Thursday, January 04, 2007


A comment from Britain

Bill Cosby said that one of the fundamental problems in relationships between men and women is that men do not know when they are wrong. He gave an example. He said he could be minding his business, lying on his sofa, in his house, watching his television, when his wife walks in: now, in his mind, he is doing nothing wrong. And so it is with pollution. Woke up this morning, turns out I was a polluter. So are you.

We all are, apparently. "The polluter pays" is the latest catchphrase for those that require complex issues diced into soundbites, and it is one you will read a lot in the next year. "You pay" is its honest translation. In this scenario, you are the polluter. You don't want to be; you'd like not to be; you are just going about your life as quietly as possible, paying your taxes, keeping your head down, playing the hand as dealt by short-sighted governments (local and national), the vast retail chains, the cost-cutting manufacturing industries, the Royal Mail, the real villains of the piece. But just to do that makes you the bogeyman; the polluter. And now you must pay.

Everything comes down to money with this Government and just as the wealthy and privileged have for years been able to opt out of the failing health service and the sub-standard education system, with transport now going the same way - vote Labour, keep the poor off the roads - once new waste policies are implemented, soon rubbish collection will be divided into the haves and have-rots. We are moving to a time when household waste is weighed and billed and, just like road pricing proposals that have done little to curb the ruinous proliferation of needlessly overpowered cars, those with money will shrug their shoulders and write the cheque.

A good accountant will find a way to partly off-set waste charges against home as office businesses expenses, the big companies will cut a deal utilising the economies of scale, while employees of Goldman Sachs and Chelsea FC will pay cash for 20 unsorted, non-recyclable sacks and wonder what all the fuss is about. It is the struggling everyman who will be hit hardest. He is The Polluter.

He has not got the money or the cunning to skirt round these measures, just as it is his two-litre Ford, not the gas-guzzling Hummer that has been driven from London's roads by the congestion charge. Yet our rubbish crisis is a direct result of a Britain that the average householder did not want, did not ask for and did little to help to create.

We did not ask for green beans from Zambia to be available 12 months a year, cased in two layers of Cellophane and a black plastic tray. We did not ask for 20 opportunities to open new credit accounts to be delivered weekly. We did not ask for every single item of furniture to arrive requiring assembly and swaddled in polystyrene, bubble wrap and enough Sellotape to gag a busload of hostages for six months. We did not ask for the small high street shops to be slowly murdered by exorbitant council rents and prohibitive parking schemes that played into the hands of out-of-town supermarkets and spelt the end of daily small-scale grocery shopping, as exists in continental Europe.

We did not ask for half the workforce to be laid off to cut costs, so that manufactured items are now sent out in pieces, each individually protected in layer upon layer of unnecessary packaging. We actually liked it when we ordered a wardrobe and it turned up looking like a wardrobe; when the only instruction was "put it in the bedroom, mate" not "connect screw (A) to shelf (B), first making sure that rods (C) and (D) are attached via facing panel (G)" and the only question was how much should we tip the shifter, not what the hell do we do with all this polystyrene because it cannot be taken as paper waste, garden waste or glass and if we try to dispose of it in this inadequately sized wheelie bin we will only have room for one more black bag over the next two weeks and the sideway will be running alive with maggots/foxes/rats again.

Governments would not dare take on the real polluters and are far too late to address the political and cultural mistakes that have created the mountain of waste that is shovelled our way daily. So they come up with a catchphrase like "polluter pays" and try to convince us that just by being on the receiving end of an overflowing daily postbag that we did not request and cannot avoid - it is said you can opt out of junk deliveries by contacting the Royal Mail, but try it and you will discover this is, at best, misleading and at worst, a downright lie - that it is all in some way our fault.

Yes, we have a responsibility to think and act on green issues, and most of us do. But it is the presumption that when we wake in the morning we are immediately the bad guys, that we are at fault for merely existing in a world that is largely made for us by people over whom we have no control, that is so objectionable.

The average household will create roughly 500 pounds of CO2 waste each year, or the equivalent of one 950-mile round trip by plane. Tony Blair's winter holiday equates approximately to waste pollution from your side of the street for the next 12 months and some trendy new Labour type flying to Barcelona for the Feliz Navidad experience will burn up the equivalent of your household waste for a year. He might then plant a tree in Kenya to make him feel better, with a certificate to prove it featuring a kind word from Bill Oddie. I'm not making this up.

The Observer magazine this week featured a couple that felt very angry about green issues. They had a second home in Sussex, a studio flat in Battersea and ate out most nights each week (ever seen restaurant waste?). It would have taken a heart of stone not to laugh.

Me? I'll lie on my sofa, watching my television, in my house. I'll put the paper in the clear bags, the glass in the blue box and the old Christmas tree on the compost heap at the bottom of the garden. To my mind, like Bill, I'm doing nothing wrong.


Study: Less Acid Rain Not Always So Great

Acid rainfall in the Appalachian Mountains has decreased in recent years and organisms in its streams are thriving. But the environmental comeback could be creating new problems of its own, scientists say. A drop in nitric and sulfuric acid levels in the streams is changing biological activity in the ecosystem and hiking dissolved carbon levels, scientists reported at the American Geophysical Union conference last week in San Francisco. Dissolved carbon dioxide occurs as a result of organism respiration and decay of organic matter. It is a key source of acidity in pristine water.

"These are unexpected results," said David DeWalle, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University. "Rising amounts of carbon dioxide in streams and soil could have implications for the forest ecosystem, and the carbon balance in general." DeWalle and his colleagues have been monitoring five Appalachian streams almost every month since 1990 and studying the effects of reduced sulfur emissions-a major source of acid rain. The emission reduction is a result of the Clean Air Act aimed at lowering smog and atmospheric pollution.

Over the years, water quality has been improving and the researchers are seeing less nitrogen in the streams. "This reduction in nitrogen deposition is yet to be seen in many parts of New England," DeWalle said. "We are probably seeing it earlier than others because we are pretty close to the sources of these emissions."

However, the researchers are also finding rising amounts of carbon dioxide in all five streams. This, they think, is because the reduced emissions of pollutants is creating different conditions for organisms in the soil. Organic matter broken down by these organisms generates byproducts such as carbon dioxide, water, and dissolved organic matter, DeWalle explained. The microbes prevent organic matter from dissolving into streams by digesting it and their respiration increases the concentration of carbon dioxide in the soil.

This hypothesis, the researchers note, needs to be tested with experiments that mimic reduced amounts of nitrogen in the atmosphere. Of course this could mean that the ecosystem is returning to pre-acid rain conditions, but scientists are not sure what those conditions were "We don't have the long term data to know what it was like initially," said Bryan Swistock, another researcher from Penn State. The conditions could be going back to pre acid-rain. "The important point to make there is that it's just conjecture as to what's really going on."

The disruption of the ecosystems in Appalachian forests, which provides a home for many organisms and is a source of jobs for many people, could have economical and environmental consequences. "This area is a region bigger than Pennsylvania, where we see declines in both sulfur and nitrogen emissions," DeWalle said. "Although that is a positive thing, it is having an influence, it appears, on the forest ecosystem. Higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the soil means more of it ultimately may be emitted back to the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas."


Warming not global: 'faster in Australia' (??)

Some very strange logic below. I guess it's the logic of the Church of Global Warming

Australia appeared to be suffering an accelerated Greenhouse effect, with the pace of global warming faster across the country than in other parts of the world, climatologists said today. The world's driest inhabited continent, already suffering one of its worst droughts, was waging its own unique climate war, said Australia's Bureau of Meteorology yearly climate report. Half the country was desperate for water and the other half was awash with a year's rainfall for the entire continent. [So no overall effect!!!]

"Most scientists agree this is part of an enhanced Greenhouse effect," bureau senior climatologist Neil Plummer said. "Temperatures are actually rising a little bit faster over Australia compared to the global average, and we know that of Australia's 20 hottest years, 15 have occurred since 1980".

As the first cyclone of the summer bore down on Australia's northwest coast, bringing more rain and potentially destructive winds, the report revealed extraordinary climatic contrasts. Some areas experienced rare summer snow falls over Christmas to dampen bushfires, even as the drought tightened its grip and major cities imposed tough restrictions on water usage.

While the nation received above average 2006 rains, with 490mm of rain falling against the 472mm average, key water catchments and rivers shrivelled in the food bowl southeast where most Australians live. "Rain fell, but just not in the most populated areas. Most Australians would certainly have seen 2006 as a dry year," Mr Plummer said.

Australia's average temperature for 2006 was 0.47C above the long-term average, but it was only the eleventh warmest year since 1910, the bureau report said. And despite record daily temperatures in the southeast, last year was cooler than 2005 due to a very active tropical wet season early in the year.

Mr Plummer said an El Nino weather event in the Pacific Ocean bringing severe drought to eastern Australia was responsible for much of the variation, but that was beginning to weaken. "What we see on the rainfall is a signature of El Nino. There are signs that is weakening and most times we see a breakdown in late summer or autumn, and usually a good break with lots of rain."


See below for some of the history not mentioned above


Australia's worst drought so far came a century before climate change appeared on the national agenda, writes historian Geoffrey Blainey

Some say this is Australia's worst drought in 1000 years. This idea has grown long legs, jumped around the nation and might never quite be brought to heel. That's the trouble with some ideas. They so capture the imagination that they have no need for facts.

No evidence has been produced to support this theory which somehow escaped, as a wild runaway, from the special water summit held in Canberra last month. Of course, this Australian drought is serious and a source of human misery. But is it really the drought of the past millennium? The Australian Bureau of Meteorology, which has earned a strong reputation internationally, thinks it wisest to extend the nationwide rainfall record only as far back as 1900. Historically that cut-off date is a pity because it excludes most years of a drought that was already severe.

From that long period of reliable records since 1900, a surprising fact emerges. While much of the television news makes us think, in this phase of rising temperatures, that Australia is in a uniquely dry period, it is not. The most arid years have not arrived with the present phase of warming. The years of lowest rainfall were 1902 and 1905, at the end of the Federation Drought. Will this climatically nervous year shatter these old records for meagre rainfall? The answer, even before 2006 is completed, has to be "no". In Australia as a whole this is not a drought year in 1000. It is probably not even a drought year in 10.

Our collective memory has forgotten how dry was the period during and after the long Federation Drought. Counting the deserts as well as the dairy lands, Australia received less rainfall during the first half of the 20th century than has fallen in the most recent half-century. There were numerous droughts between 1895 and 1950. In contrast, the wetter years came thereafter, the wettest being 1974. It is strange to contemplate that 2000 was Australia's second-wettest year on record. Admittedly a nationwide summary of rainfall does mask the acute regional variations. Furthermore, that summary does not reveal whether a lot of a year's rainfall was slow and soaking or fell in a cloudburst. But the nationwide average is still a vital statistic in an era when for the first time people are encouraged to look at the weather on a wide, even a world scale.

Somehow, word has spread that global warming inevitably means less rain all around. As a result, the whole of Australia is thought to be suffering. But it is not. In this drought, as in the Federation Drought, some regions in the tropics have been unusually wet. The amount of tropical rainwater running out to sea this year has been massive.

Today's drought, miserable as it is for the rural victims, is not the most damaging, the most painful, in Australia's history. What counts is not the raw records of poor rainfall but the total impact of a drought. In the earlier era when this nation relied heavily on its rural industries, it was more vulnerable to drought than is today's multisided economy.

As recently as the 1930s, the primary industries formed the biggest sector of the economy, even being ahead of manufacturing. Rural industries were huge employers, provided far more than half of the nation's exports and were the lifeblood of the railways, which dominated the state budgets. Farms provided hay and fodder, a main fuel for city transport in the era of the horse. Therefore a drought, by crippling these all-important rural industries, inflicted severe hardships on the cities as well as the countryside.

The Federation Drought, running roughly from 1894 to 1902, dwarfed today's drought in economic terms. The mighty wool industry, more important than mining is today, was crippled by drought and, to a smaller degree, falling prices. NSW in 1891 pastured 62 million sheep, but in the following 10 years that figure was halved. Queensland lost nearly two-thirds of its cattle. The economic effect on rural towns, and even on many Brisbane businesses, was crushing.

The Federation Drought was disappointing, partly because a generation had come to believe that much of its country was relatively reliable for grazing. They had heard such statisticians as Henry Hayter of Melbourne proclaim that there was no limit to the cattle and sheep that could feed contentedly in this continent.

Yancannia, west of the Darling, was one of the huge sheep stations that displayed the defiant new climate. In 1887 the station held a record flock of 171,000 sheep, though there was a tendency to overstock. Then the seasons turned turtle. For the 14 years to 1890 the rainfall averaged 12 inches (about 305mm), but for the next 20 years it averaged just over seven inches, much of which fell in cloudbursts. In the 1890s alone the sheep numbers fell by two-thirds, though the rabbits did not. The old wool port of Wilcannia, as a local historian noted, "was left without even the few inches that would float a paddle-boat". Most of that huge district fell officially into the hands of the receivers, namely banks and finance companies. In contrast, no bank today is heavily weighed down by the burden of worthless rural properties.

Many pastoralists tried to move their flocks and herds to distant regions offering some grass and water. The sides of many bush roads, however, were soon littered with animal bones. In 1899 near Rockhampton, 11,000 sheep died on one short journey.

The drought was so severe that nearly all traffic on many outback roads was halted. Typically, the policeman at Innamincka reported that a teamster had been on his way from Farina but so many of his 84 horses had died that he was forced to abandon the three wagons. That was even before the drought became acute.

On some sheep stations there was no shearing at the appointed time because the shearers could not get through. In others there was no work because the sheep had died. In 1901 the protector of Aborigines for west Queensland travelled 1600km and found even the wildlife had largely vanished. He counted seven bustards, five kangaroos and one emu during that long journey.

The camels took over much of the carrying as the drought intensified. In at least half of the nation the camel became the main carrier. In 1963 I interviewed a man who had become a camel teamster at the back of Marble Bar a half-century previously. He said the far outback "would have broken down" but for the camels.

The year 1902 was possibly the worst experienced by wheat farmers. In the two big wheat-exporting states, NSW and Victoria, the yield was pathetic. For a time, much of the flour used in Australian bakeries came from Indian, Brazilian, Argentinian and especially American wheat.

Towards the end of that drought a young NSW poet, Dorothea Mackellar, wrote verses that became almost a nationalist war cry for a later generation. She affirmed, "I love a sunburnt country". While declaring her affections she was also making a revolutionary statement in the eyes of many farmers struggling to make a living. They did not want a sunburnt country.

The cities, most of them, suffered from the Federation Drought. They coped largely because, by today's standards, they consumed little water. About three of every four houses in Australia had no sewerage. At a guess, two of every three Australians bathed only once a week, and family members used the same water, one after the other. City residents did not expect to water their lawns in a drought, while their vegetable gardens - more extensive than in today's back yards - were often watered with a bucket.

It may be argued that the drought would have been less harmful if there had been a mining boom like ours. In fact, extending from Mt Lyell in Tasmania to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and Charters Towers in Queensland, a vigorous mining boom was bubbling alongside the drought.

That boom was not enough to tint the overall picture, for the inescapable fact was that Australia's economy depended, then more than now, on adequate rains. Today Australia has prosperity alongside a severe drought. In 1900 that combination was impossible.

This is one of the stark differences between that drought and this. The economy today is so buoyant that governments can afford to pay for drought relief - more than has been so far given. During the Federation Drought there was little money to pay for drought relief.

Though the total Australian economy had been hit by the bank crashes in 1893 and by falling commodity prices in the next few years, the long drought deepened and prolonged the Depression. Europeans did not wish to emigrate to such a drought-stricken land. In the 10 years from 1896, Australia's net gain from migration averaged a pitiful 500 people a year. Once the drought was over, immigration soared.

Such a punitive drought spurred a crusade to build large reservoirs to supply cities, towns and farms. It led to a new emphasis on irrigation. That great national era of dam-building finally came to an end around 1980, after multiplying the available water a thousandfold. This present drought in the cities and large parts of the farming country is more manageable because of what earlier Australians constructed.

It is very difficult to compare even the bare statistics of droughts since each has a different shape and longevity. As a broad generalisation, this drought in most farming areas has run for only two-thirds of the time of the Federation Drought: say five years compared to eight or nine years. But this drought is persisting.

In Victoria this drought is entrenched, having commenced about nine years ago. But it is still too early to say whether, measured in rainfall alone, it is worse than the drought of 1894-1902. Significantly, Victoria has experienced many of its dry years during this latest half-century, and 2006 is likely to be one of its worst. Perth, like Melbourne, has its own pattern, and its recent run of dry years has been long.

The huge Murray-Darling Basin, the most productive rural area on the continent, has been hit particularly hard by this drought. This year the overall rainfall across the basin is not quite as low as in 1902 but the runoff into the Murray River is much lower. Here is the heartland of the present drought, indeed of several earlier droughts.

Maybe the majority of climate scientists are pessimistic about Australia's future climate. Public opinion has caught this mood, less perhaps from the scientists than from the way the radio and TV media condense and package the daily news. Public opinion believes that global warming and Australian droughts go hand in hand. Therefore the public will be surprised to learn that, across Australia as a whole, this year will not go down as one of extremely low rainfall.

The past 15 years of rising temperatures have not been a period of exceptional water scarcity. Ours is not the 15-year period receiving the lowest rainfall: that record belongs to the Federation Drought and its aftermath. On the other hand, the loss of water through evaporation is probably higher than in 1900, though there are no nationwide statistics to confirm this.

This drought, with its bushfires, is formidable. More important, it is not yet over. But this is no justification for exaggerating its magnitude. The Federation Drought, in its social and economic impact on the nation, was far more devastating. That verdict will probably remain true, even if this drought continues for several years.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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