A sane book on energy

Yes, I am reading heaps, library books and ebooks, moderns and classics —  but I am not bothering to document it all here. Some I will mention, including this latest: A History of the Energy We Have Consumed. In fact it is:

energy

It’s quite fascinating, and so refreshing in contrast to the partisan claptrap we have had from our PM du jour down through the buffoons who fester on the pages of the Murdoch tabloids or lurk at night on Sky. Shocked to discover Rhodes is 81 years old too! You’d never guess!

Lots of who’d-a-thought moments. Did you know there was a link between bird-shit on islands off Chile and the Irish potato famine of the 1840s? Did you know that burning coal “with its ubiquitous content of radium and thorium, releases more radioactivity into the environment… than any other fuel”?

Rhodes makes an intelligent case for properly managed nuclear power.  He cites the capacity factor (pp. 330-1) of various power sources in the USA, that is how much of the time they actually generate electricity. “Even plants powered with coal or natural gas generate electricity only about half the time.”

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Compare:

capacity

Lately we have had the latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the response to which by Scott Morrison was south of pathetic. See also Coal is on the way out, the only question is how quickly.

A supplementary thought from my cousin Ray, from the Mining Museum at Lithgow NSW. “This happened at the Lithgow State Mine site. Lithgow has the credit of hosting Australia’s first privately owned wind farm, and the world’s first solar powered train. People should never question my coalmining town’s environmental credentials.” He is referring to Lithgow Railway Workshop gets national engineering nod for solar train.

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Tony Cheshire Cat?

Saw Tony Abbott’s doorstop on ABC News at 9.00 am. The face said it all, as it so often does. The words were calculated as a facsimile of reason. I do find myself rather endorsing this person, who clearly has a bit of a chip on the shoulder though. (Kaye describes herself as a middle-aged woman in jammies. She knew Tony Abbott when they both attended Sydney University where she studied for a Bachelor of Science. After 20 years teaching mathematics, with the introduction of the GST in 2000, she became a ‘feral accountant’ for the small business that she and her husband own. Kaye uses her research skills “to pass on information, to join the dots, to remember what has been said and done and to remind others, and to do the maths.”) But do read her Tony Abbott is responsible for our high energy prices, if only as a counterpoint to the stuff appearing on the groupie/anti-Turnbull media.

When the 2010 election did not produce a clear winner, Gillard negotiated the support of the Greens and Independents to form government by promising to introduce carbon pricing.  The policy was introduced in 2012 with the effect of bringing down emissions and prompting a surge of investment in renewable energy projects.

With old coal-fired power stations reaching the end of their ‘technical’ lives, this investment was crucial to help cover the transition as they closed down.  Gas could have been an option to help during this period except the government had agreed to export it with no compulsion to retain sufficient to cover domestic needs, leading to skyrocketing prices locally which are unlikely to come down any time soon.

Then the wrecker won in 2013 and threw out any certainty the industry thought they had.  Investment in new generation ground to a halt.  No-one was going to invest in coal and the rest of the world were more than happy to accept their investment in renewables.

Emissions started rising again for the first time in a decade and energy prices continued to rise astronomically, much higher than any increases due to the carbon price.

But Tony couldn’t care less about that as his tweet this weekend showed.

“To have a chance of winning the next election, the Coalition must create a policy contest on energy, not a consensus.”…

In Spectator Terry Barnes (senior adviser to Tony Abbott in the Howard government from 2003 to 2007) makes an interesting if rather odd comparison:

Turnbull’s handling of the National Energy Guarantee is a fiasco.

It is perfectly conceivable that Turnbull’s leadership could be on the line very soon, either in the party room or on the floor of the House of Representatives when former PM Tony Abbott and the other the NEG rebels have the chance to park their bums where their mouths are.

So, while Peter Dutton is being touted as the likely challenger, it’s fair to ask whether an Abbott restoration has any real legs. For better or worse Abbott is a known quantity and still the Liberal base’s favourite, while Dutton remains an enigma as a potential leader.

Don’t doubt that Abbott would take it if it comes. He would be just like Marshal Petain in France’s darkest hour in June 1940: when the French government collapsed suddenly, the newly-recalled Petain was asked by his president to form a government, and instantly took a piece of paper out of his pocket listing his ministry. It was always there, just in case….

The first sentence there is, alas, only too true. Hence this, God help us!

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So many issues involved here! I find myself sadly reading the best in-print introduction I know to climate change, The Rough Guide to Climate Change by Robert Henson. My copy is the 2008 edition, so ten years old. Again sadly, it ably and convincingly refutes just about every assumption still made ten years on by the mockers who parade terms like “global warmist” across, for example, the Murdoch tabloids. I note with interest that the American Meteorological Society has more recently published Henson’s The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change. I am sure it is very good.

Online you should look at Skeptical Science. You will get the latest there from a site that deservedly won a Eureka Prize a few years ago. Alas, the voices against such good science have lately been strengthened by the actions and tweets of you know who: It’s not okay how clueless Donald Trump is about climate change.

Finally, I share two graphics from a still reliable US source: first, Global Climate Report – June 2018 — 2018 year-to-date temperatures versus previous years.

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Second, Year-to-date (January–June).

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Let’s get serious… about climate

It has been quite a long time since I last posted about climate change. Now I do, visually in the main, taking images from far and near. The moral? Expressed as well as can be here: We can’t hide from global warming’s consequences.

In early July, the temperature in Ouargla, Algeria, reached 51.3 C, the highest ever recorded in Africa! Temperatures in the eastern and southwestern United States and southeastern Canada have also hit record highs. In Montreal, people sweltered under temperatures of 36.6 C, the highest ever recorded there, as well as record-breaking extreme midnight heat and humidity, an unpleasant experience shared by people in Ottawa. Dozens of people have died from heat-related causes in Quebec alone.

Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East have also reached all-time record temperatures. In Northern Siberia, along the Arctic coast, the temperature was over 32 C on July 5, much hotter than ever recorded.

My friend Russell Darnley posted this on Facebook just now:

  1. If anyone is still doubting the reality of global warming. This image is from Rovaniemi, Finland, last Wednesday.
  2. One more fact to share about this photograph is that it was taken in a city which is located within the Arctic Circle!

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Then we have California:

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Less spectacularly and closer to home:

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Another friend, Julie McCrossin, posted this from her property near Wellington NSW.

It is desperately dry out here. The wild life obviously suffer too. We have many kangaroos on our land. There are hills behind our property & the roos come down looking for grass. One has moved into our yard & seems unwell.

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Closer to home:

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Photographer Sandpiper has posted this recent image from Marulan:

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Finally, a must-watch video: a screenshot —

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On munching onions and climate science

Our former Prime Minister is or has been over in London addressing an unscientific think tank called the Global Warming Policy Foundation . You may read everything he had to say here. This bit hasn’t been highlighted in the media:

Just a few years ago, history was supposed to have ended in the triumph of the Western liberal order. Yet far from becoming universal, Western values are less and less accepted even in the West itself. We still more or less accept that every human being is born with innate dignity; with rights, certainly, but we’re less sure about the corresponding duties.

We still accept the golden rule of human conduct: to treat others as we would have them treat us – or to use the Gospel formula to “love your neighbour as you love yourself” – but we’re running on empty.

In Britain and Australia, scarcely 50 per cent describe themselves as Christian, down from 90 per cent a generation back. For decades, we’ve been losing our religious faith but we’re fast losing our religious knowledge too. We’re less a post-Christian society than a non-Christian, or even an anti- Christian one. It hasn’t left us less susceptible to dogma, though, because we still need things to believe in and causes to fight for; it’s just that believers can now be found for almost anything and everything.

Climate change is by no means the sole or even the most significant symptom of the changing interests and values of the West. Still, only societies with high levels of cultural amnesia – that have forgotten the scriptures about man created “in the image and likeness of God” and charged with “subduing the earth and all its creatures” – could have made such a religion out of it.

Um, there is of course Pope Francis, whose views rather contrast with the onion-muncher:

Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, says that climate change is real and mainly “a result of human activity.”

The problem is urgent. “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”  We must all change our day-to-day actions to live more sustainably.  “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility.”  On a larger scale, our leaders must be held to account. “Those who will have to suffer the consequences . . . will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.”

Solving climate change means protecting the planet and vulnerable people, and we must hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”  Faith can guide us. “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”  

The problems are big and urgent. But hope remains if we act in honesty and love.  “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home . . . Truly, much can be done!”

I fear that the good word on Mr Abbott lately is pretty much as Eleanor Robertson put it last year:

Not a jot of cosmic humility, religious or otherwise, is detectable in anything I have read or heard Abbott write or say. He doesn’t speak in these terms, even obliquely; I wonder if he fears death. It’s this, I think, that people find weirdest about him: how can you trust the judgement of a man so utterly immune to the animating psychic horrors of the human condition? As the woman from the focus group pointed out, everything he says is tainted, even his experience of something as quotidian as the weather. Abbott contains an absence, a conspicuous and upsetting lack, and as long as he hangs around Australian politics, he’s going to make us all stare straight into the void.

So far as his pronouncements on climate change in London go — and they are crashingly unoriginal — see in rebuttal the Eureka Prize winning site Skeptical Science and on the Sydney Morning Herald site Five charts that show Tony Abbott is the one who has lost sight of the science. This is one of them:

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On Indigenous Australians…

Tonight I will be watching Warwick Thornton’s new film We Don’t Need A Map on SBS. Promises to be controversial and interesting.

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In the past week there has been a major story on Indigenous history in Australia: Aboriginal archaeological discovery in Kakadu rewrites the history of Australia.

 Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for a minimum of 65,000 years, a team of archaeologists has established – 18,000 years longer than had been proved previously and at least 5000 years longer than had been speculated by the most optimistic researchers.

The world-first finding, which follows years of archaeological digging in an ancient camp-site beneath a sandstone rock shelter within the Jabiluka mining lease in Kakadu, Northern Territory, drastically alters the known history of the trek out of Africa by modern humans, according to the leader of the international team of archaeologists, associate professor Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland.

A follow-up in The Sydney Morning Herald intrigued me. The following image gives the idea, but you must visit If Aboriginal culture were 24 hours old, white people have been in Australia five minutes to get the full effect.

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I was reminded of my 2013 post Consider….

2. Where I now sit there were people living, breathing and walking about 20,000 years ago and more. According to a family tradition I had ancestors among them.

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3. All of which makes it very difficult to treat the following with the awe and wonder it may have attracted in the past, or indeed in my own past. How do you reconcile the fact that in light of the above the grand cosmic narrative of the Abrahamic religions looks decidedly less impressive?

4004 B.C.
Creation of Adam and Eve – [Very few accept this “date” as having any connection whatever with anything that really happened in the history of this planet. — NW]


2348 B.C.
Noah’s Flood – [never happened — NW]


1996 to 1690 B.C.
The Biblical Patriarchs lived during this time – from Abraham to Jacob – [totally myth and legend, reflecting certain rather mundane developments in the movements of people and cultures, but having no resemblance to actual history. — NW]


1491 B.C.
The Exodus


1451 B.C.
Joshua leads the children of Israel into the Promised Land


1410 – 1050 B.C.
Time of Israel’s Judges


1050 – 930
First Kings of Israel – King Saul, King David and King Solomon


960 B.C.
Building of the first temple in Jerusalem


930 B.C.
Division of the Kingdom of Israel


930 – 723
The period of the Kings of Israel from Jeroboam I to Hoshea


930 – 586 B.C.
The period of the Kings of Judah from Rehoboam to Zedekiah


840 – 400 B.C.
Period of the Minor Prophets


723 B.C.
The fall of Israel


586 B.C.
Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple


515 B.C.
Temple at Jerusalem Rebuilt


63 B.C.
The Romans occupy Palestine


37 B.C.
Herod the Great is appointed ruler of Judea by Rome


Jesus was born either before 4 BC (when Herod the Great died) or in 6 AD (when the historical Census of Quirinius was undertaken).

If you want to see idiots at work tying themselves in knots trying to justify the above timeline as “history” — most of it is not, some from around the last six entries is — look at (without laughing if possible) the egregious Ken Ham:

We can say in summary that:

All people of the world today have their ancestry in a man called Noah, and further back to Adam, whether they be the Australian Aborigines, the American Indians, or the Eskimos.

The differing cultures separated by different languages have only arisen since the time of the Tower of Babel. The physical differences between the races (e.g. skin colour, eye shape) are only minor.

In the mythology and legends from cultures around the world, you would expect to find their ancestry in Noah reflected in their stories about a world flood, or how man was created, etc.

The above account is totally different to that told normally through the media or school textbooks….

Compare Bill Nye, Ken Ham, and Aborigines (2014) from Conservative News and Views.

The “open letter” to Bill Nye comes from the Secular Coalition of Australia (SECOA). In its platform or “10-point plan,” this group calls for a frontal assault on religious liberty in Australia. (The headlines of the “ten points” look harmless enough. Slight shadings of the meanings of worlds show the real goal. How, for instance, does SECOA judge the “harm” that “religious practices” do? Would an “anti-discrimination law” force a church to hire, say, a homosexual minister?) SECOA published its “open letter” on February 2…

…those who assert that aborigines have lived in Australia for 40,000 to 65,000 years, have no continuous historical records to prove it. The “Australian History” site does not even try to prove that; they merely assert it. The Wikipedia article shows what anthropologists rely on: dating methods that assume an old earth. They include radiometric dating (chiefly carbon-14 dating) and thermoluminescence. No one has yet asked Bill Nye what he really thinks about this. But carbon-14 dating is not supposed to be reliable beyond 10,000 years. Or so the critics of Andrew Snelling said, when he published his report about radiometric dating in conflict. How, the critics asked, dared Snelling cite a radiocarbon date of 37,000 years as a good example of the craft? Yet such is the evidence in favor of an aboriginal presence on Australia lasting for 40,000 years at least. Where are the annals to show how long the aborigines really have lived in Australia? No one disputes they “got there first.” The dispute is how many thousands of years passed before the first “transports” arrived. The aborigines themselves do not know. Scientists think they know. But their evidence assumes an old earth. No one claims to have family or village or other annals showing a continuous cultural presence for 40,000 years or longer. No one, in short, claims to have the Australian aboriginal equivalent of the Assyrian Eponym Canon or of Egyptian, Babylonian, Hebrew, or other king lists. (As an aside, SECOA fails to mention that 75 percent of Australian aborigines today adhere to Christianity.) …

There is another view too, a minority one, that Aboriginal Australians have always been in Australia. Some Aboriginal people affirm that, as in these comments on a 2013 post Homo sapien sapiens originated in Australia, not ‘out-of-Africa’ – DNA evidence.

That is what the elders have been saying all along…..delighted I can say I am related to the original Australians…

As aboriginal people have told me for years, that we all come from here is in there stories, it now comes to pass with science backing this up. Their stories go right back to creation and beyond. Perhaps now we may start listening to a people that have wisdom that dates back to the very dawn of time…..perhaps not and will continue their extinction through our jails, our placement of them at the bottom of our class bases system and continue to kill them through starvation or keep the stolen generation alive as it is today through D.O.C.S.

Yet another view comes from professional Odd Bod Senator David Leyonhjelm. This one is examined and refuted at FactCheck: might there have been people in Australia prior to Aboriginal people?

As previously discussed on The Conversation, there is a strong research case for the biological continuity between pre-European and modern Aboriginal populations of Australia.

It is true that there has been, historically, a small number of claims that there were people in Australia before Australian Aborigines, but these claims have all been refuted and are no longer widely debated. The overwhelming weight of evidence supports the idea that Aboriginal people were the first Australians.

The disagreements that can be found in the literature are normal in the accumulation of knowledge but do not undermine the strength of the modern consensus that the first people to live in Australia were ancestors of the Aboriginal people who lived here when Europeans first arrived and colonised.

Although there is a small amount of truth in the Senator’s claims about what is in the literature, the claims do not stack up against modern knowledge of the evidence.

Finally, I refer you to recent genomic studies: World-first genome study reveals rich history of Aboriginal Australians. Jim Belshaw’s New England History blog has some related material.

Related: 22 myths you might believe about Aboriginal Australia.