Friday, October 28, 2011

Be prudent with climate claims

Cardinal George Pell, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney appeals to scientific facts, not religion, in his climate skepticism -- and notes religious fanaticism in Warmism:

SCIENCE and technology have already achieved considerable mastery over nature, and massive local achievements. But where is the borderline separating us from what is beyond human power?

Where does scientific striving become uneconomic, immoral or ineffectual and so lapse into hubris? Have scientists been co-opted on to a bigger, better-advertised and more expensive bandwagon than the millennium bug fiasco?

We can only attempt to identify the causes of climate change through science and these causes need to be clearly established after full debates, validated comprehensively, before expensive remedies are imposed on industries and communities.

I first became interested in the question in the 1990s when studying the anti-human claims of the "deep greens". Mine is not an appeal to the authority of any religious truth in the face of contrary scientific evidence. Neither is it even remotely tinged by a postmodernist hostility to rationality.

My appeal is to reason and evidence, and in my view the evidence is insufficient to achieve practical certainty on many of these scientific issues.

Recently Robert Manne, following fashionable opinion, wrote that "the science is truly settled" on the fundamental theory of climate change: global warming is happening; it is primarily caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide; and it is certain to have profound effects in the future.

His appeal is to the "consensual view among qualified scientists". This is a category error, scientifically and philosophically. In fact, it is also a cop-out, a way of avoiding the basic issues.

The basic issue is not whether the science is settled but whether the evidence and explanations are adequate in that paradigm.

I fear, too, that many politicians have never investigated the primary evidence.

Much is opaque to non-specialists, but persistent inquiry and study can produce useful clarifications, similar to the nine errors identified by the British High Court in Al Gore's propaganda film, An Inconvenient Truth.

The complacent appeal to scientific consensus is simply one more appeal to authority, quite inappropriate in science or philosophy.

It is not generally realised that in 2001 at least, one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report's workinggroups agreed: "In climate research and modelling, we are dealing with a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible."

Claims of atmospheric warming often appear to conflict and depend upon the period of time under consideration.

* The earth has cooled during the past 10,000 years since the Holocene climate optimum.

* The earth has cooled since 1000 years ago, not yet achieving the temperatures of the Medieval Warm Period.

* The earth has warmed since 400 years ago after the Little Ice Age three centuries ago.

* The earth warmed between 1979 and 1998 and has cooled slightly since 2001.

The following facts are additional reasons for scepticism.

* In many places, most of the 11,700 years since the end of the last ice age were warmer than the present by up to 2C.

* Between 1695 and 1730, the temperature in England rose by 2.2C. That rapid warming, unparalleled since, occurred long before the Industrial Revolution.

* From 1976 to 2001, "the global warming rate was 0.16C per decade", as it was from 1860 to 1880 and again from 1910 to 1940.

My suspicions have been deepened through the years by the climate movement's totalitarian approach to opposing views. Those secure in their explanations do not need to be abusive.

The term "climate change denier", however expedient as an insult or propaganda weapon, with its deliberate overtones of comparison with Holocaust denial, is not a useful description of any significant participant in the discussion. I was not surprised to learn that the IPCC used some of the world's best advertising agencies to generate maximum effect among the public .

The rewards for proper environmental behaviour are uncertain, unlike the grim scenarios for the future as a result of human irresponsibility which have a dash of the apocalyptic about them.

The immense financial costs true believers would impose on economies can be compared with the sacrifices offered traditionally in religion, and the sale of carbon credits with the pre-Reformation practice of selling indulgences.

Some of those campaigning to save the planet are not merely zealous but zealots. To the religionless and spiritually rootless, mythology - whether comforting or discomforting - can be magnetically, even pathologically, attractive.

Whatever our political masters might decide at this high tide of Western indebtedness, they are increasingly unlikely, because of popular pressure, to impose new financial burdens on their populations in the hope of curbing the rise of global temperatures, except perhaps in Australia, which has 2 per cent of the world's industrial capacity and only 1.2 per cent of its CO2 emissions, while continuing to sell coal and iron worth billions of dollars to Asia.

Extreme weather events are to be expected. This is why I support the views of Bjorn Lomborg and Bob Carter that money should be used to raise living standards and reduce vulnerability to catastrophes.

The cost of attempts to make global warming go away will be very heavy. They may be levied initially on "the big polluters" but they will eventually trickle down to the end-users. Efforts to offset the effects on the vulnerable are well intentioned but history tells us they can only be partially successful.

Sometimes the very learned and clever can be brilliantly foolish, especially when seized by an apparently good cause. My request is for common sense and what the medievals, following Aristotle, called prudence.

The appeal must be to the evidence. First of all we need adequate scientific explanations as a basis for our economic estimates. We also need history, philosophy, even theology and many will use, perhaps create, mythologies. But most importantly we need to distinguish which is which.


Qld. govt. wastes another $116m on controversial ZeroGen clean-coal debacle

SAYONARA, Premier. Anna Bligh's claims her bungled clean-coal dream would live on have collapsed, with the company at the centre put into liquidation at a loss to taxpayers of almost $160 million.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the controversial ZeroGen operation was shut down a fortnight ago, despite the Premier promising the ailing firm would be given to - and run by - the coal industry to ensure its work did not go to waste.

Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission this month show the company is under external administration after a liquidator was appointed on October 11.

ZeroGen was set up to be owned by the Government to develop carbon capture technology. Its key project was to be a $4.3 billion clean coal power plant in central Queensland, running by 2015, with the power to capture 90 per cent of coal emissions.

The confirmation of the financial losses come as photos have emerged showing former ZeroGen chiefs living it up in Japan and Singapore as they tried to secure backing of business giant Mitsubishi Corp.

Former ZeroGen chief Tony Tarr and the company's corporate affairs manager Heather Brodie were snapped partying in kimonos and horseplaying in Singapore.

After scrapping the key "world-first" $4 billion central Queensland plant, the Bligh Government claimed ZeroGen would be given to the Australian Coal Association to ensure the knowledge it gained lived on.

Ms Bligh, who had insisted the money was not wasted, had said it would become "an independent entity, owned and run by industry and dedicated to the accelerated development and deployment of carbon capture storage".

But ACA chairman John Pegler yesterday said the group knew nothing of its supposed involvement. "We have never, ever, ever been in negotiations to take over ZeroGen," he said.

Contradiction also emerged in the office of Treasurer Andrew Fraser yesterday, who insisted the intellectual property still belonged to the state and would be used in future.

"The Federal Government was an equity partner in the venture and has been actively involved in the wind-up process," he said. The wind-up began in June.

But federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said the Commonwealth became aware only "in early October that the board may voluntarily liquidate the company".

Queensland has pumped $116 million into the project, the Commonwealth about $43 million and the coal industry about $50 million.

Federal Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt yesterday called for an inquiry, saying the loss of so much money was scandalous.

"There should be an immediate, independent inquiry as to how this money has been lost and where it has gone," he said.

ZeroGen garnered attention across Asia and the US and was touted by Ms Bligh and former premier Peter Beattie as a ground-breaking world-first as far back as 2006.

But now the ZeroGen website has been closed. "The ZeroGen Project has concluded," the site states. "Arrangements are ongoing for final knowledge capture and dissemination with the assistance of the Global CCS Institute."

State Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney said ZeroGen epitomised the waste and mismanagement of a tired Labor Government. "Anna Bligh has still never fully explained why the warnings about ZeroGen were ignored for so long and why they were so gung ho to roll the dice with taxpayers' money," he said.


Axe begins to fall in Qld. public service

As many as 3500 public servants are expected to accept payouts over the next two financial years

Nearly 2000 public servants have been offered big payouts to leave the Queensland government under plans to rein in wages bills. But it’s unclear how many employees have accepted the offers, made as part of government plans to farewell 3500 workers in a "voluntary separation" program.

The public sector union claims about half the people offered a package decide not to leave and this could pressure the government to soften its pledge to only remove non-frontline public servants.

As reported in April, public servants whose positions are not deemed necessary are being offered a payout of 30 weeks’ salary plus three weeks’ pay for each year of service.

Figures released to last night show the government has so far received 6626 expressions of interest from workers in a range of departments and agencies.

From this pool of willing employees, the government has made a formal offer to 1958 of them. The number of people who have accepted those offers is yet to be released.

The body with the highest number of expressions of interest was the Department of Education and Training, with 1635 employees registering their curiosity as of October 10.

However, only 109 workers from this department have been offered payouts so far. The government has offered payouts to 682 employees within the Department of Transport and Main Roads, following expressions of interest from 1360.

Deputy Premier and Treasurer Andrew Fraser said different agencies were in various stages of implementing the program.

Mr Fraser said the government had not changed its cost and savings projections, with the program set to cost about $250 million this financial year and then save $175 million annually from 2012/13.

Together union secretary Alex Scott, who represents public servants, said there were real questions over potential impacts on workloads and therefore some community services once the workforce was trimmed.

Mr Scott said while many employees wanted to keep their options open and lodged expressions of interest, the attractive offer did not necessarily persuade them to give up their job security.

The take-up rate was running at roughly 50 per cent, he said. This figure could not be officially confirmed last night.

Mr Scott said he was worried the government would struggle to get to the 3500 target and would have to relax its non-frontline pledge. "We’re gravely concerned; while it [the program] still remains voluntary we think the ambition to get to the 3500 will mean they will have to move away from the original commitment,” he said.

Mr Fraser’s spokesman could not be reached for a response last night, but Mr Fraser has previously said the 3500 departures target is over a two-year period ending in 2012/13.

The government's plan to save money by trimming the public service over two years was announced in its post-floods budget update in February.

It was one of the whole-of-government savings measures announced to pay for the $209 million cost of fixing the trouble-plagued Queensland Health payroll system. The bill to fix and improve the system has since surged even higher.

The release of the figures yesterday came as the government faced opposition attacks over plans to cut 250 civilian positions from within the Queensland Police Service.

Police Minister Neil Roberts linked the plans to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission's decision in August to grant police a pay rise of 11.1 per cent over three years, arguing part of the extra wages cost would be met through savings delivered through the voluntary separation program.

Figures supplied by Mr Fraser's office showed 57 police service employees had been offered a package under the separation program as of October 10, while a total of 136 had registered their interest.

Mr Fraser said other governments were also undertaking similar public sector redundancy programs. “The NSW Liberal government recently unveiled its plans for 5000 redundancies across the NSW public sector,” he said. “The Brisbane City Council also has a similar program underway.”

The issue of public service jobs was a dominant issue in the March 2009 state election campaign, with the government accusing the opposition of planning to massively slash jobs. The next election is due early next year.


The enduring appeal of the Monarchy in Australia

As in Britain, it has deep emotional roots that the politically correct brigaqde will never even begin to understand

The papers have now given up billing this as the ‘farewell tour’. Anyone watching the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh steadfastly working their way through the multitude and boarding a tram in Melbourne yesterday could understand why.

No one was saying: ‘Goodbye.’ So what if they are, respectively, 85 and 90? The question on Australian lips now is: ‘When are they coming back?’

Even the most ardent monarchists Down Under have been surprised by the euphoria for the Queen in recent days as she has travelled coast-to-coast across her colossal realm.

Monday saw 45,000 people crammed 30-deep on the riverbank in Brisbane just to see her step off a boat. Many required first aid for heatstroke after waiting since before dawn.

Yesterday’s scheduled 15-minute walkabout in Melbourne’s Federation Square stretched on for more than half an hour after tens of thousands turned out for a glimpse. There were so many flowers for the Queen the royal party ran out of hands.

Even more remarkable, perhaps, has been the behaviour of Melbourne’s ‘Occupy’ protesters.

This is the same anti-capitalist movement currently camping outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. But whereas the ‘Occupy London’ crowd won’t budge for anyone, the ‘Occupy Melbourne’ brigade yesterday agreed to suspend their protest in the city centre. Organisers decided it would be counter-productive and ‘belligerent’ to spoil the Queen’s day. So they called a truce.

Extraordinary stuff.

As for the royal couple, they have not betrayed a flicker of fatigue from the moment they landed in Canberra last week and embarked on a full schedule without so much as a rest day. One might say that she hit the ground reigning.

All those around the Queen — her staff and footsore veterans of the royal press pack — have noticed she is positively relishing the pace and atmosphere of this tour, happily letting the schedule slip when the crowds show no sign of letting up.

This may be her 16th tour of Australia but there is seldom a dull moment. Today she visits Clontarf Aboriginal College where pupils have devised an unusual royal menu: scones and kangaroo stew. As for the Duke, one royal official observes: ‘People keep asking us what he’s on. He’s in cracking form.’

Indeed, as the royal launch came into dock in Brisbane on Monday, Prince Philip could not stop his old nautical self and started helping to moor the thing. Now the world’s most hyperactive nonagenarian, he is off to Italy next week for a multi-faith environment conference.

Aside from one Brisbane construction worker arrested for ‘mooning’ at the monarch (it turned out to be a wager rather than a statement), this has, thus far, been a glitch-free tour.

So what on earth happened to the republicans? Is this the same feisty, self-confident nation which, just 12 years back, was the cheerleader for replacing the Sovereign? Of all the Queen’s 16 realms, which cover a large part of the planet, Australia was the one which seemed most likely to seek a new constitutional settlement.

And then came that referendum in 1999. With the liberal establishment and most of the media batting for a republic, metropolitan Australia put on its party clothes and prepared to celebrate.

But the public, as they so often do in these matters, had other ideas. In the end, 55 per cent of them preferred the Queen to the republican model of a president chosen by the politicians. [It was nearly two thirds in favour of the monarchy in my home State of Queensland -- JR]

Received wisdom, at the time, was that support for the monarchy would gradually wither away and that the republicans would waltz like Matilda through the next referendum. Except it did not work out like that.

The Royal Family continued to visit on a regular basis and Australia turned its attention to more pressing world issues.

And as royal fortunes have improved in Britain, so the mood has changed in Oz. Few countries could match Australia’s enthusiasm for this year’s Royal Wedding.

It came just weeks after Prince William had made an emergency visit Down Under, on behalf of the Queen, to meet those afflicted by a series of natural disasters — a visit which had a profound impact on the victims.

And now we have this week’s scenes. Opinion polls show that supporters of a presidential system have dwindled to 34 per cent. The activists have all but given up. Not so long ago, the Australian Republican Movement was a multi-million-pound organisation drawing the cream of the chattering classes to its champagne-fuelled soirees. Today, it is so hard-up that it can run only to a single part-time employee.

The reason? It certainly helps that the Queen and the Duke are so conspicuously happy to be in Australia. But it goes much deeper than that. We are witnessing, as one royal official put it to me this week, a ‘revival’. And much of it, surely, is down to the age-old attraction of a constitutional monarchy.

In times of uncertainty and trouble, there is something reassuring in an institution which stands for permanence and stability. And there is no greater symbol of continuity than a monarch who has been on her throne for longer than half of the countries on Earth have existed in their present form.

At the time of Australia’s referendum, republicans made much of the fact that one in four modern Australians was born overseas and, therefore, lacked a link with the ‘mother country’.

What social commentators are now discovering, however, is that support for the monarchy is just as strong among the immigrant community because newcomers feel a 1,000-year-old Crown offers greater protection of their freedoms than a fledgling president.

But there is something else here. Having spent the last two years with privileged access to the Queen and her staff for my new book, Our Queen, I have seen the way in which the aura around her has changed.

People who may seldom have given her much thought suddenly find themselves overawed by the most famous — and some would say respected — public figure on the planet. The sentiment was epitomised by one man in the Melbourne crowd yesterday. Dick Johnson told ABC Australia that he was surprised at how emotional he had suddenly become. ‘I’m not a terribly strong monarchist and I’m not a republican, but it just seems there’s something special about it,’ he said.

To which republicans say that the mood will be very different come a change of reign. But the Prince of Wales, part-educated in Australia, has a deep attachment to the place which does not go unreciprocated.

The new Duke of Cambridge can expect Queen-sized crowds when he brings his new Duchess Down Under. And, in any case, these are enduring bonds which go far beyond a mere popularity contest. Back in 1954, when she was the first reigning monarch to visit Australia, the Queen drew unprecedented crowds.

Millions of people — up to three-quarters of the population it was suggested — turned out to see her. Inevitably, her subsequent tours could not compete; comparisons would always invite a sense of anti-climax. Hence, the sense of monarchy in decline.

Well, now there is a sense of things going the other way. It may not be for ever. Australia will, doubtless, one day seek a new constitutional arrangement. For now, though, we are seeing the way in which historic symbols of kinship and shared values are sometimes more appealing than hard, rational modernity.

It is a fact worth remembering in a week when brutal European realities are set against the warmth of old Commonwealth friendships.


The Queen in Melbourne

The above report is by a British writer. Below is an Australian news report which conveys a similar impression

The Duke of Edinburgh was every inch the exasperated commuter today when he took a tram ride through Melbourne with the Queen.

As soon as the royal couple stepped aboard Royal Tram, he waved his hand and ordered driver Joyleen Smith to set off as they were running late.

It is the first time the monarch has travelled by tram since she boarded one during the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. In honour of the royal passengers the white Z3-Class vehicle had been transformed with a red, white and blue exterior colour scheme and inside it had been refurbished and restored.

A dot-matrix screen at its front displayed the worlds Royal Tram while a smaller one was lit-up with the monarch's official initials "ER"

Ms Smith, a tram driver for almost seven years, described todays event as an honour. She added: "When they got on I said hello to the Queen, and Philip said 'Come on driver let's go, were running late', so I thought we better go. "He said it with a smile on his face and I know he's got a wicked sense of humour."

The Queen and Prince Philip boarded the tram at Stop 13 at Federation Square and travelled along St Kilda Road to a reception and lunch with local politicians at Government House.

They had been held up during a walk through the square as well-wishers hand flowers and presents to the royals while tens of thousands looked on.

The royal couple sat facing each other, with the Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, and his wife Robyn sat side by side close by.

The monarch may be more used to travelling in a chauffeur driven state Bentley or Rolls Royce but she appeared at home on public transport.

And like any other passenger the Queen had to pay her way, although her Australian equerry, Commander Andrew Willis, had the job of buying her ticket.

They used a myki - a pre-paid travel card - but it is not known if they chose the two-hour zone-one fare costing $3.80 or opted for the cheaper $2.80 dollar pensioner discount ticket.

Four mounted officers from Victoria Police escorted the royal tram which travelled at walking pace, during the eight minute journey.

Among the two horses that led the way was Super Impressive, a former racehorse that earned about $1.5 million during its former career.

The royal couple waved at the thousands who lined their route and the crowds cheered and screamed in response.

Their journey took them along part of the route of the No.8 tram that runs from Brunswick to the wealthy Melbourne suburb of Toorak.

Ms Smith, who drives trams along the inner-city routes 1, 8 and 19, said she had taken commuters along the stretch of track used by the royals hundreds of times.

She added: "A couple of times I got a little overwhelmed and thought I was going to cry - all the people were waving at her. At one point I even waved at someone I recognised. "But despite being nervous at first it was overwhelming, what an honour to drive the Queen."


1 comment:

Paul said...

Archbishop Pell appealing to evidence? Strange allies indeed.