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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

something to chew over « Previous | |Next »
June 15, 2004

This article by Tim Flannery makes some good points about the probable effects of climate change and global warming. Flannery says:

"The way we respond to climate change this decade will shape Australia into the foreseeable future....Declining rainfall has cost Perth two-thirds of its surface water supply, and in 1998 the rainfall deficit began to spread east, parching the western plains. Now Sydney's dams are at an all-time low."

Global warming also means less rain in the south-eastern Murray-Darling basin, less run-off and less flows in the River Murray.That is bad news news for the Murray's floodplains and wetlands. And not only in Australia.

Flannery then asks two good questions. The first is:

"So, what would Australia look like in a world that is two degrees warmer? Two degrees of additional warming is sufficient to kill about half the world's coral reefs....Extinctions of its unique fauna will start at one degree of warming, and after two degrees will accelerate rapidly....At two to three degrees of warming, Australia's alpine zone will become restricted to six peaks, and many of its species will become extinct."

The second question is:

"Why should we care about our biodiversity? First it's of great economic importance. Imagine tourism without the reef, rainforests and Kakadu. Imagine the world without the $30 billion yielded each year by coral reefs. Of course, biodiversity is much more important than that, for it feeds and clothes us, gives us clean air and water, and protects us from illness. Who knows, for example, where the next cancer cure is coming from?

I fear what future generations will say of us if we don't act, because two degrees of warming will gut our nation, destroying its greatest treasures and deeply compromising its capacity to support us."

Flannery then spells out what needs to be done.

June 17
There is a lot of nonsense about climate change in the media. Most of it is little more than the outpourings of the public relations arm of the fossil fuel industry. This public relations seeks to deny that climate change is man-made and that it is essentially [caused by] the burrning of fossil fuel. It seeks to undercut the forming consensus on the scientific issues by making the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue. Not even the Pentagon buys that kind of spin.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:14 PM | | Comments (18)


When studying Wine last year, I heard about a report looking at the effect of one degree warming on the wine regions.

The Hunter will be gone, it will simply be too hot to produce the wines it does now. The report said 30-50 years.

There may be opportunities to develop more vineyards in Victoria but these will take time to come online.

Until then I didn't realise the huge effects that a small increase in temperature would have.

So stock up on the world famous Hunter Semillons...


Do you know what the effect will be on the other wine growing areas?

This is not talked about much in the press----ie.,the effect of global warming on agriculture and horticulture. It strikes me that it is a key issue.

Know any place I can find out this sort of information?

While there's little doubt that the world is undergoing a warming spell, there is nothing particularly new about that.

Some medieval historians attribute the emergence of Europe from centuries of stagnation (the Dark Ages), at least in part, to a warming spell in the 10th and 11th centuries that enhanced crop yields and thus increased population growth. This was a natural process that had nothing to do with the internal combustion engine that would appear almost a millennium in the future.

Moreover, some paleontologists postulate that the earth was characterized by cyclical warming and cooling spells that drove many species into extinction.

So, there is considerable question to what extent the current warming spate is being driven by modern industrial society. It seems that some of the greenies are prognosticating that the end is nigh, and would like us all to return to a semi-agrarian lifestyle that characterized life in the 19th century and earlier.

Sorry, I've been to Pennsylvania Dutch country and riding around in a horse and buggy doesn't cut it for me. Or, in other words, I like the musical Oklahoma as much as the next guy, but I'm not willing to turn in my Saab for a surrey with a fringe on top.

Moreover, isn't species extinction a fundamental element of Darwinian natural selection? The dinosaurs disappeared because they couldn't adapt. That, while perhaps cruel, has always been nature's way.


The report I spoke of, I think, was a thesis done at the Uni of Newcastle.

As you may know there is a lot of data re climatic conditions needed for the cultivation of grapes for wine. The temperature can be measured a number of ways but one major one is the Heat Degree Days of an area.

HDD - Heat Degree Days is worked out for the growing season (October-April) and is calculated by taking the difference between 10 °C and the mean temperature of the month, which is then multiplied by the number of days in the month. The resulting figure for each of the seven growing months is then tallied to give the HDD in degrees Celcius

A V.Cool area like tasmania or Ballarat would have a HDD of around 1000, Hot areas like margaret river would have a HDD of 2500.

A rise of one degree would raise the HDD by approx 210.

This would mean that V cold areas could be reclassified as cold and some of the V.Hot areas like Margaret River may become unviable.

As for other agricultural items I am not sure if they are measured the same way or are as sensitive to temperature change.

you write:
"It seems that some of the greenies are prognosticating that the end is nigh, and would like us all to return to a semi-agrarian lifestyle that characterized life in the 19th century and earlier."

Which greens do you have in mind?

Public opinion is in favour of green modernization and the encouragement of green industries.

So do the Australian Greens in relation to Tasmania. And the ACF and the WWF.

Aren't you playing with fictions again?

Greenies as in Greenpeace, who inter alia are promoting apocolyptic mytholgy about genetically modified crops. "Frankenfoods," Greenpeace activists call them.

No matter that GM crops reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides that farmers use. No matter that the increased yields these crops produce could substantially reduce hunger in the 3rd world. No matter that there is no demonstrable scientific evidence that GM foods are injurious to human or environmental health. The only thing that matters to Greenpeace is the advancement of their semi-religious creed.

That is one example of green ludditeism. Another compelling case is the completely unnecessary resurgence of malaria in Africa that kills a couple of million kids a year. And why? Because Greenpeace, et al, have pressured many cash-strapped African governments to stop using DDT, despite the fact that Rachel Carson's chiliastic predictions of DDT-borne disaster have never been scientifically validated.

Despite thousands of scientific studies over decades, researchers have failed to establish any coorelation between DDT use and any human health effect.

Read Ted Lapkin's piece on the subject in last November's Quadrant. It's available online. But, let me post a few compelling segments of his most excellent article:

"Yet, these assertions that DDT is injurious to human health have failed to stand up before rigorous scientific scrutiny. 'No scientific peer reviewed study has ever replicated any case of negative human health impacts from DDT,' said Dr Roger Bate, media and development director for the International Policy Network, and fellow of the Institute for Economic Affairs. Dr Donald Roberts, professor of tropical public health at the United States Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, cites a study in the late 1950s in which a research team actually fed a man 35 milligrams (0.001 ounces) of DDT a day for two years, with no ill effects. Dr Roberts said, 'You could eat a spoonful of it and it wouldn't hurt you...'

"This dearth of scientific evidence has done nothing to dampen the abolitionist ardour of the anti-DDT movement. Buoyed by the success of the American anti-DDT campaign, by the mid-1970s environmental activists had embarked on a worldwide crusade to abolish its use.

"But, as the use of DDT declined throughout the globe, malaria suddenly began to rear its head in places where it had previously been well nigh eradicated. When Sri Lankan authorities agreed to ban DDT during the mid-1960s, rates of malaria infection exploded from twenty-nine cases in 1964 to over 500,000 a mere five years later. Similarly, in 1996 post-apartheid South Africa agreed to swear off the use of DDT in favour of insecticides that environmental groups claimed were more benign. Yet, from Durban to Cape Town, the malaria-bearing Anopheles funestus mosquito soon began to show signs of immunity to synthetic pyrethroids, the pesticide most often advocated by environmental activists as an alternative to DDT...

"It is simply unconscionable that Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other activist groups for years turned blind eyes to an African malaria catastrophe that was a direct outgrowth of their own advocacy...

"In essence, this is a story of people and policies. The people on one side of the equation are the largely white, mostly middle-class, environmental activists from Europe, Australia and North America. On the other side you find people with coloured skins who reside in terribly impoverished countries that have difficulty providing their citizens with a fraction of the basic services that Australians take for granted. Yet some environmental activists have managed to make these conditions worse by advocating globally uniform eco-policies that benefit the industrialised West while they wreak disaster on Africa, Asia and South America...

"Thus, the anti-DDT crusade is made all the more outrageous by the distinct taint of neo-colonialism that is its indelible accompaniment. In a way, the push to ban this insecticide represents the ultimate in modern Euro-centric arrogance, the newest form of imperialism. The acute poverty that afflicts many developing nations makes them extremely susceptible to the pressure tactics of outside groups."

you write:
"Moreover, isn't species extinction a fundamental element of Darwinian natural selection? The dinosaurs disappeared because they couldn't adapt. That, while perhaps cruel, has always been nature's way."

The destruction of biodiversity is no nature's way. It is due to human intervention. So I cannot see how it can be nature's way.

So, you are blaming human intervention for the disappearance of the dinosaurs?

Come, come, Gary, surely you jest!

all you do is just try to score points rather than engage with the issues.

The post was about the biodiversity in comtemporary Australia and the impact of global warming on that.

It had nothing to do with dinosaurs.

Mocking what I wrote indicates that you use of derision as a way of conducting an "argument". The strategy is designed to denigrate an opponent by using ridicule in the place of an argument.

Contemporary Australia in the context of this weblog is a liberal capitalist society embedded within ecosystems.

My "strategy," if you wish to call it that, is to simply read what you say. You respond to my posting about the inevitability, nay indeed the evolutionary necessity of some species' extinction, by writing:

"The destruction of biodiversity is no[t] nature's way. It is due to human intervention. So I cannot see how it can be nature's way."

Methinks that Darwin would disagree. In fact, the lietmotif of "The Origin of Species" is built around the proposition that the extinction of species that can not adapt to changing environmental conditions is a sine qua non of nature.

That's how we genus homo sapiens arrived.

Now, this doesn't mean carte blanche to pollute the world without surcease. As in most things, a balance must be maintained between human society and the natural earth. But, a frenzied, uncritical attempt to save all species from extinction is just as pernicious as unrestrained pollution.

The context of the comments on a weblog is the weblog post. That post was about global warming and its capacity to wreak havoc on the world's diverse species, biosystems, and socio–economic fabric in Australia.

Global warming means more frequent violent storms, less water water in Southern Australia (water access becomes a battleground) and decreasing biodiversity.

What it implied was that the judgement of a considerable body of scientific opinion maintains that global warming constitutes a serious threat not in the long term, but in the here and now.

I then used Flannery to highlight the impact on biodiversity in Australia.

You comments are about GMO, DDT and Darwinism which you maintain is connected to the post. I fail to see the connection myself other than a claim that global warming has nothing to do with human internvention into natural processes; that soociety is reducible to nature and that evolution is the only mechanism of change in the world.

If you disagree with that claim then I am mocked and derided as an end is nigh greenie.

This avoids the issue because Australia is not just nature with species adapting to changes in habitat.

As I noted above Australia is a particular kind of society embedded with ecosystems. Human intervention cannot be displaced in favour of the dynamics mapped by Darwinism.


I cited the DDT and GMO issues as compelling illustrations of the bankruptcy, both moral and factual, of the greenie program. And, if they can't be trusted on those issues, then their credibility on global warming is questionable.

Your assertions about the climactic effects of global warming are utterly speculative. Ipse dixits, as they are known in the law.

Moreover, even if admittedly Australia's ecosystem is unique, it was still subjected to the warming/cooling cycle that has effected the earth for eons. How is this warming spell any different than the one I previously cited that catalysed the emergence of Europe from the dark ages into the high middle ages?

Again, while there is some evidence that the world is warming somewhat, there is no scientific consensus whether human impact plays a major role in this. And, there is certainly no consensus on what the impact of this warming spell will be, even with the "contribution" of Hollywood to the debate.


what you call the greenie program to address global warming may well be questionable.That is not the point here.

That political program is supported by, and depends upon by the work of science and industry groups and by science.

Although there is a long term warming and cooling within nature mapped by natural science, there is also a growing consensus with natural science that man made greenhouse gases causally contribute to climate change and global warming.

I linked the above in the post.These links show that your assertion that:
"there is no scientific consensus whether human impact plays a major role in this. And, there is certainly no consensus on what the impact of this warming spell will be."

is just that. An assertion.Period.

Notice what you do. You fail to engage with the body of scientific evidence and arguments that have been developed so far in public policy making circles.

So my point stands. You are spinning nonsense on behalf of the fossil fuel lobby.

You are quoting a report promulgated by an arm of the United Nations. Needless to say, I view with substantial suspicion anything emenating from that body. From the pervasive corruption of the oil-for-food program, through its lassitude in the face of genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica to the blatant antisemitism that infected its conference on racism in South Africa in particular and its attitude towards Israel in general, the United Nations constitutes a toxic admixture of political bias, outright peculation, antisemitic bigotry and simple ineptitude. If Kofi Anan told me the sun was shining I'd want to look out the window to verify. So, the WMO is hardly an apolitical source whose word is to be taken on face value.

Added to that, is the proven propensity of environmental activists to try and massage their portrayal of events in order to frighten the public into toeing the enviro line. And, this is done, regardless of whether that portrayal is supported by factual evidence.

Take, for example, the words of an eminent environmental luminary, Dr. Stephen Schneider, who works at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. Schneider has shown no hestitation about entering full bore into the global warming debate, using his professional credentials to tell tales of impending woe and disaster.

Schneider is hardly always a paragon of scientific integrity that the green movement makes him out to be. Listen to what Scheider said in a now infamous interview that he gave to Discover magazine:

"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but - which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people, we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that, we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. … Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."

So, Gary, let's be honest. You accuse me of peddling "An assertion. Period." Yet, aren't you guilty of precisely the same offence?

you fail to distinquish between the work of science and that of political rhetoric.

Most of your comments are addressed at, and are about, the political rhetoric.

In doing so you evade the science.

Funny, Gary, I was about to say precisely the same thing about you. Given the greenie penchant conjuring up pseudo-scientific scare campaigns (the Alar scare in the US is a quintessential example) I find it rather amusing that you are appealing to science, rather than politics. As the Schneider quote demonstrates, your side of the argument has a history of playing fast and loose with "scientific facts" when it suits their polemical and political purposes.

Moreover, your side of the debate is advocating the adoption of the
"precautionary principle," which states that scientific supporting evidence isn't even required if there is even the merest suspicion that something might have deleterious environmental or humman health effects. Thus, it is the environmental movement, Greenpeace, WWF, et al, that has muddied the waters that should distinguish "science and political rhetoric." Moreover, ultimately this will become a political issue, because the questions of legislation and regulation that arise from these issues will be decided by government.

So, Gary, are you repudiating the precautionary principle that is being touted by most of the environmental movement?

there is no appeal to science and ignoring political rhetoric.

I am saying they are two different things with different logics and that you cannot collpase one into the other.

That distinction is very clear in public policy circles.

Once again, Gary, let me point out irony inherent to your argument. After all, it is the environmental movement that has made the politicization of science into an art form. And, as we see with Scheider, that includes distortions and outright fabrications to support the apocalyptic polemic of the environmental movement.

It would be really nice if science and political rhetoric were pure and distinct. but, as long as the green movement engages in the propagation of pseudo-science, that's not going to happen any time soon.

You should look to your own, if this is a problem for you.