Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dam safety experts awaiting their moment of truth

There's a smell of a coverup already

MAJOR consulting firms that have done exhaustive studies on the Wivenhoe and Somerset dams have yet to make submissions to the flood inquiry. SKM, GHD and SMEC - the dam's major safety and improvements experts over the past decade - say they have not yet been asked to submit anything by inquiry commissioners

An inquiry spokesman yesterday was unable to explain why the request had not been made. Consultant reports were among the materials being reviewed by the inquiry, he said.

The engineering firms have done studies for Seqwater on dam operations, including suggesting ways to boost capacity for the dams that still fail to meet the guidelines of ANCOLD, the Australian National Committee on Large Dams

The lack of dam capacity and fears over possible dam failure played a role in massive water releases that contributed to the flooding of Brisbane and lpswich in January.

Submissions to the inquiry have accused dam operators of slow reactions and flawed and risky decision-making by allowing the dam to fill well beyond its full water storage capacity from January 4 to 11.

Seqwater also has been criticised for not boosting the capacity of the dam, following a 2007 report that highlighted a "high" safety risk for not meeting ANCOLD guidelines.

The inquiry has yet to hear from long-time Seqwater boss Peter Borrows, who was in charge during the releases and also oversaw dam operations during most of the period when improvements lagged.

Mr Burrows was expected to be the last witness in Brisbane, but he didn't testify before the venue shifted to Toowoomba. He is still expected to testify.

Mr Borrows' statement to the inquiry shows memory lapses in discussions with his staff during the period when the dams filled to nearly 200 per cent of their water supply capacity. Fears of a catastrophic failure prompted dam operators to release the equivalent of two North Pine dams of water on January ll, leading to the flooding of thousands of homes along the Brisbane River.

Critics writing to the inquiry say the water should have been released more gradually, after January 4.

The above article by Tuck Thompson appeared in the "Courier Mail" on 21 April

Anti-Israel BS: Labor's infected and the Greens are gangrenous

by Eric Abetz

Last night at a meeting of the Marrickville Council, the council voted eight to four to not pursue its boycott of Israel.

Marrickville Council's abortive attempt to implement the Global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (GBDS) campaign against Israel in Sydney's Inner West should be a wake-up call. The moment to turn this objectionable campaign around should not be lost, else we will see more loopy home-grown forays into foreign policy. While this campaign may have been temporarily halted at a municipal level, it has gained considerable ground within Australia's unions.

In moving her motion at Marrickville Council, Greens Councillor, Cathy Peters noted that the BDS campaign had the support of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, the South Coast Labour Council, and various state branches of the ASU, Teachers' Union, LHMWU, CFMEU and MUA. In fact this is only half the list.

Branches of the AMWU, CEPU, ETU, FSU, HACSU and RTBU, along with the Geelong Trades Hall Council, Newcastle Trades and Labour Council, Queensland Council of Unions and Unions ACT, have also lent their support to this campaign.

This support ranges from in-principle backing, through active involvement in the BDS campaign, to pressuring the ACTU and Labor Party to support the BDS movement.

To give you the flavour, the Victorian Trades Hall Council last September resolved to:

Promote this campaign within the community, work with unions and other organisations that support the campaign to maximise its effectiveness" and to "provide reports to Executive Council at 6 monthly intervals and will include information on the effectiveness of the campaign (Sis Halfpenny and Bro Cragg will be the responsible officers).

The BDS campaign in Australia has a more sinister side. The Australian BDS movement, which promoted Marrickville Council's BDS intiative, is conducting a campaign of direct harassment and boycott against Israeli linked businesses.

For over six months the cosmetic company Seacret has had its shops picketed by screeching BDS activists because it is allegedly `profiteering from resources in the land stolen by Israel'.

Cosmetics companies L'Oreal and Jericho have also been targeted for similar reasons, as has Caterpillar because its bulldozers are used by Israeli authorities.

These highly-charged "actions" by BDS protestors are disruptive and intimidating. As Michael Danby said of Marrickville Council:

Are they now going to paint the Star of David on shops selling Israeli products?

Now is the time for Australia's political leaders to act if we are to halt this extremism.

To his credit the AWU's Paul Howes has taken a strong stand against the BDS campaign taking root in the unions. He has rightly concluded that it is just the first step in of a broader campaign enlisting `useful fools' to demonise all Israel and attack its legitimacy.

But to date the ACTU has been conflicted on the issue. It must take a stand. It must come down hard on the Sister Halfpennys and Brother Craggs in the union movement who think that they can implement foreign policy out of Trades Hall.

This situation would never have been allowed to get so far out of hand under Bob Hawke.

As far as Labor is concerned, Kevin Rudd and Craig Emerson did not hesitate to lambast Marrickville Council over its BDS policy.

However, Labor still has a lot to answer for. Four local Labor Councillors voted for the policy and NSW Labor directed preferences to the Greens Mayor of Marrickville, Fiona Byrne, when she contested the seat of Marrickville at the recent state election.

Meanwhile Labor has the internal problem of Labor 4A Just Palestine - an anti-Israel group which supports the BDS campaign - convened by David Forde, who could be preselected for the Brisbane seat of Stretton.

But if BDS has infected Labor, it's positively gangrenous in the Greens.

Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon shepherded the BDS policy through the NSW Greens state council. The policy called for all Australians and the Australian Government to boycott Israeli goods, trading and military arrangements, and sporting, cultural and academic events.

Greens Leader, Bob Brown, failed to condemn Marrickville's BDS policy during the NSW state election; he opposed a Senate motion condemning it; and has subsequently tried to diffuse responsibility by blaming the Labor councillors on Marrickville Council.

Nevertheless I congratulate Greens Leader Bob Brown and Prime Minister Gillard for heeding calls to pull their councillors into line - albeit they should have done so long before now.

So where to now? Firstly, Labor, the Greens and the unions must be honest about the extent to which the BDS movement has taken root in their parties and set about countering it.

In light of the rebuff to Marrickville Council I will amend my motion, to be considered by the Senate when it returns in May, so as to give Labor and the Greens the opportunity to acknowledge that Israel is a legitimate and democratic state and a good friend of Australia, and to condemn the BDS campaign wherever it has taken hold.

It is only by subjecting this objectionable BDS campaign to public scrutiny that we can make Marrickville Council's reversal on this issue a watershed in this debate.


Carbon slug on property repayments

MORTGAGE repayments on newly built homes could jump almost $43 a month unless housing is compensated under a carbon tax.

Spread over a typical 25-year loan for a new home in Melbourne, the total hit could top $12,800.

The Housing Industry Association says costs of making and transporting building materials would soar once a price was put on carbon.

The Gillard Government, the Greens and independent MPs are still working out the exact price and compensation.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet recently guaranteed millions of households would be "over-compensated" for rising day-to-day living costs.

But the HIA wants compensation for the biggest single expenditure item most people ever face - their own homes.

"The Government has not addressed the impact of a carbon tax on a new home, where a family will incur a much larger cost impost and one that will hit the household budget for the life of their loan," HIA chief executive (association) Graham Wolfe said.

If the eventual carbon price is set at $25 a tonne, the HIA calculates an average family home would cost $6000 more.

The figure is based on 240 tonnes of carbon estimated to be used in manufacture and transport of materials. It does not include GST or stamp duty.

Applied to a median-priced Melbourne home of $537,522, the price hike would increase monthly loan repayments from $3258.43 to $3301.22 - $42.79 or about $10 a week.

Mr Wolfe said the figure was greater than the Governments' projections of how much a carbon tax would increase costs of life's daily essentials.

The Government says money from taxing big carbon polluters would go into compensating households, job protection and carbon reduction programs.

But the HIA warned that new house price rises would undermine the goal of reducing emissions by discouraging building of energy-efficient new homes.


10 big errors in Warmist speech by Federal mimister

by Bob Carter, David Evans, Stewart Franks & Bill Kininmonth. (Bob Carter is a geologist, David Evans a mathematician and computer modeller, Stewart Franks a hydrologist and engineer, and Bill Kininmonth a meterologist and former Director of the National Climate Centre.)

Climate Minister Greg Combet delivered a major speech at the National Press Club on April 13th entitled "Tackling Climate change in the National Interest".

The earlier part of Minister Combet's speech traversed various scientific issues, which we analyse below, putting his statements in italics, and our commentary in ordinary type.

1. The evidence of atmospheric warming is very strong, and the potential for dangerous climate impacts is high. The scientific advice is that carbon (sic) pollution (sic) is the cause.

Atmospheric warming and cooling happen the whole time naturally, and global temperature has been level or cooling gently for the last ten years; and that despite the fact that a quarter of all human emissions of carbon dioxide, over all of history, have occurred since 1998.

No empirical evidence has been provided, and especially not by the IPCC or Professor Steffen, that a significant part of the late 20th century warming was caused by human carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, warming alarmist arguments rely upon computer modelling and assumptions about positive feedback from moist air and clouds.

Neither has any evidence been provided that the number or intensity of dangerous climatic events has in the near past fallen outside of normal natural variation.

The term "carbon pollution" is a pejorative term that displays ignorance by those who use it. In reality, the public debate is about the magnitude of the warming effect exercised by human carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide from whatever source is an environmental benefice that sustains most of the ecosystems on planet Earth.

2. Globally, 2010 was the warmest year on record, with 2001 to 2010 the warmest decade. 2010 is the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th-century average.

Were this true, so what? The world has been in a warming trend since 1680, the depth of the Little Ice Age, so of course later years tend to be warmer. Human carbon emissions were insignificant before 1850 and tiny before WWII, so human-sourced emissions are obviously not the sole cause of warming.

But in fact it isn't true. Amongst the major records of global temperature, only one shows 2010 as the warmest year since global thermometer records began (about 1850). That record is the NASA GISS index compiled by James Hansen, and its limitations and inaccuracies are well known. The temperature record used by the IPCC is the U.K. Hadley Centre's HadCRUT thermometer plot, and the most accurate record of all is that measured from satellites (which covers nearly the whole planet, not mainly airports and carparks). These two records show that the 2010 global temperature was 0.2 and 0.1 deg. C below the warm peak attained during the 1998 El Nino year, respectively.

More generally, all versions of the 20th century thermometer temperature record on which the Minister places his reliance are of limited accuracy and also encompass a warming bias. Representing, as they do, only 3 climate data points, they are a completely inadequate basis on which to make grand statements about climate change.

Judged against climate records of adequate length, the temperature has been declining gently for the last 10,000 years (since the Holocene post-glacial climatic optimum) and increasing for about the last 330 years (since the depth of the cold Little Ice Age around 1680). So it is no surprise (i) that overall warming occurred during the 20th century; and (ii) that 2001-2010 was a relatively warm decade, for the same reason that most of the warmer days each year cluster around mid-summer's day - in both cases, the grouping of warm temperatures is because of position within a known climatic cycle.

3. In Australia, each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the preceding decade. With rising temperatures we can expect to see more extreme weather events, including more frequent and intense droughts, floods and bushfires.

In some places, each successive decade of the last 50 years may indeed have been warmer than its predecessor, for the same reasons explained under Point 2; the Earth is currently still recovering from a Little Ice Age.

But Australian temperatures, and those in other regions, do not move in perfect synchronisation with global temperatures, because of regional scale circulations and responses to multi-decadal climate oscillations. So whereas southeastern Australia (and offshore waters) started warming around 1950, after nearly a half century of flat temperatures, they have (along with global temperature) also stabilised over the last decade. But, in any case, it is global temperatures that are the point at issue, not Australian ones.

In the early 1970s, some climate scientists were full of talk about global cooling and the looming possibility of a new ice age -- they based their alarm on the fact that the global thermometer record had been falling for the previous three decades. These scientists also cited models that showed that a new ice age might indeed occur (their models, like the current ones, were loaded with too much positive feedback). Minister Combet is now apparently claiming that the 1945-1975 cooling didn't occur in Australia. Perhaps he is relying upon a temperature graph that has been revised in retrospect?

The accompanying statement that extreme weather events have increased with warmer temperatures is contradicted by the available empirical evidence - and that they will increase or become more extreme in the future should warming resume is derived from speculative, unvalidated and invalidated computer climate models.

4. The environmental consequences translate readily into economic costs - as well as potential negative impacts on water security, coastal development, infrastructure, agriculture, and health.

Natural climate events and change do indeed impose economic and social costs, as the bushfires, floods and cyclones of the last few years in Australia readily show. There is no evidence whatever that these costs have been greater in recent years because of human influences on global climate.

5. Professor Will Steffen, a leading expert in the climate science, has advised the Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change that there is 100% certainty that the earth is warming, and that there is a very high level of certainty it will continue to warm unless efforts are made to reduce the levels of carbon (sic) pollution (sic) being sent into the atmosphere.

Professor Steffen is spectacularly wrong. The earth is NOT currently warming, and hasn't been for the last 10 years, and perhaps longer. That this lack of warming has been accompanied by increasing carbon dioxide levels proves that carbon dioxide is not the predominant controlling influence on global temperature.

Neither Professor Steffen nor any other scientist can state with certainty whether global temperature in ten years time will be warmer or cooler than today. But given the currently quiet sun, and acknowledging the importance of multi-decadal climatic oscillations such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, many scientists currently hypothesize that cooling is more likely than warming over the next two decades.

6. It is in our national interest to take action on climate change. The national interest case is clear.

It is indeed, and the climate events and change that the Minister should be paying attention to are those KNOWN hazards of natural origin. Because the government instead is focused upon the entirely HYPOTHETICAL risks of dangerous warming caused by human-related carbon-dioxide emissions, it has taken its eye off the main game. The national interest case for better preparation for natural climate events and change is clear, and it is past time that the Minister focused on it.

7. Climate change is an environmental problem with an economic solution.

This is an absurd statement, which should read "Climate events and change cause environmental and social damage, and are therefore an economic cost".

For natural climate events and change are obviously hazards with attendant economic costs, and they are more costly the less prepared that we are - as the Victorian bushfires and Brisbane floods have clearly shown.

Perhaps "climate change" (as the Minister intends the term to be understood) is an invented problem to justify a desired and particular political "solution"? Be that as it may, whatever the Minister is referring to here is certainly not based upon science as we have learned to practice it over the last two centuries.

8. Just as the 1980s reforms laid down the bedrock of our current prosperity, pricing carbon (sic) will ensure that the Australian economy of the 21st century remains globally competitive.

Competitive with whom? Australia will be way out in front in leading de-industrialisation and economic decline, for no other countries are proposing to handicap themselves nearly as much on a per capita basis.

Putting a rising tax on carbon dioxide will have one, and only one, result, which is to render the Australian economy more and more uncompetitive against its overseas competitors, with a concomitant inexorable rise in the cost of living.

At the same time, a tax on carbon dioxide will do nothing to effect global temperature in a measurable way.

9. Intergenerational equity is a key determinant of long-term economic policy making. Our obligation is to leave the world a better place, not to pass on the problems we found too difficult to deal with to our grandchildren and to their grandchildren.

The government's Climate Commissioner, Professor Tim Flannery, has indicated that some computer models that he favours project that a period of 1,000 years or more will be required before any cuts in Australian carbon dioxide emissions take effect.

The intergenerational equity that the Minister speaks of is therefore like King Canute being held responsible for the living standards of present day Australians. It is astonishing that such fantasies are now being introduced into public discourse by government ministers who, King Canute-like in their turn, appear to believe that they can "stop climate change".

In any case, there never has been intergenerational equity. The gross inequities that exist across both geography and generations are caused by contrasting access and lack of access to cheap energy. It is estimated that 1.5 billion persons today lack adequate sanitation, clean drinking water and basic health care and education. Such poverty kills innumerable persons in developing countries each and every year.

There is no equity in restricting access to cheap energy, and future restrictions on cheap sources of energy such as coal will condemn millions to future poverty or death.

10. Australia is one of the world's top 20 polluters and we release more pollution per person than any other country in the developed world - more than the US. Not only is it in our national interest to act, we have a responsibility to do so.

Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but an environmental benefit.

Even according to the IPCC's faulty models, if Australia stopped all emissions of carbon dioxide from tomorrow, the total effect on the temperature in 2050 would be to theoretically lower it by 0.0154 øC.

Regarding real air pollutants, Australia has good controls on industrial emissions through clean air legislation, and it is unlikely that our pollutant emissions are significantly higher than other western countries with similar controls.

Which is not to say that further improvements to air quality might not be effected, especially in metropolitan areas. Indeed, expenditure of public money on that (to demonstrable effect) would be a far preferable course of action to squandering money on cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that will have no effect on either pollution or future climate.

Final remarks

The later part of the Minister Combet's speech is concerned with political and policy matters which we do not analyse in detail. We note, however, that the relevance of these issues depends entirely upon whether there is a dangerous global warming problem to deal with in the first place.

Minister Combet provides no evidence whatever that there is.


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