Sunday Reads #5: All things climate, environmental and politics

Don’t like the budget? Your options aren’t limited to voting

While some in the government are calling the actions of many disappointed Australians “socialism” in truth, civil disobedience and peaceful protesting is an essential element to a fully functional democracy. Of course, the opposition, when they have no genuine rebuke, will resort to name calling, so let them have that, at least.

Pyne short on maths when it comes to ‘prestige’ degrees

For those who care about the quality of the minds of future Australian who will be in charge when we are old and needing assistance (hoping that we haven’t made them selfish and apathetic). The best point of this article, for me is the simple point; if university graduates are likely to earn 75% more, why not add a tax to those currently earning 75% more to support those who follow them?

It avoids the debilitating debt the current proposal will create and it will avoid further insult to the disadvantaged – those who may not make the supposed 75% more, women who take time off to have children, people who suffer an unforeseeable health problem down the track when they have already completed university and are unable to work in the same fashion, etc.

Climate change by any name is economics

A little shameless self promotion…

Why ethics won’t help cut emissions

An excellent article to support a carbon price

Rules to cut carbon emissions also reduce harmful air pollution

What’s more, CO2 isn’t the only thing that comes out of exhaust pipes. Reducing carbon emissions reduces all other relating chemicals and particulates. A decarbonised world makes for healthier lungs!

Carter and de Lange’s GWPF sea level report plagiarises their own heartland funded NIPCC propaganda

This made me laugh… But we must give them a little room. After all, they have such a small resource base to work from that this type of this is inevitable.

‘Damage already done’: Climate Change Authority staff quit amid uncertainty

My initial thought in reading this was, “Well, I’ll happily apply for a role!” (noting, obviously, my skills sets are probably not a great match)

I’ve written numerous articles over the years about the how poorly the Australian Green Sector has established itself. Since 2009 it went downhill for some time and I had a sense last year that again momentum was indeed rebuilding.

Nowadays, I’m careful of whether or not I include the words “climate change” or certain publications in an application. We all have mouths to feed and lives to live. The cuts to research and anything relating to climate by our current government is an effective tool to undermine the confidence of the sector.

Global survey: Climate change now a mainstream part of city planning

And despite the strange behaviours in Australia, the world is building cities to that buffer them from future climate change… it feels a million miles away from sprawling urban Australia.

Abbott pedals against the global climate awakening

And there you have it.

“Climate Always Changes…”

This is by far the most common argument I hear in my daily life from those within my social circle. It is, in essence, an attempt to establish reasonable doubt rather than refute the science. It fails miserably.

Here is my reply.

You check your general savings account and notice a large drop in the balance from what you know should be in there.

You go into a branch of your bank to question them about it. The teller looks at your account and confidently concludes, “Your account balance always changes.”

Is that the end of the story? Would you accept, on any level, that this reply answers your concern?

Why I will not be watching Russell Crow in “Noah”

Sorry to be off topic…

Yes, I am one of those annoying people who picks movies to pieces. Of course, when the movie is fantasy, I am capable of suspending disbelief to enjoy the movie. In the case of the new movie, Noah, however, that isn’t an option.

The reason being that there are many people who still take the fable as truth – some going as far as to waste their life away on a vain effort to find evidence.

How can I be so sure that the story of Noah arises in the Middle Eastern dreamtime? Because of engineering. Because of biology. Because of earth.

Of engineering.

Engineering is not my field, so I’ll leave it up to others. In short, a wooden boat of such a size defies the known properties of the material and cannot be replicated by engineers.

Of biology

Now into a territory I’m more familiar with, I will need to break this down to many points to show just how idiotic the idea is.


No boat could be big enough.

It would have appeared otherwise to the all-too-human author at the time, with their limited experience of life that existed at the time of writing in other corners of the world and of all the life that had ever previously existed.

Even assuming all the dinosaurs and mega-fauna forgot to buy their tickets and assuming genus, or even families were the “kinds” described, the line would still have been too long (eg. ranging from the many millions with species down to the many thousands of families – which in turn would require evolution along the lines of Pokemon, that is within a generation or two, to account for all the species today).

Worse than that; the floods would have either been saline or fresh, meaning that the SS Noah would have needed aquariums for all species of the opposing environment.

And this point is a catch-22; if we grant that the waters were saline – in turn leaving the massive per-historic marine reptiles and modern marine mammals off of the ark – well, then this boat needed to carry a year’s worth of water for all those on board.

Fresh flood waters demands tanks big enough for the likes of blue whales and their buddies.


The problem of thirst isn’t the end of the problem with resources.

We must also consider what we could forgive the writer for not knowing; trophic levels. That is to say, animals eat each other.

To support just the big carnivorous cats and dogs over this period, we couldn’t have just two of every species – but rather whole herds of prey species. These sacrificial herds were never mentioned.

This in turn magnifies the problem of feed for the herbivores, as the prey herds will need vast amounts of food and water to maintain the meat-eaters.

Assuming that the floods were fresh, thereby saving Noah the issue of carrying the water, he would still need to catch hundreds of tons of krill prior to the flood (because the freshening water would have killed them off) to feed however many baleen whales he needed to carry to “evolve” into the species we see today.

As soon as you factor in food, the already absurdly small boat looks even worse.


Again, we could forgive an author a few millennia ago for being ignorant, in this case, of limits to viable population size.

Sure, a few breeding pairs of a given rodent might take off in a new environment, but that’s not guaranteed. We only need to look at how many times rabbits needed to be introduced to Australia before they exploded.

When you are talking about a species that may only breed once a year or even longer, the chances that a single breeding pair would suffice to save to species is effectively shot.

And I’ve ignored the problem of inbreeding here, which would have played havoc with subsequent generations.

Having a singly breeding pair of every known species (or genus or family), Noah would have been lucky to have any persist and flourish.

And now the real kicker

To sprinkle salt into the wound, the year on the ark in itself means everything.

Not only would he need to carry all the animals and all the food (and potentially water) to survive the year, but also for much longer. Worse than this, he would have needed to carry tons of seed.

No seedbank (ie. seeds in the top soil) would remain viable for such a period under the flood. Apart from the osmotic pressure – or high salinity – caused by the flood itself and apart from the silt collection from a year of turbulent water movement (remembering that this silt, the creation would tell us, led to all the fossils), the seeds would simply expire.

So, Noah would have needed herds of prey to release after the flood and enough food to support these as well as the herbivore breeding pairs while he reseeded the entire global terrestrial landscape with all the plant life we see today.

None of this is mentioned and must fail the laugh test.

Of earth

This problem is one noted prior to Darwin even learning his alphabet. No-one has found a single example of a fossilised duck mingled with Triceratops.

We could take this further and state that there has never been fossilised evidence of a giant ground sloth being killed by a t-rex, of a human kill of any dinosaur or of pterosaur competing with a large eagle (noting that they share the same niche).

That’s because these species existed in different geological periods.

The flood silt didn’t conveniently cover different groups in sequence. Of everything, the fossil record is both the most damning and easiest to understand to anyone who has any actual interest in reality.

If these ancient stories are true, show me the fossils.

Back to the movie

Sure, it looks dramatic, but with so many plots holes, the story fails before it even begins. Yet, for the true believer, it would, absurdly, be cementing to their faith. This work of fiction will be watched by the faithful as though it were some documentary!

Of course, Russell won’t be shooing off any dinosaurs or else the critics would rip it to shreds.

Which brings me to the crux; there is a way out for the faithful. It is the only way out and one few who want to sound intellectual is likely to mention; magic.

“Oh, the boat would break? God held it together.”

“Oh, the boat wasn’t big enough? God made the animals shrink for the trip.”

“Oh, there wouldn’t possibly be room enough for all the food and water? God ran a meals-on-wheels service.”

“Oh, there’s a problem with salt or fresh water? God made all aquatic life temporarily salt tolerant.”

“Oh, two individuals don’t make for a viable population? God again…”

“God… God… God…”

Geeezus! Give up with the mockery of science and admit to placing faith in ancient stories over genuine certainty derived through critical analysis and get on making Adam and Eve Dino parks. If you’re willing to suspend the laws of the known universe to make your story fit reality, you are no longer talking about science – which is all about those laws. There’s nothing wrong with that, just admit it.

I don’t care. Live and let live.

If only they could admit to their warped, magically inclined reality, we could dutifully write it off and stop pretending to take it seriously.

Then, perhaps, I would allow myself to suspend disbelief and watch the epic, yet terribly scripted, movie.

The coming together of bad ideas

Just a short post for a mid-week chuckle. What do you get when you cross anti-vaccination with chemtrail crackpots? You get petition aimed at stopping an “uncovered” secret government program to mass medicate populations. I’m serious, whether or not the creator of the work is….

All we would need now is for the vaccine to be fluoride based and intentionally fanned by wind farms and the Nexus of Stupidity would be complete.

The future history of The Great, Tony Abbott: A carrot by any other name is still bad policy

Early into the Abbott government’s term, the Coalition realised that something had gone wrong. While Direct Action and the promise of cheaper electricity were enough to get the team in, scepticism on both fronts began to creep into the general population.

Concerned about public opinion and especially in keeping the public informed, members of the party began bugging journalists for interviews.

Reluctantly (as many journalists were in the middle of solitare on their Desktops) some granted them interviews.

It took a few weeks, but repetition paid off and soon an almost audible gasp of amazement spread over Australia.

Direct Action was a carrot! Of course!

The method being adopted globally and in the early stages of conception within our boarders, that is a carbon price, was nothing but a whipping stick to punish polluters. Direct Action rewarded self-motivated good behaviour.

The people finally got it and opinion of the new government rose to record breaking heights. Some, more motivated members of the public took it a step further, pledging donations to various big business if they were able to clean up their activities.

It became a national past-time, with Australian shares taking over the market.

Amazed by this phenomena, the Coalition realised just how powerful the tool they developed really was. Soon, the carrot was appearing in legislation to revolutionize everything in Australia.

Cameras were set up on every roadway. Speeding by these cameras no longer meant a fine appearing in your letter box, no. Bad drivers just missed out on the cheques that good drivers were sent annually.

So too, prisons nationally were closed for good. Good behaviour was instead rewarded by a larger tax return an naughty members of the community missed out.

Following the triumphant second election win which saw the largest swing towards a single party in history, the Coalition quickly implemented new legislation that allowed them to hand over a “carrot”, in the form of payment, to media providers that had been highly positive of the Coalition over the election period. Murdoch himself, wrote a personal letter of thanks and praise that appeared across his media empire.

Before long, the carrot was adopted as the icon for the Coalition, to massive approval from the general public.

Tony remained Prime Minister until he retired on his own accord. There were many tears shed that day, even from all the other parties (small and trivial as they had become).

In his honour, above Parliament House in place of the Australian flag, a bigger than life brass statue was erected. It sported Tony riding a giant Clydesdale, rearing, with “business” stamped on its hide. In his left hand he held a rod (not a stick), like a jousting sword, with a carrot dangling from its tip.

Sequestration, like so many other “solutions,” no silver bullet

Following my post, Carbon Sequestration; what no-one tells you, I received a couple comments from a reader, pointing out the potential of chemical sequestration, commonly referred to as enhanced weathering.

Of course, none of this was provided with case studies or research into it’s viability and the individual quickly left the conversation, having made their point.

But it’s worth reviewing, because I’m becoming increasingly aware of two camps, both very distinct, but sharing an absolutism approach to their favoured climate change mitigation strategy; the pro-nukes and the sequestration mob. Both are sure that their answer is the one and only true reply, but neither stack up.

I won’t bother here with the pro-nukes, because I’ve discussed them various times in the past.

Yes, biological sequestration is only one possibility. Even the modest targets set by the current Australian government within “direct action” represent massive effort, as my analysis showed. However, there is another, apparently low energy, form of sequestration which relies on rock chemically reacting with atmospheric CO2 to capture it.

This is know as “enhanced weathering” as it is a natural process in itself and what the fans of this want to do is speed it up. It’s euphemism for enhanced erosion. I’ll get to the numbers in just a moment, but we’re talking about billions of tonnes of material needed, to match the CO2. Who honestly believes that mining to this degree is viable, let alone desirable when we factor in the necessary impact to landscapes and aquatic environments both through the direct mining activities and resulting compounds as residue from this process, which will hit environments (unless we go to even greater effort and expense to again bury it) in far great amounts than the background levels?

As for numbers, looking at the Azimuth Project, two minerals that could be used for this process are Olivine and Serpentine.

The ratios for these;

Olivine  Olivine (forsterite) Serpentine Serpentine
CO2 Fe2SiO4 Mg2SiO4 Fe3Si2O5(OH)4 Mg3Si2O5(OH)4
Molar Mass (g/mol) 44.01 203.77 140.69 371.73 277.11
Weight ratio to CO2 1 4.63 3.2 8.45 6.3
Molecules requires for every CO2 0.25 to 1 0.25 to 1 0.25 0.25
1 unit weight of CO2 requires how many units?  – 1.6 to 4.63 0.8 to 3.2 2.11 1.57

Annual emissions of CO2 reached 34.5 billion tonnes in 2012. Therefore, for Olivine or Serpentine to capture all of this, we would need between 27.6 and 159.74 billion tonnes of these rocks annually.

From the Azimuth Project page;

Supposedly all the CO2 that is produced by burning 1 liter of oil can be sequestered by less than 1 liter of olivine. The market value of olivine is US $50 to US $100 per ton depending on quality. Plugging in the larger number then 5 trillion dollars a year of this material would absorb all the CO2 currently produced. But of course this calculation is oversimplified, since the spike in demand would send the price much higher.

None of this begins to address the billions of tonnes of residue materials as well.

Some might say that I’m being unfair – most targets aim at around 5% below, say 2000 or 1990 levels. To be generous, let’s say the emissions value was 25 billion tonnes, meaning that we want to reach emissions targets below 23.75 billion tonnes. This means that we want to capture 10.75 billion tonnes of CO2 based on 2012 levels.

This amounts to between 8.6 and 49.77 billion tonnes of Olivine and Serpentine annually for enhanced weathering. This is still a massive industry devoted entirely to scrubbing the atmosphere of our CO2 emissions.

The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, may call emissions trading a “so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one,” but how can sequestration be anything but a non-delivery market, as much a sink of money as it is carbon?

It doesn’t matter whether you rely on trees, soil, weathering or any other mechanism, sequestration is not the cheap and easy solution that it has been sold as. In every case you are also left with a bank that is useless unless it keeps carbon locked and what then of this material?

There is no such thing as a silver bullet. Reducing our emissions will require a lot of effort, behavioural change and a diversity of solutions, each contributing their own small part. Thus far, very little of this is being addressed or adopted above the barest effort.