Friday, September 23, 2011

The cold hard proof Australia is getting warmer (?)

Contrary to what the author says below, the graph appears to cover just one ski location: Spencer's Creek, which reminds one of Keith Briffa's solitary Siberian tree. None of the other trees fitted Keith's global warming story so he relied on the one tree that did.

And Australia has had unusually early openings to its ski seasons in recent years so why is that not reflected in the graph? It could be that we are getting less extreme weather. The average depth rather than the peak depth would be more informative. The Greenies keep shrieking that were are having MORE extreme weather but a lot of data show the opposite. America has had unusually few major hurricanes in recent years, for instance

But the major point is that snowfall in most locations is more influenced by available atmospheric moisture than by temperature, and Australia DID suffer one of its recurrent droughts up until recently. If there is a real effect there, it's a drought effect

Look at this graph. Each blue bar shows the peak annual snow depth at Snowy Hydro’s five official snow measuring stations at Spencers Creek, about halfway between the NSW ski resorts of Perisher and Thredbo.

The black line shows the downward trend over the last 58 years. Pronounced decline, isn’t it. The consistent big seasons of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s are a thing of the past. On average, we’re losing three quarters of a centimetre of snow each year. That’s nearly half a metre since records were first kept.

Snowy Hydro has taken these measurements since the 1950s because they like to know how much snowmelt is going to end up in their dams each summer. The information is neutral, reliable, and untainted by ski resort PR. Even more crucially, it relies not on pie-in-the sky computer modelling, but on clinical, unhysterical observation.

And those observations reveal beyond doubt that Australia is getting warmer.

The problem with the climate change debate is that most of us can neither observe, nor feel, the data presented.

We cannot detect small annual changes in temperature, and are no hope of perceiving increases in CO2 or other gases. Moreover, popular graphs like the “hockey stick” championed by Al Gore, are endlessly open to misinterpretation and dispute.

But there’s no arguing with this snow depth graph. It is elegantly simple and best of all, it represents something tangible. The graph clearly shows that less snow is falling, and less snow is sticking around. And that ain’t happening because the world’s getting cooler, as some argue.

A warming globe impacts the Australian snow pack in two simple ways. Firstly, and most obviously, warmer weather means a greater likelihood of rain instead of snow, and quicker melt after snowstorms.

The second effect is a little more technical. Basically, a warmer globe makes it tougher for the snow-bearing cold fronts in the Southern Ocean to push north and make landfall on the Australian continent. Most experts agree that’s why areas like SW Western Australia are drying out so rapidly.

Now, no one’s saying the snow is going to disappear entirely this century, as predicted by a 2003 CSIRO report with a distinctly doomsday tone. But slowly, it’s going.

The $64 million question is why. Is all this part of a natural cycle or is the hand of human activity at work here?


Status and marriage

Australian demographer Bernard Salt below is almost certainly right in saying that women still like to "marry up" and is also right to say that educational attainment is not the sole criterion of "up". Many men have caught on to the education hoax and know they can do better financially in business. One rather pities women who are piling up debt to get a probably useless degree while their less gullible brothers are already out in the workforce both earning money and gaining the experience that often trumps education. Such women will be more in need of a rich husband than ever

I have been married four times so have had some time to think about these matters and my conclusion is that the best wife for a highly educated man is a smart working class girl without a university background. The ideas and aspirations of highly educated women ("saving the planet" etc.) can be a pain and a distraction whereas the working class girl concentrates all her intelligence and energies on her relationships, thus securing better results in that field.

And education does not automatically lead to shared interests. A man with a degree in mathematics is not thereby going to have much in common with a woman who has an equivalent degree in anthropology. Such a pair could in fact be totally incomprehending of one-another -- JR

LATE last month I participated in the Sustaining Women in Business conference in Melbourne. I was a panellist in a session titled a New Era of Work, which explored work habits.

My co-panellist for the session was Canadian author Avivah Wittenburg-Cox author of How Women Mean Business. I talked about how technology has changed the way we work; Ms Wittenburg-Cox made the point that young women were now more likely than young men to hold a university degree.

But rather than explore why tertiary education might be failing our young men, Ms Wittenburg-Cox expressed concern for her daughter: "Who is she going to marry?"

Clearly from this question Ms Wittenburg-Cox expects her daughter to select a partner from a modest and possibly shrinking pool of tertiary-educated men.

She raised the thorny issue of "partnering up" versus "partnering down". What could I do but defend the partnering prospects of the male gender by registering my protest. "But isn't love blind?" I implored. "If someone is a good bloke who cares deeply for your daughter, then what does it matter how smart he is?"

It is fair to say that the room of perhaps 300 women immediately erupted. My impression was that the room divided more or less equally: some agreed with me -- love is blind -- whereas others seemed to adopt a, shall we say, more pragmatic approach.

At this point it is worth recounting some demographic facts. Despite four decades of feminism, women still, on average, choose to marry an older man. In 2009, the age difference was 23 months.

If love and marriage are truly random selections, then women would be equally predisposed to choosing a partner who was older or younger. On this basis it can be concluded that women still marry up. Older men are more likely to be better established in their careers and therefore would be more mature and better providers.

But there are other issues. There are simply more men than women in Australia throughout childhood, puberty and into the twentysomething hooking-up decade. This oversupply of men enables women, in fact encourages women, to select the best available from of whatever's on offer.

By dint of the laws of demand and supply of potential partners, women have at least the opportunity, if not a downright proclivity, to partner up. At least that's the theory.

But here's the problem. As women increasingly gain access to tertiary education their inbuilt potential partner filter excludes more and more men.

Ms Wittenburg-Cox's concern for her daughter's prospects is justified because there are not enough smart men to partner smart (or at least university educated) women.

The solution is for women to reinterpret partnering up to include men who may be self-employed and self-confident, who are caring and connected and who are aligned with their partners in values and thinking. These men may meet other stringent potential partner criteria but not actually hold a university degree.

But there again I have yet another theory. If there is a shrinking pool of university-educated alpha men, snaring one of these rare and exotic creatures might be regarded as the ultimate symbol of corporate success for an alpha woman.

If such a man-in-demand commits to her, in the process forsaking all others, does this not reflect positively on the alpha female? Indeed, with the continued success of women in the workforce, might we see the rise of the trophy husband?

Here is a man who is university educated, sporty (code for athletic body), tall, cooks, supports his partner's career, looks after the children, is sociable, witty and charming, doesn't smoke or drink to excess, speaks a second language, plays a musical instrument, volunteers at a local homeless shelter and loves nothing better than going for long romantic walks on deserted beaches.

Oh dear, I can see half the room at the Sustainable Women in Business conference, including Ms Wittenburg-Cox, swooning at the very thought of the educated but the oh-so-elusive trophy husband. Sigh.


Aluminium company Rusal fears effect of carbon tax

THE world's largest aluminium company, Rusal, has launched a scathing attack on the Gillard Government's carbon tax and emissions scheme, saying it puts its key Queensland project at risk.

In a submission to the Federal Government, Rusal said the Clean Energy Legislative Package - the carbon tax and Emissions Trading Scheme - was a threat to the viability of the Russian group's major investment in Australia.

Rusal owns 20 per cent of the giant Queensland Alumina Refinery (QAL) at Gladstone, the second-largest alumina refinery in the world, which employs 1800 people and ships alumina to Siberia for smelting.

Rusal Australia's chairman John Hannagan said QAL would pay about $30 million to $40 million in the first year as a result of the tax. "Over the next 10 years that could be nearly $400 million, which would have been better spent going to expansion of the plant, future energy and co-gen opportunities," he said.

Mr Hannagan said the carbon tax threatened the long- term viability of the refinery and could stymie any expansion opportunities.

He said QAL had experienced a tough decade, largely because domestic coal prices, gas and electricity had risen sharply and the company was a big energy user. The strong Australian dollar had also hurt but he said the company remained profitable because of good management and the skill of the workforce.

He said the Government's impost on Australian CO2 emissions contained in the Clean Energy legislation would penalise local industry because most overseas competitors did not have such an impost.

The Government has recognised that the competitiveness of industries such as alumina refining will be adversely affected by the carbon tax and has introduced partial compensation but Mr Hannagan said the method of compensation was "highly prejudicial".

"Rusal believes that the proposed methodology of the tax and compensation regime for alumina refining incorporated in the (legislation) is quite outrageous and will put QAL at risk," he said.

A spokesperson for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet defended the legislation and compensation yesterday, saying the government's $9.2 billion Jobs and Competitiveness Program had been designed to support industries such as alumina production while providing incentives for those industries to become more efficient.

The spokesman said alumina qualified for the highest rate of assistance, an allegation Mr Hannagan denied, saying QAL would receive 25 per cent less than other industries and the Government was "fudging it yet again".


Queensland government hospitals could have bed closures and delays in outpatient treatment due to cost-cutting plans

Why can't these b*stards cut some of their army of bureaucrats? The bureaucracy has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. They can't all be needed

THE state's largest hospitals are under renewed pressure to cut spending, prompting senior medical staff to warn of bed closures and delays in outpatient treatment.

Staff say they are also being pushed to reduce the time patients spend in hospital, as a fresh wave of cost-cutting digs into the already stressed public system.

Specialist doctors are angered by the spending crackdown, particularly after the payroll debacle and other IT issues have sucked hundreds of millions of dollars from the public purse.

For the second time in six months, employees at the state's two biggest hospitals the Princess Alexandra and Royal Brisbane and Women's have been told to brace for bed closures.

The Courier-Mail revealed in March that senior doctors were warning of possible patient deaths if threatened budget cuts went ahead.

A meeting at the Princess Alexandra Hospital was advised this week that 16 medical beds, 16 surgical beds, five intensive care beds and haemodialysis chairs were under threat.

Sixty bed closures have also been discussed at the RBWH, which has been told to find $30 million in savings.

The threatened cuts come as district CEOs prepare to meet with Queensland Health bureaucrats next week for their scheduled quarterly budget discussion.

Queensland Health Acting Director-General Tony O'Connell made it clear last night he would not agree to service cuts if they were suggested by CEOs as a way to rein in budgets.

"Measures such as those suggested have not been approved,'' he said.

RBWH Medical Staff Association chairwoman Dana Wainwright said staff were under ``huge pressure'' to cut spending, including a push to reduce patient length of stay.

"We have major concerns for the safety and quality of clinical care if we become budget driven,'' she said. ``It's about patients.''

As outpatient waiting lists continue to grow, doctors say some clinics have been cancelled as part of a school holiday "slowdown'', also designed to save costs.

The possibility of haemodialysis chairs being cut at the Princess Alexandra comes after a briefing note, written by the Metro South Health Service District CEO David Theile in May, warning of growing demand for kidney dialysis.

"A number of haemodialysis patients imminently planning to relocate from Cairns, Metro North, Gold Coast, NSW and New Zealand into the Metro South HSD have been asked to defer their plans to move as their haemodialysis requirements cannot currently be accommodated,'' Dr Theile wrote.

"Private haemodialysis units within the greater Brisbane area are also nearly at full physical capacity. Previous attempts to outsource public patients to private dialysis facilities have failed due to limited dialysis capacity.''

Opposition Health Spokesman Mark McArdle said the hospital problems were evidence Queensland Health had mismanaged its budget.

"It has now reached the point that Queenslanders are going to be put at risk of significant health problems and potentially, fatal outcomes,'' Mr McArdle said.

AMA Queensland president-elect Alex Markwell said the organisation would have concerns about the potential impact on patient outcomes if the cuts went ahead.


Unbelievable: Qld. setting itself up for ANOTHER huge computer bungle

QUEENSLAND Health is poised to sign a multimillion-dollar contract for computer software similar to that labelled "defective" by an IT expert who audited its use in southern hospitals.

University of Sydney's Professor Jon Patrick said electronic medical records systems built by Cerner Corporation for the NSW Government crashed frequently and risked patient safety.

A similar Cerner system installed by the Victorian health department also has been plagued by glitches and is five years behind schedule.

"I don't think there's any reason for optimism that they can be improved," Prof Patrick said.

Leaked internal documents have surfaced detailing problems already looming within Queensland, as bureaucrats negotiate with US-based Cerner to build a $243 million electronic medical records system in Queensland hospitals.

Technical information for the proposed Cerner system and existing IT platforms that it must work with was "often incomplete, not-comprehensive, inaccurate and out-of-date", a leaked position paper found.

Another email addressed to chief information officer Ray Brown, released to the State Opposition under Right to Information laws, warned of the increasing need to document potential risks "even if we can't find the resources to remove them" in case of disaster and patient death.

"The no-surprises rule may be applicable and would help in a Coroner's Court," the clinical adviser wrote.

But, in a written statement, Mr Brown last night backed Cerner, which he said had successfully operated systems at the Royal Brisbane and Women's and Princess Alexandra hospitals for more than a decade.

Mr Brown said Queensland had learnt from interstate problems and would implement an "end-to-end solution", rather than trying to marry different systems across hospitals.

Independent experts had verified the rollout and more than 4000 staff had been consulted, indicating their support for Cerner software, he said.

The debate came after The Courier-Mail yesterday detailed Opposition claims that Queensland Health bureaucrats deliberately changed an independent report to favour Cerner when hunting for software suppliers in 2009, which QH vehemently denied.

Prof Patrick, chair of Language Technology at the university's School of IT, said problems with Cerner's NSW and Victorian systems were well documented in 2009.

He said Queensland bureaucrats likely knew of the faults, which should have served as "red flags". Cerner did not respond to a call for comment.


1 comment:

Paul said...

The bureaucratic army has indeed multiplied like never before. One of the problems that has caused it is the rise of what I call "liability panic". That's where Hospitals obsess about quality control processes, best practice, benchmarking etc etc., while all the way things turn to crap at the bedside where it matters. The bureaucrats are now certain that THEY are the issue, and that is how they conduct themselves. I remember straying into the executive suite in my smelly, scruffy nurses uniform looking for someone, and I was immediately accosted by large, well-fed women with sensible hair politely asking me if I was supposed to be there. I was a little incensed so I sat myself on a large sofa and waved them away telling them I was fine thank you very much.