An economic stimulus:

Sandy Clarkson writes: Re. “Egos stimulated, but what about the national interest?” (Friday, item 1). I have a large concern with the amount of money Mr Rudd is throwing away. I am also concerned that I am seeing a bias for Labor against Liberal in Crikey — as a subscriber I do not want to see any bias. Opinions for and against not opinions pro Rudd/Gillard.

Rudd’s splash before Christmas was not spent on employment creating activities and we have not seen 75,000 extra jobs and if we did they would not be permanent. This next throw-away amount of cash will not generate permanent jobs and will produce debt which will compete with the banking sectors requirements for Commercial Property amongst other activities requiring funding should all overseas banks stop funding Australian activities.

You need to have a much more critical look at the tax-payers money being thrown around by Labor and what it is spent on. Education is great however there are many more infrastructure projects which will help Australia cope with climate change. It will require planning and consultation, not panic, headline seeking ignoring sensible advice.

Keith Thomas writes: I propose sending Kevin Rudd the following note when my cheque arrives:

Thank you for the cash. If I could return the money and thereby avoid my share of the tax that will be needed in coming years to repay the deficit you are creating now, I would do so. As it is I will not spend any of the money, but will bank it and withdraw it when things get really bad (I reckon this will be just after your fourth stimulus package fails).

There is a global problem of too much debt and you are taking the flawed short-term option of creating more debt in Australia to resolve it for Australians. Handouts and bailouts help people continue for a little longer without changing — reinforcing the validity of past behaviours and damaging ways of thinking. Handouts will be spent buying imported landfill from Harvey Norman and temporary solace from Local Liquor.

Most schools want more good teachers, not more buildings. We don’t need more roads, we need less travel. We need a sustainable future, not unsustainable middle-class welfare at the expense of pensioners. You should actually be doing things that will push Australians (including you) to new behaviours grounded in new ways of thinking.

The global financial crisis is in its early stages; it’s not at the point of being fixed with your knee-jerk strategies. In three years time when climate change really bites, when civil order is breaking down and governments discredited and bankrupt, then I’ll need your money — probably to pay a security firm to look after my house.

Rob O’Neill writes: A lot of criticism of various proposed stimulus measures is on the basis that people will save it and not spend it. I can understand why in a “normal” recession this is unproductive. But in this one the major problem seems to be banks’ reluctance to lend. Won’t people saving put cash in bank balance sheets and encourage lending, thereby stimulating the part of the economy that really needs it?

Ross Copeland writes: Martin Gordon (Friday, comments) includes self funded retirees among those who will miss out on the government handout this time. I have also seen this comment elsewhere. My understanding is that only self funded retirees who aren’t required to lodge a tax return because they are under the income threshold will miss out. Self funded retirees who do lodge a tax return (like me) will get the bonus payment. I certainly hope so as I have already worked out what to spend it on.

Executive salaries:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Oz bankers luxuriate on the public purse” (Friday, item 6). “Given that Australian banks are now being supported by taxpayer guarantees, the logical implication is that bankers are in effect, no different to public servants” says Adam Schwab in an effort to wedge Rudd over the issue of executive salaries.

On his past record he would among the first, if not the first, to man the ramparts if anyone from the Labor side had the temerity to make the same assertion. Pull the other one Mr Schwab; it plays jingle bells.

RBA stats:

George Worthington writes: Re. “RBA goes for hardly any growth” (Friday, item 26). Glenn Dyer makes an absolute dog’s breakfast of the RBA’s forecasts and revisions to those forecasts. He says inflation down to 1.75% in June, then up to 3.7% by December; 3.7% was the actual for December 2008. For Dec 2009 they look for 2.5%. He says underlying inflation to rise back to 4.3% by December after easing to 3.50%; again that was the actual for last December, with the forecast at 3.0% for next December.

For GDP, he says June 09 revised down from 1.50% in November to 0.50%; the RBA actually looks for 0.25%. Calendar year 09 growth is expected to be 0.50% and 0.25% (non-farm), not 1.5% and 1.0% as Dyer says (though the previous forecasts were indeed 1.75%).

An easy way with the RBA is that any forecast is in 1/4 point increments, so 4.3%/3.7% are unlikely to be forecasts.

I know getting these numbers right is not easy, but the number of times the stats in his economics stories are wrong (e.g., quoting monthly changes as annual or vice versa) is just unreal and doesn’t help illuminate the lies or more importantly the damned lies.

Obama:

Poet Alan Wearne writes: Re. “Rundle08: Obama will finally kill the Dems’ paralysis of will’” (3 July 2008, item XXX). Although I subscribe to Crikey and read Guy Rundle’s columns frequently, somehow I missed the reference about me and my line “relentless as a toccata” in relation to Obama last July. On Saturday night I heard rumours and yesterday morning I investigated. I want to thank you for including a phrase I am still proud of even if The Nightmarkets itself is a rather embarrassing 1980s curate’s egg.

A dream from May last year:

I am standing at a bus stop on the south side Canterbury Road Blackburn South (the road where I lived 1950-1966) opposite Ronley Street, where my late friend Greg St John lived. A car comes out of Ronley Street and turns east going off towards Forest Hill. I have a bag on the ground beside me and seeing my Ventura bus heading west towards me I turn to pick up the bag. But next, although I wave to the driver and he notices me, he just zooms past. That driver is Barack Obama.

My first ever public memory occurred on that same road in a Ventura bus. I was with my mother and I noticed that the newspapers people were reading were edged in black. Why? I asked. Because the King has died she said.

Climate change catch match:

Geoff Russell writes: Ken Lambert (Friday, comments) still doesn’t get it. Suppose I have a basket of fruit and veg and I estimate the weight of each item. I’m pretty good with some items but some are a squashy mess and tough to estimate. Now I ad the weights up and come up with a total. How accurate is the total?

This is the reasoning behind Lambert’s claim that just one dodgy number can invalidate our estimate of the combined forcing (i.e., roughly speaking, forcing=warming). The problem is a non-problem, because there are a bunch of satellites up in the sky (ERBS and ISCCP) which have measured the combined forcing — so we know pretty well what that is.

Analogously, this is like being able to weigh the whole bag of fruit and veg even if we can’t weigh the individual items. The first of these satellites was designed in the late 1970s precisely to check the predictions of climate scientists and launched in 1983. We have known for a long time that more heat is arriving at the planet than leaving — so it will get hotter … that much is easy.

Tim Marsh writes: Tamas Calderwood (Friday, comments) asks “What evidence would falsify the global warming hypothesis?” My answers would be something as shown below. Climate scientists etc etc (i.e. people who know more than me) probably could add to that list. I won’t link to all the reports on the below. They’re easily located.

  1. When Arctic ice levels return to their long term mean.
  2. When the Antarctic stops breaking apart.
  3. When the Siberian tundra stops thawing so all the CH4 is safely frozen.
  4. When we stop breaking some serious climate records.
  5. When oceans decrease their acidity back to long term levels.
  6. End to SE Aus drought.
  7. Return to normal of record-breaking events (like the Indian Ocean Dipole positivity).

Unfortunately, we are not seeing these reverse. Some, like the Arctic, are getting worse. Hopefully the lag in past CO2 emissions and things like the CH4 positive feedback loop don’t increase what’s happening with acceleration factor. Hmmmm. Sounds a bit iffy to me. Sounds like we ought to do a bit of risk planning eh? (Hands on ears, “Tra-la-la-la, if I screw my eyes shut it will go away”).

Matt Hardin writes: It is obvious that Tamas Calderwood does not read the comments in Crikey or if he does read them he does not recall them. “Is the theory not falsifiable?” he asked on 9 December last year. I wrote a reply printed on the 10th stating: “I would want to see 20-30 years of sustained cooling before I abandon the hypothesis”.

I stand by that as a standard as we have seen over a century of warming that corresponds to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations. I would also like to see a mechanism proposed that explains the warming observed, the anthropogenic greenhouse warming hypothesis is developed from observations o known chemistry, this needs to be discounted before an alternative could be accepted.

In answer to the point on global warming not accelerating despite increasing emissions there are two factors at play here. The first is that as the concentration increases each extra emission is a smaller proportion of the total existing and the extra effect is correspondingly smaller. For the seconds, there appears to be a widely confusion between heat and temperature.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases increase the heat retained by the earthy but some of that heat is used to evaporate water and some to melt ice. In both these cases there is no increase in temperature. (Anyone doubting this can check it at home with boiling water or melting ice). The rates of melting do appear to be increasing.

Skeptics need to start suggesting alternative hypotheses and mechanisms otherwise what they are doing is not science but denialism.

Mark Byrne writes: I’d like to correct my error from Thursday’s comments. The radiative forcing error bounds in IPCC 2007 AR4 are 90% confidence intervals, not 95%. Thus the chance of every component going to the 90% confidence limit, in the direction consistently needed to minimise warming (+2.64 W/m2)/ maximise cooling (-3.25 W/m2), has a probability of 0.1^10, which is equal to 1 in ten trillion (1/10,000,000,000).

Regarding Ken Lambert’s comments on Friday, we have high confidence that the radiative forcing of long lived greenhouse gases (GHG) combined is approximately 2.64 W/m2. CO2 (1.66 W/m2) is just the largest component of this.

There is a chance that the cooling effect of aerosols on cloud albedo of (-0.7 W/m2) could completely counter the warming of CO2 (1.66 W/m2). But the likelihood of this is approaching the 90% confidence extreme (-1.8 W/m2); therefore approaching 10% probability. Not only is this statistically very unlikely, such a result is not consistent with the continuing global warming trend.

Moreover, for health reasons we have capped the growth in aerosol pollutants. Thus, if by remote chance air pollution had completely negated the radiative forcing of CO2, then we would need to halt growth in anthropogenic CO2 (plus eliminate all other GHGs) to maintain this unlikely balance. Perhaps you can get a hint of the concern of scientists who see a race is on to prevent the natural carbon cycle turning against us, and running out of our control.

Tamas Calderwood seems determined to ignore the evidence he has been offered. Given Tamas is so confident that he can afford to ignore the strongest evidence presented to counter his arguments, perhaps he can enlighten us in regards to a few points? By Tamas’ definition how many times has global warming stopped in the last 30 years? Did it stop in 1981? Then again in 1991? What test is used to check if warming has likely stopped this time given the long-term trend and the physical measurable mechanism of heat trapping GHGs?

Peter Fray

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