Climate change:

James McDonald writes: Re. “Bangkok climate stand-off a taste of things to come” (Friday, item 8). I’ve been a non-scientist AGW sceptic for a long time. By “sceptic” I mean a doubter, as opposed to some partisans who misuse the label. Gradually I’ve come to accept that the overwhelming advice of the scientific community on the need for greenhouse abatement must be taken seriously, even if it’s expensive. Not to do so would be tantamount to writing off the whole academic realm — writing off the Enlightenment itself, actually — as a diversion for overactive minds with little more utility for society than the design of flat screen televisions.

There’s no single body of evidence that convinced me. I’ve read books and articles and absorbed piles of facts but really have no way of putting them all in order and perspective. The total absence of any polemic-free discourse for the educated lay reader is a bit depressing.

But at the end of the day the Ian Plimer camp seems to be a few voices crying out in the wilderness, not a significant body of scientific dissent. And I note that we still have scientists claiming that life could not have evolved by natural selection, AIDS is not caused by a virus, and eating meat and milk is bad for you. As John Stuart Mill explains, these dissenters are valuable even if they are substantially wrong. Responding to them is not a waste of time.

One thing you will never convince me, though, is to support any measure that might come to penalise farmers for producing food. It’s bad enough that Australia is the most laissez-faire primary-production regime in the world. Trading coal and iron ore for flat screen televisions is all very liberating, but don’t confuse lifestyle with survival: the ability to feed ourselves must never become dependent on trade. We currently export a lot more than we eat, but that will change. And there will come a time when energy is almost freely available and food is the new oil.

We have National Party figures who carry on like rednecks with mad cow disease. That’s federal parliament for you. But only a fool would ignore the voices of those who supply your food. There are areas of research showing significant potential to sequester carbon and improve agricultural productivity at the same time, even if fitting them into a carbon-trading regime is challenging.

Anyone who believes farming is bad on environmental grounds should be addressing their concerns to population growth. Humans are carbon and the feeding of humans is a carbon-dependent business. Deal with it.

Viv Forbes , Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition, writes: A mere 20,000 years ago, massive ice sheets covered much of the earth. The sparse population led a cold hungry existence. Then just 12,000 years ago, there was dramatic natural global warming — ice sheets melted, sea levels rose and the warming seas expelled carbon dioxide. The warmth and extra carbon dioxide plant food in the atmosphere encouraged the spread of grasslands, forests, animals and humans over lands once covered by thick, barren sheets of ice. None of these beneficial climate changes were caused by emissions from the camp fires of the Cave Men.

Since then earth has experienced a see-saw of minor natural heating and cooling. The most recent warming phase started at the depth of the Little Ice Age about 300 years ago, before James Watt invented the steam engine. There were no emissions from cars, trucks, trains, planes or cement plants, but still the planet warmed up. Climate fluctuations continue in modern times, but not in step with industrial man’s carbon dioxide emissions.

When industry declined in the Great Depression of the 1930s, CO 2 emissions fell but temperatures rose to a peak. Then during the immediate post war boom in industry, emissions soared but temperatures fell and there were fears of a new ice age.

Now, since the start of the new century, with emissions from China and India booming, world temperatures are again falling. The message is there for those prepared to read — there is not a scrap of evidence that man-made carbon dioxide causes global warming (or pollution).

For the IPCC to continue promoting the man-made global warming scare in the face of clear contrary evidence is devious or incompetent. The man-made warming myth is exposed. Both the IPCC and the CSIRO should be challenged to justify their reckless and baseless climate scare-mongering.

Bill Castleden writes: A way to break the money impasse about climate aid for developing countries would be the imposition of a “Tobin” tax on all financial transactions. Most of the “click-on-a-button” minute-by-minute shifting of very large sums of money by hot-rocks investment bankers, hedge fund managers, arbitragers, derivative traders, tax evaders and the like (the stuff that nearly brought the world financial system to melt-down) occurs in the developed world and from tax havens.

Although a “Tobin” tax would not change much of the short-term profit behaviour and bonuses to which 21st century capitalism has become addicted, it would raise the money that is required to break the ETS impasse you describe.

President Sarkosy in France has already raised the idea of a “Tobin” tax and, unsurprisingly, has been squished by the money men of London and Wall St. Let’s think again.

Disaster and the media:

Adam Rope writes: Mitchell Holmes (Friday, comments) wrote about newspaper coverage of the Samoan tsunami that “while TCP is in many respects a fine regional newspaper, its Achilles heel is the screaming front page headline, particularly where the paper can make a local link, however tenuous, to a national or international issue.”

Can anyone name a regional newspaper that does not make such tenuous local links to national or international events? Years ago when I lived in Aberdeen, Scotland, the story I heard about the local paper, The Press and Journal, was that it’s headline on or around the 16th April 1912 was “Local Man Lost at Sea”.

Anyone remember what happened on April 14th 1912??

Hint: James Cameron made a very successful film about it.

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Swimming for survival: it’s our duty to teach” (Friday, item 1). I was falling about laughing at the piece by Justin Scarr, COO of the Royal Lifesaving Society, in which he suggested that we can help offset the effects of aquatic events (sic) such as tsunamis by teaching our Pacific neighbours simple floating skills and basic swimming strokes.

These skills might mitigate the “heightened risk of being struck by houses, cars and debris” and allow us to “share those skills and the knowledge we’ve accumulated over the past 115 years” — how to swim Australian crawl? In poor taste, I thought, but another hilarious addition to the normal April 1st silliness. Except that it’s October. Is he serious or have you been seriously had?

The economy:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “When herds collide on the yellow brick road” (Friday, item 24). Well Steve Keen is once again out of goose step with the rest of the economic lemmings. Steve postulates that clearly the housing bubble must burst causing Australia’s economy to crash and burn. One day Steve may actually correctly predict something.

Unfortunately, for me, I nearly always agree with him and thus far this has caused some acerbic sighs at dinner parties. Yet still there exists — in Australia as across the western economic world — the numbers. We are simply in an economic unsustainable place. Economics is more a hindsight view of inevitability. Sometimes it can accurately predict an outcome — but not the timing of the outcome.

This is one of those times. In our case we keep on bringing in cheap labour – they can’t buy houses. We see the rise and rise of underemployment – that reduces the demand for housing and there are lots and lots of indicators.

Tsunamis and earthquakes are sometimes of human origin.

Andrew W Scott, Crikey Gambling Correspondent writes: Re. 1 October editorial. I take issue with Crikey‘s introduction to last Thursday’s daily mail, which referred to “successful gamblers, who benefit by chance from an actual social evil”.

I didn’t benefit by chance. I benefitted by 23 years of hard work, study, research, running computer simulations, trial-and-error, investing my own time, money, energy, blood, sweat and tears, being lied to and stolen from, running the gauntlet as the little guy against some of this country’s most powerful and evil institutions, and sheer determination to do something that everybody was telling me couldn’t be done.

It was not chance. I’ll tell you what chance is. Chance is some fund manager randomly punting on investments with someone else’s money, and collecting a bullsh*t fat bonus when they win, and shrugging their shoulders and getting a government bailout when they lose. Oops.

A clarification:

Melissa Sweet writes: Maryann Napoli from the Center for Medical Consumers in New York recently interviewed Dr Tom Jefferson, a medically trained epidemiologist who has long experience as a reviewer for the Cochrane Collaboration, for a story titled “why the swine flu virus is not a major threat“. I then asked them each to write about swine flu vaccination for Crikey, to examine some of the issues involved.

Their articles were not written as part of a debate about the merits of vaccination, although this is how they were inadvertently headlined during the production process. I would like to put it on the public record that both authors object to their articles being headlined this way and being framed as part of a debate when they were not written for this purpose. (And we apologise for any confusion: Ed)

Iron Maiden:

Jim Ivins writes: Re. “Return of Rundle’s Friday Drive-Bys!” (Friday, item 10). Good to see Guy Rundle back with the Friday Drive-Bys. However, the suggestion that Anne Henderson could pass for the lead singer of Iron Maiden is too cruel. Just ask Crikey‘s resident Heavy Metal expert Jasper The Cat.

In fact, Bruce Dickinson is one the smartest front men in the music business. You wouldn’t catch him wearing finger bling, and he’s no fool either — among many other achievements, he’s a qualified commercial airline pilot. (Or was naughty Mr Rundle subconsciously thinking of Maiden’s zombie mascot Eddie, often pictured chained up in a padded cell?)

That gripe aside, I’d be grateful if your esteemed correspondent’s review of Q&A became a permanent feature of the Friday edition. It’d be a big help for those of us who feel we really ought to watch the program, but wish they didn’t.

Keating on Tozer:

Melissa Donchi writes: Is anyone else at a loss for why Paul Keating felt the need to invoke the memory of a horrific act of war to illustrate the passing of an Australian musician? Surely someone of his intelligence would be able to find a better way to express the loss of his friend.

Yes, the Dresden bombing cut the cultural heart out of Germany. It also destroyed 39 square kilometres and killed an estimated 135,000 people. Is Keating really saying that we can finally appreciate what these people felt now with the passing of this man?

The bombing of Dresden was a horrendous act of war and doesn’t deserve to be used as a cheap metaphor. I wonder if the public will respond with the same moral outrage that seems to be reserved for Kyle Sandilands…

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