tip off

Copenhagen, the glass is half full

Copenhagen:

Steve Blume writes: Re. “Copenhagen coming to a close: the end’s a scary place to start” (Friday, item 9). I am not pessimistic about Copenhagen — to me it achieves much. As with many others I was hoping for more, much more, but this is an agreement that for the first time brings the largest emitters into the fold. The most important phrase in the agreement to me is “meaningful agreement with India and China”.

The significance is that, with the active and positive participation of the United States, all developed and developing nations, even those who did not participate in good faith in the Kyoto agreement, have now joined together to work on the next steps. This progress shouldn’t be overstated, but also should not be understated.

The Copenhagen agreement signals to us all, including industry and the anti-science brigade around the world, that there has been a fundamental shift in the political wind: this is a strong move away from the dichotomy of ‘developed and developing’ countries to a more useful ‘major and minor emitters’.

I do not dispute that the hard slog is to come, but we have initial commitments from major emitters to financial support for minor emitters on mitigation and adaptation, we will see increasing regional trading alliances develop, we have the building blocks for the real work that must come and a big push on global carbon pricing — clearly insufficient, but a start.

Copenhagen will also be valuable for the political fight each nation faces at home as leaders try to show the way to as sustainable world — which means a life cycle assessment of all our consuming passions, especially our energy use,  “user pays” writ large, because we have been having a free ride for so long that having to pay the real costs will hurt.

So the result is not perfect, politics again shown to be the art of compromise - we have the best we could get, but we have to keep seeking the “best”. But I think the essential components for success are falling into place. The big issues are on the agenda and will be discussed over the next few months, at G20 and other world gatherings including COP 16 in Mexico — we’ll get the next best result, then the next.

Most critically we need to bring the agenda home — as “we have seen the enemy and he is us!” — we have all to take responsibility.

Conroy’s filter:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. Greg Angelo (Friday, comments) who wrote: “It is reasonably well-known that p-rn freaks and geeks are able to get around these controls, so one is forced to the inescapable conclusion that these people are not the prime target, but that this is an excuse to allow corrupt politicians to control the information landscape.”

That is a lot of huffing and puffing Greg Angelo, all of it a highly politicised and unconvincing attempt at sliming Conroy and the Government.  While accepting that privateers can work around filters can you explain to me why the internet should provide an open go for criminals in distributing unclassifiable material that is illegal in any other form of media?

Emirates:

Gil Elliot writes: Re. “Emirates dices with death at Keilor Park” (Friday, item 2). My thanks to Ben Sandilands and Crikey for the update on the Melbourne Airbus A340 incident in March 2009 and progress in the ATSB investigation.

I will be less hesitant about booking flights on airlines which use Airbuses following the assurance in the investigation report that “the aircraft manufacturer … is developing a software package that automatically checks the consistency of the flight data being entered into the aircraft’s flight computers by flight crews.”

OMGWTF??? Did Airbus really need one or more near-disasters to understand that they should be very careful about replacing decisions by humans, who might lazily wonder why a plane might be taking off on a Melbourne-Dubai flight with only the pungent aroma of aviation kerosene in its fuel tanks, with a computer which unquestioningly does what it is told?

OK, I am pushing the boundaries of artistic licence here.  The overall point is that safety-critical operating systems such as flight computers should only be allowed to take control if the data they are fed is positively verified as 100% accurate.

Humans are really good at recovering from stuff-ups.  Computers aren’t.

Farmers:

John Newton writes: Samantha Kennedy (17 December, comments) shouldn’t put all her farmers into one broad-brimmed hat. I know Rob Lennon and have visited his farm before the drought really kicked in.

He is a conscientious and careful organic farmer  running (obviously) grass-fed Wagyu animals using  cell-grazing methods. That means he has split the farm up into — if I remember correctly — 30 paddocks and the animals are moved to a new one every two weeks. If there’s any rain, this works to restore native grasses and the minimal exposure of the land to the cattle churns it up just enough to allow their manure to settle in and help activate the soil.

With only the part-time help of his teenage son, Rob did all the fencing and the stock movement. He’s also left a large chunk of the property forested. He works bloody hard and produces one of the best beef products in the country — ask Justin North of Becasse restaurant in Sydney. To bundle Rob and his wife Neeta in with farmers whinging for handouts is extremely unfair.

It’s pretty obvious what we have now in Rob’s part of the state and elsewhere is the effects of climate change, to a large part brought on by 200  years of unsustainable farming practices. If you want to know more about cell-grazing, go to carboncoalition.com.au. Us city folk need to get a little closer to understanding the problems being felt in the country.

First Dog on the Moon:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (Friday, item 5). My daughter noted “If I had a spaceship I’d get a toilet put in…  Not so necessary in a car, but I can’t imagine there are many convenient pit-stops in space.

It would be quite easy to dispose of in space, too — some sort of airlock contraption is all you’d need to get it out. But it’d really suck for the spaceship behind you…”

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