Can our democracy be saved?

18 04 2014

Originally posted on The Australian Independent Media Network:

bananaWhen you see Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, Joe Bullock elected in front of Louise Pratt, Bronwyn Bishop as Speaker, Tim Wilson given a job as a Human Rights Commissioner, Sophie Mirabella building submarines, and Alexander Downer showered with gifts from every direction, you know democracy is ailing if not already dead. It’s time for change.

As things stand politics in Australia is now the province of a political class that now offers a lifetime career path in federal and state parliaments, the public services and quangos. Entrance to this world often involves nepotism and cronyism. There can be few other legitimate jobs with salary packages over $300,000 that can often be obtained with virtually no experience and qualifications and little restrictions on second jobs or holidays.

Equating integrity with paying more money, flies in the face of history. By paying politicians starting salary packages of over $300,000, more people are…

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Climate Change: The 40 Year Delay Between Cause and Effect

18 04 2014

Climate Change: The 40 Year Delay Between Cause and Effect (via Skeptical Science)

Posted on 22 September 2010 by Alan Marshall

Guest post by Alan Marshall from

Following the failure to reach a strong agreement at the Copenhagen conference, climate skeptics have had a good run in the Australian media, continuing their campaigns of disinformation. In such an atmosphere it is vital that we articulate the basic science of climate change, the principles of physics and chemistry which the skeptics ignore.


Alan Marshall

The purpose of this article is to clearly explain, in everyday language, the two key principles which together determine the rate at which temperatures rise. The first principle is the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide and other gases. The second principle is the thermal inertia of the oceans, sometimes referred to as climate lag. Few people have any feel for the numbers involved with the latter, so I will deal with it in more depth.
The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect takes its name from the glass greenhouse, which farmers have used for centuries, trapping heat to grow tomatoes and other plants that could not otherwise be grown in the colder regions of the world. Like glass greenhouses, greenhouse gases allow sunlight to pass through unhindered, but trap heat radiation on its way out. The molecular structure of CO2 is such that it is “tuned” to the wavelengths of infrared (heat) radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface back into space, in particular to the 15 micrometer band. The molecules resonate, their vibrations absorbing the energy of the infra-red radiation. It is vibrating molecules that give us the sensation of heat, and it is by this mechanism that heat energy is trapped by the atmosphere and re-radiated to the surface. The extent to which temperatures will rise due to a given change in the concentration of greenhouse gases is known as the “climate sensitivity,” and you may find it useful to search for this term when doing your own research.

Most principles of physics are beyond question because both cause and effect are well understood. A relationship between cause and effect is proved by repeatable experiments. This is the essence of the scientific method, and the source of knowledge on which we have built our technological civilization. We do not question Newton’s laws of motion because we can demonstrate them in the laboratory. We no longer question that light and infrared radiation are electromagnetic waves because we can measure their wavelengths and other properties in the laboratory. Likewise, there should be no dissent that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation, because that too has been demonstrated in the laboratory. In fact, it was first measured 150 years ago by John Tyndall [i] using a spectrophotometer. In line with the scientific method, his results have been confirmed and more precisely quantified by Herzberg in 1953, Burch in 1962 and 1970, and others since then.

Given that the radiative properties of CO2 have been proven in the laboratory, you would expect them to be same in the atmosphere, given that they are dependent on CO2’s unchanging molecular structure. You would think that the onus would be on the climate skeptics to demonstrate that CO2 behaves differently in the atmosphere than it does in the laboratory. Of course they have not done so. In fact, since 1970 satellites have measured infrared spectra emitted by the Earth and confirmed not only that CO2 traps heat, but that it has trapped more heat as concentrations of CO2 have risen.


The above graph clearly shows that at the major wavelength for absorption by CO2, and also at wavelength for absorption by methane, that less infrared was escaping in to space in 1996 compared to 1970.

After 150 years of scientific investigation, the impact of CO2 on the climate is well understood. Anyone who tells you different is selling snakeoil.

The Thermal Inertia of the Oceans

If we accept that greenhouse gases are warming the planet, the next concept that needs to be grasped is that it takes time, and we have not yet seen the full rise in temperature that will occur as a result of the CO2 we have already emitted. The Earth’s average surface temperature has already risen by 0.8 degrees C since 1900. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing at the rate of 2 ppm per year. Scientists tell us that even if CO2 was stabilized at its current level of 390 ppm, there is at least another 0.6 degrees “in the pipeline”. If findings from a recent study of Antarctic ice cores is confirmed, the last figure will prove to be conservative [ii]. The delayed response is known as climate lag.

The reason the planet takes several decades to respond to increased CO2 is the thermal inertia of the oceans. Consider a saucepan of water placed on a gas stove. Although the flame has a temperature measured in hundreds of degrees C, the water takes a few minutes to reach boiling point. This simple analogy explains climate lag. The mass of the oceans is around 500 times that of the atmosphere. The time that it takes to warm up is measured in decades. Because of the difficulty in quantifying the rate at which the warm upper layers of the ocean mix with the cooler deeper waters, there is significant variation in estimates of climate lag. A paper by James Hansen and others [iii] estimates the time required for 60% of global warming to take place in response to increased emissions to be in the range of 25 to 50 years. The mid-point of this is 37.5 which I have rounded to 40 years.

In recent times, climate skeptics have been peddling a lot of nonsense about average temperatures actually cooling over the last decade. There was a brief dip around the year 2000 following the extreme El Nino event of 1998, but with greenhouse emissions causing a planetary energy imbalance of 0.85 watts per square metre [iv], there is inevitably a continual rising trend in global temperatures. It should then be no surprise to anyone that the 12 month period June 2009 to May 2010 was the hottest on record [v].

The graph below from Australia’s CSIRO [vi] shows a clear rising trend in temperatures as well as a rising trend in sea-level.


Implications of the 40 Year Delay

The estimate of 40 years for climate lag, the time between the cause (increased greenhouse gas emissions) and the effect (increased temperatures), has profound negative consequences for humanity. However, if governments can find the will to act, there are positive consequences as well.

With 40 years between cause and effect, it means that average temperatures of the last decade are a result of what we were thoughtlessly putting into the air in the 1960’s. It also means that the true impact of our emissions over the last decade will not be felt until the 2040’s. This thought should send a chill down your spine!

Conservative elements in both politics and the media have been playing up uncertainties in some of the more difficult to model effects of climate change, while ignoring the solid scientific understanding of the cause. If past governments had troubled themselves to understand the cause, and acted in a timely way, climate change would have been contained with minimal disruption. By refusing to acknowledge the cause, and demanding to see the effects before action is taken, past governments have brought on the current crisis. By the time they see those effects, it will too late to deal with the cause.

The positive consequence of climate lag is the opportunity for remedial action before the ocean warms to its full extent. We need to not only work towards reducing our carbon emissions to near zero by 2050, but well before then to begin removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere on an industrial scale. Biochar is one promising technology that can have an impact here. Synthetic trees, with carbon capture and storage, is another. If an international agreement can be forged to provide a framework for not only limiting new emissions, but sequestering old emissions, then the full horror of the climate crisis may yet be averted.

Spreading the Word

The clock is ticking. All of us who understand clearly the science of climate change, and its implications for humanity, should do what we can to inform the public debate. I wrote the original version of this article in February 2010 to help inform the Parliament of Australia. The letter was sent to 40 MPs and senators, and has received positive feedback from both members of the three largest parties. To find out more about this information campaign, and for extensive coverage of the science of climate change and its technological, economic and political solutions, please visit my web site at


i Gulf Times, “A Last Chance to Avert Disaster”, available at cu_no=2&item_no=330396&version=1&template_id=46&parent_id=26

ii Institute of Science in Society, “350 ppm CO2 The Target”,, p.4

iii Science AAAS, ”Earth’s Energy Imbalance: Confirmation and Implications”, available (after free registration) at, p.1

iv NASA, “The Ocean Heat Trap”, available at, p.3

v NASA GISS temperature record (see

vi CSIRO, “Sea Level Rise”, available at

A Time of Seamless Black

18 04 2014


This post from XRayMike is a great follow on from my own post about Michael Ruppert’s sad departure…. I believe, more than ever before, that when TSHTF millions will suicide, incapable of dealing with their new post collapse realities…..

Originally posted on Collapse of Industrial Civilization:

post-apocalyptic-world Humans live on hope and without it they fall into depression, oftentimes taking their own lives. In ‘ The Evolution and Psychology of Self-Deception ‘, optimism bias is said to be a defense or coping mechanism for survival. Most turn to religion for the ultimate hope of an afterlife nirvana. Voluntarily and unflinchingly holding one’s eyes open to the searing light of reality is an unnatural act for humans. For many, simply dealing with everyday life and the stress of surviving the concrete jungle is enough to drive them to despair, madness, and suicide. Whether they realize it or not, any normal person taking in the full scope of the multiple crises we face is surely prone to depression to some degree or another. I am now finding that I have to periodically distance myself from blogging on these subjects because it’s affecting my personal relationships as well as my…

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RIP Mike Ruppert

16 04 2014

rip-michael-ruppert-suicide-memeYesterday, on Facebook, an announcement that Mike Ruppert had shot himself dead was made.  When someone you ‘know’, even if it’s only over the interweb commits suicide, it always comes as a bit of a shock.  His attorney over at has pleaded with people to not spread speculations over Mike Ruppert’s death, but I think the internet will be full of speculations,  such is number of people whose lives he touched…..

I first came across Mike over ten years ago, back when I got most of my information at ‘From the Wilderness‘.  It was over at FTW that I discovered just how dependent the world is on fossil fuels with an article (which Ruppert did not write) I still recommend to anyone who doubts we are…  it may even have triggered my feelings towards realising we were stuffed…!  FTW went behind a paywall (and fair enough I suppose..) and I stopped going there, which doesn’t make it any less worthy.  I’d read enough.  Whilst Ruppert’s name appeared often in stuff I read about Peak Everything, I largely lost ‘contact’ with his work, which is now substantial. He’s written a book I haven’t read, Crossing the Rubicon and ‘stars’ in a video appropriately called Collapse….. well worth watching if you haven’t done so yet.

I always found Mike a bit over the top, seeing conspiracies everywhere (911 being the classic) and sometimes making claims that were hard to justify.  But he was just too likeable to ignore; and much of what he had to say was true, it was just that you needed a good BS filter.  And I say that as a compliment, trust me.  He was a very convincing person.

I’ve written a bit about suicide in this space.  People like Mike Ruppert and I and the many others who carry what Richard Heinberg recently called ‘toxic knowledge’ carry a heavy burden sometimes.  And because we are all different, we all cope differently.  I suspect Mike really overdid it.  He lived and breathed doom, it was an obsession, no doubt about it.  And even though he had an obviously large and close entourage supporting him, the doom obviously finally got to him.

After I discovered he had died, I decided to listen to his last Life Boat Hour podcast.  As they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but frankly I could see the sorts of red flags a trained psychologist would possibly recognise… right down to his choice of music.  But I’m no trained psychologist, so I’m not speculating, Mike’s attorney won’t allow it.

His death will leave a gaping hole in the collapsenik world, he will be missed, because people larger than life as Mike was always are.  He might finally rest in peace…. there are no demons in the afterlife.

Another White Elephant is born……..

15 04 2014

The Federal Government has announced a second airport for Sydney at Badgerys Creek will be built.  This has been met with enthusiasm by airlines and business groups.  But what a stupid idea it is……  Absolutely nothing I have read about this project so far even mentions Peak Oil, or where the fuel for all those extra planes will come from.  Or the money for that matter….

Obviously, the aviation industry hasn’t seen this:

One might even ask, “will QANTAS still exist by the time this airport is finished”, IF it even starts……..?

On CO2 emissions, the impacts from a 5% air traffic growth have been assumed to be lessened by a 2% growth in fuel efficiency.  Leaving a 3% growth in CO2 emissions.  If aviation emissions really grow by that much, the aviation industry should be called “Flight Path to a Stormy Future”.  This is because NASA climatologist James Hansen just published a book “Storms of my Grandchildren” predicting huge storms over the Atlantic in addition to the area of cyclones and hurricanes expanding. That will mean a lot of cancelled flights…… because surely we have reached the stage where Climate Change is starting to become very obvious.

This idea has been contentious for a very long time, but there is no doubt opposition will be real.  And likely stronger than ever before.  I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this in the media…….!


The federal and New South Wales governments will today (16 April 2014) announce they are spending nearly $3.5 billion on roads to support the construction of Sydney’s second airport.  The money will flow over the next decade and the news has been welcomed by some nervous Federal Liberal MPs in Western Sydney, who hope it will dampen community opposition to the Badgerys Creek project.

So there you have it.  No rail or even light rail links…. just more roads that won’t be carrying cars to an airport with no planes.. now that’s what I call vision!

Susan Krumdieck on Transition Engineering

15 04 2014

dr_susan_krumdieckSome ten years ago, when I first discovered we were up against it, I read a great book titled “Factor 4″, written by Amory Lovins, his then wife Hunter, and Ernst von Weizsacker (isn’t that a great name?!)

In that book, Lovins proclaimed himself a lover of cars with “the Hypercar”, a hydrogen/fuel cell contraption built out of Carbon fibre, hyper aerodynamic, etc etc….. having just googled it looking for a link to give you reveals not much has happened.  But at the time I was mesmerised by all this technology, it all seemed so likely?  I lurked in forums full of fans of the Hydrogen Economy, and Lovins’ green car…. and there, I found one person who argued it was all BS.  Her name is Dr Susan Krumdieck, an American engineer from Colorado who now lives In New Zealand where she’s an  Associate Professor at Canterbury University and teaches sustainable systems around fuel cells, alternative energy technologies, energy conservation, energy systems engineering, and materials for energy systems.  You know, someone I can really get on with?

Susan is very approachable (if very busy) and replied to an email I sent her, fishing for info, all those years ago….  It turns out what she doesn’t know about fuel cells isn’t worth knowing!  She actually lectures about this stuff all over the world, and surprise surprise, has come to the same conclusions as me.  We will have to make do with a hell of a lot less in the future.

Find out how straight from her mouth…..

Susan Krumdieck

Originally aired on Saturday Morning, Saturday 12 April 2014

Susan Krumdieck: transition engineering Researcher in mechanical engineering at the University of Canterbury, and a founding member of the National Energy Research Institute.

Duration:  30′ 20″

What are the chances?

14 04 2014

Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane

Another guest post from Mark Cochrane on the IPCC’s latest offering.


The final volume of IPCC Assessment Report 5 (AR5) from Working Group III: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change has been released by the IPCC. Press release here.

Although 2ºC is a somewhat arbitrary number, it is a level of warming that everyone with any involvement in the study of climate change and its impacts has agreed would be absolutely foolhardy to exceed before 2100 for human civilization. It’s not that the world would suddenly end but it is just so completely obvious that the negative consequences would be so unavoidably large that even Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and the U.S can agree that we do not want to go there. The only question is whether or not the human species is capable of any level of concerted action to avoid it.

wg2coverIn order to have a better than 50% chance of avoiding an average global temperature increase greater than  2C, the following guidance is given:

“Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions,” Edenhofer said. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”

Scenarios show that to have a likely chance of limiting the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius, means lowering global greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent compared with 2010 by mid-century, and to near-zero by the end of this century. Ambitious mitigation may even require removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The question obviously arises as to whether or not we can afford the cost of attempting to avoid what we certainly cannot afford to experience? Well, 235 authors and 38 review editors from 57 countries, together with nearly a thousand contributing or review experts, citing work from 10,000 scientific papers give us some insight there as well:

“Many different pathways lead to a future within the boundaries set by the two degrees Celsius goal,” Edenhofer said. “All of these require substantial investments. Avoiding further delays in mitigation and making use of a broad variety of technologies can limit the associated costs.”

Estimates of the economic costs of mitigation vary widely. In business-as-usual scenarios, consumption grows by 1.6 to 3 percent per year. Ambitious mitigation would reduce this growth by around 0.06 percentage points a year. However, the underlying estimates do not take into account economic benefits of reduced climate change.

If we cannot afford to invest such a paltry amount in the future then we have definitely reached the ‘limits to growth’ in collective human intelligence.

In any case:

1) Delaying action just increases the costs. Waiting until 2030 increases the estimates to 4% GDP.

2) The ongoing economic costs of climate change likely already exceed the proposed costs for mitigation activities by several-fold (e.g. link, link).

Mitigating activities are like trying to turn a fully laden oil tanker. Small rudder changes early on will do a lot more than large changes later on. Right now every decade sees global emissions levels not only going up but growing at increasing rates. This is like the captain of the Titanic spotting the iceberg and calling ‘full ahead’ to speed up their date with destiny.


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