Archive for November, 2009

The smoking gun of climate fraud?

I am all for a good conspiracy theory to pass the time, but mostly due to the fact that they are a good read, rather than that they lead to a fundamentally modified understanding of reality. The latest from the climate sceptics is that they believe to have uncovered a vast conspiracy on the left to falsify science in order to win the argument on climate change. They site mass volume of hacked emails from the University of East Anglia in England, one of the centres where climate change research is being carried out, and a participant in the IPCC. Now, like all good conspiracy theories, it starts out with some kernels of fact and possibly even the smoking-gun of fraud.

According to the best news report of the substance with regard to the issue in the American Academy for Advancement of Science (publishers of the peer-reviewed journal Science) the facts are that the Director of the Climate Research Unit there asked other scientists to delete data that might be the subject of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. But why would they do such a thing? Well further examination of the emails shows that the motivation was, that ,“. . . colleagues feared that releasing information would draw them deeper into disputes with amateur scientists, who would use it to create new controversies and cut into their research time.”

Now, while I could understand the motive, if say, I had to argue science with a demonstrable moron such as Steven Fielding on a repetitive basis. However, deleting information subject to a FOIA request is against the law, so regardless of the motive, one or more people at the University of East Anglia could face some heat and possibly prosecution. And good thing when they do. Just as I would want someone like Dick Cheney to face the music if we could prove he lied, I don’t want liars and obfuscators on my team. The rules are the rules and they apply to all.

That being said, there is no proof in all these hacked emails that any of the people who were asked by others from England to delete files or data aver did so, and coordinating such a mass deletion across countries, institutions and by other scientists would leave a trail, even if it were attempted. In fact, the hack that resulted in the release of the information was very possibly caused by one of the scientists asked to do something improper instead leaked a bunch of the information. That is, unless Occam’s Razor wins out, because in fact one of the scientists left their email and data wide open to the outside world by including their password in their email address. And let’s face it, you aren’t going to run a very good conspiracy with people like that involved.

So basically, despite an inappropriate (or possibly illegal) request by one person, there no evidence in the information released that there was a multi-organisational, worldwide conspiracy to modify data, carry out false modelling, or alter the peer-reviewed system of the IPCC for arriving at their conclusions on climate change.

The rules of science are that one sound data set can prove all the science before it wrong. Unfortunately for the climate change sceptics, this is not that data set, and for the time being, I will stick with the peer-reviewed science on the side that demonstrates anthropogenic climate change as being real and a problem. Anyone still with me?

For an amusing side of this story, watch as the chaos over the Coalition leadership plays itself out this week. I venture to guess that Fielding, Minchin, Abbott or other climate change sceptics will attempt to use the smoking gun they think they now have to win the argument. They will continue to attempt to tear the other side down, but they will find no bullets in their gun, and they are not be able to offer a substantive alternative explanation of the scientific data we all can agree on. And eventually, their logic on the CPRS will also collapse, either this week, or during the double dissolution election to follow.

Carving Up the Cap

The discussions are shaping up for Copenhagen, as more countries like the US now are floating actual proposals for cutting their emissions, while other countries like China seem to want to refuse to do anything until those that got us to this point commit to paying their fair share. The arguments seem to be shaping up along these lines: Developing countries want the developed countries to “pay” for the reductions required in CO2 by drastically reducing their emissions from a baseline, as they have been the ones that have benefited from the failure to control emissions in the past. The developed countries are more worried about the rates of increase in CO2 emissions from the developing countries, partly because if the developed nations were to agree to reduce their emissions greatly, those emissions reductions would simply be “eaten up” in a few years by growing emissions from the developed world. The answer to getting any sort of binding agreements in Copenhagen (or later) seems to be in finding the metric to balance out both the developed world and the developing world in doing both.

If we are going to get to where we think we need to go, we need to do something along the lines of limiting average temperature rise to 2C, which translates into something like limiting CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to about 350 parts per million by volume (ppmv). To achieve this balance is going to mean a cap of emissions worldwide, which will be reduced over time to get where we need to go. It is not as simple as just dividing up the contributions to this cap by what contributions are now, which means developed economies get more since they started making the emissions first. We also can’t just divvy up the contributions to the emissions cap on a per capita basis, since that would mean that developed nations would have to reduce their emissions (and lifestyles) to those equivalent to the developing countries. But a balance can be struck, and possibly in ways that may not drive us all into economic ruin.

The US, most of Europe, Japan, Australia and other developed countries should be willing to make very challenging cuts to their 1990 base emissions, and in exchange India, China and the rest of the developing world should be willing to accept limits in their rates of emissions increases, or a limit in their per capita emissions which is lower than that in the developed world. Negotiations should focus on the definitions of developed/developing, and the size of cuts and per capita limits required worldwide to reach the goal. Negotiations can start with the voluntary unilateral cuts and commitments to go farther if others do their bit, as Australia has proposed to do. This is why I have advocated having our CPRS completed before the Copenhagen meeting.

If an international agreement is reached, we can then get on with achieving it, and despite the costs, it won’t have to ruin economies worldwide. I will post in the near future on why I don’t believe the costs will be significant in the overall scheme of things, even if the miniscule chance of the overwhelming scientific opionion proves to be incorrect!

If you won’t kick in your $1.05 . . .

. . . or $2 or $5, who will? That’s the number that and independent analysis by the Citi Group has found that a ton of coal would increase as a result of the CPRS being introduced. Now, 5 bucks a ton sounds pretty severe when you look at it on a cost/ton basis. My current look at energy prices suggest that this average rise of $5 would raise the average price for a ton of coal from $45 to $50. That’s an 11% increase! If I was selling coal, I would want to make a huge issue out of that sort of rise that I would undoubtedly have to pass on to my customers. But, let’s look a little closer at how that cost rise plays out on the basis of the measure used throughout the energy industry in dollars per kilowatt hour ($/kWh). The results may surprise you a little. When converted to cost per amount of power delivered, some sources of energy break down like this:

Coal: $0.007/kWh
Gas: $.0.03/ kWh
Oil: $0.05/ kWh
Solar: $0.38/ kWh
Nuclear: $0.006/ kWh

So, if you look at it on this basis, that 5 bucks a ton only converts to only 1 tenth of 1 cent a kilowatt hour (or a cost of $0.008/kwh). That means what is an absolutely screaming deal on a cost basis becomes only an incredibly good deal, or only a third the price of gas rather than a quarter. Damn, I think we better subsidise those lost profits right away rather than risk any coal companies cutting jobs, huh?

Finally, when examining the numbers, the other thing to keep in mind is that it is not all about cost, is it? Because if it were, we wouldn’t be worried about making coal more expensive in relation to say, solar power. Instead, we would be working on plans to locate a lot more nuclear plants much closer to the users of the power in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, wouldn’t we? I’m sure we are all on board with that, right?


Is this thing even on?

Autopsy of Failure

[Reprinted from Oct 2009]

Now on to this month’s rant, which might be subtitled “autopsy of failure”. I want to examine the failure of Labor, for basically being themselves in arriving at their current position on climate change legislation, as well as moving it forward to a conclusion. But first, I must return to an earlier target, the Greens, for their act of taking jobs they were either completely unqualified for, or that they never intended to carry out the responsibilities of in the first place, and thereby being frauds.

It all stems from a brief summary of what would be the Greens amendments to the CPRS (as provided by the Environment Manager) of about a week ago:

  • A 40% cut to Aust’s GHG emissions on 1990 base by 2020;
  • A 100% renewable energy target and national gross-feed-in tariff;
  • Enshrined in Aust law a commitment to stabilise global emissions at an atmospheric concentration of 350 parts per million;
  • An emissions trading scheme with no price cap, full permit auctioning, no five-year warnings for business on emissions caps, voluntary offsets included in the caps, agriculture excluded and two yearly reviews;
  • Agriculture to be dealt with under a “green carbon” sequestration plan that would end all clearing of native forests;
  • Compensation for emission-intensive industries based only on their trade exposure, as determined by the Productivity Commission;
  • The axing of fringe benefits tax on inefficient cars and fuel tax credits for mining and forestry; and
  • Energy efficiency upgrades in all Aust homes and businesses.

Now, here’s a shocker. After reading through all the amendments above and having a bit of a think about them all, I could agree to all IN FULL. Even the couple that I find a bit fluffy and more populist than substantive. They are not the same sort of impractical aspirational rubbish we normally get from the greens. Had all of these been available and on the table back in August when the government was telling the Coalition to put up or shut up (and possibly face an early election), the Greens should have been out there with a simple summary of the above and been campaigning on the merits of their position then, rather than just bitching and whining about the target levels back in August, and then bitching and whining about how Labor will do a deal with the Coalition last week. Essentially, they are now whining about the fact that because they failed to follow the process for making amendments, they are not responsible for the fact that their really super ideas are not going to be in the final legislation, and some deal between Labor and the Coalition (possibly, or possibly not including the Devil) will shut them out of the process.

See, the thing is, that laws don’t get passed by some snapperhead having a bright idea in the shower in the morning that he jots down on a recycled serviette over a bran toast and green tea, and then bicycling into the house or senate and saying to his colleagues, “Hey guys, I have this CPRS thing sorted”, after which they have a quick read, all applaud his brilliance and then have the thing all passed through both houses that afternoon before heading out to volunteer at the local animal shelter. The fact is, REAL legislation is passed with lots of work that involves arm twisting, sharp elbows and lining up alliances quite early, and most importantly through a pre-set PROCESS that must be followed. Liberals aren’t allowed to offer vocal “NOs” as a documented set of amendments to legislation, and if the Greens wanted Labor to do a deal with them to do some real good for the environment and sell Australia’s credentials as a green leader in the world, the time to do that passed by in July or August.

It’s a real pity that the good ideas of the Greens will not be included in the CPRS that will eventuate from the negotiations on its finalisation, but it will be their intransigence and failure to follow the process of adopting new legislation that will be at fault. They were the ones that made the “perfect” the enemy of the “good” initially. They failed to participate in the process, leaving the field of play to a competition between an overly pragmatic idea with too many giveaways, and no idea at all. The only good news resulting from the way things have played out in Australia with respect to the CPRS is the potentially looming split between the Coalition on the issue, or perhaps even a split between the Nationals, the Liberals and Liberal Climate Change Deniers.

The Greens should have been inside the tent with Labor, fighting out the points of facts and fairness on the CPRS along with those in business who are getting too much of their way. But unfortunately, they have excluded themselves, are irrelevant to something that should have been their core, and possibly are doomed to the same fate as the Democrats before them.

Are we not men?

[reprinted from August 2009]

In a previous article, I touched on an issue about which the Coalition in Australia has coalesced, namely taking a wait and see attitude to Climate Change, based on what comes out of the USA. I got to thinking about this issue further this morning when I watching on ABC Breakfast the speculation about whether or not Nathan Rees may see a coup in the near future. A name of a woman was dropped as someone up and coming in the Labor Party, and then quickly dismissed by the ABC commentators as still having a US accent, so unlikely to be acceptable. This was accepted without dispute by all those she was engaged in conversation with, and included no discussions of the substance of any positions held by the woman. And I got to thinking, hell that’s stupid, but its probably right, even I wouldn’t trust me on first impressions, given my accent. And it dawned on me that there is a third issue why the Coalition position on the CPRS is a loser, even amongst the Nationals.

Basically, why would we as Australians accept that anything the USA would produce programatically would be good for Australia? Do they have a history of doing things in Australia’s interest, particularly when it may be in conflict with their own self interest? On tariffs, subsidies and any number of other trade issues, nope. In my 15 years an Australian citizen alone, I have see the US dump steel, wheat, and other commodities into world markets and significantly damage Australia industries at the time. Hell, W even signed into law a major subsidy for their steel industry right after the Australians were the first to commit troops to an Afghanistan effort – BEFORE EVEN BEING ASKED TO DO SO! This is also the mob that tried to come gut our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in their last round of  trade negotiations with Australia. Hey, far be it from me to be a US basher, but there’s no way I trust these arseholes with defining my CPRS.

Remember also that the US is likely to produce nothing in the next sitting session of their Congress. They are currently heavily distracted with health care, and whether to require all their citizens to get health insurance coverage through the same private health companies that have been ripping them off, denying them treatment, and putting the US in a position where it pays twice as much as the next major industrialised country for health care per capita, but is raked by the UN 37th in health care performance (proudly next to Costa Rica). Of course their Congress and President could pass a strong government run public option for health care and demand that pharmaceutical companies negotiate on price with a large public entity, but let’s face it the Democrats are in power there, and they are likely to be too big of pussies to move anything like that through, despite their filibuster-proof majorities. So don’t even expect the US to even get to the climate change issue, and get a bill through both houses and signed into law. Remember, they are several years behind us in the legislative effort, and even we haven’t got our well discussed and heavily negotiated CPRS through yet. If we wait for the Yanks it will be another lost opportunity, and by the time we get around to it, we will be selling summer timeshares in the Antarctic.

Finally (and potentially most importantly), what are we, f**king sheep? We have to wait around for the Yanks to move on this because they are smarter than us? or more determined to make a difference? or perhaps maybe more morally and ethically prone to leadership than we as Australians are? Sure they represent the bulk of the problem on an emissions basis, and if they, China and India don’t make some moves, it will make stuff-all difference what we as Australians do.

But the fact is, we are smart enough, we do know how to develop and run a CPRS trading scheme that will set a real market for carbon emissions, and begin to internalise the cost of those emissions. And the country I embraced the culture of when I signed up is also brave enough to show some leadership and ignore the lies and doomsayers about the new economy. Sean shared a interesting article from the ACF that exposes some corporate lies in relation to the NGERS/CPRS reporting in relation to what those same companies are telling their shareholders. It’s a worthwhile read for investors as well as those interested in the CPRS.

Process, Not Completeness

[reprinted from July 2009]

“Process, Not Completeness” is the theme for the next discussion about climate change that I want to take up, and this time, I am unfortunately going to have to get stuck into those who I would normally plan to have as allies in the fight to begin addressing climate change, The Greens. But I suppose I should have suspected that  they would fail me now, since they suffer from what many who are too philosophical in their approach as politicians do, by letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

You see, there is a lot of debate about the science of climate change, even amongst those who are convinced that there is a problem, it has an anthropogenic cause and it is a problem we can do something about. The point in the debate that the Greens make is that the emissions reductions under the proposed CPRS system are far too low, and the 5% and 15% targets provided by the government proposal will not solve the problem (with respect to Australia’s contributions) and the cuts should be much deeper. Without deep cuts in emissions in the CPRS they will not support the bill at all in the Senate. They point to the modelling of temperature rise and its correlation to CO2 parts per million in the atmosphere and they are possibly right, but by this point in their argument it doesn’t make much difference, as only me and a few other dweebs who want to investigate their claims in full and develop expertise in the subject matter are listening. And by making their position an all or nothing proposition, they are making the perfect (assuming their argument about targets is correct) the enemy of the good. Without Greens support, the government will be forced to negotiate with the real freaks in the Senate (I’m looking right at you, Steve), or delay or gut the legislation by making substantive changes the Coalition would require. Australia will suffer as a result, as I will detail further later, under a system that is modelled or implemented after the USA gets involved in climate change. But make no mistake, the USA and other large powerful nations will get involved in implementing a process worldwide to address climate change, and Australia will not get a fair say in that system by following the lead of the USA, as proposed by some.

So, the time to act is now, in my opinion, and a smart Green, that really wanted to have some early positive effect not only on the environment itself, but also on achieving an outcome that is in the national interest of Australia, would adopt a position that embraced the process of the CPRS, while maintaining their strong assertion that the targets need to be adjusted in the future. The process is the good in this discussion. The process by which we cap, trade, acquit and monitor emissions in our country is much more important than the actual targets. Think of the process as a big machine, not unlike the GST system implemented by the first Howard government. The targets in the CPRS are not unlike the rate of the GST, in that we don’t know exactly all the effects of it on the overall tax system, and we may find the need to adjust the rate in the future to meet our tax needs to run government. But setting the rate initially is not the important part when compared with the process of collecting it, holding it, and divvying it up, or just feeding it into general revenue of the government. Same with the CPRS, where the important parts are whether we have a cap and trade, an issue and trade, or a straight tax on carbon emissions. The discussion and decision to go with a cap and trade system has been well established over the last 10 years by those focusing on the subject that also recognise there is a problem to solve. I agree that it is the most appropriate model to use for Australia, and am interested in seeing it come into action to start to make a real difference (as far as we can make as Australia goes) in halting the rise of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, and beginning their reduction.

Under the system, the government sets the cap based on international agreements to limit CO2 emissions, and the permit acquitting system and trading system are the means by which we verify and administer that cap, and set the price for permits, respectively. The three interlocking processes are a sound means of  administering our international commitments, and the targets set carry over into the cap of the permit system, and will then directly effect the price of emissions permits. And a new commodity will be traded all over the world, like wheat orange juice or pork bellies. Will the systems be a little complicated and possibly need adjustment moving forward in order to serve their purpose and achieve the stated goals, including adjusting of the CO2 target levels – likely “YES”. But will waiting to develop and implement these processes further help to make any targets harder to achieve, fail to demonstrate leadership, and fail to protect Australia’s interests in the discussions – unfortunately “YES” again.

So lets get the process in place now, set a good example for those who follow us, and make sure that we have our interests built into the systems, rather than wait and hope the yanks treat us benevolently. Because being a puppy to W worked out so well for us in foreign affairs when Howard was running things, didn’t it?

Incentivise the positive and publicise the negative

{reprinted from June 2009]

I would like to present a concept for your consideration. I like to call it incentivise the positive and publicise the negative, and it specifically applies to the introduction of new environmental laws and regulations. I have seen a number of introduction of new environmental regulations since 1987 and been able to examine others I have no first hand knowledge of. The concept has become abundantly obvious to me, and probably obvious to many once they have had to examine the issue in detail.

The concept comes about as a result of the understanding that industry’s first response to the introduction of any new regulation is typically going to be that it costs jobs, eliminates exports, or by some other means generally cause the downfall of capitalism and society as we know it instantaneously. This is a tried and true argument for them and has often been used to undermine any support for doing the right thing in democracies where you basically need to control things, but you need not get the paras on the street immediately. The concept also harnesses that slight taste of greed, as we should all recognise that there is no way to motivate a capitalist by letting them get a sniff of an opportunity of a profit. The concept also makes use of acting upon any vanity, celebrity or good reputation the focus of it has.

Now, from my experience before, I found that no new enabling legislation and set of regulations combined the above qualities better than than the US Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI in 1989 is the direct antecedent which led to the implementation of the National Pollution Inventory (NPI) here in Australia. The TRI did something new in environmental legislation worldwide, as it wasn’t prescriptive in requiring any reductions in any emissions whatsoever. All it required reporting industries to do is report what they were emitting to the local communities where they live, and give informational support to the local emergency response authorities near them in planning for major incidents. However, the results of this piece of legislation resulted in more emissions reductions in the USA than any other single piece of environmental legislation I have seen before, because companies saw the profit in it, and saw the benefit (or detriment) to their reputation at the same time.

So to me, the key to introduction of something like the CPRS in Australia is to embrace a similar approach, using the principle of incentivise the positive and publicise the negative. We should make use the NGERs inventories, and reports of surrendered credits to the government under a CPRS, as our means to examine companies in a new way based on this new commodity. The increased scrutiny will help them find where they should be finding savings, or in a perfect storm, realise a profit opportunity form doing the right thing by the environment. For those that choose to do nothing, the press and NGOs will likely do what they do best and sensationalise those who are large emitters and bad publicity will encourage them to get on board.

There are also new ways to incentivise take up of clean power of consumers, as Zac and I have been discussing in the office, as well as ways that smaller businesses could help the adoption of the climate friendly activities and assist at arriving at the “real” price of a ton of CO2 by “opting in” to the carbon trading system early. I will be writing more about these in coming weeks.

An example of bad science and a direct response

[reprinted from June 2009]

So, to start off things, I would like to take on climate change denial, and those who participate in it. Here in Australia, it all started with Senator Fielding’s trip last winter to the USA to attend a climate change sceptics conference, and his return to Australian senate with the arguments he is putting forward, including the “10-year cooling period”. NOw that we approach the approval of a CPRS in summer, others have picked up the banner of denying the basic science, like Nick Minchin, but lets give Senator Fielding his due, as the provenance of his opinion is useful the examination of the argument.

I encourage everyone to check into the background of the folks who hosted the conference that so decided the worldview of Senator Fielding on climate change, the Heartlands Institute. This a conservative/libertarian foundation that attempts to influence public policy in the USA, and is funded by politically conservative foundations such as the Castle Rock Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. They also received a total of $560,000 from ExxonMobil Corporation between 1998 and 2005, until ExxonMobil was exposed and has since backed away on its position as a climate change denier. Now I don’t think I am going out on a limb here to say that the folks identified above have a pretty large interest in maintaining the status quo on energy policy and emissions that could be affected by taking any significant action to reduce anthropogenic emissions that are linked to climate change. So, I am just saying, consider the source. Senator Fielding came home repeating the talking points of the group so well that I think it also might be good to take a good look at his finance disclosure report to the senate this year to see if he brought home something more valuable from the USA than just his new arguments to delay action on the CPRS.

But for the sake of argument, let’s just take the arguments on their face value. The two that I want to focus on are the link of atmospheric temperature rise to anthropogenic activities, and the rise (or lack thereof) of temperatures globally in the last 10 years. Senator Fielding claimed that the question of the connection between climate change and human activities is not established, and he further claims that there have been no significant rises in temperatures in the last 10 years.

First, with respect to the link between the heating of the atmosphere (note I don’t say temperature rise) and anthropogenic (or man-made) activities, the argument is that there has been no scientific link established between human activities and atmospheric temperature rise. Resolving this question is a complicated one, since it both involves a lot of science, and it is also susceptible to fraud more easily. For instance, if one side of the argument tends to use science in a deceptive way, such as through overuse of short term data, or presenting one piece of information as if it has more weight than the preponderance of other scientific evidence. This type of “science” could easily sway an unsuspecting or uninformed reader, and unfortunately that is exactly what the climate change sceptic crowd resorts to. And keep in mind, we are talking about a few hundred sceptics at most. Senator Fielding (and now Senator Minchin and others) repeat the Heartlands Institute’s claim that there are hundreds of scientists that disagree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the facts of climate change. Despite the fact that about 10% of the scientists identified by Heartlands Institute as supporting their cause in fact deny the claim and disassociate themselves from the organisation, the number claimed is only 500, or something like 450 once you throw out the actual fraud.

Let’s contrast that with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is made up of hundreds of scientist that represent thousands of scientists, selected from their peak bodies in their respective countries and representing either the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) or the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The IPCC bases its assessments on peer reviewed and published scientific literature. They have been in operation for just over 20 years, and let me tell you as a follower for a long time that they argue over scientific points comprehensively and that if you can get this group to agree on anything, I would call it a pretty dead set certainty. The IPCC finally established after arguing about if for ten years, that there has been a statistically significant increase in atmospheric the major greenhouse gas [carbon dioxide (CO2)] over the last 10,000 years, with the vast majority of that increase (>90%) occurring since 1900, coinciding with the start of the worldwide industrial revolution. They have further established a statistically significant correlation between the emissions of CO2 and anthropogenic activities, predominantly agriculture and fossil fuel use. They have established with near certainty that global temperatures are rising on average, the atmosphere is holding and releasing rapidly more water, that ice sheets in Greenland and the North Pole are shrinking, and that more intense and longer droughts are being experienced. The latter finding, while disturbing, is also reassuring to me personally as I also predicted they would come to this conclusion in January 2000, based on the evidence available to that time in my article in the journal The Environmental Engineer. So this peer-reviewed group of really smart guys argued for 10 more years after I had made up my mind on the subject, being only a guy who knows a few things. That’s how much scientific due diligence the IPCC represents!

Now, while I generally embrace my own inner anarchist, and fear the tyranny of the masses politically, on this issue I am afraid I do not believe in giving equal airtime to listening to the point of view of idiots like Senator Fielding, as opposed to the preponderance of actual scientific evidence to the contrary. My only sincere wish is that if he is proved wrong, that we could sacrifice the habitat owned by him or a member of his genetic pool for every polar bear that goes extinct and doesn’t get a say in the matter. And in fairness, if I am wrong, he may choose the punishment for me.

For the second argument about the last 10 years of average temperatures, Senator Fielding advertised his engineering qualification and how he is open to reasonable arguments based on science. Apparently Senator Minchin and several other rubes bought into Steve’s apparent reasonableness. Now, I cannot verify the type of degree he got from RMIT back in ‘83, but as his experience working as an engineer was with Hewlett Packard, NEC and Siemens, I can only assume that he got an electrical engineering degree. If this is the case, perhaps he skipped the thermodynamics electives that would serve him well at this point. Whether he skipped it, or slept through it, let’s take Senator Fielding (and anyone else currently holding a climate change is a hoax type opinion) back to school on a couple of items from heat transfer, enthalpy and entropy. Hold on, now I can tell I am losing you. See, this is where it gets a bit complicated for those that don’t want to get degrees in science, and people can get bored and switch off, but stay with me a minute and I can simplify the science a lot for those wanting to stay somewhat blissfully uninformed. There are a number of places energy can go when it is absorbed and held by a body such as the earth as that body is going out of balance and releasing less heat back into the galaxy as opposed to what it is taking in. One place is sensible temperature rises in the atmosphere, oceans and land, the evidence that the deniers point to. Another is into the internal enthalpy of the molecules that make up all the various substances of the atmosphere, oceans and land. The third (and my personal favourite) is entropy, or the state of disorder of the body. Entropy is the weird cousin of the other two ways energy can be stored in a body, and it expresses itself as chaos. So, despite the fact that I don’t agree with Senator Fielding’s examination* of the last 10 years of temperature data (since he conveniently ignores the Antarctic land surface temperature findings of the IPCC), of equal importance is that his argument also ignores the solid evidence of both increases in both enthalpy and entropy. I will continue.

When you add heat to substance, you raise its enthalpy and see sensible temperature rises, but not necessarily immediately. Because, sometimes, things soak up a lot of heat before their temperature starts to rise measurably. Take water for instance, if you add heat to water and get it to 100°C, you then have to add a whole lot of heat to it to get it to 101°C, because it has to change in to water vapour, a gas. A similar thing happens if you want to get ice from 0°C to 1°C, where it exists as water. Since the IPCC has undeniably established both a larger quantity of water vapour in the atmosphere now as opposed to the past, and that ice sheets are becoming smaller at the poles, clearly heat is being built up to cause these effects, and neither the atmosphere or the ice sheets need show a rise in temperature to prove the point. Even mainstream media now finds the break up of previously “permanent” ice at both poles to be so obvious that it can be reported, along with the drowning of polar bears that live on the ice.

Seeing that increases of entropy have occurred is trickier, since there is no such thing as an entropy meter, but increases in entropy are nonetheless evident. When energy gets added to a system and it increases entropy, you expect things to become more chaotic. There are a number of examples I could point to, but the chaos evident in rolling and more intense droughts isn’t that exciting and easy to see, so let’s look at hurricanes, as they are one of the most interesting forms of climate chaos to your average punter. For this, I am going to go with data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who keeps a comprehensive and independently verifiable list of all hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific (called cyclones) since 1872. These are rated in their records as Category 1 to Category 5 types, with Category 5 being the most severe. In this set of records, there are no Category 5 hurricanes reported before the 1920s, and there is evidence of these storms becoming both more fierce and more frequent. For example, if you examine the 30 year period in the 50s through the 70s (Period 1) in comparison with the period of the 80’s through 2010 (Period 2, even given that we still have one year to go) you can see that the total number of hurricanes in the Pacific and Atlantic in Period 1 was 16 and the total in Period 2 was 24 (50% more) with 15 of these occurring in the last 10 years. Furthermore, the number of these storms with sustained winds greater than 280 km/hr in period 1 was 5, and 11 are present in Period 2 (220% more), with 5 of them occurring in the last 10 years. In fact, there are so many Category 5 hurricanes in the recent past, that a Category 6 has now been proposed for use, and Category 1 hurricanes will in the future just be referred to as “a bit of a blow”.

Right, so anyone who has made it to this point should be well aware of a couple of things:

1. The IPCC is a reputable body that has, beyond a reasonable doubt, established that greenhouse gas emissions as a result of human activity are resulting in a change to the climate of the earth, which they suspect will be a bad thing.

2. Senator Steve Fielding is an idiot that should not be given any further attention on the subject of climate change, and possibly be required to hand back his engineering degree, or at least never be allowed to speak of it again without the risk of being sued for defamation by the RMIT.

3. All others that have bought into the arguments of Senator Steve Fielding on the issue of climate change are either rubes, or possibly shills for those that will lose in the short term as we work toward making some necessary changes to address climate change.

3. I can beat an issue to death if required.

* – I attribute the examination to Senator Fielding, although his examination of the issue was apparently as thorough as his viewing of one presentation at this conference, a good chat with a couple of the delegates, and collection of their talking points. He was moste forceful in presenting these talking points back here in Australia and was miffed at being given very little attention by the Obama administration to his point of view when he tried to meet with them in Washington. Perhaps they did their research and gave proportionate importance to a person who was elected on 2% primary vote.

Golden Rules

* Use your head

* Be an adult

* Do something positive and productive

* Get some balls

* If you need more rules, be patient and persistent

* Don’t have too many rules

Now some answers to other questions you may have before participating.

What is this? This is the web log, or “blog” of William Thiel of An Meá, specifically in relation to climate change. It is being initiated and will be maintained by our company specifically for the purpose of allowing me, the primary author, to provide facts, comments and answer questions on issues of environmental engineering, specifically as they relate to the debate about climate change and what we can (and can’t) do to in order to combat the issue, based on our acceptance that it is a problem to our ecosystem.

Who is Willam Thiel (Sgt Hulka) and why would I care what he thinks? I am a professional chemical and environmental engineer (MIEAust, CPEng in Australia, and registered PE in the USA) with more than 20 years of experience internationally. My profile can be viewed at, and my full CV is available upon request to I have been working on emissions inventories, polluting process optimisation, emissions reduction technologies, etc. for my entire career and have been involved in the discussion on the subject of climate change with government and industry since 1999. So, while my opinion is not necessarily worth anything to you, I have some paper that says I know some stuff and I have been involved in the nuts and bolts of the related subject matter since I started working in my profession.

How does the blog work? I will endeavour to provide some currently relevant facts or comments in relation to climate change at least once a week. I will also answer questions posed on the blog where a question is not posed anonymously. I will at all times make every attempt to identify and differentiate facts (which will referenced, or identified in a manner that can be independently verified) from opinion, (that will be identified as such, or proceeded with words such as “I think”. I try to be concise, but this isn’t meant to be a tweet, so you should try to stick with me as I make a point. I will also attempt to avoid playing the man instead of playing the ball and dropping f-bombs regularly, but can’t make any absolute promises on the latter points, as long as idiots such as Senator Steve Fielding exist and are given significant media attention that demand very strongly worded responses not currently provided to them.