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58 responses to “The worst news you've heard all week”

  1. Adrien

    I know this won’t be a popular thing Robert. But I think that the sooner the environmental shit hits the fan the better it will be. It’s the only way it’s gonna be taken seriously. We are stupid monkeys and we always only ever learn the hard way.
    Just ask the clowns on Wall St.

  2. Liam

    Well… I’m very keen to know whether you think it’s a risk, Robert. I read that there’s some disagreement about clathrates.
    Are the measurements kosher, for instance?

  3. wilful

    The best bit of this news is that methane does not last all that long in the atmosphere, IIRC. So the remnants of civilisation should be able to pick up the pieces ad start again within a few centuries.

  4. Thomas Paine

    Thanks wilful I feel so much better.

  5. Chris

    Destabilisation of the Arctic Ocean methane hydrates is one of four possible scenarios of abrupt climate change by a runaway natural process (called by some IPCC scientists, only half in jest, ‘the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’).
    These are about to be investigated by the US Department of Energy IMPACTS (Investigation of the Magnitudes and Probabilities of Abrupt Climate Transitions) modelling program, announced on the 18th September. IMPACTS will be conducted by the Argonne, Los Alamos, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories.

    The other three Horsemen are: instability of the West Antarctic ice sheet, large scale positive feedback loop of methane release from permafrost and subarctic forests, and feedback processes between biosphere and atmosphere leading to megadroughts.

    It may be argued that nothing the humanity has done, is doing, is contemplating doing, or will conceivably ever be able to do in order to limit release of CO2 into the atmosphere, is applicable to prevention of multi-gigatonne releases of methane from natural sources, in view of the scale and time gradient of the processes involved. Accordingly, we may as well terminate carbon dioxide oriented discussions, and start looking into the practicalities of (some of us) surviving in the world 6 degrees warmer, and/or with the high water mark six metres higher. We migh soon have much more pressing problems than price per tonne of carbon in emissions trading schemes, and proponents of saving our money for a truly warm day may yet have the (literally) last laugh. Naturally, we are also free to persist with the view that burning cash on sacrificial pyres (carbon-neutral ones, of course) will eventually appease Gaia.

  6. Robert Merkel

    Liam: I don’t know how kosher the measurements are. They’re unpublished measurements straight out of the logbook of the scientists concerned.

    But if it’s accurate, we may need to go for the Hail Mary geoengineering solutions in a very short space of time.

  7. Martin B

    So the remnants of civilisation should be able to pick up the pieces ad start again within a few centuries.

    Except that major clathrate release will cause warming that will induce other feedbacks, like collapse of all permanent ice shelves.

    Could be many millenia before all these things sort themselves back out.

  8. Robert Merkel

    What I should have said was “if it’s accurate, and the quantities are as significant as feared” – then we’re in deep shit.

  9. Chris

    wilful: 20-30 years or so. Wouldn’t such a brief thermal cleansing be a magnificent example of the planet’s homeostatic control mechanism? Temperature and ocean levels up >>> global population abruptly down >>> industry down >>> transport down >>> CO2 emissions sharply down >>> greenhouse effect down >>> temperature down >>> temperature stable >>> end of event. Post-event superpowers are Switzerland, Nepal, Bhutan, Colorado, and anyone else at altitudes sufficiently high to moderate ambient temperatures and prevent inundation during the cleansing event.

  10. Martin B

    CO2 emissions sharply down >>> greenhouse effect down

    Where >>> is many cneturies or millenia. The CO2 doesn’t disappear overnight.

  11. Peter Wood

    On PM they just described the US Congress as “playing chicken with catastrophe” on the financial crisis.

    If you want to describe people as “playing chicken with catastrophe”, wait till Copenhagen!

  12. David Rubie

    Chris said:

    Post-event superpowers are Switzerland, Nepal, Bhutan, Colorado

    I can’t wait to see an economy built on knives and boots. Oh, wait!

  13. Chris

    David Rubie:
    – “I can’t wait to see an economy built on knives and boots”
    And cuckoo clocks.

    Martin B:
    – “Where >>> is many centuries or millenia. The CO2 doesn’t disappear overnight”
    Of course not. It’s Gaia timescale. But provided you are high enough and have a bit of hydroelectric power plus some manufacturing capability (Switzerland, Norway) you just sit tight and enjoy mangoes imported from Greenland by your fleet of tall ships, built at your fast growing plantations od eucalyptus timber. Meanwhile your global competitors are getting really good tan or going for a swim.

  14. OldSkeptic

    I noted this back on the 24th:

    “Then again, if the latest stuff on methane emmissions from the Arctic are true, then I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore, its over, for at least 5 billion plus people by 2100 (inc all of Australia). If it is true then we might as well carry on the party, burn more coal or whatever, as it is all irrelevant now, as the postive feedback mechanisms take over they will dwarf anything we can do.

    Then again, there is maybe one small chance, full scale nuclear war. The dust and smoke would cool the Earth for a couple of years, maybe enough to trigger off a new ice age .. maybe. At least the cooling effect would drop temperatures enough to stop the positive feedback systems and with pretty much everyone in the US, Canada, Europe, Russia all dead then man made emissions would drop enough. Best option for Australia.

    So to fix global warming, vote McCain.”

    If this is the start of the positive feedback mechanisms cutting in, then we really are in big trouble. Everything seems to be happening faster than the ‘worst case’ scenarios in the late 90’s and early 2000’s predicted.

    I downloaded a lot of the model prediction and historical data from the IPCC a while ago and verified for myself that we seem to be on the ‘worst case ‘ track (I am a sceptic after all).

    A little background that is not so well publicised. There are significant surface temperature movements from year to year from many (not entirely understood) causes. El Nino/La Nina is one for example, we are in a cool period in the Southern Hemisphere.

    But, more GGs still mean more energy staying on the Earth. What happens is the surface temps may drop, but that energy has to go somewhere else (ya canna defy the laws of physics captain).

    Basically it goes deeper underwater, when these cycles reverse then that energy comes back to the surface up again. Plus we really have no idea what impacts heating deep water will have. Perhaps it is accelerating deep water methane release?

    So what we are seeing at the moment is just heat movement, not any real cooling as some ‘climate sceptics’ claim (they give us real ones a bad name). When these cycles reverse it is not going to be very pleasant, just wait for more record temperature summers and winters soon.

    PS a good test to see if it is too late, all the best climate scientists disappear to places like New Zealand or the Scottish Highlands. Hang on a second, let’s try. I’ll just dial Jim Hanson …. he’s gone where???

  15. David


    I think I’ll just go home, get extremely drunk, and curl up into a little ball.

  16. The Devil Drink

    Hell of a plan, David. I’ll meet you there.

  17. FDB

    *opens desk drawer*

    Why go home?

  18. OldSkeptic

    David, I got started before you, already had a couple of beers and a couple of glasses of wine (then again I’ve always been waiting for the other shoe to fall).

    Back in a previous thread, someone said they thought that the eternal optimist (god bless him), Tim Flannery ,was coming across as a bit of a doomster. Now you know why, he read the same things I did (plus I thought he had a few drinks in him as well).

    Niclear war, the only uption. From a purely Oz pijnt of view it makes a lot of sense (speeling errirs – half deliberate to make a point).

  19. The Devil Drink

    C2H5OH to CO2+CH4 in one easy digestion. Remember to offset your delayed but accelerating methane release, enviro-sots.

  20. The Amazing Kim

    *opens desk drawer*

    Why go home?

    Why stay at work?

  21. Adrien

    Let’s face facts. It’s high time evolution came up with something better. 🙂

  22. OldSkeptic

    But, and I hate optimism it a disease that should be detected at birth (ideally before birth with compulsary abortion), and treated with massive drug use (ok they might die from that but the death of an optimist is actually a really good thing).

    Ok it is crap, what do we do to deal with it? We work, hard. We can still, maybe just, survive.

    My grandfather fought the Russians, fought the Germans in WW1.Worked hard, walked 5 miles to work every day, raised children with no mother. Was an intellectual worker, a brilliant chess player. My father an engineer and a musician.

    Can we do no less? Of course we can. It will be tough, but we must strip away our illusions and deal with reality. There is hope, the ITER project, once we have fusion we have a chance. Our engineering ability is, frankly quite amazing. We cant turn back the seas, but we can build a lot of livable areas, even in some inhospitable areas.

    Our agricultural scientists can, probably and if listened to, make sure we can eat …, though we are not going to be fat.

    There is hope.

    Am I any happier now, with a midlle class Oz way of life, than I was in a room and kitchen in Glasgow, surrounded with ideas, books and music? Actually not, there was no money, but a lot more fun.

  23. Adrien

    So ye’re frem Glagee wit a muso engineer fer a father. Mmmm. We could be related.

  24. OldSkeptic

    Adrien, knowing my father probably.

  25. Adrien

    Old Skeptic – chuckle. 🙂 .
    There is hope, the ITER project, once we have fusion we have a chance.
    Indeed. The trouble was that environmentalism was always associated with the Left. Engineers aren’t known to be prminent there.

  26. Tim Macknay

    There is hope, the ITER project, once we have fusion we have a chance.

    And you claim to hate optimism? Even the folks working on this project don’t really think it’ll become viable for at least three decades.

    Me, I’m heading for the soon-to-be-tropical paradise of Southwest Tasmania. Preferably somewhere high up.

  27. OldSkeptic

    As I have said in the forum before. The ‘greenies are the useful idiots for the coal/oil/gas companies’. They have killed any possible alternatives that could save us.

    Their endless, despite the all the latest climate change data, anti-nuclear stance … good one you swine, can I check your share register, or are you so stupid that you didn’t make any money our of this scam?

    I’d actually have more respect for them if they had made a quid out of this, but most of them are so dumb they did the coal companies work for them … for free (the coal boys salute you by the way, from their Rolls Royce’s and mansions ..we Joe Soaps hate you greenies because we now have a lose-lose situation. Stuffed environment plus massive energy costs).


    Technically it is simple to deliver low cost energy with minimal or even zero environmental damage (I knew this in the 70s). Don’t forget, we also face ‘peak minerals’, but this is dealable with cheap energy (translated, yes we can have a high standard of living, with total recycling .. but that means cheap energy, recycling costs energy).

    Notice the idiocy of the media greenies, they go out to save whales (cuddly little things), me I’d shoot anyone that catches an orange roughy or kills a frog, plus I dont give a toss for koalas. I worry about linchpin species.

    Oh and where was Greenpeace, when we stuffed the Bay. All these sponges, dolphins, crayfish, seals, etc .. dead. Oh and that daft mob, what were they called, I used to see their rusting boat in Docklands for a while who used to rush of to god know where to save something. How about here .. now.

    And what is that useful idiot, Garret (go back to making squillions from music mate). The solution to everything environmetally wrong in Oz is getting rid of pastic bags (and making even more money for Woolworths, at least you know your job).

    Oh I have so had enough of these idiots, clowns and fellow travellers.

  28. OldSkeptic

    Tim, Iter will work it is a ‘proof of concept’, the science has all been worked out this is a now an engineering project (similar to the early fisson reactor projects in the 50’s). With the allied projects, by about 2020 we will have a prototype fusion reactor, capable of mass production.

    And hope.

  29. Paul Burns

    See. George Pell was right. It is the End of the World, the Last Judgement, the world being over-run by sheep and goats – I guess the sheep win. 🙂

    Been wondering/worrying about this methane under the Arctic ever since I first heard about it. Sort of beats worrying about CO2, doesn’t it?

  30. M. Simon

    Old Skeptic,

    The science behind ITER has not been worked out. There are instabilities that have been known for 20 years that have not been solved.

    Here is what a real fusion program would look like:

    ITER vs The Stone Axe

  31. M. Simon

    In 2007 we lost the whole .7 deg C that it took 30 years to gain. The sun is entering a dormant period after reaching an 11,000 year peak.

    All that methane might be of some use if cooling continues.

    My advice? Stop listening to hucksters like Al Gore and James Hansen (check their association with Lehman) and study the real science.

  32. Martin B

    “In 2007 we lost the whole .7 deg C that it took 30 years to gain.”

    If you study the real science, or even glance at it in a cursory fashion, you will note that this sentence is completely incorrect.

    2007 was the seventh warmest year on record since 1850 with temperatures 0.4ºC above average. The reason why it was slightly cooler than some years preceding it is well known – the cooling effect of the La Nina as opposed to the warming El Nino that affected 1998 in particular.

    The sunspot cycle’s influence has been observed over many cycles and contributes 0.1 – 0.2ºC, so even if the sunspot cycle stays low indefinitiely, that’s not going to provide much cooling.

    So if La Nina was cooling, the sunspot cycle was cooling, why was 2007 still the seventh warmest year on record?

  33. wilful

    No no, please go on. What is the connection between James Hansen and Lehman (I presume you’re talking about Lehman Brothers bank)? And how is this relevant to climatology?

  34. FDB

    I’d wager he’s been studying the “real science” over at Mahorasy’s blog, or someplace with the same list of talking points.

    Lehman bros issued reports on how to do business in an environment of carbon trading, they failed as a business, therefore global warming is a hoax.

    Is that about it M. Simon?

  35. dk.au

    Speaking of climate feedbacks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv5udkIacBw

  36. wizofaus

    Great video dk.au – sea eroding the land, land falling into the sea presumably further raising levels (though presumably not very significantly), and further eroding the land…might not be much left for Ms Palin to govern soon (alternativeely, if she becomes VP, we’re all screwed anyway…)

  37. mitchell porter

    To rationally discuss the implications of Arctic methane release, we need to know how consequential this is in the longer term, which is where all the real badness of global warming is scheduled to take place. One worst-case scenario which has been mentioned is that there might be 50 gigatonnes of methane to be released, which on a 20-year time horizon would slightly more than double the existing net radiative forcing. It sounds like a lot; but how much a difference does it make in 2050, when almost all that methane will be long gone? In 2100? I have no idea, though I hope that within a few months rough calculations will be available at the page above.

    And that 50 Gt is something of an upper bound. If it is only 5 Gt, say, that is liable to be released, then I seriously doubt it will make much difference.

  38. Laura

    If you really give a crap, stop buying meat, and dig up your fromt lawn to plant a vegetable garden.

  39. Adrien

    OldSkeptic – Yeah the reason I departed company with the Greens was their luddite hostility. I did a (very) little bit assisting a Uni Greens club start. I noticed that 95% (a reliable figure) of their members were Arts undergrads. I’m an Arts grad myself nothing necessarilly wrong with that (faculty depending) but there needed to be more engineers and economists. When I suggested they try activel to recruit these type students they looked at me as if I’d farted.
    Not all of the Greens are luddite but a significant number of them simply don’t think. they say for example: we’ve got to get past mass chemical agriculture. Bring up genetically modified crops and they balk. Go organic they say. Mmm yeah right. Can you spell F..A..M..I..N..E?
    To me the Greens were good at getting the environment on the government’s agenda. These days they just provide a voice for the Naive Left. (Unfortunatly there’s very few on the Left who aren’t.)

  40. wilful

    Actually Mithcell, you raise an interesting point – maybe it would be better to ‘vent’ the methane now rather than later? But somehow I doubt it would work like that, and would think that the unknown risks are far far too high.

    As for the Greens, yeah generally I’m over ’em. Too much wishful thinking. Still, I reckon the ACF are mostly pretty credible.

  41. mitchell porter

    wilful, that’s not actually what I meant. I just meant that we need to have some idea of the magnitude of the expected effects. A certain emissions trajectory for the world implies a certain temperature in 2100. If for twenty years early in the 21st century, the net energy influx is doubled by a transient burst of methane, but the trajectory otherwise remain the same, does it or does it not make much difference to the expected temperature in 2100? Also, does it have short-term effects on the viability of mitigation strategies? Would the transient short-term increase in temperatures affect natural CO2 uptake rates? Etc.

  42. myriad


    uni greens club does not equal Greens party. I’m in the Greens, and while I agree that (like all movements, political parties etc.) there’s your usual sprinkling of fruitcakes, some of whom are very luddite, the vast majority are not, and at least our party’s fruitcakes want to push in the right direction, ie sustainability. The obvious proof lies in the Greens’ policy set which withstands scrutiny just as well as anything the major parties put out.

    I’m a science grad myself, and I’ve met members from every conveivable walk of life and profession – so please lay off the bullshit anecdotal ‘representation’ of the Greens stories.

    As for your example about organic farming – can you spell w.r.o.n.g? – try


    so perhaps it would be a good idea to actually research some of the ideas put forward by the Greens rather than sitting making silly generalisations and factually incorrect statements.

  43. Adrien

    Ah Myriad –

    uni greens club does not equal Greens party.

    Yes I’m well aware of the difference thank you. My anecdote, and I know just how valuable an anecdote is, was merely an illustration of a certain prejudice. I could elaborate.
    I don’t go in for the stereotyping of Greens that’s commonly thrown about by such as Andrew Bolt. However it appears to me thru my admittedly brief experience that the party is dominated by those who’re from the unreconstructed Left ex-Comm Party, disenchanted with the ALP and see the Greens as the way in furtherance of the good fight.
    It’s my opinion that there’s no necessary correlation between policies that will generate a sustainable economy and the agenda of old-school socia1ists democratic or otherwise. Not that such a perspective is necessarily irrelevant, just that others may be relevant in what is essentially a new paradigm that transcends the left-right conflicts of industrial society.
    For example: if corn ethanol proved to be the only way to replace petroleum but would, as it has, make a staple for poor people unaffordable, would we go with equity or sustainability? You may try to avoid this not entirely spurious hypothetical by dismissing it but that would be disingenuous. Such choices may have to be made. If so what do you choose?
    From one of your links:

    The researcher attributes this to a relative lack of expensive fertilizers and pesticides in the developing world compared to the intensive, subsidy-driven farming of the developed world. Nonetheless, the researcher purposely avoids making the claim that organic methods routinely outperform green-revolution (conventional) methods.

    Now is this study a comparison between the standard methods utilized in, say, Ardmona or a comparison of organic farming techniques and FUBAR third-world methods? Do you know what cherry picking means?
    Please be so kind as to supply me with a study that shows that organic farming can replace chemical agriculture the world over and still be efficient enough to produce the kilojoules to feed 6 billion people and rising.
    Doubtless there are improvements in organic farming techniques. Doubtless likewise GM food production has pitfalls which should be addressed in the debate and are not except by the Greens. However it appears to me that there is a lack of rigour in their address. It’s simply the parliamentary version of the protest movement: say No!
    It won’t do. It may give you the moral high ground but there will be not one single policy that gets adopted and in that event what’s the use? It’s simply not enough to know the world is wicked, the point is to change it. And to change it requires deft skill, an understanding of realpolitik and the capacity to design policies. It also requires new thinking. I see none of that there.
    I have been subjected to some 6 speeches by Senator Brown the man is undoubtedly honourably intention’d, passionately committed and possessed of a near-adolescent idealism and incoherence. That’s all very well and good but if you want to design a sustainable economy you need something better than good intentions and self-righteous anger.
    Did I also mention that I found the Greens somewhat rigid and highly resistant to heresy? 🙂

  44. Adrien

    I’m a science grad myself,
    After being taught The Book of Genesis by my science grad biology teachers in Grade 12 the qualification doesn’t garner automatic respect from me sorry. That and the chemistry teacher who a. Put his roof into solution by using something stupid to seal the tiles and b. Told his chemistry class about it.
    BTW – You’re second link doesn’t work.

  45. adrian

    Geez, no offence, but you can be a bore sometimes, Adrien!
    You have an uncanny ability to state the bleedin’ obvious while entirely missing the point. Now that’s quite an achievement.

  46. dk.au

    Sorry, couldn’t let this one pass (from the first comment)

    But I think that the sooner the environmental shit hits the fan the better it will be

    See figure 4.1 in the final Garnaut Report. eg. Brazil sat up and took notice of the issue in 2004 when they were hit by an unprecedented hurricane. The near-death of the Murray Darling hasn’t had quite the same impact here..

  47. myriad


    I’m going to take a guess that your self-admitted limited experience with the Greens was probably based in Sydney or thereabouts. It’s not the entiretey (not even close) of the Green Party. I’m not sure actually what you’re para on correlation means, but I would say that the Green Party contains in my much larger experience than yours, a mix of people from ‘traditional’ right and left viewpoints, and an awful lot of people interested in moving beyond that to something entirely different. If I had my way, we’d have a perennial slogan like ‘not left, not right, but forward’.

    For example: if corn ethanol proved to be the only way to replace petroleum but would, as it has, make a staple for poor people unaffordable, would we go with equity or sustainability? You may try to avoid this not entirely spurious hypothetical by dismissing it but that would be disingenuous. Such choices may have to be made. If so what do you choose?

    I think you’re trying to insinuate that I, like your very limited view of the Greens, musn’t be capable of making hard choices. Which is more than a little amusing to someone who’s worked in trade-offs in all forms (environmental, social, economic) her whole life, but knock yourself out. Your hypothetical is dreadfully flawed regardless of whether it’s spurious or not. And the answer is very clear – I, like Greens policy – don’t support first generation biofuels precisely because they are causing rampant food shortages for the world’s poor and are fuelling (pardon pun) appallingly rapid rates of deforestation to boot. In my next act, I’ll walk and chew gum (but only if its sustainable gum) ;-).

    Do you know what cherry picking means?

    why yes, that would be *exactly* what you did, pulling out a single quote from a single article when my links contained multiple examples of longitudinal studies (20 years + in several cases) that have shown in both developed and developing world conditions, organic farming either matches or in many cases exceeds industrial agricultural production.

    sorry about the second link – it’s below, and here’s also a nice link to a Monboit summary on recent organic farming / food distribution / famine-feed the world


    second link repost

    Please be so kind as to supply me with a study that shows that organic farming can replace chemical agriculture the world over and still be efficient enough to produce the kilojoules to feed 6 billion people and rising.

    Um, that would be precisely what the links I posted said.

    It won’t do. It may give you the moral high ground but there will be not one single policy that gets adopted and in that event what’s the use? It’s simply not enough to know the world is wicked, the point is to change it. And to change it requires deft skill, an understanding of realpolitik and the capacity to design policies. It also requires new thinking. I see none of that there.

    And I apologise in advance for being rude, but I think after reading numerous contributions from you in this area, you wouldn’t know it if it hit you upside. You claim in the para above that the issues around farming and GM etc haven’t been properly examined and the Greens are protest-voting. Actually, the Greens as a political voice represent the evidence-based conclusions in this issue, and point, correctly, to the lack of political will (so shocking when there’s such large profits to be made short-term from ignoring fact) to investigate. But where the investigations have happened, the evidence supports the Greens.

    As for the usual tired chestnut that the Greens don’t understand realpolitik etc. – yeah, that’s why Green Parties around the world are routinely in government coalitions, and several states and the Federal Senate have functioned the better with Greens holding balance of power. But again, evidence can be a bitch eh?

    And I didn’t inform you I’m a science grad to impress (think that might say something more about you than me), I pointed it out as part of showing just how ridiculoulsy disingenious your “95% art grads” statement was.

    Bob’s an iconoclast: it’s an archetype that has it’s place and purpose, but the future is Greens like Christine Milne. So you don’t like Bob – lots of people don’t. The Greens aren’t bob clones.

  48. myriad

    and btw, Adrien, the last word is yours ’cause I don’t want to contribute further to thread drift, and I’m heading out on the road for a day or so.

    Adrian – ah, I could have saved so many words… 😉

  49. Adrien

    This tactic where the response to argument for which you have no retort as: “you’re a bore” is, well, boring, not to mention trite and asinine.
    And what point exactly did I miss? Or is that another one of those lame-arse’d attempts at debate?
    And, yes, it’s obvious to anyone who understands what politics actually is and how it actually works and y’know the Greens don’t. That’s the point you missed mate.
    The Greens is not a sacred cow. Earth to the Left: No political party or cause or policy is a sacred cow. None of them. They can and should be criticized. If y’all listened once in a while maybe you’d win occasionly. 🙂

  50. Adrien

    Myriad – The second link is somewhat more persuasive but I haven’t seen anything conclusive, sorry. Of course I must admit it’s somewhat beyond my expertese. But it appears that the study is too narrow. Narrow range of crops, short time line etc. How can they, for example, be certain that this won’t be subject to the proverbial plagues of locusts. I don’t see anything ruling that out. Perchance if I looked into this issue would I find, yet again, the inevitable poisoning of science by politics by both vested interests and those who oppose them?
    The fact that policy is often dictated by multinationals who bullshit us is something more in line with what I know. Yes they do. And yes the Greens are pretty much the only bunch in the House who object. This is granted. But I reckon if they want their objective to be effective well they’re gonna have to get wise. When Dubya came out and invaded addressed parliament Senator Brown was the only person to have the guts to object to the CIA goon bullshit. He did so in just such a way as to make himself look like a berk. Naturally the media did most of the work. But y’see if you’re a dissident the forces that be will be against you.
    It’s perhaps pertinent to mention that I, like them, think sustainability and peace are the two main issues of the 21st century. My objection is not doctrinaire. Your preferred slogan was one that described my hopes. Sorry didn’t find what I was looking for and no I don’t live in or near Sydney.
    My 95% arts grads was a reliable figure of a university club. I didn’t say the party was 95% arts grads. I don’t have the data for the memberships’ skillset or background. It was just my sense of things. (And you’ve simply retorted with your own.) However as the physicist who gave an expert yet dysfunctional seminar on certain electoral processes said he possessed rare skills in the party.
    Viz the Greens and realpolitik I was discussing the Australian Greens. And the popularity of Greens is partially to do with their freedom of taint aspect viz realpolitik. It’s a puzzlement because there they’re damned if they do and also if they don’t.
    Viz Bob Brown I didn’t say I didn’t like him. You’re quite astute in your description of him however.
    Viz your apology, it’d be easier to thank you for it if you didn’t proceed to be rude again. It really isn’t necessary. I might be incorrect altho’ you really haven’t provided anything that says so but that’s no reason to be hostile.
    Viz my assertion that the GM/organic thing hasn’t been properly examined, I didn’t exactly say that. What I said was there’s a default prejudice against GM in the policy. Subtle difference.
    What my science riff says about me is that I’m not impressed by credentials. If you want to impress me cite the evidence that the Greens in particular improve the performance of Federal Parliament as opposed to any party holding the balance of power. You may also wish to present the evidence that one of the Greens various myriad energy policies is going to produce sustainability and while you’re at it please support the ‘silly generalization’ that the evidence (about what?) always supports Green policies. Which policies? And whose? The NSW Greens policies, the Vic Greens policies, the WA Greens policies?
    Lastly thanks for answering the question viz biofuels. You pick equity.

  51. Adrien

    #46 dk – I’m not sure I shoulda said that. Considering the whole damn world might be going into recession it would’ve been better if we’d waited a couple years.
    Never rains – pours. Shiza!!!!

  52. OldSkeptic

    The Australian Greens lost me over the Franklin (not that they are any better than many ‘political’ Greens). I actually remember watching the fight over it, before and after I came to Oz. Now I love the bush, I hate seeing anything beautiful killed, but we face a heart attack and they worry about a wart (actually they worry about the colour of the wart).

    The quote, on television no less, was the tussle over electricity usage forecasts. The Tassie hydro board had definitely overestimated Tassie usage forecasts, but I saw (might actually have been Bob Brown, long time ago) saying, “even they are right, we could build a coal fired power station to meet that demand”. Even back then, with no one having any idea about GGs and climate change, I would have throttled him right there and then .. yes live on television. Since then the various groups have never managed to change my opinion of them as Lenin’s ‘useful idiots’ for the coal (and oil and gas) companies.

    Now if we dammed the Franklin and other areas and Tassie shipped electricity to Victoria so we could shut down the most polluting power stations in the world, then I’d turn the first sod of earth myself. Admittedly I’d shed a tear, but I’d still do it tommorrow.

    I dont think, and the various Green parties definately dont think (well have they ever), most people realise what an awful bind we, even in Australia, are now faced with. Horrible climate change with energy shortages, the ultimate lose-lose situation. Forget battery cars everyone, we dont have the power. We, at least in Victoria though nowhere else in Oz is much better, dont even have the spare power for an urgently needed massive increase in electric rail transport.

    You couldn’t write a book about this, publishers would reject it as too fantastic. Though on the plus side we have finally answered that old question “are humans smarter than yeast”.

  53. myriad

    Oldskeptic, Franklin was a little before my time (and for the sake of correctness, the Australian Greens didn’t exist back then, and the United Party – I think it was – that then became the Tasmanian Greens, came after Franklin).

    I’d point out that with Hydro dams now at record lows and have been for the last 18 months, more dams would have done nothing to help us with electricity generation in a climate change world. Building wind farms or getting tidal up and running, or solar farms, rather than investing millions in the loss-making Bass Link would have.

    I’m a bit surprised if you are correct in saying B. Brown backed coal – he was absolutely howled out of parliament many years ago (like 20+) for bringing up climate change and making dramatic assertions about many-metred sea level rises.

  54. myriad

    d’oh, sorry Tas Greens formed after pedder & before Franklin, although it’s a tad confused ’cause the first MPs stood essentially as independents…

  55. murph the surf

    “If you really give a crap, stop buying meat, and dig up your fromt lawn to plant a vegetable garden.”
    No, we have to develop a taste for kangaroo meat.
    Reduced numbers of hard hooved animals on dry fragile soils is a good thing , long rotation spelling /short rotataion grazing if they stay , appropriate carbon charges which should be paid by the consumer who pursues their choice of red meat.
    Interestingly there are already discussions on other site about the husbandry needed to manage kangaroos – tail docking while in the pouch for instance, castration of the males to deter aggressive bullying and fighting, new cradles being necessary for handling.
    Oh and a couple of points Laura – digging up lawns encourages C02 release – minimum tillage is the way to go . And giving up meat eating pets would also mean the demand for red meats would be greatly reduced – rabbits make much nicer pets and once they get too old they taste good too!

  56. feral sparrowhawk

    I know this is facilitating thread drift, but it does seem to be the main topic at the moment. The Greens no doubt have more arts graduates than science or engineering, but that applies to all parties. As a proportion of the party science graduates are much higher in the Greens than in any other party.

    There are only about 6 science graduates in federal parliament, and similar ratios at state levels. However, the current or recent past, Green MPs with science degrees include Kerry Nettle, Greg Barber and Lee Rhiannon. John Kaye was an engineer. Out of roughly 20 MPs that is a high ratio, and I don’t know about several of the others.

    I’ll take your anecdote and raise you one. Many years ago I was sitting round a table with some pretty high powered Greens party figures (far more high powered than myself) someone said something about science degrees. I made some comment about “yeah as if many of us have science degrees”. It was pointed out to me that of 7-8 people around the table, only one *didn’t* have a science degree.

    Kaye aside, engineers are probably a lot rarer, and I think the degrees skew heavily to the biological sciences, but its certainly not true the Greens are all arts graduates.

  57. myriad


    actually I picked environmental justice, which = equity AND sustainability. This being one reason I am a Green, the joy of avoiding false dichotomies and realising that it is possible to craft policy based on an interconnected world.

    In response to the rest: –

    I’m not an ‘expert’ but I have spent 10 years working on natural resource management & sustainable farming. I’ve had the satisfaction of watching Australian farmers increasingly turn to organic and permaculture farming methods, except that the establishment bias against such terms is so strong that no-one is allowed to say those words. For eg we get “integrated pest management” which is basically planting companion crops and verges that attract good insects, leaving native veg standing for the same reason, and using good insects to attact bad ones, which = organic practice. Organic farmers have been doing that for literally hundreds of years, yet this gets presented as ‘groundbreaking’ at conferences by CSIRO, months after they sacked their only organic ag scientist. Ditto using manure teas, going back to cell grazing, and integrating crops with animals – all old techniques wrapped up as ‘new’ – which hey if it gets them adopted is great, but watching organic being re-introduced, piece-meal, is agonising and will effect it’s overall success.

    Like other organic methods, thos above time and again are shown to match or often out-perform industrialised monocultural farming. If you go back and read the Monboit article, you will see the answer to your ‘locust’ question – diversity within crops (something that both industrialised monoculture and in particular the big GM companies campaign relentlessly against) perform far better when the bad times come – which they always do to agriculture.

    Yes, there is a huge effort putting into insisting that industrial monocultural farming is superior and the only way to feed the world, and its completely fallacious – not least because food distribution is the elephant in the room. It has managed however to stymie serious research into alternatives (other than GM, which is all about corporate monoply from the seed to the harvest with herb/pesticides thrown in as well) for many years. The FAO is finally openly considering alternatives as the evidence for organic and diversified farming mounts, & the writing on the wall between peak oil and climate change sinks in, hooray.

    I’d encourage you to examine the energy balances of industrialised Ag (including GM, although there’s limited evidence on this to date) vs organic. It actually costs us massive amounts of energy to produce food using industrialised agriculture – between the fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, top soil loss, fuel use and overwhelming reliance on external inputs, industrialised agriculture is a worse than nil-sum game. When you factor in that the top soil lost from this method literally means watching hundreds of years of fertility blowing away, the situation is dire.

    What you call ‘subtle prejudice’ against GM, I would call evidence-based application of the precautionary principle.

    Greens energy policies – I’d just point out that Garnaut picked up the entire Green policy on energy efficieny pretty much holus-bolus in his final report as one example of how the Greens as usual have been howled at…..and then all of a sudden their policies start quietly appearing as someone else’s bright idea. Not that I’m accusing Garnaut of howling, but he is one expert who thinks Greens energy policies have some of the answers. In sum there is very sound evidence behind the Greens energy policies, and they frankly shit on anything the major parties have on the table. Christine’s national feed-in tariff bill will be a major test for the laborials, given the strong evidence of such laws’ effectiveness in Germany in particular.

    As for evidence-based policy -aside from pointing out your own bait and switch moving from quickly between Australian and State Green perspectives as it suits you – I’ve been part of my own state and Australian Green policy making exercises, and while a lot of ideology gets brought to the table by some, the debates almost entirely focus on evidential debate, and ensuring policy is evidence-based. One only has to look at for eg the hysteria whipped up so successfully by Howard and others over Greens drug policy vs what the policy actually said, soundly based on evidence, to see how this is played out in the media though.

    Finally, I might be merely 34 Adrien, but when a professed (at best) sceptic ‘challenges’ me to waste my time earnestly gathering together evidence to ‘prove’ something they’ve already stated they don’t agree with/believe, I know better than to take that bait. If you’re genuinely interested in seeing if your assumptions and beliefs about the Greens’ ability to function effectively politically- Australian Greens or otherwise – are incorrect, you’ll do your own homework, not expect someone to do it for you.

  58. feral sparrowhawk

    But you’re dead right about the shortage of economists. It’s one of our biggest problems.