November 26, 2012

Sunday Extra

ABC Radio National

Budget of the Century

John Hewson (1946): Coalition Opposition Leader, 1990-4; Professor and Chair, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Australian National University

[The] inequity of the process!
To argue that everyone is sharing the burden, when obviously they are not, because, people at the bottom end of the income scale are losing between 12-15% of their disposable income and people at the top are losing less than 1%.
The inequity just screams at you …

I think [Abbott and Hockey] actually did believe they had brought down the 'budget of the century' — [one] that actually will be remembered as probably one of the worst; because, it was so ill conceived, so many incoherent messages, so many partial attempts to solve problems, with massive inequity overriding the lot.
A lot a pain for very little gain.
What do they do now?
If the revenue continues to be weaker than predicted, which is … a pretty high probability, and the deficit will start to blow out and they can't go back an try and fix it again.

(The rise of anti-establishment political parties, 25 May 2014)

November 24, 2012

American Experience

Public Broadcasting Service

Douglas Brinkley (1960) [Historian]:
It was in stark contrast to kind of the so called greed decade of the 80s to see somebody not looking to make big speaking fees, not looking to sit on corporate boards.
[There's] just something about an ex-president … in blue jeans, with a hammer, sleeping in cots and building houses for the poor.
It's an image seared on our imaginations.
(Adriana Bosch, Jimmy Carter, 2002)

(Mohammed Naqvi & Hemal Trivedi, Among the Believers, 2015)

Dreaming of Star Wars

In October 1986 Reagan met Gorbachev [at a summit in] Reykjavik, Iceland [and was offered a chance to] realize his dream of reducing the nuclear threat.

Gorbachev offered Reagan everything he had wanted: they would both destroy half their long range bombers and missiles.
Eliminate all the missiles threatening Europe.
And he made a major concession on human rights.
[In return, he asked that SDI research be confined] to the laboratory. …
Alexander Bessmertnykh (1933) [Foreign Ministry, USSR]:
Reagan responded with the idea of having the complete elimination of strategic ballistic missiles.
And Gorbachev said,
How about eliminating all the nuclear weapons instead of just going part by part?
They … actually moved each other to the direction of the discussion of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. …

Richard Perle (1941) [Assistant Secretary of Defense]:
When asked, I expressed the categorical view that there was no way you could see the program through to a successful conclusion if we accepted the constraints that Gorbachev had in mind.
Upon hearing that, he turned to Don Regan and said,
If we agree to this, won't we be doing that simply so we can leave here with an agreement?
And it was a rhetorical question, of course, and you knew the moment he put it that he'd made his decision.
And within seconds, it was over.
Presidents grasp at treaties because they convey an image of Presidents as statesmen and peacemakers, and they're sometimes not bothered about the details.
It took tremendous discipline for Ronald Reagan to leave that little room without an agreement. …

Donald T Regan [Chief of Staff]:
[Reagan] said,
Don we were that close …
[Holding up his left hand, just finger and thumb.]
We were that close to getting rid of all missiles …
[But Gorbachev] kept insisting that we had to do away with SDI and I couldn't do that. …
I promised the American people I would not give in on that.
I cannot do it. …
(Adriana Bosch & Austin Hoyt, Reagan, 1998)

November 18, 2012

Scientific American: 2011

Scientific American

Radioactive Smoke

[The WHO estimates that over a million people a year die from smoking related lung cancers.]
If polonium had been reduced through methods [long] known to the [tobacco] industry, many thousands of those deaths could have been avoided.

(January 2011, p 67)

The Last Great Global Warming

Cretaceous HothousePaleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)[Anthropocene]
Speed of WarmingSlowModerateFast
Rate of Carbon Release
(petagrams per year)

< 2 [1]9 to 25 [2]
Rate of Temperature Rise
(degrees Celsius per 100 years)
0.0000250.0251 to 4
Absolute Temperature Rise
(degrees Celsius)
(Over 20 million years)
5 [to 9]
(Over 20 thousand years)
2 to 10
(Projected over the next 200 to 300 years)
Duration (years) Millions Thousands [3] Tens to Hundreds
Main underlying causeVolcanic eruptionsVolcanoes
Methane bubbling up from the ocean bottom
Peat and coal fires
Thawing permafrost
Fossil-fuel burning
Environmental changeOceans absorbed carbon dioxide slowly so did not acidifyDeep sea acidificationAcidifying oceans
More extreme weather
Glacier melting
Sea-level rise
Life's responseNearly all creatures had time to adapt or migratePoleward movement of many species
Habitat loss
Coral bleaching

  1. [The] rate of [atmospheric carbon] injection during the PETM was less than two petagrams a year …
  2. [We] are now pumping nine petagrams of carbon into the atmosphere every year …
    [Consequently,] C02 concentrations are rising [around] 10 times faster now than they did during the PETM. …
    Projections that account for population growth and increased industrialization of developing nations indicate that rate may reach 25 petagrams a year before all fossil-fuel reserves are exhausted. …
  3. It took nearly 200,000 years for the earth's natural buffers to bring the fever down.
(Lee Kump, Implications: Lessons from Past Warmings, July 2011, pp 42, 44-45)

November 14, 2012

Renewable Energy and Mitigation

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Figure SPM.2

Shares of energy sources in total global primary energy supply in 2008 (492 EJ).
Modern biomass contributes 38% of the total biomass share. …
(IPCC, Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, 2011, p 6)

Climate Council

Despite pledging in 2009 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, all G20 countries continue to subsidise fossil fuels, collectively spending an estimated US$ 452 billion annually on fossil fuels.
The amount spent by G20 countries subsidising fossil fuels is nearly four times the amount spent to encourage the uptake of renewable energy. …
(p 14)

Despite global growth in renewable energy for power generation, fossil fuels continue to make up 77% of global electricity production, with coal contributing the largest share (40%). …
In 2014, coal plant closures in OECD countries were offset by capacity increases in the rest of the world, leading to a net increase of 66 GW in coal power capacity …
(p 18)

(Andrew Stock, Petra Stock and Martin Rice, A Whole New World: Tracking the renewables boom from Copenhagen to Paris, 2015)

The 6°C Scenario

International Energy Agency

The 6°C Scenario (6DS) is largely an extension of current trends.
By 2050, primary energy use grows by almost two-thirds (compared with 2012) and total GHG emissions rise even more.
In the absence of efforts to stabilise atmospheric concentration of GHGs, average global temperature rise above preindustrial levels is projected to reach almost 5.5°C in the long term (by 2500) and almost 4°C by the end of this century.
Already, a 4°C increase within this century is likely to stimulate severe impacts, such as sea level rise, reduced crop yields, stressed water resources or diseases outbreaks in new areas.
The 6DS is broadly consistent with the World Energy Outlook Current Policy Scenario through 2040.

The 4°C Scenario (4DS) takes into account recent pledges made by countries to limit emissions and step up efforts to improve energy efficiency, which helps limit long-term temperature rise to 4°C (by 2500).
The 4DS is, in many respects, already an ambitious scenario that requires significant changes in policy and technologies compared with the 6DS.
This long-term target also requires significant additional cuts in emissions in the period after 2050; yet with average temperature likely to rise by almost 3°C by 2100, it still carries the significant hazard of bringing forth drastic climate impacts.
(p 17)

[For] the first time since the IEA started monitoring clean energy progress, not one of the [clean energy technology fields (ie renewable power and heat, nuclear power, gas-fired power, coal-fired power, CCS, industry, iron and steel, cement, transport, fuel economy, electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, buildings, building envelopes, appliances and equipment, co-generation and district heating and cooling, smart grids, energy storage or hydrogen) was on track to meet its objectives under the 2°C Scenario.]
(p 4, emphasis added)

[Within the renewable power field, solar] PV is the only technology on track to meet its 2DS power generation target by 2025.
Its capacity is forecast to grow by 18% annually between 2014 and 2020. …
If these medium-term trends continue, solar PV could even surpass its 2025 target.

Improvement Needed
(p 24)

Low-priced coal was the fastest-growing fossil fuel in 2013, and coal-fired generation increased in all regions. …
Natural gas-fired power, a cleaner and more flexible generation fuel than coal, slowed markedly on global markets in 2013-14, unable to compete against low coal prices. …

Total electricity generation in 2012:
  • 40% coal-fired
  • 21% renewable [— wind and solar 2.8%]
  • 11% nuclear …
(p 8)

[The] first commercial-scale coal-fired power plant (CFPP) with CO2 capture [was opened] in October 2014.
(p 9)

… 90% of CO2 emissions from the unit … will be captured and stored underground through enhanced oil recovery … without storage-focused monitoring. …
To meet the 2DS, the rate of CO2 being stored per year will need to increase by an order of magnitude.
(p 32)

[Enhanced oil recovery currently] remains the only commercial driver for carbon capture projects.
(p 12)

In 2014, global renewable electricity generation rose by an estimated 7% (350 TWh) …
OECD non-member economies continued to dominate global renewable generation, with their share increasing to around 55%.
China remained the largest market, accounting for an estimated 23% of overall renewable electricity generation in 2014.

In 2014 … over 45 gigawatts (GW) of new [onshore wind, and 40 GW of new solar photovoltaic] capacity was installed globally …
(p 17)

Renewable Power Generation by Technology — 2°C Scenario

(Adapted from Figure 1.7)
On TrackImprovement NeededNot On Track
Solar PVHydropowerSolar Thermal Electricity

Onshore windOffshore Wind




(p 25)

At the beginning of 2014, 72 [nuclear] reactors were under construction, the highest number for more than 25 years. …
[Gross installed capacity is] currently at 396 GW [and] is projected to reach 438 GW to 593 GW by 2025 …
[Under the 2°C Scenario] global nuclear capacity would need to reach 585 GW by that time.
(p 26)

Last year China overtook the United States in annual investment in smart grid technologies.
(p 56)

By 2020 the average lifetime emissions intensity of all new-build plants in China, India and the United States will need to fall to levels near half that of current gas-fired plants …
(p 64)

The average CO2 intensity of electricity generation has fallen since 2000 in [China, the United States and the European Union. …]
Policies to phase out inefficient coal plants and wider deployment of wind and solar power helped to cut emissions intensity by 17% in China between 2000 and 2012.
The development of cheap shale gas in the United States triggered a switch from coal to gas-fired generation that lowered average emissions intensity by 19%.
In the European Union, reductions in emissions intensity have been more modest as policies to phase out nuclear power, combined with ongoing use of coal, have partially offset rapid expansion of renewable generation.
[By contrast,] the emissions intensity of electricity generation in India has risen slightly (by 2%) because rapid growth in electricity demand has been mainly satisfied by subcritical coal plants and because existing coal capacity is ageing and poorly maintained.
(p 69)

Each 1% reduction in electricity consumption in the buildings sector … can help to reduce emissions from power generation by 60 MtCO2, equivalent to an installed capacity of 45 GW of wind power (15,000 turbines) or 23 GW of coal-fired power (46 plants).
(p 75)

(Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2015)

November 10, 2012

Acid Rain

Naomi Oreskes: Merchants of Doubt

[There is evidence] that a straight-out command and control approach might [be more efficient than] cap and trade …
It is well established that the lack of immediate financial benefits leads companies to underinvest in R & D …
[This is because the benefits of] pollution prevention [are poorly] reflected in the market price of goods and services … the incentives for private investment are weak.
Competitive forces just don't provide enough justification for the long-term investment required …
[When] government establishes a regulation, it creates demand [and companies respond with innovation.]
[There] may even be cost savings … as obsolete technologies are replaced with state-of-the art ones [— something companies would not have done] had they not been forced to.
(p 105, emphasis added)

The empirical evidence shows that … regulation provides a strong and continuous stimulus for invention.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and regulatory compliance is a powerful form of necessity.
(p 106)

November 7, 2012


Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970):
[In ancient times a] man who took no interest in politics was frowned upon, and was called an 'idiot', which is Greek for 'given over to private interests'.
(Wisdom of the West, 1959, p 11)

It is not ultimately by violence that men are ruled, but by the wisdom of those who appeal to the common desires of mankind,
  • for happiness,
  • for inward and outward peace, and
  • for the understanding of the world in which, by no choice of our own, we [all] have to live.
(Power, 1938, p 185)

The Taming of Power

[It] must be evident that democracy … is an essential part of the solution [to the problem of the taming of power.]
[However, the] complete solution is not to be found by confining ourselves to political conditions …
[We] must take account also of economics, of propaganda, and of psychology as affected by circumstances and education.
(p 187)

[There] should be toleration of all propaganda not involving incitement to break the law …
[And] the law, should be as tolerant as is compatible with technical efficiency and the maintenance of order.
(p 189)

If there were ever an international government, it would obviously have to be a federation of national governments, with strictly defined powers.
(p 191)

[As] a result of modern technique, organisations tend to grow and to coalesce and to increase their scope …
[Hence,] the political State must either increasingly take over economic functions, or partially abdicate in favour of vast private enterprises which are sufficiently powerful to defy or control it.
If the State does not acquire supremacy over such enterprises, it becomes their puppet, and they become the real State.
(p 194)

[And, if] concentration of power in a single organisation — the State — is not to produce the evils of despotism in an extreme form, it is essential that power within that organisation should be widely distributed, and that subordinate groups should have a large measure of autonomy.
Without democracy, devolution, and immunity from extra-legal punishment, the coalescence of economic and political power is nothing but a new and appalling instrument of tyranny.
(p 198)

[Fear,] rage, and all kinds of violent collective excitement, tend to make men blindly follow a leader, who, in most cases, takes advantage of their trust to establish himself as a tyrant. …
[And where] a spirit of ferocious dogmatism prevails, any opinion with which men disagree is liable to provoke a breach of the peace.
(p 200)

Revivalist enthusiasm, such as that of the Nazis, rouses admiration in many through the energy and apparent self-abnegation that it generates.
Collective excitement, involving indifference to pain and even to death, is historically not uncommon.
Where it exists, liberty is impossible. …

To admire collective enthusiasm is reckless and irresponsible, for its fruits are fierceness, war, death, and slavery.
War is the chief promoter of despotism …
[If,] once the world were freed from the fear of war, under no matter what form of government or what economic system, it would in time find ways of curbing the ferocity of its rulers.
On the other hand, all war, but especially modern war, promotes dictatorship by causing the timid to seek a leader and by converting the bolder spirits from a society into a pack.

The risk of war causes a certain kind of mass psychology, and reciprocally this kind, where it exists, increases the risk of war, as well as the likelihood of despotism.
(p 201)

The temper required to make a success of democracy is, in the practical life, exactly what the scientific temper is in the intellectual life; it is a half-way house between scepticism and dogmatism.
Truth, it holds, is neither completely attainable nor completely unattainable …
[It] is attainable to a certain degree, and that only with difficulty. …

Wherever there is autocracy, a set of beliefs is instilled into the minds of the young before they are capable of thinking, and these beliefs are taught so constantly and so persistently that it is hoped the pupils will never afterwards be able to escape from the hypnotic effect of their early lessons.
(p 203)

To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.
Modern propagandists have learnt from advertisers, who led the way in the technique of producing irrational belief.
Education should be designed to counteract the natural credulity and the natural incredulity of the uneducated:
[The] habit
  • of believing an emphatic statement without reasons, and
  • of disbelieving an unemphatic statement even when accompanied by the best of reasons. …
There have been in the past eminent orators and writers who defended, with an appearance of great wisdom, positions which no one now holds: the reality of witchcraft, the beneficence of slavery, and so on.
(p 204)

[Wisdom] is not merely intellectual …
[Intellect] may guide and direct, but [it] does not generate the force that leads to action.
[That] force must be derived from the emotions.
Emotions that have desirable social consequences are not so easily generated as hate and rage and fear.
(p 205)

November 5, 2012

The World 1

George W Bush

And yet I doubt, if there be a more reprehensible human act
than to lead a nation into an unnecessary war …

Richard Cobden (1804 – 65), 8 August 1855.

Surgical Airstrike

Reza Deghati (1952)

(David Smith, Behind The Photo — War Zone, part2 pictures, 2009)

Socrates (c470 – 399 BCE):
[To] inflict injustice is more disgraceful than to suffer it …
(Plato, Gorgias)

Do not resist one who is evil.
But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil …
Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(King James Bible, 12:17-21)

Do not let the injustice of others lead you into injustice …

Bruce Bartlett (1951):
[George W Bush understands] Al Quaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy … because he's just like them.
He truly believes he's on a mission from God.
The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.

Ada Louise Huxtable (1921 – 2013) :
Whose afraid of the big bad buildings?
Because there are so many things about gigantism that we just don't know.
The gamble of triumph or tragedy at this scale … demands an extraordinary payoff.
The twin towers could be the start of a new skyscraper age, or the biggest tombstones in the [history of the] world.

(Ric Burns, New York: The Centre of the World, Episode 1, PBS American Experience, WBGH, 2003)

American Justice

(Nick Broomfield, Battle for Haditha, Channel Four Films, 2007)

George W Bush (1946):
More than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries.
Many others have met a different fate.
Put it this way: they're no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.
One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American Justice.
(State of the Union Address, US Congress, 28 January 2003)

[The people] we have liberated will not surrender their freedom.
Democracy will succeed because the United States of America will not be intimidated by a bunch of thugs!

(Jesper Huor & Bosse Lindquist, WikiRebels: The Documentary, SVT, 2010)