold watch perhaps?

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    22. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Michael Shand

      He is a paid TROLL period - explanations of why and how to spot one TC 13 October 2013
      Astroturfing the climate wars: five ways to spot a troll
      https://theconversation.com/astroturfing-the-climate-wars-five-ways-to-spot-a-troll-19011
      Never feed the Trolls ... Sophistry has been an art form since before the Greeks. Mark is a High priest in that Black Art. Nothing personal Mark, you might even believe you are always right.

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    23. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Thanks for the response, I haven't seen any evidence that he is paid but if he is not then he is a very sad individual indeed.

      I don't think engaging with these people in honest conversation is worth anything but I do think calling them out on their BS is worthwhile.

      IE. if mark states that there has been no increase in temp in 15 years

      there is not point argueing with him about it nor providing evidence but what you can do is call it what it is

      ie. "Mark, you are clearly and demonstratably lying, the evidence is there if you wanted to check, your dishonesty knows no bounds

      there has to be social consequence for lying

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    24. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      "... the latest report admitted that temperatures have done nothing for more than a decade ...".

      Well, the reason for that is fairly straightforward: accelerated ice melting, in which "sensible" heat indicated by temperature increase is converted to latent heat (phase change: the energy required to melt ice).

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    25. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael RE " I haven't seen any evidence that he is paid "
      What would you can this? http://www.afr.com/tags_authors?aut=Mark%20Lawson
      A Charity? Not that I have anything against someone making an honourable living publishing in the liteary arts, including fiction. More power to him.
      IPCC report is unconvincing
      Are CDM credits the icing on the capitalist cake?
      Climate change: what all the fuss is about
      Climate scepticism – the pay’s bad, the abuse worse
      It’s time to blow away green energy…

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    26. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Georgina Byrne

      'Cooperate in wartime.... well that's the story anyway.' There was a dock strike in Sydney in WWIi

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    27. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      A few years back the meeja got the idea that folks would get their actual news elsewhere and would turn to the print meeja for analysis and opinion ... and so the opinion pumper was born. And of course they had to be the right (sorry Right) sort of opinion didn't they.

      So armed with a BSc Mark Lawson obviously had all the essentials necessary to be a science columnist and he was fully tooled up to launch into a campaign over the whole IPCC global warming conspiracy ... never an interview, never…

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    28. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to David Maddern

      Not to mention that the whole thing was about economic restructuring and corporate profit taking, Harriman's Bank in the USA funding Hitler through the Bank of International Settlements what ever it was called then. Established post WW1 to receive German reparations.

      Pig Iron Bob and the Japanese.. many instances where the corporates forgot their flags and fell back to the worship of Mammon over the team effort.

      After all the Australian Crown, that is the Royal Family were Nazi sympathetic…

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    29. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Thanks Sean, I stand corrected. I had always thought he was just a sad old man but it looks increasingly like it is part of his vocation to go around spreading misinformation

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    30. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      I have taken a copy of your comment for future refference, really a fantastic resource you put together there.

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    31. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Good idea, for as soon as he stumbles upon it, I can imagine the 'rage against the machine' that will occur at TC. I was only just thinking that very same thing myself, and have popped in here to get my own copy of it too. Great minds think alike hey? TY, Sean

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    32. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Given my journalistic research thus far, I believe it possible he may have more than merely a close friendship or similar with Bob Carter. 'climate scientist qld' I am sure you have heard of him. Birds of a feather ........ however I do not know for certain, so I cannot say, yet. I make no personal judgments of course. Nor would I ever doubt his noble intentions to get to the truth of things, being a highly skilled and experienced Senior Journalist as he is. The material I posted is public domain and people may draw their own opinions about what those facts mean to them without my input.

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    33. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      But the economist talking in the link posted above states that the 2 degrees is plucked from the air and the real chance of mitigating an around 4 degree change if the models are right are near zilch. We will have to adapt regardless of what we do.

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    34. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Matt Stevens

      We rich Australians might be able to 'adapt' Matt but I'd be wondering what we'll be adapting to... not least of which is millions of displaced people globally and a massive re-organisation of the global economy. And that is if people and governments behave in a decent and rational manner.

      In other words, short of an outbreak of world peace and humanity I reckon 'adaption' is going to be a very very bumpy ride.

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    35. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I disagree with the doom and gloom view and have enormous belief in what humans can do as a species, though I do worry about the ocean a little more than the other doom and gloom predictions.

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    36. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Michael Shand

      @ MichaelS addendum quoting Mark S. Lawson 28 June 2010 "A paper recently released by the SPPI estimates that in the 20 years up to end of fiscal 2009 the US Government spent more than $US79 billion on climate change research and technology. This included $US32 billion for climate research and another $US36 billion for development of climate related technologies. (Climate Money, Joanne Nova, SPPI July 2009.)" and "The reality is that sceptics remain mostly unpaid part timers but those dedicated volunteers have managed to score impressive victories against full-time climate scientists backed by massive resources. Having the truth on your side does help, sometimes." Ref: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=10604

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    37. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Sean...

      You are reading Lawson's columns???? This is a devotion to truth beyond reason and rational risk... desist lest you hurt yourself.

      It's amazing isn't it that Fairfax's flagship would allow itself to be colonised by an astroturfer and pay him into the bargain... even designating himself a both "senior" and a "journalist". Direct uncritical reports from the lunatic fringe frontline.

      Makes Blot look like Walter Cronkite.

      And then he turns up here - like he has something to contribute to rational discussion. I wonder why.

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    38. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Sean Arundell

      Going cold on climate change - 2 March 2007 by Mark S Lawson "If human activities are changing the climate then something should be done, no matter what the degree of change." and "There is no previous, recent period where warming has continued for as long as it has up to now (as far as anyone knows). Ergo, human activity might (90 per cent likely) be to blame, and never mind the battalions of IPCC scientists meeting in endless committees." and "This issue has reached the stage of theatre." http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=5559&page=0

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  7. Mark Pollock

    Analyst

    It's nice to see that the focus is slowly turning to adaption to deal with any possible problems with a slightly warming world. That might avoid some of the huge waste of resources that the previous total mitigation strategies involved.

    Rather than shutting down the western economy to prevent the, 10, 20, 30 or up to 70 metres sea level rises that some alarmists have predicted, we can take it a bit easy and have a look at what the sea is actually doing.

    The supposed 50 million climate refugees won't all turn up at the same time so we can prepare a more gradual solution - if required.

    It's not so nice to see the millenarianist focus turn its baleful gaze back on to the people pollution problem. Too many of the wrong worth of people is so frequently the answer to a green problem. We've been down that path before and it didn't end happily.

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Evidence for the world only "slightly warming"??

      And adaptation is necessary even if we were to reduce our emissions to zero tomorrow because significant further warming is already locked in.

      And Mark has been here long enough to know perfectly well that if the IPCC predictions are correct that it will be far too late to act "once problems arise".

      So Mark is just trolling and ignorning the possibility that the IPCC is correct.

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    2. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      We’ve had, what, 0.8 degrees centigrade since the 1850s? That’s what I call slight. Until the IPCC, and the huge number of CRUs and think- tanks and Climate Commissions, and millenarianist preachers of doom and gloom start getting a few runs on the board in the predictions department we would be wise to be sceptical.

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Dude 0.8 C = hypothermia or hyperthermia

      0.04 or 400ppm = drunk unable to drive

      sure, if you don't use your brain 0.8 C change seems like nothing

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    4. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      "Possible problems with a slightly warming world" - come on, Mister Pollock. Why not be upfront and state you don't believe in climate change? Why the weasel words?

      "Huge waste of resources...mitigation strategies involved" - We all know there is, effectively very little in the way of mitigation ongoing globally there so there is no "huge". Q: How is mitigating climate change a 'waste'? A: If you don't believe in climate change, any action is a waste. So it's just another weasel way of…

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    5. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      You’re making stuff up. It might suit your rant to state that “I don’t believe in climate change”. I said quite clearly that we have had, apparently, 0.8 degrees (of warming) since about 1850. I also said that this was “slight.
      Since you ask, yes, you are most certainly wrong. The national/global strategy you advocate would waste even more untold billions that could be put to more productive use.
      I agree that many activists are “loudly yelling” that the IPCC is too conservative. However, yelling…

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    6. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      ", 0.8 degrees (of warming) since about 1850. I also said that this was “slight. "

      Dude 0.8 C = hypothermia or hyperthermia

      0.04 or 400ppm = drunk unable to drive

      sure, if you don't use your brain 0.8 C change seems like nothing

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    7. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Michael Shand

      What a funny old fellow is Humphrey, he reasons in a funny way. I haven't seen any one burn up yet. Maybe you are to young for that one, but it may give the 40 plus people a giggle

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    8. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to Michael Shand

      'Yes Minister' ? Nigel Hawthorne bless his soul played the minister's department secretary. The archetypal bureaucrat.

      The Public Inquiry 1:38 min.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FRVvjGL2C0

      On the question of public inquiries and climate change, I've found my way to philosophy at 'the Conversation'; The philosophies and their contribution to the ethics of Climate Change? The article is about the right's attack through defunding the ARC;

      https://theconversation.com/a-farewell-to-arts-on-philosophy-arc-funding-and-waste-19064

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  8. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    "The optimist is comforted by humanity’s ability to come up with solutions. "
    Unfortunately we're not only a long way from coming up with solutions but we have a general life pyschology of the masses that there is always something better to be had and if a politician wants to be re-elected they had better do their utmost for more development for more to see a lot more of what is supposedly better.
    Just on news tonight, there was an article about how the Queensland government was to be considering…

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  9. Matt Stevens

    Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

    Can all the individualists please move to America.

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    1. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to Matt Stevens

      This is not the solution.

      All you do is further empower the nay saying lobby.

      The problem with the USA is that same cult of individualism empowered with the surplus capital of the globe sloshing around in their back pocket seeking .01% margin, and throwing $1billion every 4 years to some poly who wants to don the emperor's regalia for a term or two.

      All short termism.

      Need to adopt long sight in all this.

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  10. ted rees

    Retired Read-Write Engineer at disk memory

    What a mostly crumby piece. It starts off by saying individuals don't matter. Well, I matter to myself, and am quite sick and depressed to recently discover just how bad the climate problem is, and to know that I have been a big part of the problem. I say take the problem percapita to discover your own fair share of guilt. Then, make corrections for your own piece of mind. Fxxx the rest of your opinions about what I should do!
    Unfortunately, corrective action comes at a price. But an electric car. Install solar panels, Re-build my house to make it not require fossil fuels. Stop eating big animal meat. Go plant a bunch of trees. Try to educate the dumb masses as to the seriousness of the problem.
    Without that self action, how can I protest and demand that others do something that I am not willing to do myself?
    As for the population problem, that is a whole different issue, and shouldn't be mixed in with climate action. At the rate we are going, 9/10 will soon be dead.

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    1. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to ted rees

      Actually Ted, no, population growth is not a separate problem from climate issues. All our current challenges are linked.

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    2. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to ted rees

      Don't hurry to get an electric car if it is powered by coal fired electricity. And you've created demand for a high value manufacture with tonnes of embedded carbon based energy.

      If you rebuild your house you've committed the same sin again. The trees help. As to the dumb masses??

      Population is only a problem when viewed as consumers rather than creators. These can be educated in the art of growing food, and cooperatively filling their needs. This is done in large part by the billions that…

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    3. ted rees

      Retired Read-Write Engineer at disk memory

      In reply to Sebastian Poeckes

      Certainly population is a problem. But linking all problems together is just an excuse to do nothing. At least with climate change, I can take immediate action without waiting for governments to act. What the heck do you expect to do with population? Become a Taliban bomber?

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    4. ted rees

      Retired Read-Write Engineer at disk memory

      In reply to greg rzesniowiecki

      Correct about the coal fired electricity. The real goal is to generate solar power to charge your short range battery car.
      If your house is consuming a lot of energy, a bit of insulation can usually greatly reduce it. From a materials standpoint, the insulation can pay for itself in a year or two. Can't say the same for the labor.
      Even people as creators require a certain environmental footprint. The earth has limits.
      I agree with all your other comments.

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    5. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to ted rees

      Hi Ted,

      I'm not an engineer nor an economist. I'm getting introduced to the concept of EROI energy/economic return on investment.

      In your situation a hybrid would make more sense. But again the large embedded energy cost in the manufacture and infrastructure.

      I've got the problem myself. I live 17kms from the centre of my local civilization out in the bush. I run old vehicles and infrequently. I often choof in on the bike. I'm thinking of throwing the cars away altogether, but that would…

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to ted rees

      "What the heck do you expect to do with population?"

      Well, what I'd do is educate and emancipate women the world over, and provide them with adequate health care. In all societies where these conditions prevail, birth rates decline - often enough, to less than "replacement rates" as in Japan and Western Europe, and even in Australia whenever we free ourselves from Liberal Party social engineering.

      Ironically, the Taliban actively oppose all these measures - as do Tea Party Republicans.

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  11. Mike Brisco

    Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

    "Much has been made of individual action as a means of dealing with the climate change problem, but what one does personally doesn’t on its own make the least bit of difference.

    Put another way, the things individuals do in their daily lives, taken by themselves, have no effect. The planet doesn’t notice."

    I disagree.

    Individual action is important to a person's conscience, their sense that they are a person of integrity. . It matters a lot to that person. And as society - we need good…

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mike Brisco

      Mike, absolutely agree with everything your saying. But if we want to actually achieve measurable outcomes, and we only have a decade to collectively alter the worst aspects of the course we're taking, then government and business are the larger problem, and we are indeed fucked. We have to, in an orderly manner, all become activists to make government and business alter our direction. This is our next personal responsibility, (as I said above to David). I am an optimist, and now lobby the media, government, and organisations, because I believe that if I can change my behaviour, I can also collectively with others change the behaviour of government. Particularly when the incoming prime minister says, "We're now open for business". This sentiment is based on "the future that isn't what it used to be", and does not reflect the direction we should be moving towards. By my thinking we now have no choice.

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    2. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mike Brisco

      The problem is that corporate lobbyists traditionally use promoting individual action as a means to avoid collective action.

      The corporate lobbyists 3 point plan
      1. Avoid any restrictions on corporate activity.
      2. If 1 fails, promote a voluntary code of conduct. "Greenwash" products to convince public that product is environmentally friendly e.g. the "clean & natural" ads that are currently being run by the gas industry.
      3. Under no circumstances, allow mandated action restricting corporate…

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    3. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Good points Mike, thanks for the reminder. A good example is Coles stating all over their vegetable stands "Growing Australia's future", (or something like this). I dutifully fill out the complaints forms, write that this is "bullshit" and suggest why don't they have a local produce section and start to pay properly for produce. Also that the statements about hormone free meat are nonsense and antibiotic free meat is a greater issue. I don't buy this produce and tell them so. Do you think this next step (activism) is all we have left?

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    4. greg rzesniowiecki

      being and doing

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Activism is key to generating change. It is disruptive and applied at critical points in decision chains can effect outcomes.

      Activism coupled with knowledge is gold.

      The more I study the dilemma yes the bigger the problem appears, but also it allows one to avoid bullshit and paths that are dead-ends.

      Look into the discipline of Transition Engineering;

      http://sustainablecities.org.nz/members/susan-krumdieck/

      There are others. I listen to a presentation by Susan in August which opened my mind to thinking in terms of the engineering perspective. The other part of this is the requirement for engineers to factor safety into their work. As they/we approach transition infrastructure projects the longer term safety of the biosphere will increasingly be a consideration.

      In reality engineers working in energy mining are ignoring their professional code of ethics.

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    5. ted rees

      Retired Read-Write Engineer at disk memory

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      If all individuals who see the environmental problem take corrective action, it is significant. But, if all individuals who see the environmental problem become activists, the result is uncertain. The enemy can and has caused delay. The enemy has different values. I think concerned people need to take both approaches:individual corrective action, AND activism.

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    6. ted rees

      Retired Read-Write Engineer at disk memory

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      OK Mike, I see your point. Individual action without collective action will not be sufficient. But I see that activism without result is also pointless. I advocate both, individual action, and activism. In some cases, individual action does not come as a sacrifice. For instance solar PV is cost effective against grid electricity. Individual labor and home improvement is cost effective. In some cases, electric cars are almost cost effective - particularly if the government kicks in a rebate.

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  12. Paul Prociv

    ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

    Well, what Mike Brisco says can’t be disputed – the most positive effect of individual action is that it makes that individual feel good, for many reasons. However, in the global context, it is minuscule; even lowering your own carbon footprint to zero will not make a scrap of difference, if the world’s population keeps growing. I like to think of it in Ost-pops (Australian populations, just like Syd-arbs, or Sydney Harbour volumes); the world gains 3-4 Ost-pops each year, so even if all of us…

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    1. ted rees

      Retired Read-Write Engineer at disk memory

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      If I listen to you advice, I might as well burn myself in protest. You offer nothing positive.

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  13. Warwick Rowell

    Permaculturist at Rowell Consulting Services

    Paul Richards: You are correct about one of the issues being the everlasting life of corporations, and how this cascades to their policies.
    Ben Marshall: You are right about a war-footing being needed, but you can't fight a war well without experienced individuals!
    Murray Holdom: You are right about the difficulty of say, Australia, going it alone on, say, $50/tonne of CO2 and bans. One mechanism to protect our position would be import tariffs on any good from nations that aren't paying a similar…

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Warwick Rowell

      Heck no! What's this about corporations being eternal??? The very first thing that Tepco did on realising that Fukushima was going pear-shaped was to declare themselves bankrupt and ask for public handouts to cover the costs. Last time I looked those costs were 5% of total GDP and rising every day ... and that didn't include the damage to lives and liveliehoods.

      It was the least they could do... precisely.

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    2. Henriette Vanechop
      Henriette Vanechop is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      And what about the "culture" - the Arts ? All destroyed too ? Music, Mozart, Beethoven, Grieg, whichever you fancy.. what a waste. Depriving future generations of the best aspects of humanity.

      If families, tribes, nations can unite when faced by danger, can't we unite to try to reverse likely annihilation ?

      Acidification of the oceans may be far more of a threat than rising of the level.. does not water increase in volume as it freezes ? so if the immersed part of icebergs melts won't it compensate, reducing in volume ? But what about the fauna ?

      Yes, Paul Erlich, Barry Jones.. Do they now have any suggestions ? (other than telling us to f--k off)

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    3. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Henriette Vanechop

      Henriette Vanechop wrote; "... so if the immersed part of icebergs melts won't it compensate, reducing in volume ?" To easy a solution unfortunately. The earths gravity just pulls the melt water to the equator. As frozen H2o has a disproportionate volume at the poles. Ice melt is just one area where there is a great misunderstanding about climate change.
      ____________________________________________________________________________
      This is one of the most readable articles on the science of melt water distribution.
      http://harvardmagazine.com/2010/05/gravity-of-glacial-melt
      It EIS is one very important part of the ice science;
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_Ice_Survey

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    4. Jenny Goldie

      population and climate activist

      In reply to Henriette Vanechop

      I don't think either Paul Ehrlich or Barry Jones would tell anyone to f--k off. Paul is in Australia at the moment and spoke at the Fenner Conference on Thursday last week (that addressed resources and climate change as well as population) in which he reiterated that it's not just population, but consumption - each is a side a rectangle. They are multipliers of one another in determining environmental impact. Solutions? Ending population growth and trying to get it down to safe levels (1-2 billion) before nature does it for us. He's in Sydney today addressing a sustainability seminar. He'll be in Adelaide on Friday for World Vasectomy Day. Vasectomies are an excellent means of ending population growth as long as they're undertaken voluntarily, but that is assumed these days. No-one is going back to the bad old days of India 30-40 years ago.

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    5. Henriette Vanechop
      Henriette Vanechop is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Jenny Goldie

      Sorry, sincere apologies, the word f--k appeared so much lately, it seems to have got to me.. P Ehrlich, Barry Jones, John Brown, Geoffrey Blainey, the first greennies, . it feels so revolting that governments did not listen to them, i can't help feeling so dismayed and angry .. At least now there is some awareness, wĥich should lead to action

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  14. Warwick Rowell

    Permaculturist at Rowell Consulting Services

    Re corporations being eternal: Only if they want to be! A very good book on US corporate law explores the issue of corporations having no end point, but demanding the same rights as individuals.. Can't recall title at the moment.

    Michael Shand: From the number of your posts this morning, and their tone, you seem to be very angry: "People recommending individual action are lying dishonest frauds and know it.." I am management consultant, and organisational psychologist, and decided long ago…

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  15. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Most of this article isn't too bad, but the ideology with which I take most exception is "Individual action doesn’t and won’t matter": without putting to fine a point on it, what a load of fatuous nonsense.

    Individual action (ie consumer choice to replace fossil fuel-using technology and equipment with alternative technology is the big driver of profit-seeking innovation).

    Let's not forget that corporate decision-makers are each individuals, each possibly with a family and hence concerned…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to David Arthur

      You may advised to be more circumspect about using the term "fatuous nonsense" when your solution involves a magic tax. There are a lot of detailed critiques of individual action only, of solely relying on a carbon price whether an ETS style or a revenue neutral style. Even Gillard and the Greens were not arguing that the Australian ETS was the only step required to combat climate change. Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre in the UK has written quite a lot recently. Perhaps try reading a bit more widely.

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Thanks for that, Mr Hansen. Upon return to this page, I searched on the word "fatuous", and it took me straight to my own comments. How refreshing.

      One question: why does this critique of my prosetylising for fossil fuel consumption taxation (FFCT) go straight to discussing emission trading? While both put a "price on carbon", they are completely different in their conception, and in their effect on a liberal innovating economy.

      As well as reading James Hansen's (are you related?) "Dreams…

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    3. ted rees

      Retired Read-Write Engineer at disk memory

      In reply to David Arthur

      Exactly! If all fossil fuel consumption was forced to pay for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, the energy playing field would be level. Renewable energy would win by a long shot.

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to ted rees

      Thanks for the endorsement Mr Rees.

      Mind you, I'm not actually proposing that fossil fuel use be made to pay for CO2 removal from the atmosphere: I'm simply proposing that we replace some of our nations' taxes with consumption taxes on fossil fuel use, so as to discourage adding more CO2 to the atmosphere; I don't think there' enough land to plant enough trees to remove as much CO2 from the atmosphere as would be ideal (ie get atmospheric CO2 back to <350 ppm).

      Of course, this requires that nations actually need to raise taxes - but then, I've never held the ideas Grover "zero-taxes" Norquist in any sort of regard.

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  16. Graeme Alastair McLeay

    Retired anaesthetist

    We are not on "the brink" of the Sixth Mass Extinction, it is already well underway. Most species will not have time to "adapt" to the dangerous path we on. Copenhagen will be looked back on as the greatest political failure of this century. Nothing less than a concerted and urgent global action is required and that does not absolve us of individual responsibility to limit our emissions.

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to ted rees

      Well, the time to have started acting is past, but that's no reason to not start acting whenever we can.

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  17. Chris Gillham

    Journalist

    "Ethics also underpin any market-based approach to population control – how about “tradeable procreation credits”, for example, for buying and selling the right to have children? Market-based mechanisms – emissions trading schemes – are in vogue as a means to address the climate change problem. Why not use such mechanisms to address the population problem?"

    Are Australian academics incapable of seeing solutions to perceived problems that don't involve government regulation of society and individuals…

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  18. Dianna Arthur

    Environmentalist

    @Michael Kirk

    While I agree that individual efforts are important, to transition to a less polluted world, we need the (un)holy trinity of combined actions of individuals, governments and business.

    Arguing that action be taken by only a part of the required unity is well, as limited as thinking an individual can change the business practice of a Monsanto or the ideology of North Korea.

    Fact is, we are all in this together, grass roots action is worthy but not the entire solution.

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  19. David Maddern

    logged in via Facebook

    A realistic article to be congratulated.
    I am working on a plan that should bear good fruit in this context.

    I have provisionally patented a gravity machine to make Green Energy, to just beetle away in the corner of the shed. It works on dynamically changing the torque to the up arm in circular motion, and I am at the moment looking for somewhere to build the prototype. I plan to sell that to the place that puts me up at a great discount to the eventual commercial model.

    I will make a video…

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    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to David Maddern

      Mate, it's an excellent idea and I wish I had thought of it first. It's much better than geothermal, and they got squllions in grants. I think one of our ex climate commissars even got a gig as a director of one of the lavishly funded hot rocks eternal motion outfits.

      You will need to get in quick to the trough as the current mob might be turning off the taps soon.

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  20. Paul Price

    Professional

    This kind of article concerns me deeply because it delivers a series of excuses for those with wealth to escape responsibility for the choices needed to mitigate the level of climate disruption that future generations and the poor will face due to global warming. By delivering this message the author subverts action and implicitly supports the very business-as-usual economy when we now know clearly from the science that a fossil fuelled civilisation is untenable for a sustainable world economy and…

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    1. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Paul Price

      "The UN forecast is that population will level out at 10 billion and that appears to be a high estimate, most modelling predicts it may only get to about 8 or 9 billion from the 7 now."

      I'd like to know what that modeling is because the world is well on the way to 8 billion in 2024: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

      Only another 814 million to go with a current growth rate in excess of 80 million per year.

      "many references are available."

      Yes. I checked one.

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  21. Graham Palmer

    Retired

    To support the projected population, whatever it turns out to be, will turn the planet into one large feed lot. What would be the point of being here? There is no will to change and corporations and governments will be unable to make the decisions to avoid catastrophic climate change for fear of loosing their wealth, their positions and ultimately their power. As others have said we are well and truly fucked!

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  22. Paul Reader

    independent researcher

    Drawing on UCLA’s Laurence Smith's question: 'What if you could play God and do the ethically fair thing by converting the entire developing world’s level of material consumption to that now carried out by North Americans, Western Europeans, Japanese, and Australians today?' and asking Would you? is absolutely the wrong question. It needs turning around by asking if you could convert North Americans and Australians material consumption to that of the developing world -would you? Then the answer…

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  23. Alex Cannara

    logged in via LinkedIn

    "Adaptation" is a Fool's Wager. And quoting anyone at Microsoft for wisdom is downright silly.

    Why again, yet again, do we not get a description of the unadaptable realities, like ocean acidification, approaching relentlessly and more quickly that n uncomfortable heat or modest sea rise?

    What "adaptation" is suggested when ocean species go extinct before 2050, denying humans ~20% of their food protein and shutting down the natural carbon cycle that we've overwhelmed by a factor of ~1500?
    We needed to deploy 1GW of clean power each week from 1980 on, just in the US. Oops.

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