Climate change:

James Haughton writes: The conclusions from James Hansen’s et al’s recent paper, Earth’s Energy Imbalance and Implications, are diametrically opposite to the spin which Ken Lambert (yesterday, comments) attempts to place upon them (and Tamas Calderwood’s letter in support (yesterday, comments) is beneath contempt).

Hansen’s paper in fact removes the uncertainty which Trenberth was complaining about (and both he and Tamas previously attempted to make much of).

Hansen’s argument, in a nutshell, is that some classes of previous GCM models have overestimated the “thermal lag” caused by the transfer of heat to the deep oceans; they have therefore derived a larger net (+greenhouse gases — aerosols) forcing by humans in order to account for observed warming, given that a substantial amount of the net energy causing the warming must be going into the oceans.

Hansen argues that the oceans are in fact more responsive than these models have postulated. Less energy is being “lost” in the deep oceans than we thought, meaning that the net human forcing is smaller than we thought, which means that since the forcing from greenhouse gases is well understood, the aerosol forcing is larger than the models postulate. This leads to a climate “Faustian bargain”, and the probability that the climate is more sensitive to human intervention on short timescales, not less:

“The correct answer defines the terms of humanity’s ‘Faustian aerosol bargain’ (Hansen and Lacis, 1990). Global warming has been limited, as aerosol cooling partially offsets GHG warming. But aerosols remain airborne only several days, so they must be pumped into the air faster and faster to keep pace with increasing long-lived GHGs. However, concern about health effects of particulate air pollution is likely to lead to eventual reduction of human-made aerosols. Thereupon the Faustian payment will come due… [higher aerosol forcing] means that reduction of aerosols by half would double the net climate forcing. Given global climate effects already being observed (IPCC, 2007), a doubling of the climate forcing suggests that humanity may face a grievous Faustian payment.” (p.3)

Hansen also shows that the short-term decline in the rate of sea level rise (it’s still rising) and net energy imbalance (it’s still unbalanced) since 2003, which Ken Lambert attempts to gloat over, is due to the recent combination of a solar minimum, volcanic eruptions, and the El Nino/La Nina cycle, entirely consistent with climate models’ predictions of the response to these events. He concludes:

“This dominance of positive climate forcing during the solar minimum, and the consistency of the planet’s energy imbalance with expectations based on estimated human-made climate forcing, together constitute a smoking gun, a fundamental verification that human-made climate forcing is the dominant forcing driving global climate change. Positive net forcing even during solar minimum assures that global warming will be continuing on decadal time scales.” (p.41)

This is exactly the opposite conclusion than the one Ken Lambert (and Cox and Stockwell, in a related column on The Drum) attempt to twist the paper to support. He should be ashamed. As indeed should Crikey: what is the point of Crikey’s crusading against “false balance” and the excess of uninformative he-said-she-said in the mainstream media, if the Crikey correspondence column is being used to produce the same effect?

Scientific debates are not settled on letters pages (unless it’s the letters page of Nature). Could I suggest that before publishing further “sceptic” letters that misrepresent the words and work of leading scientists, you show some of that investigative journalism ability that Crikey constantly complains is lacking in the MSM, and run them past the “ask a climate scientist” service that Amber Jamieson makes use of on your Rooted blog, or by someone else who is qualified to interpret what the science actually means.

John Hunwick writes: Reputable scientists for many years have indicated that reducing CO2 emissions, i.e. decarbonising our economy, is urgent, and the results of not doing so will be catastrophic.

Garnaut, an economist and non-scientist, has matched that understanding by indicating that our way of life needs a huge reform if we are to pass on a planet that is anything like the one we inherited. This call comes in the same week that the International Energy Agency, an example of considerable conservatism, tells us that we are rapidly using up the earth’s ability to assimilate CO2 without catastrophic consequences.

If we have refused to listen to the scientists what excuse will we now use to refuse to listen to the economists? Any lack of political will to govern for the next generation as well as this one, only reinforces the selfishness and rapaciousness of those who benefitted from the Global Financial Crisis.

Not to act with boldness and with reforming zeal at this moment in our history is to luxuriate in the last few days of living on the Titanic and to hell with the consequences.

The Live Cattle export trade:

Geoff Russell, Animal Liberation SA, writes: Re. “Live exports ban a threat to delicate trade dispute” (yesterday, item 3). Stuart Ranfurlie, like Four Corners itself, has been deluded in one critical way about the live cattle export trade to Indonesia.

Stuart cites “Globe Asia” talking about the “increasing demand for beef” and mentions without any source at all “fears of food shortages”. Four Corners also talked about the increasing beef market. Did anybody bother to check?

The beef industry loves to puff up its tail and pretend to be a vast supplier of food but how many Indonesians eat beef? 225 million Indonesians share about half the supply of beef consumed by 22 million Australians here (FAOstat). The annual per capita beef consumption in Indonesia was 1.9 kg in 2007, up from 1.7kg in 1995 and 1985. Now take out the beef consumed by increasing numbers of tourists in hotels and  restaurants over the period and what have you got left? Half of sweet bugger all.

As part of the Indonesian food supply, beef is a non-event. But as a problem it is considerably larger. Those 500,000 Australian cattle annually are usually fed for 90 days in feedlots. Where do the Indonesians get the feed? Palm oil  plantations! Press the oil out of the palm kernel and palm kernel cake is a high protein feed. All of which makes obliterating your tropical forests and killing orangutans just that much more profitable.

Don Cummins writes: Following the Four Corners animal cruelty vision we have calls for establishing our own abattoirs in the far North. I have visited the most up-to-date abattoirs in Australia and noticed two things. All the animals in the race awaiting death show all the signs of knowing that something very bad is happening.  They die extremely upset, often calling out, eyes flashing, body trembling and excrement everywhere. Cattle can smell water 10 km away — so to them, the whole place reeks of death.

Secondly, these are awful places to work in and require novel pay ideas such as bonuses paid for a full-week attendance. It takes a very particular mental outlook (and higher pay) to last year-in/year out. This (and rising Health Dept. requirements) is why our abattoirs have closed throughout the Australia and are not likely to open again in the North or anywhere else.

Along with other difficult, smelly or dangerous jobs, abattoirs have moved to low wage places. We should not be surprised that these places are not up to even our poor standards.

Belinda Neal:

The Entrance ALP State Electoral Council President Norman Hanscombe writes: Re. “Belinda Neal… she’s baaaack” (yesterday, item 10). Belinda Neal never had any real base even in Gosford other than what her Sussex Street connections gave her. Even now if someone has withdrawn a nomination AFTER they closed so that Belinda could be ‘elected’ unopposed, it seems a ham-fisted way of avoiding the Rules albeit with a Head Office rubber stamp, rather than a true victory for her.

As for The Entrance’s election of conference delegates, that too was a victory for Sussex Street and would have been way beyond the ability of Belinda to pull it off. The Entrance result derived from Head Office allowing a local branch returning officer to do some very odd things, which effectively overturned the Branch’s decision. Although it’s true Belinda might have been genuinely happy to see me removed as a Conference delegate, there’s no way Craig Thomson would do it to make Belinda happy. The New South Wales MP’s prayer you quote that she “go away” would have the support of most MPs — except of course for the Liberal member for Robertson who’d be ecstatic if Belinda were to re-surface.

As it happens, last week I was elected the Entrance SEC President. With the vote for president it was one position, so it was a straight forward vote. But for delegates there’s more than one to be elected. The NSW ALP uses a weird voting system very few understand — which is how Sussex Street like it. On this occasion Head Office were very effective in having people re-assured it was OK to split their votes, so they pulled it off.

As for the issue of changing the way ALP Parliamentary candidates are to be chosen, are these really the sort of people you want to trust with a remarkably vague blank cheque they want, to introduce a system of American style primary votes in ALP pre-selection ballots?

Commonwealth Bank:

Steve Batten, Senior Media Adviser, Commonwealth Bank, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Dear Crikey, your rumour piece about Commonwealth Bank “cancels a staff holiday” is incorrect.

Commonwealth Bank CEO Ralph Norris did not tell “all staff at the Commonwealth Bank they will be working on the first Monday of August.”

The Bank applied to the NSW State Government to trade on August 1 which is classified as a Bank holiday in NSW and ACT. Our aim is to open our branches for our customers in NSW and the ACT.

Secondly, branch staff can volunteer to work on the Bank Holiday. Should our branch staff opt to work on August 1 they will receive a day in lieu or double time depending on their employment arrangements.

NSW and ACT branch staff are certainly under no obligation to work on this day.


Douglas Clifford writes: Re. “Last Bets: QHA’s pokies reforms are ‘tobacco industry tactics‘” (yesterday, item 9). Angela Rintoul, Claire Tobin, Darshini Ayton and Charles Livingstone of Monash University’s Department of Health Social Science wrote:

“Clubs in Australia rely on the pokies, on average, for 61% of their overall revenue. Unfortunately, at least 40% of that comes from people with a serious gambling problem. A business model built on siphoning money that should be spent on food and housing from the pockets of vulnerable, often already disadvantaged punters and their families is unsustainable. Not only is it unethical, it entrenches disadvantage and costs taxpayers money. The estimated implementation costs of the pre-commitment system are grossly overestimated by the industry, but even at that inflated level only equate to about a quarter of losses on pokies in Australia last year. And those small clubs that frequently claim that they have no problem gamblers among their user group should be unconcerned. If their claims are correct, their revenue will be largely unaffected. Wilkie has also proposed deferring implementation for small clubs until 2018, allowing them to turn over machines in a normal replacement cycle.”

If “Pre-commitment will hurt … smaller clubs”, how is that small clubs in Western Australia survive (where pokies are banned)?


Brett Krieger writes: If “Rob Oakeshott is a fool and a hypocrite” and “Rob Oakeshott might be the only hypocrite” as John Goldbaum (yesterday, comments) says in Crikey then what of Tony Abbott who presumably voted against the initial ruling of the speaker and then “Tony Abbott moved a successful motion of confidence in the speaker”?

It seems to me John Goldbaum that on the basis of your reasoning Rob Oakeshott was no more a fool or hypocrite than every Liberal member who initially voted against the naming but then supported the confidence motion shortly afterwards.

More likely however that Rob Oakeshott is neither a fool nor a hypocrite and simply could not support the initial motion without having full details of the issue.

Clyde Cameron:

David Moncrieff writes: Re. “Crikey clarifier: what happened in the House yesterday?” (yesterday, item 11).Chalmers may well have been in the House the day Jim Cope resigned but, to be pedantic, the named MP was CLYDE Cameron, not Clive.