Monday, July 23, 2007

Greenie misanthropy on display again

Hatred of people is a major driving force among Greenies -- which is why they have been trying to stop people having babies from long before the global warming scare popped up. See e.g. here

The new head of the Science Museum has an uncompromising view about how global warming should be dealt with: get rid of a few billion people. Chris Rapley, who takes up his post on September 1, is not afraid of offending. 'I am not advocating genocide,' said Rapley. 'What I am saying is that if we invest in ways to reduce the birthrate - by improving contraception, education and healthcare - we will stop the world's population reaching its current estimated limit of between eight and 10 billion.

'That in turn will mean less carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere because there will be fewer people to drive cars and use electricity. The crucial point is that to achieve this goal you would only have to spend a fraction of the money that will be needed to bring about technological fixes, new nuclear power plants or renewable energy plants. However, everyone has decided, quietly, to ignore the issue.'

Such arguments give an indication of the priorities of the new Science Museum chief, an office that has been vacant since 2005 when Lindsay Sharp abruptly left the 150,000 pound post following rows about financial waste, cronyism and the 'Disneyfication' of exhibitions. Now Rapley, currently head of the British Antarctic Survey and a passionate believer [not a real scientist, in other words] in man's influence on climate, is set to take charge of the museum, one of Britain's most challenging institutions, where strict academic requirements must be met while competing with Legoland and Disneyland to attract visitors. Only by tackling the issues of the day can he succeed, Rapley said.

Hence his urging that we deal with overpopulation, a call of wide public interest and one that reflects the contents of the recent report by the Optimum Population Trust, which called for each couple in Britain to be limited to having two children each. 'A voluntary stop-at-two guideline should be adopted for couples in the UK who want to adopt greener lifestyles,' it stated.

The interest of Rapley, 60, in this subject stems directly from his climatic concerns. He sits near the extreme end of scientific views about global warming. He fears our planet faces a very hot and uncomfortable future. This belief puts him opposite climate-change deniers, about whom Rapley is generally vitriolic. He described the recent Channel 4 programme The Great Global Warming Swindle as 'a tissue of lies' while individual deniers, like Dominic Lawson, are dismissed in unexpectedly terse, Anglo-Saxon terms.

'As to my job at the Science Museum, my remit is very simple,' Rapley said. 'It is to make it the most advanced museum in the world. I will only be able to do that by addressing the key issues in science today and the most important of these is climate change and energy policy. However, there are topics like stem cell science and genomics that are set to have enormous impact and which will have to be tackled in detail.'

Rapley is passionate about making displays and instruments far more accessible. 'If you look at the Science Museum's great engine hall, there are wonderful machines on display but the accompanying explanations are quite often above most people's heads. Most children today probably don't realise these machines run on heat and water, but that is never mentioned. We need different explanations for different levels of understanding: the six-year-old, the 60-year-old, the PhD student. At the same time, there is no point having a few touch-screens about the place. People can only use them one at a time. One idea would be to send free texts to visitors' mobile phones, according to their needs, as they stand in front of displays. Just about everyone has a mobile phone, after all.'

The Oxford-educated physicist earned his spurs as a scientist who built instruments for space probes, such as X-ray detectors for the international Solar Maximum Mission launched in 1980. He went on to work at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory using satellite radar scanners to study the Earth and in particular Antarctica. 'All sorts of environmental issues lead to the Antarctic: sea-level rise, ozone depletion, atmospheric warming,' added Rapley, who is married with two daughters. In 1997, he was appointed head of the British Antarctic Survey and has worked there ever since.

As to key influences, Rapley points to an English teacher at his old school, King Edward's School, Bath, who introduced him to the works of Conan Doyle. 'I learned the joys of deduction from Sherlock Holmes and they stood me in good stead for the rest of my life. They got me to the Science Museum, in effect.'



A Russian environmentalist was beaten to death and seven others wounded on Saturday when a group armed with iron bars and baseball bats attacked their camp near a nuclear waste processing plant in Siberia. Russian media reported up to 15 people shouting fascist slogans attacked the environmentalists, who were living in the camp to protest against nuclear processing in the city of Angarsk near Lake Baikal, 5000 kilometres east of Moscow.

"One of the injured died in intensive care as a result of the attack," Ekho Moskvy radio station quoted one of the environmental activists, Olga Kozlova, as saying. Another resident of the camp, Marina Popova, said the attackers shouted slogans against anti-fascists. "From that we can conclude they were Nazis or skinheads'', she told the Vesti-24 television channel, blood seeping through a bandage wrapped around her head.

Environmentalists have not previously been the target of violent attacks in Russia, where skinhead gangs have assaulted and killed people from ethnic and religious minority groups in the past.

Itar-Tass news agency said the man killed on Saturday was a 20-year-old from the far eastern port city of Nakhodka. Thirteen attackers had been identified and four had already been arrested, said Interior Ministry spokesman Valery Gribakin. "Those arrested denied any involvement with any extremist youth group,'' Gribakin was quoted by Ekho Moskvy as saying.


Shallow breaths, save planet

By Tim Blair

IN A wonderful act of subversion, the Sydney Morning Herald's splendidly-named Stephanie Peatling this week managed to sneak a comic gem past her vigilant editors: "The greenhouse gas cuts Australia must achieve to prevent dangerous climate change may be substantially higher than thought, with modelling to be released today suggesting it should be as much as 95 per cent by 2020." That modelling was the work of a leftist panic hive called the Australia Institute, presided over by director Clive Hamilton.

I called Clive on Thursday to discuss how we might achieve this reduction, which essentially would require that Australians stop doing everything, including breathing. I also wanted to know how even a 100 per cent cut in Australia's carbon output could influence the global climate, given that we only generate about 1.5 per cent of all global emissions. And there's the matter of Chinese economic expansion, which easily counters any local reductions.

Let's say Labor's mighty Kevin Ruddernaut storms to power at the next election and adopts the Australia Institute's plans (not likely, but we're imagining a worst-case scenario here - after all, it's a tactic approved by the environmental Left). While Australia diligently spends the next 13 years closing down mines, factories, offices, hospitals, roads and anything else capable of killing the planet with carbon, the Chinese will have - if they continue at current rates - built about 670 new coal-fired power plants over the same time. (And lost about 78,000 workers in coal-mining accidents. The one-child policy isn't China's only means of population control.)

Alas, Hamilton wasn't at the institute's Canberra hut. He was on a break to do some writing, a helper told me, so had headed north to get away from Canberra's freezing weather. I hope he took his coat; it's barely any warmer in Sydney and Brisbane airport this week recorded its first sub-zero temperature. These sure are trying times for the warmenist crowd. (By the way, we know Hamilton owns a coat because last year he mentioned on the ABC that he felt tremendous guilt over buying one. It was too lavish, apparently, and Clive worried that his materialism set a poor example.)

Anyway, Australia's whole nationwide cold snap has been a beautifully-timed climatic accompaniment to the ABC's recent broadcast of The Great Global Warming Swindle. (Incidentally, Nine had first rights to the documentary, but instead handed it over to the ABC - where it became the broadcaster's second most-watched show of that week).

Radio National broadcaster Michael Duffy made one of the saner points in an otherwise weird post-show counselling session for traumatised viewers. Why, he asked, didn't the ABC put as much effort into challenging the claims made by the likes of Al Gore and Sir Nicholas Stern? Host Tony Snow's reaction was to dismiss the likelihood of having Gore appear but it really doesn't take much; the ABC could probably book him for $US100,000, Gore's asking price for his never-changing climate change speech.

Or they could just show his stupid movie. The good news is, for Tone and anyone else looking for flaws in Gore's Inconvenient Truth (and in arguments put forward by Stern, sometimes described as "the world's leading economist on climate change"), that you don't need any scientific training at all to realise these two aren't exactly expert researchers. For example, back in March Sir Nicholas told the SMH: "You can't export an American car to China: it does not satisfy the emissions standards." What a very odd claim. You'd think if China was so concerned about the health of its people, it would do something first about those 6000 coal miners it's offing every year rather than fuss over imported vehicle emissions. In fact, Stern was completely wrong. Cadillac, DaimlerChrysler, and Ford all sell US models in China. This has been going on for years.

However, a number of Chinese manufacturers are unable to sell their cars in the US. Reason? They do not satisfy US emissions standards. Stern believes the opposite is the case and actually repeated that line when addressing Australia's National Press Club earlier this year. Not a single journalist challenged him. Well, one tried but was unable to get a word in due to - and I quote the text message exactly - "left-wing wankers pandering to Stern". Which might explain why this Stern-like line from Gore's film has dodged any criticism: "We can't sell our cars in China today because we don't meet the Chinese emissions standards." Begs a question: If these guys can't get simple trade stories right, how can we trust them on complex scientific issues?

Speaking of getting things wrong, Tim Flannery wasn't amused by NSW Treasurer Michael Costa's recent labelling of him as an idiot. "My reaction is just lofty disdain," Flannery said at the time, although it wasn't really for him to rate the quality of his own reaction. This week Flannery revealed he may have been angered more than he let on by Costa's criticism (one of the few barbs ever publicly directed towards St Timothy the Bearded, who normally receives only loving praise - see above line re "pandering"). Speaking to AAP, Flannery upgraded those who question global warming theories from "sceptics" and "deniers" to . . . hey, let Flannery tell you himself:

"In 2005 the liars about climate change were winning. Today they've been vanquished . . . once and for all." So, liars are we? Flannery needs to take a holiday. Maybe Clive Hamilton has a spare bunk in his writing cave.


Greenies sow food confusion

A Brit tries to take it all seriously

There's this organic carrot, and it's doing my head in. It's a nice carrot, as carrots go: fat, orange, with feathery green tufts on top. It has lived a blameless life in a field of joy, innocent of pesticides and artificial fertilisers. And now, here it is in the supermarket, rooting me on to take it home. Only, here's the thing: the carrot is from Israel. That's nearly 2,500 miles away. If I buy it, I will take on its carbon footprint, garnishing every mouthful with the greenhouse gas that it has splurged into the atmosphere to be here today. Can I live with that? Does the carrot's organic worthiness trump the fact that it is has amassed more air miles than an MP on an international fact-finding mission? Or should I let it rot for thoughtlessly contributing to the destruction of the planet?

You see my problem. I'm food confused. And not just about vegetables. Fruit, meat, dairy - these days, everything is fraught with ethical complications. If I tried to follow all of them, I'd end up an oxygenarian - one of those people who eat nothing but air. The "good" food choices have proliferated like salmonella in an Edwina Currie egg - organic, Fairtrade, locally grown, free range, boutique, the Leaf mark, Red Tractor, Freedom Food, farm assured - some important, others just marketing spin. How am I meant to know what comes first in the pecking order?

Some choices are straightforward. Processed food clearly puts you on the fast track to hell. As for animal welfare, I won't eat anything that hasn't had weekly spa treatments. But organic? I used to think it was a no-brainer: good for the planet (no energy wasted on fertilisers and pesticides); good for the soil (it works with nature, rather than against it); good for the creatures that inhabit furrow and field (livestock, wildlife, farmers). It is also, arguably, good for us.

But when food miles enter the equation, organic quickly loses its halo. Getting an organic New Zealand apple from the tree to your lunchbox releases 235 times as much carbon as it saves. How depressing is that? And that's before you even think about seasonality. We shouldn't be eating apples in June, but we have turned luxuries into necessities, demanding strawberries in midwinter and nectarines in spring.

Of course, there are some things (citrus fruit, pineapples, bananas) that don't grow in Britain, and I would be the last to suggest we could do without them. I'm also not sure I could survive without spices, olives, tea and coffee. But there have to be limits, such as not flying blueberries from Chile in December. And where do food miles and seasonality leave fair trade? Supporting Ethiopian coffee growers is one thing, but should we really be importing pears from South Africa, however benevolent our intentions?

Home-grown is no less problem-filled: your Isle of Wight tomatoes were probably grown in a greenhouse that burns more energy than a Chinese power station, and that supermarket potato has been taken by lorry to the other end of the country to be washed and packed. Sometimes it seems as if supermarkets set traps for unwary ecoshoppers. You know those fruit and veg packets with a picture of a happy supplier on the front - farmer Ted from Hampshire with his organic fruit? Turns out they aren't always from his farm at all. Sometimes they aren't even from his country.

Still, at least you know where you are with meat and dairy. Stick to organic and free range, and you can't go wrong. Except that farm animals happen to be huge contributors to global warming. A field of farting cows produces enough centrally heated methane to drown out the sound of the icecaps crumbling. Then there's all the packaging, the energy-hungry refrigeration, the distance between farm, slaughterhouse and supermarket depot.

A brilliant book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, by the American journalist Michael Pollan, poses this dilemma: "When you can eat everything, what do you choose to eat?" Pollan works his way along the different food chains in the States, from the longest (which stretches from the cornfields of the Midwest through intensive cattle farming and processing plants to the fast-food outlets that blight every town and city in the country) to the shortest - a modern hunter-gathering mission in northern California, on which he shoots his own wild boar, harvests morels in the hills, picks cherries from the streets of San Francisco and makes bread with wild yeast captured from the air. In between, there is "big" organic - operations such as the American organic supermarket Whole Foods Market - and small-scale organic, local growers supplying local people and local businesses. The hunter-gathering wins hands down, although Pollan admits it's not that practical on a daily basis. Local organic comes a close second.

Pollan has thought about what he eats; he has looked at the contradictions and worked out what matters. It's probably pretty similar to what most of us want - food that tastes good and makes us happy, without troubling either our conscience or our health. The difference is that he has done something about it. We can blame the supermarkets and producers, but ultimately the responsibility for what we eat lies with us. The choices are confusing, and there is no perfect solution. But the worst thing we can do is do nothing.

There is a movement in America called the Locavores - people who eat, wherever possible, a diet harvested within a 100-mile radius (in cities, we're talking farmers' markets, allotments, small shops that prioritise local producers). Locavores have a mantra: "If not locally produced, then organic. If not organic, then family farm. If not family farm, then local business. If not local business, then fair trade." I would add a line at the beginning: "If not local organic, then locally produced." But I've decided the Locavore code of priorities is going to be my way through the food confusion. That Israeli carrot will just have to go home with someone else.


"Greenhouse" attack on China bad for Australia

There's a puzzle, a paradox and some amusing, and decidedly instructive, historical intersections in the rise and rise of the Aussie dollar, formerly known as the Little Aussie Bleeder or Pacific Peso. As it now grinds seemingly inexorably towards and past US90c -- and then on even to parity. Parity. Who could ever have imagined we'd see that again in our lifetime. Now, you'd be a brave punter to bet against it.

True, parity with the less-than-mighty greenback. That is of course a key part of the story. The rise of the Aussie is a combination of the falling greenback, against everyone. But also the Aussie's own, albeit more gentle, appreciation aga:nst the "thirds" - the euro, the pound and the yen. And why is the greenback sliding? Any number of factors can be cited, but in essence it comes down to one. The US's huge and entrenched current account deficits. There are only so many US treasury bills you can stuff away in the Great Wall.

But then - the puzzle - our current account deficit is just as large as the US's in relation to GDP. We've had more $50 billion deficits than Peter Costello's had hot - or indeed, cold - dinners at Kirribilli House. And we are going to have more (they stretch as far into the future as Treasury's statistical eye can see) than he now looks likely to have breakfasts at The Lodge.

So why isn't our dollar heading south? Simple answer: there has been more money wanting to come into the country each year than those $50 billion deficits. And in the currency free market the price of the Aussie rises until demand and supply are brought into balance and the market clears. Usually, with a little bit of help from the Reserve Bank, which is happy to sell some Aussies out of its - these days, virtual reality - stockpile.

The somewhat more complex question is why demand for the Aussie has been so strong. Every other time we've had big deficits we've had a weak currency. They were beginning to look endemic - hence those less than flattering terms in the opening paragraph. The answer is, of course, China, with again a little bit of help from the RBA. Not in the currency market but in setting official interest rates in Australia, and hence the bank borrowing rates which have been the principal means of bringing that foreign money into Australia. The combination of higher interest rates, the commodities boom, the strong dollar, rising asset values - property and shares - - has made buying the Aussie a no- brainer. To say nothing of buying, or attempting to buy, Aussie companies.

A $50 billion deficit might be big in our terms, but less than a day's trading in global currency markets. So the puzzle isn't really a puzzle. More of a question: how long does it last? How long can we sustain the unconventional combination of a huge deficit - stuck at 6 per cent of GDP - and a dollar that is rising in real terms against all major currencies?

The answer lies in a combination of what happens to the US economy and to US interest rates. Does it stay strong and rates stay where they are, or go higher? In the process staying the slide in the greenback, but leaving the US deficit destabilisingly high? Or does the US economy weaken, the Fed cuts rates, and the greenback's slide continues? With that wave taking our dollar higher. At least in company with everyone else; and indeed likely more of the recent past where the Aussie strengthens in its own right, on the back of our even more attractive interest rates?

Whatever the outcome by, say, mid- 2008, there is enough all-round momentum to carry our dollar well into the 90s at least. And that points to the single greatest lesson of exchange rate history, ours and everyone else's: you always overshoot.

Enter the paradox. The core driver of our rising dollar - and pretty much everything else in and around our economy - is the explosive growth in China's demand for, and consumption of, commodities. Principally, so far as we are concerned, iron ore to make steel and coal to generate power. Along with pretty much everything else - globally importantly, oil and copper.

In short, not to put too fine a point on it: our dollar is pivoting on a truly momentous eruption of greenhouse gases. Yet we and the world are - at least hypothetically - committed to not just capping that eruption, but reversing it. Let me spell that out a little more specifically. We have a dollar challenging conventional currency gravity; on the promise of pumping more and more commodities into the Chinese "greenhouse gas factory". Yet we want to in effect burn that factory down.

Add on the certainty that even on the assumption that the factory keeps on belching, our dollar will overshoot; what happens if we actually "succeed" in persuading China to please let us leave all the stuff in the ground? We have a rising dollar despite a $50 billion deficit because of the promise of China's exploding future demand.

What happens to the dollar if the deficit increases dramatically because export prices and/or volumes fall and the China promise evaporates? For some guidance, go to the history. If we do reach parity with the greenback, it will be the first time in the PK era. PK era? Post-Keating. The last time a dollar bought a dollar was when hardly anyone out there even knew Keating existed. In the wake of the week's events - rather amusingly when John Howard was treasurer - back in the early 1980s.

It did approach parity in the PK era, just after "his Howard", Bob Hawke, ended the drought, when in early 1984 it approached US97c. The last time it was flirting with today's levels was in early 1989 when it peaked just shy of that figure. Between those two peaks came "banana republic", when after Keating's famous exhortation in mid-1986 it dropped to US60c and below 50 on the TWI (trade weighed index). It's now, incidentally, at just over 70 on the TWI - the measure of its overall value against the currencies of our major trading partners.

Those dates and peaks and troughs are instructive on two counts. They indicate just exactly how the currency does overshoot - going too high and too low. And how quickly that can happen. In little more than two years the Aussie dropped 38 per cent against the greenback and 41 per cent in TWI terms. And then in less than three years jumped 49 per cent against the greenback and 34 per cent in TWI terms. This time it's supposed to be different.

What China is doing to commodities and the global economy is unprecedented. What really would be different is if we quite deliberately set out to destroy the foundation on which our contemporary prosperity is built. To say nothing of what it would do to a dollar that had, as always, overshot on the high side.

The above article by financial journalist Terry McCrann appeared in "The Australian" on July 21, 2007


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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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