Monday, September 05, 2016

Water wars?

The story below is yet another "resources running out" story and as silly as most.  There are two obvious replies to the scare:  One in Australia and one in Israel.

Australia is an unusually dry country on the whole, though there are some areas where it is very wet indeed.  The Southeast of the continent relies heavily on our great Southern rivers, with irrigation from them producing excellent crops.  But if everybody were allowed to take all they want from them, people in the Southern reaches of the rivers would be left high and dry. 

So the right to take water from the rivers has simply been made tradeable.  You buy water from them so only those who can make good money from the water will want to buy.  So the people who can use the water best are the one who do get to use it and there is as a result plenty of water available for productive uses.

Israel also has strategies that have solved their water problems.  Israel is in an area that has been very dry in recent years but in fact has plenty of water.  How come?  There are two main factors: A high rate of recycling "grey" water for irrigation purposes and desalination.  Israel is a world leader in desalination technology and now produces large flows of desalinated water at a very moderate cost.

A combination of the Australian and Israeli approaches should relieve any country of water problems as long as they decide to spend their money intelligently instead of blowing one-another up over religious disagreements

WE ALL think we know why wars are fought. Whether it’s the devastation in Syria, armed skirmishes in Africa or Russia’s expansionist leanings, armed conflicts are usually seen as falling into one of very few categories; capturing territory, a political ideology attempting to dominate another or, simply, for a country to get its hands on oilfields.

But, according to one theory, whatever the stated reason for most wars, they actually come down to one reason. Or rather, one resource, which is all around us.

And with stores of this resource dwindling in some parts of the world, things could be about to get a lot worse with a potential future flashpoint being between two of the world’s nuclear armed superpowers — India and China.

Alok Jha, a British journalist with a background in physics, will speak at this weekend’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House about the role water has played in a multitude of conflicts including both the Arab Spring and the civil war that has engulfed Syria.

“The Roman empire and the Persian empire would go to war for access to water and would live or die by that,” Mr Jha tells “That doesn’t happen as blatantly anymore, it’s much more subtle.”

Part of the problem, he argues in his new book The Water Book, is we’ve managed to hide water from view and have forgotten its importance.


“What we’ve done in modern society is make water invisible. Apart from when it’s falling from the sky or we’re having showers you don’t really think about it.”

Yet, every major city — from Sydney on the harbour to Brisbane on the river — exists either on or close to a river or a coastline. A map of the world’s population centres, says Mr Jha, is actually a map of freshwater sources.

“Any civilisation marks its domination and power through control of water.

Ninety seven per cent of the earth’s water is in the oceans and salty and so unusable unless treated through energy sucking desalination plants.

“Of the remaining three per cent, two per cent is in the ice caps and one per cent is freshwater, most of which most sits underground in ice or permafrost and a vanishingly small percentage is the stuff all of life uses,” explains Mr Jha.

So successful have we been at harnessing the power of water that cities and even entire nations have sprung from the desert soil, be that Las Vegas in the US or Dubai and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. Each one far outstripping the water supply naturally occurring in the area.

But climate change, the inefficient use of water, and access to the oceans could stretch our ability to squeeze more H20 out of the supplies we have and could spark violence across borders.
Alik Jha argues the world is taking the risk of conflicts over water for granted.

Alik Jha argues the world is taking the risk of conflicts over water for granted.Source:Supplied


Conflicts concerning strategic bodies of water are nothing new. Indeed, a series of skirmishes in the 1960s between Israel, Syria and Lebanon about freshwater allocations from the Jordan Valley was called the ‘water war’.

But Mr Jha argues that far more conflicts have water at their core.

“There are conflicts and skirmishes all the time and they are often not described as a water war, sometimes people might fight over a bit of land or it may manifest as a trade dispute but underlying all of that is access to water.

“In the Middle East there are constant battles over (water) but it’s at a very low level and sometimes internal (to the country),” he says.

“The Arab Spring was exacerbated by failed crops. Syria, right now, is largely political and it’s about dictatorships and war but it’s exacerbated because of water shortages.”

The spark for the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region, which saw two million deaths and the country divided in two, is credited as the populated and parched north of the country looking to get its hands on water from the lush but culturally distinct south.
Rebel Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement fighters in the Darfur region of Sudan. The were needed in the 2000s when the country split in two. Picture: Scott Nelson/Getty Images

Rebel Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement fighters in the Darfur region of Sudan. The were needed in the 2000s when the country split in two. Picture: Scott Nelson/Getty ImagesSource:Supplied


“If you do not have access to water, it’s not just hard to have a shower in the morning, you can’t do anything, you can’t grow crops, you have no clothes, nothing works,” he says.

If climate change continues, as scientists predict, there will be even less water in the Middle East, sub Saharan Africa, the southern US, the Mediterranean and, he says, Australia. And as the water moves, so will the people.

“If everything in a country dries up the people will look across international boundaries for jobs, food, for home. Richer countries will have to work out how to absorb these people.

Reasons for migration might seem diverse now, from looking for a better life to escaping conflict, “but in 20 years, if you look back you’ll see it was a water-led migration,” says Mr Jha.

Conversely, massive global disruption could also occur because of too much water. Rising sea levels could swamp major world centres, like New York, London and Tokyo.


'Lemon' cars needs their own laws, legal groups say

New cars with multiple faults should certainly be returnable for refund

Legal groups are calling for Australia to introduce what is known as "lemon laws" to cover faulty products, including new and used cars.

In submissions to a review of Australian Consumer Law made public this week, groups such as Legal Aid NSW, West Justice, and the Consumer Credit Legal Service all called for the laws.

Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom already have lemon laws which cover the sale of new cars.

They typically set limits to the number of faults a new car can have, the number of unsuccessful attempts to fix a problem, and the number of days a new car can be off the road for repairs.

West Justice, which primarily gives legal assistance to new migrants, said the purchase of a "lemon" car could be highly detrimental for people living in outer suburban areas.

The organisation's Denis Nelthorpe said lemon laws were needed to cover new and second-hand cars.  "The common problem we see is that a consumer will buy a vehicle based on an assurance from a caryard that it is mechanically sound and that it's in good condition, only to find that it has all sorts of problems," he said. "The cost of repairing the vehicle is disproportionate to the sale price.

"In the end it's not very hard for a car yard to sell a poor quality vehicle to an unsuspecting consumer."

In the US, most states have some form of a lemon law to protect car buyers when they have purchased a vehicle that is defective beyond repair.  These laws mostly apply to new cars, but in some states they also cover used cars.

Zac Gillam from the Consumer Action Law Centre (CALC) said Australia should follow Singapore's model, and make broader changes to consumer law.

"They reverse the onus of proof, so if a consumer buys a good and within six months of the purchase of that good it's defective, they could return that good to the retailer and the presumption is that the good was defective," he told the ABC.

"It is up to the retailer to show the good is not defective when it was sold. "In the Australian system and most systems, the onus lies on the consumer to show that the good was defective."

CALC has also used its submission to argue for a tribunal to be set up to deal specifically with disputes about vehicles.

"That's because it's such a specialised area, and it's really difficult for generalist tribunals who don't have expertise in motor vehicles, to effectively adjudicate those disputes," Zac Gillam said.

"They have a system like that in New Zealand, and we believe we should adopt that in conjunction with the broader Singaporean idea of consumer guarantees."

In their submissions, the Australian Automotive Dealer Association and the Motor Traders Association of Australia (MTAA) dismissed the calls for lemon laws in Australia.

Both organisations said lemon laws should not be introduced because current laws already provided significant consumer protections.


Apartment oversupply to cause price falls

I have been saying this for around a year so it is good to see someone else twigging

A "correction" in the apartment market could see sharp falls in all Australian home prices and a nationwide recession, a gloomy bank analyst report on the housing market warns.

The report by analysts CLSA paints a "base case" scenario which says Australia's housing cycle has "peaked," with household debt now extending the country's property bubble.

An oversupply of apartments and the taxation of foreign buyers will restrict growth in house prices in Sydney and Melbourne, says HSBC economist.

The shift by big banks to tighten lending standards is likely to cause a "correction" and "crisis" in cheap apartments which will spread, leading to defaults among smaller developers and a sharp contraction in construction, CLSA says.

The "worst case" scenario foresees "dwelling prices falling sharply in all areas, eventually leading to a recession," the report's authors, a respected former banking analyst Brian Johnson, and his colleagues Andrew Johnston, David Murphy, Sholto Maconochie, Chris Kightley and Ed Henning say.

"Issues of affordability and household debt are overextending Australia's real estate bubble, which is being held aloft by foreign capital," they say.

"Our base case has the crisis starting with cheap apartments and later spreading to other flats in close proximity."

The authors put a "sell" recommendation on stocks of companies most likely to be affected by the crunch, including the country's biggest bank CBA and listed property giant Lendlease. Another property player Mirvac would also be impacted, they said.

Mr Johnson and co. said they believe a correction in the housing market will start with settlement problems among apartment buyers, where purchasers who stumped up a 10 per cent deposit simply walk away leaving developers to recoup the money or resell the unit.

Under the "base case" scenario the contagion from falling apartment prices has a "muted" impact on single-family homes and is not enough to push the economy into recession.

The risk of the "worst case" happening, which predicts sharp price falls and a recession, is increased because Australian household's are holding debt that is at 122 per cent of GDP and house prices are 12 times price to income ratios, the authors say.

Another report released Friday by banking giant UBS also highlights the impact foreign money is having on the housing market.

While lending by Australia's big banks for apartments has ground to a halt, many developments are nonetheless going ahead with funding from offshore banks, UBS notes.

It says over the last twelve months residential approvals have hit a record 235,000, with 73,000 of those for apartment buildings four-or-more storeys high.

There are now 525 residential construction cranes towering over Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, mainly for high-rise apartments, the bank said.

"We see the rapid increase in housing supply as a significant risk for the banks," UBS stated.

Australia's house prices rose 7 per cent over the year to August, according to CoreLogic data. They were bolstered by strong growth of 9.1 and 9.4 per cent respectively in Melbourne and Sydney.


IVF Success Rate In Australia Is Improving But Not Guaranteed 

I don't like this refusal to implant more than one embryo.  When my son was conceived they implanted two embryos.  What if they had implanted only the other one?

The live birth rate per IVF cycle has increased from 18.1 percent in 2011 to 19.8 percent in 2014

For many couples, IVF is their only chance at having a baby, but that chance is less than one in five per embryo.

But it's getting better. The live birth rate per IVF cycle has increased from 18.1 percent in 2011 to 19.8 percent in 2014, according to a report by the University of NSW's National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit.

The study also demonstrated how sharply success rates dropped off with age.

For women aged 30 to 34 using their own eggs, the birth rate per cycle was 26 percent or 28.6 percent depending on whether eggs were fresh or frozen while for women over 44, it was less than 1 percent to 6.6 percent.

Fertility Society of Australia vice president Luk Rombauts said the nation's slowly increasing success rate was occurring despite the fact that IVF clinics no longer implant multiple embryos unless there was a medical reason.

"Multiple births are by far the greatest health risk to mothers and babies from IVF, and multiple embryo transfer clearly increases this risk," Rombauts said.

    Why has the IVF success rate improved?

    The use of frozen embryos have been shown to be more successful than fresh, with new rapid freezing techniques to optimise the time of transfer.

    Embryos are now often cultured for five to six days before they are transferred.

    Embryo selection techniques have become more advanced.

"The Australian and New Zealand region has one of the lowest rates of multiple deliveries from IVF treatment in the world, and also maintains consistently high success rates.

"This has been achieved voluntarily through the commitment by IVF specialists and patients to provide the safest treatment possible."

Multiple embryos are rarely implanted becasue it poses a danger to the mother.

The rate of multiple deliveries in Australia dropped by a third over the last five years, from 7.9 percent in 2010 to 4.9 percent in 2014. This compares to 27 percent in the United States and 16 percent in the United Kingdom.


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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