Nuclear disaster:

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 10). Having seen the hysteria of Guy Rundle, Ben Sandilands and now Richard Farmer, I’m beginning to wonder if anybody at Crikey can count. The evidence speaks to a collective inability to understand the difference between zero, thousands, millions and billions. Deep seated innumeracy.

How many people were killed by the accident at Three Mile Island? … zero. How many people were killed by the failure of the  reactors at Fukushima? … zero. But both of these events figure in determining Farmer’s  preference for a world “warmed by the continuation of burning coal!”.

The current world sees around a billion people hungry with large numbers dying or suffering permanent physical and mental disability as a result. Three billion still cook with wood and cattle dung and in India alone 1500 children between the ages of 1 and 5 die each and every day as a result. The globally warmed coal burning world will see far more of the same.  Food shortages are the true monsters at our door and they have and will kill by the millions. In the early 1960s, 15 million Chinese starved to death … and that’s the official figure. Such events will become common place in Farmer’s preferred world.

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Nuclear power is the only technology with a proven ability to scale to the levels needed to replace coal. And yes, there may be more accidents where nobody dies and nobody gets sick. There will be more accidents where people get burned feet and where nobody gets cancer. Hell, there may even be accidents as bad as an Easter weekend road toll in Adelaide.  How many more Chernobyls are acceptable to have a chance at avoiding the worst that a changing climate can deliver?  Engineers will strive for none and that’s a likely outcome, but a few would still be a small price to pay to have a chance at avoiding far worse.

Crikey readers need to ignore Crikey‘s collective ignorance and hysteria and go to the source … actually read the latest UNSCEAR report on Chernobyl.

Crikey readers need to understand, like long time anti-nuclear campaigner George Monbiot, that the anti-nuclear movement is built on systematic distortions and misinformation and the constant repetition of unfounded unscientific rubbish.

Carbon tax compensation:

John Thompson writes: Re. “Ask the economists: how should we be compensated for a carbon tax?” (yesterday, item 3). I am confused. I have created and run four separate businesses over the past 32 years; they have not all been profitable, all the time. When they have run at a loss, I have either cut overheads or increased prices to the public. If the government, local, state or federal, increased taxes, I increased my prices; consumers had the right to refuse to purchase my product or service, fortunately, generally, they chose to continue to do business with me.

I fail to see where the introduction of a carbon tax is going to have any impact whatsoever on carbon pollution. If I’ were an electricity producer, there would be no incentive for me to change my energy mix, after all I can increase prices as necessary — and consumers continue to use power almost irrespective of price. There is no way that the government can compel a producer to conform to a price; if there was any attempt to inflict some sort of price control, the producer could simply withdraw his product — imagine Sydney without power!

This in no way addresses the problems that manufacturers might face, for instance how does steel production remain internationally competitive? If compensation is being paid to manufacturers, again the incentive for change is lost.

If the government were serious regarding carbon pollution, why has there been no attempt to massively build public transport infrastructure, accompanied by massive increased taxes on fossil fuels — to discourage private vehicle use and encourage the use of public transport – this is one thing the government could manage to succeed with, but, instead, they contemplate excluding petrol from the carbon tax.

Why should we take them seriously?

Alister Air writes: What an astonishing pile of rubbish from Adam Carr about the effects of a carbon tax. Michael Knox was merely wrong, as it’s a little silly to assume catastrophe from a tax estimated to have about a quarter of the effect of the GST. But Adam Carr seems to have failed basic economics.

If carbon-intensive power is priced more accurately (externalities and market failure are the terms to search for in your first-year text, Adam), sources of electricity that are less polluting become cheaper.

Choosing to lower consumption becomes a more compelling option. Investments in efficiency become more likely. Implementation of a carbon tax won’t be the end of the world.

We’ll come to terms with it, and move towards a zero carbon emissions economy.

Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Rupert Murdoch:

Ray Edmondson writes: No one really expects Rupert Murdoch to be held to account for the News of the World scandals. Laws were broken, but it remains to be seen what punishment will be meted out in the scales of justice. No doubt some heads will roll within the empire, but then it will be back to business as usual.

Given the delicacy with which unfolding scandal has been reported in the Murdoch media, it seems that news — like beauty — lies in the eye of the beholder.

At the same time, nemesis stalks Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, not because they have demonstrably broken any laws, but because they have confirmed everyone’s suspicions about the ineptitude and duplicity of many of our leaders and policy makers.

It’s one thing to be caught out breaking the law; it’s quite another to be embarrassed by the truth.

Defence Force scandal:

Helen Mackenzie writes: Neil James (yesterday, comments) in criticising the “context-free parade of out-of-date information, misunderstandings, misconceptions, false assumptions” related to women and front-line service in the ADF declares that woman are on the frontline “this minute in Afghanistan while you read this edition of Crikey safe here at home because of them.”

Australian troops (including women) may indeed be serving bravely in difficult conditions and may be risking injury and death for the best of motives. James may argue that Australia is at war in Afghanistan for good and worthy reasons. But the presence of Australian troops in war zones does NOT of itself make me or anyone else in Australia “safe here at home”

Sometimes it might (the Pacific war probably); most often there is no connection between the deployment of the ADF and the safety of Australians. If all Australian troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan tomorrow the safety of Australians in Australia would not change one little bit. Making such clearly wrong and tendentious statements undermines his whole argument, which by the way is not that strong anyway.

If the army’s limitations on women serving in combat roles is “based on bio-mechanical and casualty probability factors rather than gender per se,” why not use bio-mechanical ability and, insofar as it can be demonstrated, casualty probability as the exclusionary principles rather than just assume that gender is a suitable proxy.

This I note is what the defence hierarchy are now reported as being in favour of.

Climate change:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “A hot pink climate no laughing matter” (yesterday, item 9). David Spratt exclaims “…parts of northern Canada, Greenland and the surrounding ocean… this northern winter were more than six degrees warmer than the baseline temperature average for the period of 1951-1980, and 7-9 degrees above average over the Chukchi Sea. This is extraordinary…”

Quite extraordinary. And totally unsupported by the UAH satellite temperature data, by the way, which shows the North Pole region was just 0.8C warmer than the 1979-2011 average over the northern winter (the world as a whole was only 0.06C warmer than average).

What could account for such a vast, scary difference?

Well, James Hansen’s NASA-GISS/NOAA global temperature data set has very few measurement stations in the arctic, so they simply extrapolate temperatures from stations up to 1,200km away.  In fact, around three quarters of world measuring stations have disappeared from the datasets in the past 20 years.  Most disappeared from areas of high altitude and latitude (cooler areas).  For example, in Canada there is only one thermometer for everything above the 65th parallel.  Indeed, the NOAA-GISS data uses just 35 of Canada’s 600 measuring stations.

Meanwhile, the satellites take high frequency measurements over almost all Earth’s surface, day after day. They also show the world’s temperature was 0.1C below the 30 year average in March 2011.

So once again; apocalypse delayed — but these temperature shenanigans are becoming tiresome.