Friday, March 30, 2007

Untargetted aims, aimless goals

This exchange on ABC-TV’s Lateline last night pretty much says it all…

TONY JONES: So what is your target for cuts to carbon emissions by 2020?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: We have not set a target, because we have aims. Our goals or our aims are to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We have agreed to one target, which was the Kyoto target, and we will meet that. ...

Doing ‘things’ to for the environment

Federal Resources Minister Ian ‘Not The’ Macfarlane has dismissed the UN/IPCC draft report on Australia, because “they’re predictions based on us not doing anything.”

Now, this Government is already doing things to address greenhouse gas emissions.

But more importantly, particularly through the Asia-Pacific partnership, we’re getting cooperation from countries like China and India to ensure that everyone does something.

So, what sorts of things is the Government doing? Well, little things here and there that add up to ... um ... a whole mess of little things...?

Most importantly, the Australian Government has taken a leading role in saying to other countries, “Don’t just sit there — do something!!!”

Disrepute highlighted

Car parts maker Tristar has fired an “outspoken” worker, Marty Peake, for bringing the company into “disrepute”.

That’s a neat trick. How does one bring into disrepute a company that keeps employees on with nothing to do until expiry of an enterprise agreement, just so it can avoid paying redundancy entitlements?

Hmm... perhaps by highlighting the fact that the company keeps employees on with nothing to do ... until expiry of an enterprise agreement ... just so it can avoid paying redundancy entitlements...?

Goat Friday

image source


Santo Santoro
My integrity remains intact.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Close encounters of the fiery kind

It’s been reported that “pieces of space junk from a Russian satellite coming out of orbit narrowly missed hitting an airliner over the Pacific Ocean” on Tuesday night.

To expand on “narrowly”, the pilot reported seeing the “flaming space junk hurtling across the sky just five nautical miles in front of and behind” his Lan Chile Airbus A340.

Now it turns out that NASA has discounted the fiery debris being that of the Russian satellite, which the space agency says “splashed down on schedule.” Rather, they now believe the airliner had a close encounter with a meteorite.

As close encounters go, there have been closer. To my knowledge, however, there is only one recorded occurrence of a meteorite actually causing injury or death to humans.

It may be of interest to note that in Poggendorff’s Annalen, a prominent scientific journal of last century, a short article occurred (volume 48, page 402, 1836) entitled “Meteoreinfall auf ein Schiff” (A meteorite fall on a ship).

The article records the impact of a meteorite on a ship in the 18th Century in, I think, the Java Sea. A substantial hole was knocked through the deck of the ship, and two sailors were recorded as being killed by the impact!

  • E. Ralph Segnit, letter in The Age, 8 January 1994

Climate-boffin Howard struts his scientific stuff

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced a bold and ambitious plan to decelerate the rate of deforestation in South-East Asia.

“And, as everybody knows, if you can do that, you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said the PM.

Well, clearly Mr Howard actually meant to say it would offset greenhouse gas emissions, but obviously he has to couch the idea in terms that we simpletons can understand.

The initiative, he says, will “make a greater contribution to reducing [sic] greenhouse gas emissions than in fact the Kyoto Protocol” — and all that “in a shorter period of time,” no less.

This is a truly exciting prospect, for which Mr Howard — being the cautious empiricist and climate-change sceptic he is — will undoubtedly have commissioned a comprehensive, peer-reviewed study to substantiate the claim.

Um ... okay, there doesn’t appear to be any mention of such a study in his media release, but no doubt this will be forthcoming. Still, it’s evident that the Government has done its arithmetic:

Globally, more than 4.4 million trees are removed every day or 1.6 billion trees each year — almost 1 billion of which are not replaced. An area twice the size of Tasmania is currently cleared each year — this is the equivalent of removing around 71,000 football fields of trees every day.

If the world could halve the rate of global deforestation we could reduce [sic] greenhouse gas emissions by three billion tonnes a year — more than five times Australia’s total annual emissions and about ten times the emissions reductions that will be achieved during the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

Aside from the Government’s dazzling command of the data (e.g., Tasmania = 31.5Kff), the overall strategic plan is a devilishly clever masterstroke. The Howard Government aims to get the rest of the world to halve the rate of global deforestation, offsetting the resulting “carbon credits” against Australia’s reduction targets that would have applied under the Kyoto Protocol.

And all this for a cost to the Australian community of only 200 million dollars.

And with no need to curtail Australia’s profligate carbon-spewing ways. Hell, Australia could probably afford to indefinitely shelve those expensive plans for geosequestration of carbon emissions from its coal-fired power plants.

Note also that the cost of $200 million could be spread over several years of budget cycles, as planning and implementation for this initiative unfolds:

The contributions that other countries may make will obviously be a matter for them, but we will be talking to key countries about the initiative over the next few weeks. Those discussions will also address the most effective means for countries to mutually identify areas and projects for joint activity, and how best to form clusters of partners to undertake those activities.

As soon as we have a good initial picture of the views of key countries and others, we will decide how best to proceed with this initiative, including through engaging key Ministers from these countries.

Okay, so it all seems just a little bit sketchy at the moment, but ... um ... from little acorns do mighty oaks grow.

Too good to be true? Oh, ye of little faith.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

coast road

Shack Bay

country lane

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Outcome not foreseen

Whilst driving this afternoon in Melbourne’s outer south-east, I was following a rather smart-looking SUV-type vehicle whose rear window displayed a very professional-looking sign for an outfit called ParaQuest Australia.

Paranormal investigations,” the blurb continued, concluding with the web address

Intrigued, I found their web page only to discover that this niche enterprise has very recently folded...


As of the 17th of March 2007 This Site and all its contents will no longer exist.

It has cost me a lot of money and a marriage and enough is enough.

I now have much better things to be doing with my time and money than looking for something that probably does not exist.........

There are a million stories in this mega-city, but perhaps I should have seen that one coming.

Anyway, my most sincere sympathetic vibes go out to those involved...


groundhog day

unsourced image via antony loewenstein

Former foreign affairs secretary Michael Costello argues that the “original decision” to invade Iraq in 2003 was “correct”. Indeed, he believes this to be the case “even more firmly than before.” (The Australian, 24 March 2007)

If nothing else, Costello’s piece is an interesting read, drawing upon supporting strands of ‘evidence’ as far back as an unscheduled train journey through eastern Europe in 1917.

But perhaps the longest bow drawn in Costello’s apologia is yet another attempt to link the invasion to the so-called War on Terror. The essence of his argument is that the failure of the UN Security Council to act upon Saddam Hussein’s defiance over his (non-existent) Weapons of Mass Destruction made the West look weak and ineffectual, thus encouraging the rise of Islamic extremism.

These extremists regarded the failure of the US to complete the destruction of Saddam in the first Gulf War in 1991 as a sign of weakness. And they firmly believed that it was they, the Islamic fundamentalists, who had defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. They further believed that they had thus been responsible for bringing down the whole Soviet regime, and considered that if they could bring down one superpower, they could bring down another.

It would be interesting to see Costello’s evidence for so many sweeping, non-specific assertions. For all anyone knows, he’s just making this up as he goes along.

More crucially, this line of argument is also at variance with a few other things we know about Islamic extremism, among which is that it is grounded in perceived Western interference in, and domination over, Islamic countries.

Now, according to Islamic extremist ideology, the West is either weak and ineffectual, or strong and domineering — which is it?

Since the essence of Islamic extremism is an over-arching hatred of the ‘infidel’ West, it’s hard to understand why Western policy on the Middle East should be based upon cherry-picking from this or that irrational strand of Islamic extremist ideology. This is an abjectly reactive game that the West seems to be repeatedly suckered into.

I’d always seen Saddam’s Iraq as a different order of problem to that of global Islamic extremism. And now a reckless Western leadership has blundered into pushing the problem of Iraq squarely into the sphere of Islamic extremism.

This may well be a blunder of epochal proportions, for which future generations will rue ‘our’ stupidity.