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>Should the United Nations take military action against China over climate change?

February 29, 2008 9 comments

>David Archibald’s latest paper destroys the myth that CO2 is to blame for the warming we’ve seen since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid 19th century. He puts the warming effect from anthropogenic CO2 at around 0.1C, which is the conclusion I came to some time back.

However, that’s not the point of this post. I provide it as background because it includes the following graph:

The question that needs to be posed is this…

Given that Climate Change presents an existential threat to the earth’s climate system, that there’s a consensus of scientific opinion that the consequences will be dire and that the cost of not taking urgent action are significant then should the United Nations take military action against China in order to save the world given the huge increase in CO2 output projected for them?

Naturally, it’s a deliberately provocative question but why shouldn’t it be asked?

If the projection in the above graph is correct and ‘the science is settled’ then the world is doomed.

In order to preserve world peace – the UN’s primary objective – it must be incumbent on it to gather together those nations whose governments are keen to take action against anthropogenic global warming and stop China, militarily if necessary. That would be a pretty amusing spectacle, really; blue helmeted UN soldiers doing what they normally do – running away from a fight – while the UN’s European half-brother, the EU, expends more time fighting with itself than tackling China.

If China – and India for that matter – will not reduce carbon emissions then why shouldn’t they be subject to strong international action?

The situation really does show the apparently contradictory positions that the United Nations manages to navigate with no sense of cognitive dissonance.

In Australia the recent release of the Garnaut Report suggests that if Australia slashes its economic wrists by working towards a 90% reduction in CO2 by 2050 then it will be seen as a great world leader, a visionary country and an inspiration for recalcitrants such as China to follow.

I didn’t notice China follow Australia’s lead with the whole democracy thing, or take much notice of any of our world leading occupational health and safety standards, or take our side on ending North Korea’s concentration camp status, or even reform their economy by floating their currency.

You do have to give them credit for taking our lead on one important thing, though. They have hired a bunch of Aussies who worked on the Sydney Olympics to help make their upcoming version of the games a propaganda triumph.

The reason that people would think that another country would follow Australia’s lead – on moral grounds – has always eluded me.

(Nothing Follows)

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>Labor campaigns on lower grocery prices. Increases grocery prices.

February 29, 2008 2 comments

>During the recent Australian election campaign the Labor party attacked the then government on the increasing cost of groceries.

From the ALP’s own website:

The Rudd Government has directed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to commence a formal inquiry into grocery prices to ensure working families are getting a fair deal at the supermarket.

And as recently as 23 January 2008:

Supermarkets are being put on notice with the Rudd government ordering the consumer watchdog to investigate grocery prices.

Labor says Australians are paying too much for the essentials and has directed the ACCC to conduct a formal inquiry into grocery prices.

People who were expecting the government to take action that would actually lead to lower grocery prices might be a little surprised by today’s news:

Grocery prices will rise as new tax increases on truckies are passed on to consumers.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese announced that state transport ministers will implement National Transport Commission (NTC) recommendations to move towards full cost recovery for heavy vehicles.

Registration fees for 75 per cent of the nation’s 365,000 heavy vehicles will now rise.

The commonwealth’s fuel tax for trucks and buses – the Road User Charge – will be increased by 1.367 cents to 21 cents per litre from January 1, 2009.

Mr Albanese said the changes were necessary to ensure heavy vehicle users paid their fair share of road construction and repair costs.

But he conceded increased freight costs would be passed on to consumers.

“This will lead to a cost increase of around about 32 cents per week for the entire family grocery budget,” Mr Albanese told reporters.

“We recognise that we’d rather not have any increases at all but I think that people will understand that (this) … needed to be done.”

Nah. It’s OK, Mr Albanese. You go and increase all of the taxes you want. As long as you think that “people will understand” – especially when there’s an upcoming massive budget surplus – then that’s just fine with me.

Not.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Australia, Politics

>Every three minutes a brain drains from the UK

February 28, 2008 Leave a comment

>Societies don’t break down all of a sudden. It usually takes years of slicing away at individual liberties, implementation of increasingly onerous economic policies and a failure to uphold and protect the values that built the society in the first place.

Today’s Britain would be unrecognisable to Churchill. That would have been true in the 1970s, as well, a time in which social upheaval in Britain was a real problem. Can you imagine what the place would be like now if Thatcher had not have come to power and implemented those economic reforms necessary to get the place back into shape? The left may excoriate her but without Thatcher modern Britain clearly loses her place as Europe’s most important nation.

Now Britain has to find a way of maintaining its intellectual capital, which seems to be deserting the place like rats off the ship of state.

Britain is experiencing the worst “brain drain” of any country as highly qualified professionals settle abroad, an authoritative international study showed yesterday.

Record numbers of Britons are leaving – many of them doctors, teachers and engineers – in the biggest exodus for almost 50 years.

There are now 3.247 million British-born people living abroad, of whom more than 1.1 million are highly-skilled university graduates, say the researchers.

More than three quarters of these professionals have settled abroad for more than 10 years, according to the study by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.

No other nation is losing so many qualified people, it points out. Britain has now lost more than one in 10 of its most skilled citizens, while overall only Mexico has had more people emigrate.

The figures, based on official records from more than 220 countries, will alarm Gordon Brown as tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money is spent on educating graduates. The cost of training a junior doctor, for example, is £250,000.

The most popular destinations are English-speaking countries such as Australia, America, Canada and New Zealand and holiday areas including France and Spain.

Almost 60 per cent of those leaving take jobs, although hundreds of thousands of retired people live abroad.

The report is a statistical analysis which does not study the motivation for leaving Britain. However, high house prices and taxes and poor climate are frequently cited.

A spokesman for the Paris-based OECD said last night: “British people have lots of opportunities to move and work abroad so very highly-skilled people are travelling around. It is seen by many British people as part of their personal development to have some experience abroad.”

Britain’s exodus is far higher than any of the OECD’s other 29 members. Germany has lost only 860,000 highly-skilled workers, America 410,000 and France 370,000.

The OECD found that 27.3 per cent of those emigrating had health or education qualifications, 37.7 per cent had humanities or social science degrees and 28.5 per cent were scientists or engineers.

Britain has a shortage of graduates in many of these fields and universities have long warned that some of the brightest hopes are being lost to higher salaries abroad.

The report cited research suggesting that 62 per cent of the world’s “star scientists” live in the US, primarily because of the efforts made by American research universities to attract them.

Danny Sriskandarajah, a migration expert at the IPPR think-tank, said: “There is a long-term trend of British people lured abroad by a slightly better lifestyle. They are actively targeted by countries such as Australia and New Zealand.”

The emigration was leading to a rapid change in British society as large numbers of highly-skilled immigrants moved to this country to replace those leaving, he said.

“Britain has been lucky – although it has lost substantial numbers of people, it has attracted more than a million skilled immigrants to replace them. If they stop coming then that would be a problem.”

Those people are coming from Eastern Europe not South Asia or North Africa, which might be your first thought.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics last year, suggested that 207,000 Britons – one every three minutes – left in 2006. The emigration rate is at its highest since just after the Second World War.

The term brain drain was coined in the 1950s following the mass emigration of scientists and other experts to America. Tens of thousands of people also left the country to escape the industrial unrest and high taxes of the 1970s.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “Ten years of Labour has re-created the brain drain. High taxes and Government interference are driving people away.”

The study found that foreign-born people make up 8.3 per cent of Britain’s population. A House of Lords report into the economic impact of migration is due next month.

Prof David Coleman, of St John’s, Oxford, said the brain drain was “to do with quality of life, laws and bureaucracy, tax and all the rest of it”.

Prof Christian Dustmann, of University College London, said: “The costs of leaving a country are substantial. The rewards must be very high.”

I wonder whether those planning the UK’s future take into account the large number of qualified people who are leaving and the number of unqualified, rent-seekers that are moving there?

Do the policies that have created the problem belong to the right or the left?

I’ll give you some time to think about that.

Tick…tick…tick…

You probably didn’t need that much time to work out that embracing left wing policies must lead to societal disintegration.

Today’s New Left, as ushered in by Tony Blair, appeared to have struck a fair balance between conservative financial policies through lowered taxes and left wing social policies while at the same time disconnecting itself from the chains of the union movement and enhancing flexibility in the workforce.

One of Britain’s major problems has come through the way it has used increased tax receipts to buy off political constituencies that have no love for the country (particularly Muslim immigrants) and no love for its history or contribution to Western society.

The brain drain the country is experiencing is a symptom of much deeper problems. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be another Thatcher on the political horizon to sort the place out.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: United Kingdom

>Go to Cuban paradise. Return from Cuban hell.

February 27, 2008 1 comment

>What do Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Jesse Jackson, Oliver Stone, George McGovern, Ted Turner, Steven Spielberg and Katie Couric all have in common?

They love Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

So did British socialist Neil Clark who went to Cuba seeking paradise but found a country where the average person lives in abject poverty and without enough food each month to make ends meet.

Neil Clark says that he went to Havana in search of a left-wing Utopia and discovered instead an island fortress of poverty, corruption and currency apartheid.

It’s a country where the vast majority live in poverty, while a tiny, corrupt elite live in luxury. It’s a place where, 14 years after South Africa abolished apartheid, a form of it still operates. And it’s a country where you can be threatened with prison not just for criticising the country’s leadership, but also for querying a medical bill.

Welcome to Cuba, the ‘socialist’ paradise built by that great egalitarian Fidel Castro, who after 49 years at the helm has finally decided to hand over power — in the manner of a true democrat — to his brother Raúl.

My wife and I, as unreconstructed paleo-lefties who support Clause Four, free school meals and NHS dental provision, had long wanted to visit Castro’s Cuba. All the people whose views we respect had said that the Caribbean island was a progressive model whose policies on education and healthcare ought to be copied throughout the world. We went there last April desperately wanting to like the place — after all, if George W. Bush and other right-wing nasties hated Cuba so much, then the country must be on the right tracks.

But we returned home terribly disillusioned. Neither of us had been to a country which was so utterly decrepit.

Stay on the officially approved tourist trail round the newly renovated streets of ‘Old Havana’ and you’d get the impression that Cuba was a tropical version of Switzerland. There are smart restaurants, designer shops and modern hotels. Wander a few streets away, however, and you’ll witness scenes of incredible dereliction. Dilapidated buildings with wires hanging out, streets that haven’t been resurfaced for more than 50 years, balconies that look like they’re going to fall down at any minute. In my travels in the Middle East and Asia, I’ve certainly witnessed squalor, but nothing prepared me for the back streets of Havana.

The average wage in Cuba is a pitiful $17 a month. The monthly ration which includes 283g of fish, 226g of chicken, ten eggs and 1.8kg of potatoes is barely enough for a fortnight, meaning most Cubans need to work the black market to stay alive. Things that we in Britain take totally for granted — such as toilet paper, toothpaste and pens — are luxury goods in Cuba. I’ll never forget the look of joy from an old lady when I handed her a couple of old marker pens and a coloured pencil.

For Fidel’s chums, life is somewhat easier. Despite its calls for further belt-tightening, the Cuban government last year ordered Series 1, 3 and 5 BMWs for all its ambassadors and a Series 5 model for Raúl Castro, who had taken charge of the country after his brother’s hospitalisation.

The heartbreaking consequences of Cuba’s currency apartheid were bought home to my wife and I on a Saturday afternoon visit to Havana’s Coppelia ‘Ice Cream’ park. To the right of the park gates was a long queue of Cubans who had only Cuban pesos. They have to wait on average two hours every weekend to get their weekly scoop of ice cream. On the left, there was walk-in access to tourists and the lucky locals who had convertible pesos. Fifty years on, the Cuban revolution has turned full circle in a truly Orwellian fashion. Once again the locals find themselves excluded from the best beaches in their country, as they were under Batista. And prostitution, so rife in pre-revolutionary days, is back — the jineteras being the only group of Cubans allowed to enter the new purpose-built resorts.

US sanctions are routinely blamed by Cuba’s defenders for the country’s plight. But while sanctions are harsh and morally indefensible, there’s little doubt that they have been used by the regime as a smokescreen to cover up inefficiencies and corruption. Four years ago the head of the country’s largest tourism company, Cubanacan, was fired after millions of dollars went missing — the loss only coming to light after all state enterprises were ordered to transfer their US dollars into convertible pesos.

The totalitarian nature of Castro’s Cuba is no right-wing myth, but a reality. And you don’t have to be a political agitator to fall foul of the authorities, as my wife and I discovered. We had been told by our holiday rep that the hotel’s resident nurse would administer free basic medical care, but if we required the call-out services of a local doctor, we’d have to pay. After a day’s snorkelling I had a touch of ear-ache, so I popped along to the nurse’s office to ask if she had any medication. The nurse was a man, who after the most cursory examination of my ear pronounced that I had an infection which required antibiotics. How much would the antibiotics cost, I asked. About £60, he replied. As we were returning home later that day, I told him that I’d leave it till I got back. ‘Yes, but you still have to pay me £30 for this consultation,’ he replied. ‘But the services of the nurse are free,’ I said. ‘I’m a doctor,’ he replied.

Furious at being taken for a ride, my wife and I refused to pay and headed back to our room. But on trying to check out of the hotel later that morning, we were astonished to be told by the receptionist that if we did not settle the medical bill, she would ‘call state security’ and we would be arrested. We would not be allowed out of the country — ‘state security’ would apprehend us at the airport. The ‘doctor’ then reappeared to say that the rate — which had been set in stone — was after all negotiable, and that he’d accept £25. Forced into the corner and threatened with a night (at least) in a Cuban jail, we reluctantly paid up. ‘It’s nothing more than theft,’ I said to the ‘doctor’ as I handed over the money. ‘It doesn’t go to me,’ was his response. ‘It goes to the state.’

If the money from such scams really did go to the state — and towards improving the lot of the Cuban people — I wouldn’t have been so upset. But I strongly suspect that a share of my £25 will go towards the next fleet of BMWs for Castro’s cronies.

After the stress of our final day in Cuba, my wife and I were hugely relieved to leave the country. And when we were safely airborne, we both reflected that if any country was in need of a revolution, it was Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

And this is the place that Michael Moore holds up as a bastion of utopian health care.

The term Useful Idiots certainly applies not only to Cuba-lovers but also to those who support Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and, unfortunately, a bunch of other totalitarian regimes.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Politics

>I’d rather be waterboarded…

February 27, 2008 Leave a comment

>You know that the media is getting short of news stories when it’s breaking news that we can watch New Zealand PM and block of wood impersonator, Helen Clark, and Australian PM and Mandarin speaking school nerd, Kevin Rudd, at a press conference.

Waterboarding? Watch Clark and Rudd? Waterboarding? Watch Clark and Rudd?

Waterboarding, please.

An easy decision, really.

(Nothing Follows)

>Aussie Oscar winner Eva Orner is a coward

February 26, 2008 Leave a comment

>It should come as no surprise that yet another entertainment industry figure has taken a swipe at the current US administration. It seems to be how they earn their credibility points in the Hollywood social set.

The fact that it’s an Australian is upsetting insofar as few of us – even those who disagree with the war in Iraq – would describe President Bush as a war criminal.

Oscar winner Eva Orner has described the US government as a “bunch of war criminals”.

The Australian filmmaker won the Academy Award for best feature documentary as co-producer of Taxi to the Dark Side, a film about the US government’s use of torture in its war against terror.

The documentary features interviews with US soldiers who participated in the torture of suspects in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Ms Orner said she did not blame low-ranking soldiers for such behaviour.

“Obviously, everyone’s responsible for their own actions, but you put people in bad situations who are ill-equipped, not trained, under enormous pressure and getting orders from above to do bad things,” she told ABC Radio from Los Angeles today.

“I don’t really believe it is terribly much their fault, it comes from much higher sources.

“The current administration are a bunch of war criminals and they need to be stopped. People need to know what’s going on.”

Ms Orner said she was surprised such a dark film – directed by Alex Gibney – had won the Oscar.

Why would she be surprised when such rubbish as An Inconvenient Truth and Farenheit 9/11 won awards?

“This is one of the toughest films I think either of us has made,” she said.“It wasn’t a lot of fun.”

Resting on the desk in her hotel room was the shiny Oscar Tom Hanks presented to the 38-year-old at the 80th Annual Academy Awards ceremony at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.

It wasn’t a dream, she thought, looking over at the statuette.

New York-based Orner and her American filmmaking partner, Alex Gibney, won the documentary feature Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side, an expose on the US government’s use of torture in its war on terrorism.

Orner is both a Moral Idiot and Cowardly Piece of Crap.

It’s not brave to attack the US administration or the military.

If she wants to really support truly moral positions and be brave then why doesn’t she do a documentary on:

– Saddam Hussein’s torture regime, which included feeding people into tree shredders;
– Fidel Castro’s regime of suppression, torture and murder;
– The concentration camp disguised as a country – North Korea;
– The human rights abuses, especially against women, occurring all over the Middle East; or
– The 10,000+ acts of terror carried out in the name of Islam since 9/11?

No. That would take real courage. That would require a real understanding of the world. That would require an ability to understand evil.

And those are traits that she lacks.

It seems that when people become part of the Hollywood set they don’t mature and grow up, they grow down. Listening to their rantings is like listening to a bunch of rich, narcisstic school kids.

Looking for bravery? Avoid Hollywood.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Morals, War On Terror

>India improves standard of living. Big Green gnashes teeth.

February 24, 2008 Leave a comment

>One of the positions that environmentalists have taken pretty much since the movement was created is that they have a better understanding of what’s best for the developing world than the developing world does itself.

Over recent years this has seen Big Green oppose every single development aimed at helping give the poor nations of the world an improved standard of living whether it’s mining, new energy projects or improved food production through such things as GM crops.

Unsurprisingly, some countries are now in a position to help themselves and it’s making Big Green gnash its teeth and wail about the end of the world. Big Green is always wailing about the end of the world.

The latest reason for gnashing of teeth? India’s new cheap-as-chips micro car, the Tata Nano. Good on the Indians, I say.

It’s small, it’s cheap, it’s low emission so… the arrival of the Tata Nano, India’s new ‘people’s car’, has been greeted by a wailing and a gnashing of the teeth from the environmental aristocracy. The prospect of millions of the global peasantry driving, emitting and pushing up ‘our’ gas prices is a nightmare. It promises to be, said Yale environmental law professor Daniel Esty, “an environmental disaster of substantial proportions.”

In fact, the size, or even existence, of this environmental disaster is doubtful. A few millions of a car that emits 30 g CO2 per km simply isn’t even an influence upon global CO2 emissions, let alone a disaster of even insubstantial portions. At that emission rate, doing 20,000 km a year each car will produce 600 kg of CO2: one hundred million of them on the roads would be less than 1 per cent of current emissions of over 6 Gtonnes. No, not substantial then.

But whether it is a substantial addition or not is dwarfed by the seeming ignorance of other commentators: “In none of our reports did we assume there’d be a car like this,” said Judi Greenwald, a researcher with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Well, OK, cut Judi a little slack, no one did predict a car exactly like this: but everyone has indeed predicted that something similar would happen, that the peons would at some point be able to get off Shank’s Pony and move around in the same way us civilised folks do. Indeed, all the concerns we have about global warming are rather based upon predictions that this will happen.

Apologies, but this is where a little economics becomes necessary. Yes, we’ve all heard of the International Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, those people who issue the reports containing the scientific consensus on the issue (yes, we are assuming they are correct here). Greenland’s ice disappears sometime around 2,500, East Antarctica a couple of centuries later and boy, then we all really are in trouble. But all too few people, and unfortunately all too few environmentalists, stop and wonder where those numbers come from. Yes, we’ve got lovely computer models to tell us what the temperature rises will be if we stick x amount of methane into the atmosphere, y amount of CO2 and so on: but someone, somewhere, has had to work out how much methane, how much CO2 is likely to be so emitted. And that comes from the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, the SRES.

The SRES is a series of economic models based upon four families (again divided into scenarios but we’re not going to worry about that level of detail). The A1 family assumes that in 2100 the world output (GDP) will be $550 trillion for some 7 billion people. That is, that the world will be at least ten times richer in 92 years than it was eight years ago (essentially, growth goes on as it has since 1850). A2 (what the Stern Review uses and, umm, the low globalisation model) has 16 billion people and $250 trillion in GDP. B2 10 billions and $250 trillion, B1 $350 trillion and 7 billion again. These are the economic assumptions upon which everything we are told about climate change rests. Yes, there are different assumptions in them about how technology develops but all of them are entirely without any attempts at all at mitigation. That is, all the numbers we work with assume that we don’t have carbon taxes, we don’t ban patio heaters, we don’t abolish the aeroplane. Anything we do along those lines reduces the damage that might be done.

Just as an aside we might note that these models all assume that the less trade we have, the more regionally based the world economy, the more self-sufficient we all become, buying locally, the worse the outcome. Campaigning to reduce globalisation to counter global warming is like fucking for virginity.

While none of the families specifically predicts the Tata Nano, all of them predict that the great unwashed will indeed have transport: and no, none of them predict that that transport will not be fossil fuel based. So while those folks at the Pew Center might be correct that this specific thing was not predicted, something very like it was. In fact, the existence of growing wealth and thus mobility is rather written into the plans that worry us.

Which leads us to the glorious George Monbiot. In a recent column he said:

“So economic growth this century could be 32 times as big an environmental issue as population growth. And if governments, banks and businesses have their way, it never stops. By 2115, the cumulative total rises to 3,200%, by 2138 to 6,400%. As resources are finite, this is of course impossible, but it is not hard to see that rising economic activity – not human numbers – is the immediate and overwhelming threat.”

Leave aside his (known) ignorance of economics: growth is not defined by nor is it dependent upon the consumption of resources. It’s defined as the addition of value to them: making sandpaper and a computer chip both consume sand, but one is the addition of rather more value than the other. Thus economic growth is not constrained in the way that he thinks by resource availability. Look rather to his “this is of course impossible”.

In talking about climate change and the dangers thereof he tells us that a continuation of past economic growth is impossible. But as we can see above, the world’s largest report on the subject, indeed the scientific consensus, is that said growth is indeed possible. In fact, the terrors of climate change depend upon it being so, for the whole science is based upon the outcome of economic growth. Thus George has either, by showing the impossibility, told us that climate change isn’t a problem or that, perhaps more likely, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Which brings us back to those worrying about the Tata Nano: it isn’t a horror for the climate, it isn’t a disaster. It’s actually one of the things already built into our models which lead us to our current understanding of what will happen. We’ve already taken account of it in our calculations, you see? As we have all those other things: more flights, more people, more wealth. We even know the solution, a Pigou Tax, but that’s a matter for another day.

For a group of people who think they have the moral high ground, the immoral positions of Big Green make Big Oil look like Pope John Paul II.

I’m also constantly surprised by the view of Big Green that resources are finite. The fact is that resources are infinite; when one runs out another is found. Who remembers that whale oil used to be one of the world’s biggest industries?

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Climate Change, India, Morals