Climate Change- Misinformation Overload

http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3169309.htm

It seems to be becoming a bit religious this climate change debate, with satan setting the stage in dark black soot “Carbon” and god booming down his ten commandments in the form of these so called “renewables”. In fact if you look hard there are quite a few similarities between religion in general and the new Climate Change trend -just like if you don’t worship your god you might go to hell; and if you don’t spite evil satan (carbon) the world will end in an apocalypse of storms and increasingly frequent natural disasters. The scary similarity is that in both religion and climate change- a vast range of those who support the arguments know little of the science and a lot of the hype.

Everynow and then I’ll hear things from people who have no background in meteorology, geology, or oceanography say things like: “awww seen all these storms lately? They say its only gonna get worse with all this climate change happening…” They? Who? Who says it’s going to get worse?! Can you quote the peer reviewed scientific paper out there that says storms will get more frequent and that natural disasters are on the rise?! I’m not a climate change sceptic it just so happens but it seems so me that all the hype around this climate change debate has been having things passed as general consensus just because the “they” media say it is. When really, much of the information delivered to the public is concocted by journalists who skew facts, and cherry pick information to make things look a hell of a lot more dramatic than they actually are. The fact is that our world is a complexly dynamic system and most people will never understand even the basic science behind it but will trust as they always have; in hearsay and media.

This makes it difficult for those who do know the science and are trying to convey the knowledge in a truthful and scientific manner. It’s happening at both ends however; there are the climate change supporters who dramatise everything and make the public think the world is going to end and there are the climate change sceptics who’ll boast anything that supports their argument true or not. At the top theres a link from abc’s media watch on a handful of Australian radio presenters who are climate sceptics and are getting their facts wrong.

After watching the show you’ll have soon caught on that the climate sceptic presenters are quite fond of Ian Plimer. They seem to think that because he is a geologist he knows more than these other Climate Scientists, I mean what would they know? Well I am a geologist and I do believe that carbon dioxide from humans is having an advanced effect on our environment, to the point where it will be detrimental to human existence on Earth, however I don’t think it will have a detrimental effect to the Earth and that whatever negative effects towards our environment will be reversible by adaptation and evolution with humans or without… I studied at the University of Adelaide under Ian Plimer and I’ll say nothing bad of his teaching techniques in fact he was perhaps the best lecturer I’ve ever had. However, his views on carbon dioxide and climate are not scientifically justified in his book Heaven and Earth.

In the Media Watch program Alan Jones from 2GB pumped out a figure that humans only produce only .001% of the carbon dioxide in the air. This figure for anyone who has studied science past year 11 would be a phenomenally incorrect one! However, I had to wonder where he got this figure from. Recently, I have read Ian Plimer’s book Heaven and Earth and on the second page of the introduction I found the mysterious .001% figure that I am reasonably sure Alan Jones obtained:

Despite well documented linkages between climate and solar activity, the Sun tends to be brushed aside as the driver of climate on Earth in place of a trace gas (carbon dioxide-CO2), most of which derives from natural processes. The CO2 in the atmosphere is only 0.001% of the total held in the oceans, surface rocks, air, soils and life.”

This perplexing and unreferenced statement made by Plimer is even wrong in itself; what does he mean by air? Even if the statement is true, which I can’t be sure unless I’ve actually read a scientific article that proves it which Plimer so unhelpfully did not provide, it amounts to nothing. A scientist will look at the statement and think “so what?” The statement is worded in a misleading way, downplaying the effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and could be similar to saying: “the uranium in Australia is only .000000000000000001% of the total held in the WHOLE UNIVERSE…” It might be true, but it’s completely irrelevant because Australia has a lot of uranium compared with other countries. Plimer’s statement is irrelevant to the argument at hand, which is that there is a significant amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human emissions and it is having a detrimental effect on our environment. Anyone who takes the time to read Ian Plimer’s book will find there are numerous misleading comments similar to this one, along with various unreferenced tables, graphs and statements. It’s ironic the books motto is “Global Warming: The Missing Science”…indeed. If anyone wants a rundown of this poorly referenced and opinion based book they can find it at http://www.bravenewclimate.com

The above link is the recent Carbon Tax ad campaign with Australian actors taken apart by an unknown anti-carbon tax party… It’s an outstanding example of the complete bullshit being spat out from both sides of the climate debate, from celebrities to government to anti-carbon tax activists and to the media in general. They smear the arguments and overdramatise with misleading statements.

So there you have it, rather than relying on misinformed radio talk show hosts and celebrities like Cate Blanchett- lets rely on the professionals folks… The scientists.

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Nuclear Attitudes in Australia

Studies have shown that attitudes towards Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom since the Japan incident have remained relatively unchanged. For more info visit website: http://www.niauk.org/News-Stories/Survey-shows-public-support-for-nuclear-power-remains-unchanged.html

I find this quite astounding but also comforting in the thought that once the public is convinced of the positives of nuclear power, their attitudes might be quite robust. Perhaps this is why it has been so difficult to convince Australians of the pros of Nuclear power, or perhaps the problem lies with simple science awareness problems.

A Mcnair Gallup Poll in 2007 (http://www.mcnairingenuity.com/Portals/0/PDF/McNair%20Gallup%20Poll%20-%202%20in%205%20Australians%20Favour%20Nuclear%20Power%20(Feb%202007).pdf)

suggests that attitudes in Australia towards Nuclear Power are improving, albeit slowly. In 1979 a dismal 39% of Australians were in favour of Nuclear Power with 56% opposing and the remaining 10% unsure on the matter. However a poll in 2007 showed that support for Nuclear Power in Australia had risen to 41%, a seven percent increase in 28 years with those opposing only dropping to 53% and those unsure being 6%. We should also note that those 28 years have seen France become a nuclear success story, and that in the number of nuclear power plants throughout the world from 1980 to 2006 rose by 54%! http://www-pub.iaea.org/mtcd/publications/pdf/rds2-26_web.pdf

Reliance on coal in 2006 was 41% with nuclear 15%, yet according the the World Coal Association there are 2300 coal fired power stations throughout the world with over 7000 individual units compared with only 441 Nuclear Power stations. That means that to meet the production of coal power plants on a power plant basis; nuclear need only install another 764 power plants, perhaps even less with fast breeder and thorium reactors coming online.

What baffles me is in light of all the evidence, scientific papers, and success stories is why we don’t have more support for Nuclear Power. With so many nations making the change and reaping the benefits why isn’t Australia taking advantage of this? We have abundant reserves of uranium, and instead of storing and utilising, we sell to other countries.

The only conclusion I can come up with for such slowly unchanging attitudes to a very positive idea is perhaps misinformation. According to a paper from 2007  I recently read called “Attitudes to Nuclear Power. Are they Shifting?” by Clive Hamilton and Andrew Macintosh:

“Only around a third of Australians (36 per cent) support the construction of nuclear power plants and the level of support has remained fairly stable since May 2006. There was a small decrease in opposition to nuclear power between December 2006 and April 2007 (from 50 per cent to 46 per cent). The proportion of Australians who are strongly opposed to nuclear power (31 per cent) is almost double that which is strongly in favour (16 per cent). It appears that the small shift in opposition has predominantly been toward being undecided rather than being in favour of nuclear power.

Opposition to nuclear power is highest among women (55 per cent), the young (49 per cent) and middle-aged (49 per cent), parents (50 per cent), people from middle income households (49 per cent) and those living in Tasmania (57 per cent), Western Australia (55 per cent) and Victoria (51 per cent).

Support for nuclear power is highest amongst men (47 per cent), older Australians (43 per cent), people without children (40 per cent) and those living in South Australia (47 per cent) and New South Wales (41 per cent).”

This suggests that many who were recently opposed to Nuclear are now unsure in light of new evidence, but not struck by strong enough evidence to make an informed decision. Is information on Nuclear Power really that hard to find? Or is it just because I am interested in the topic that it seems there such an endless supply of information on Nuclear Power that it could be impossible to be misinformed on the subject? I suppose that’s simply the problem though; with so much information there’s also false and misleading information, and what a disservice its doing to society.

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The National Broadband Network…I’m Convinced.

When the Labor government announced that they would be introducing a National Broadband Network (NBN) to Australia I wasn’t at first sure about it; admittedly not knowing much about our network communications infrastructure. However, I did some poking around to see what all the fuss was about, and I have to say it now has my full support.

The first argument that got me thinking was the cost; total capital expenditure to reach over $35.9 billion with the government providing at least $27.5 billion in equity. Now for any infrastructure; thats a lot of zeros. In fact this is the most expensive rollout of communication infrastructure the nation has ever seen. When the rollout of the National Broadband is complete, 93% of homes and businesses will have access to world class broadband. The remaining 7% will be hooked up with wireless or satellite at speeds better than most most urban users currently.

Some, like Malcom Turnbull, argue that wireless is the network of the new age, with more and more technologies such as iPhones and iPads becoming prominent in technology. However, anyone who has researched the capacity of wireless will soon find out that wireless is already being pushed to its limits, and that we need both wireless and fibre to meet the future demands of our data consumption.

The more I investigated the NBN, the more it seemed to make sense. Data downloading through homes and businesses has been exponentially increasing every year, the demand for greater capacity broadband is increasing. We need a future proof plan which wont need costly upgrades in the future. The NBN is expensive I wont try and tell you otherwise, but I will tell you its worth it.

The NBN gives us structural seperation from Telstra, the privatisation nightmare that saw the last 20 years of terrible phone coverage in Australia, of failing telecommunications market due to the immovable monopoly that Telstra was and still is. If you ever get frustrated because your phone company charges you a fortune and you still don’t get wireless coverage or even phone reception on your iPhone sometimes even in urban areas; then you need to be frustrated at the monopoly that is Telstra. Our communication system at present is nothing short of a joke. I pay $50 a month for a 30G internet plan that gives me “peak speeds” of 20Mb/s, I also live only a few metres from the exchange so this is a good speed for the money I’m paying. If we changed to the NBN and I took up fibre to the home; I could receive speeds more than 5 times my current speeds for $12 LESS than what I’m paying now or, alternatively, i could pay 3 times as much as I’m paying now and receive internet speeds 50 times faster than I am currently. Now come on, I know I’m not the only one thats pissed off with their phone and wireless coverage. The only people that seem to not be pissed off are those who went with Telstra, and they’re paying more!

It is not commercially viable for communication infrastructure to take fibre much further than beyond the CBD, they wont make money doing that, so they wont do it, its as simple as that. The only infrastructure that can take fibre on a majority scale to Australians is a National Broadband Network. It will be cheaper in the long run to spend the money now.

The attitude the Labor government has brought to the table with the NBN is the attitude I wish they could have in all of their policies. It addresses the issue on a global and futuristic scale. When I walk into a store to buy a computer, I don’t walk into Cash Converters and pay $1000 bucks for a computer I’ll have to replace in a year because technology supersedes it; I buy the best computer my money can buy! That way it will last me long enough to have got my moneys worth without ending up spending more slightly upgrading all the time to save money in the short term; resulting in me having a substandard computer my whole life and never actually saving any money!

I love the attitude towards Telstra in this policy. The Telstra monopoly has destroyed and controlled the telecommunications market in Australia for the last 10 years and refused to play ball when it was offered a reasonable equity package by the government to incoorperate it in the fibre optic plan. To not remove Telstra from the communications infrastructure equation would be a massive error and would set back communications in Australia for years to come. The government is stepping in; as it should. As Steven Conroy says; the market has failed to provide affordable access to fast broadband across the whole country, it hasn’t happened and it wont happen. John Howard gave it 11 years, why should we have to wait any longer?

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