Wednesday, February 24, 2016

That dreaded land clearing again

Below is another Greenie lament about land clearing.  Most of the world lives on land that has been cleared of its native vegetation but that precedent cuts no ice with Greenies. I said a lot more about that issue last month so will not pursue it again.

The rant below is totally one-eyed, as we have come to expect.  Their basic objection to clearing is species loss and water pollution.  And their only response to those problems, if they are problems,  is "Stop everything".  The authors are senior academics but you would never guess it.  It is all just hand-waving, with nothing scholarly about it.

A scholarly article would do a survey of the major species, research how many there are, give some argument for why they are important and study how many are needed to maintain a viable population.

Why do that?  Because there are conflicting claims on land use.  One side cannot have it all to themselves, though Greenies would clearly like to.  In the Anglosphere, conflicting claims are customarily resolved by compromise.  Arrangements are worked out that allow both sides to get what is most important to them.

And what is most important to Greenies is clear enough:  Species preservation.  So we need to know just how much land is needed for species preservation and how much can be released for food production.  So if we took the scholarly steps above, a compromise suitable to both sides should be possible.  But a mature response like that is beyond Greenies.  Their only policy is "winner take all", with themselves as the winner.

That rightly causes others to dig their heels in and the Greenies may in the end get very little of what they want -- probably less than they could have got via compromise.

And they are far too myopic to see what has been happening in the last couple of years.  When a conservative Queensland government lifted a whole lot of Leftist restrictions on land use, landowners went for broke.  They have busily been clearing as much land as they can before restrictions hit them again.  Much land may have been cleared that need not have been cleared if more moderate land use restrictions had been probable.

Just some excerpts below as it is all so brainless and predictable

Land clearing has returned to Queensland in a big way. After we expressed concern that policy changes since 2012 would lead to a resurgence in clearing of native vegetation, this outcome was confirmed by government figures released late last year.

It is now clear that land clearing is accelerating in Queensland. The new data confirm that 296,000 hectares of bushland was cleared in 2013-14 – three times as much as in 2008-09 – mainly for conversion to pastures. These losses do not include the well-publicised clearing permitted by the government of nearly 900 square kilometres at two properties, Olive Vale and Strathmore, which commenced in 2015.
The increases in land clearing are across the board. They include losses of over 100,000 hectares of old-growth habitats, as well as the destruction of “high-value regrowth” – the advanced regeneration of endangered ecosystems.

These ecosystems have already been reduced to less than 10% of their original extent, and their recovery relies on allowing this regrowth to mature.

Alarmingly, our analysis of where the recent clearing has occurred reveals that even “of concern” and “endangered” remnant ecosystems are being lost at much higher rates now than before.

While this level of vegetation loss and damage continues apace, Australia’s environmental programs will fall well short of achieving their aims.

Land clearing affects all Australians, not just Queenslanders. Australia spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year trying to redress past environmental damage from land clearing. Tens of thousands of volunteers dedicate their time, money and land to the effort.

But despite undeniable local benefits of such programs, their contribution to national environmental goals is undone, sometimes many times over, by the damage being done in Queensland.

Species cannot recover if their habitat is being destroyed faster than it is being restored. But under Caring for our Country and Biodiversity Fund grants, the extent of tree planting to restore habitat across Australia reported since 2013 is just over 42,000 hectares - an order of magnitude less than what was cleared in Queensland alone in just two years.

And it will be many decades before these new plantings will provide anything like the environmental benefits of mature native vegetation.

Land clearing between 2012 and 2014 in Queensland is estimated to have wiped out more than 40,000 hectares of koala habitat, as well as habitat for over 200 other threatened species. Clearing, along with drought (which is also made worse by clearing), is the major cause of an 50% decline in koalas of  south-west and central Queensland since 1996.

The loss of remnant habitat, especially from forests along waterways, means more habitat fragmentation. This is a further threat to many species of wildlife, and it hampers our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

The current Palaszczuk government in Queensland has repeated its election promise to re-strengthen native vegetation protections. The amendment bill is due to be introduced to parliament within weeks.

But the minority government relies on the votes of cross-benchers to pass its legislation–so for now, the future of some of Australia’s most precious environmental assets remains uncertain.


Age, gender, race? Climate scepticism is predominantly party political

Because conservatives don't like the power grabs that such scares tend to legitimate

It appears the adage that climate change sceptics are typically conservative white men is only partly true, with a new study finding the political party you support to be a much stronger marker of where you line-up on global warming than gender, age and race.

But if you do accept the scientific evidence humans are causing climate change by burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests, the same research also suggests that does not mean you lead a greener private life.

In an effort to tease out what shapes individual views and actions on climate change, Australian researchers analysed almost 200 studies and polls covering 56 countries.

They found that political affiliation was a much larger determinant of a person's willingness to accept humanity's role in climate change than other social fault lines. Conservative voters were more likely to be sceptical, while progressive voters typically believed the science.

A person's broader political ideology, such as whether they saw themselves as conservative or liberal, also had a notable effect, albeit weaker than party support.

Other variables such as age, gender, education, income and race had a much lower, and often negligible, impact. The same was also true for individual experiences of extreme weather events.

"Although a 'conservative white male' profile has emerged of climate change sceptics in the United States, our analysis of polls across multiple nations suggests that the 'conservative' part of that equation would seem to be more diagnostic than the 'white male' part," finds the paper, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Tuesday.

Matthew Hornsey, a psychology professor at the University of Queensland and one of the authors of the study, said climate science was far too complex for the vast majority of people to be totally across, meaning for most it was a matter of trust.

Some have an implicit trust in scientists and their methods, he said, but others turned to "gut feelings that are largely about their values, their politics, their world view".

"Age, sex and race aren't the issue: it's your deeper philosophies about the free market, about big versus small government, about individualistic versus socialistic ways of responding to societal problems, about whether or not you have a moral suspicion of industry," Professor Hornsey said.

The finding from the studies included in the analysis, almost half of which came from the United States, echoed recent dedicated Australian polls. Last year an analysis of five CSIRO climate surveys - a program now axed - found barely a quarter of Coalition voters accepted humanity was mostly responsible for climate change, as opposed to 59 per cent of Labor voters and 76 per cent of Greens supporters.

But accepting climate change did not necessarily make you greener, at least in your home life, the study also found.

While those who accept human's role in climate changes were more likely to take more public action, such as signing petitions or joining demonstrations, that was not necessarily replicated in private action, such as cutting energy use at home and using public transport over the car.

Professor Hornsey said this was partly about barriers to action, such as not having access to public transport. But there were a group of people who believed in climate change and wanted something done about it, but saw it as a global responsibility rather than an issue of individual sacrifice.

"In Australia it was striking how concern about climate change coexisted with resentment about paying the [now defunct] carbon tax," Professor Hornsey said.


Let's talk about 'the youth'

Trisha Jha

This week Fairfax breathlessly reported an 'exclusive' from The Australia Institute that purported to show the current tax treatment of investment properties and superannuation delivers almost no benefits to the under-30s.

It's not difficult to see why. When the biggest benefits of both tax policies apply to those paying the highest marginal tax rate (those earning above $180,000 p.a.) it makes sense that most people in the first few years of their career are not earning anywhere near that much.

What this simplistic analysis fails to account for is the bleedin' obvious: young people don't stay young forever. They start to earn more and build their wealth, often through investing in property -- just as previous generations have done.

If we truly want to have a conversation about intergenerational equity, let's talk about how Labor's policy, which would enable existing property investors to keep their portfolios through grandfathering but bar new investors from buying established properties, would create two classes of investors -- where young people are on the losing side.

Consider that the government, instead of letting spending cuts do the heavy lifting on budget repair, is allowing bracket creep on income taxes to do the work instead. Younger people of working age are paying higher taxes because of political unwillingness to tackle the real culprit: spending. The largest chunk of federal spending is the Age Pension, and today's pensioners are not expected to unlock the wealth in their home to support their lifestyle in retirement.

By the time the young people of today reach retirement age (no doubt pushed to 70 or 75 by then), the Age Pension will be a curious quirk of history: as irrelevant as 1 and 2 cent pieces. Superannuation and the family home will be the principal form of supporting oneself in retirement.

Since we're talking about superannuation, let's talk about how any 'reform' of the tax arrangements surrounding superannuation (almost certainly just a tax grab) would in all likelihood preserve the current generous system of concessions for those who are closer to retirement. It'll be today's young people who are slugged with higher tax on that same pot of money which is then meant to support them fully in retirement.

Higher taxes and more spending means younger taxpayers and future generations are footing the bill for others' profligacy. This absurd yet ubiquitous narrative that big government is good for 'the young' is nothing but a con.


Salvation Army tells asylum seeker he will 'never live in Australia'

His advice was accurate but he could have expressed more sympathy.  But doing that might have encouraged the foolish Tamil to stay on

The Salvation Army has effectively urged a Tamil asylum seeker on Manus Island to go home because: "You will never live in Australia".

A Salvation Army risk and compliance officer, who is only identified as "Andrew", wrote to a Tamil man on the charity's letterhead in January 2014 saying: "You can expect to remain in this facility for a very long time whilst this process is undertaken.

"You may be given an opportunity to be re-settled in PNG but I am not sure when or if this may occur. The only other option available to you is to seek repatriation with the assistance to IOM (International Organization for Migration) to your country of origin.

"If you choose not to go home you will spend a very, very long time here. You have been told lies by people smugglers."

The Salvation Army has declared publicly its opposition to offshore detention and received more than $70 million under a contract to provide humanitarian services on Manus Island and Nauru between 2012 and 2014. A spokesman acknowledged the letter was written by one of its staff "in consultation" with the Immigration Department.

He said the group's contract with the department required it to communicate official information to detainees, including the time frames associated with the processing of their asylum seeker claims.

The message could have been communicated more sensitively, the spokesman said, but it accurately reflected the government's July 2013 policy decision not to re-settle boat arrivals in Australia.

"The Salvation Army agrees that the content of the letter, read in isolation, is incredibly harsh, however, there was no malicious or cruel intent held when this letter was written," the spokesman said.

An Immigration department spokeswoman said the contract with the Salvation Army contained no requirement for the Department to "vet, oversee or help draft" correspondence to transferees.

The Tamil man was part of a group known as "OPK" which attempted to enter Australia by boat in mid-2013.

"Perhaps in some part, the content of the letter reflected a choice between two incredibly difficult situations, firstly, where transferees would be left in limbo - not knowing what would happen to them or still hoping that they would be resettled in Australia - or alternatively, communicating the incredibly difficult message that post 19 July 2013, transferees would not be resettled in Australia and according to the government policy there would be absolutely no exceptions," the Salvation Army spokesman said.

"In communicating the latter, it was hoped that this could at least give the transferees some certainty about their future and some choice (although a very bleak choice) as to whether they would remain at the centres or return to their country of origin if they preferred to do so."

Asylum seekers have also alleged that they were beaten by private security guards during an operation to end a January 2015 Manus Island hunger strike, and have told Fairfax Media in a series of letters that they were jailed in the nearby Lorengau police cells for up to 21 days.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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