climate change

Discussion with a supporter of mining

Yesterday a friend of mine posted a Facebook message lampooning Joe Hockey’s claim he finds wind farms to be offensive and ruinous of gorgeous landscape around Canberra.


Joining the comments was one of her friends who works for the mining industry.

Below is a summary of the various discussions:

Friend: OMG just awful. Isn’t it? Wind farms are ruining our landscape everywhere. We really need to stop this before our entire landscape looks like this.
Oh wait. I just realized. That’s them in the background.

Mining Supporter: The mining process looks bad but they do extensive environmental rehab and put a lot of resources into environmental issues 

Friend: Spoken like a true industry expert. Love you XX

Mining Supporter: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

Me: The hand of mining doesn’t feed us, it feeds upon us all – like a vampire.

Generous subsidies, environmental destruction on a massive scale, distortion of our dollar adversely affecting other industries like manufacturing, tourism, education and agriculture , diversion of funds away from renewables and other government programmes like health and education, excessive political influence, exacerbation of climate change, manipulation of markets, overt funding of media manipulation, death, injury and numerous health issues, air pollution, widespread tax avoidance and off-shoring of profits, expansion of 457 Visa scheme, damage to public infrastructure, strategic litigation against opponents, despoiling of aquifers, lies, distortions, bribery and overselling their economic importance, displacement of species, housing and workforce dislocation, and increase in social and wage inequality.

As soon as commodity prices fall, the abandon their mines and sack thousands of workers, taking their profits with them and leaving insufficient funds behind for remediation and compensation – anyone remember James Hardy, Bernie Banton or the mine closures of the 1980’s.…/so-what-have-the-mining-companies…/

Mining Supporter: Are you prepaed to give up the lifestyle we get from mining. It brings you your lifestyle. No renrwable energy can yet match it. Any business ceases to operate in an unfavourable market look at the car industry. Compensation is handled by insurance companies and is met by that company.

Me: What lifestyle and why can’t we have it under a renewable energy regime? The distortion mining has made to the dollar and the economy hasn’t benefited anybody apart from making overseas holidays and imports cheaper – both bad. Critical industries like our exports, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism all lost-out bug time from the high dollar and those industries combined generate far more jobs and way more incomes than mining ever can or will. They are also sustainable – mining on the other hand is finite, once we’ve dug it up, we don’t get any more.

The only reason why renewables aren’t cheaper is because mining has been deliberately sucking oxygen and investment dollars away from renewables, largely thanks to the political manipulation they get from sponsoring politicians and through a programme of media misinformation. Wind is actually cheaper in Oz now that coal over the lifecycle, as outlined in the latest report (sorry don’t have the link with me now) and solar PV fast approaching parity as manufacturing costs reduce with scale and household uptake increases. If we hadn’t diverted investment into mining we likely would already have cheaper, more efficient renewables already including localised and mass storage, but in our stupidity and lack of foresight, we forwent those opportunities and squandered years we should have been devoting to innovation and development.

Sure mining gives us metals and we can sell it OS for bucks and not all of it is hideous, open-cut wholesale destruction, but what never gets mentioned in all the discussions is the massive subsidies and tax offsets afforded to mining, accelerated write-downs, fuel rebates, and then there are the externalities like the impacts upon health and the environment that mining conveniently overlooks, but that burden is always borne by the taxpayer, while miners scarper with their tidy profits.

Mining Supporter:  Where do you think the power for manufacturing came from? This power has transformed our lifes. If we left coal before another source could offer the same power do you think people would accept that? New sources can come in but expecting one industry to go before another is ready is a step back. Money is available for research. The mining companies don’t take it. They bring in or did bring in signifant funds to the state that’s why politicians listen. If we killed that industry where is those funds replaced by? Its the same as saying banks killed manufacturing they should have funded it for no return. Nice idea nut not our present society. It is never as simple as it appears. The mining industry is still a contributor to the state kill it and we are where you started with your abandoned workers. Mining got us to the point where we have the luxury of debate about alternative energy. Baby’s cant walk until they past the roll over stage.

Me:  Mining’s impact on our society is undeniable; in particular fossil fuels have transformed our lives immeasurably over the past few centuries and allowed us to expand economically, technologically, scientifically and socially.  But that amazing progress has come at a price and that price has largely been to pollute our atmosphere and degrade our environment.  In enjoying the conveniences of modern life we have degraded whole ecosystems and destroyed entire species, tainted our water supply and destroyed land we need to grow food to sustain our population.  It has generated wars, killed millions and feeds into a corrupting power structure, whose money, wealth and influence undermines the very fabric of our society and our threatens our democracy.  

Fossil fuels are, in essence, concentrated sunlight created over geological timeframes and the rate at which we have consumed them is frightening, because once it is gone we can’t just create more, the present push toward non-conventional sources comes at an even greater cost in manpower, water and intrusion onto areas previously untouched by mining, and that is why people are fighting back.
I agree 100%, we can’t simply switch it off because it has become so deeply interwoven into our lifestyle, our societal development and our economy, to go cold turkey risks destroying everything we have built.  But our need to keep expanding mining is counter-productive, stupid and wasteful, when we really are smarter than that.  

Instead we need to scale back and wean ourselves off the stuff.  Much like a heroin addict, we need to recognise that while the high may have been fantastic, the ongoing cost and detriment to our health is simply too great to sustain, because that cost is being borne by billions of people in the shape of pollution, accumulation of greenhouse gasses driving climate change and subsequent ocean acidification.  We need to look at alternatives that could just as easily support our lifestyle and our development but aren’t going to kill us or place and additional burden onto other people or future generations, who are the ones who will ultimately have to be affected by and clean-up the mess we created.

We need to use our collective intelligence and capacity for innovation to accelerate focused research and investment into alternative energy sources before it is too late.  Our world, and Australia in particular, is showered in vast quantities of solar radiation, or buffeted by winds, we have huge areas of geothermal potential and we haven’t even come close to exploring the theoretical limits of fusion.  But none of these things are going to happen while so much of our money is being diverted away from RnD and into the ever-growing expansion of non-conventional energy sources.  And that money is being sucked away because the cost of accessing non-conventional fossil energy is significantly higher.  These sources are often remote, inaccessible, and/or the techniques required to extract and refine them are labour-intensive, requiring greater infrastructure or are technically complex, and this requires greater funding and resources to secure the same amount of energy, money that could be better spent developing alternatives.

Unfortunately, those who have amassed vast wealth off the back of mining are driven to ensure that wealth grows, and the very competitive (sociopathic) nature of these people ensures they will actively seek to oppose any development that threatens their established position.  Lobbying or buying of politicians is an incredibly effective way of achieving this outcome, because politicians define policy and can shape the direction of government investment on our behalf.  And it is here that the best opportunities exist for mining to exert undue influence, sponsoring campaigns, showering them with bottles of Grange or paying for holidays and bike rides, spruiking for favourable legislation, and corrupting individuals is rife, and it is easy to splash a few dollars around to achieve that when you have enormous wealth at your disposal.  The $22 million spent running an advertising campaign against the Super Profits Tax is the perfect example, for miners that sum was a trifling amount when compared to the billions they saved from avoiding the tax.  Alas the public were too stupid to see this and they continue to be ignorant thanks largely to a compliant and complicit media.  This money and influence also allows mining to stifle opposition, pay people to distort messages and buy or litigate against those who stand in their way.  You only have to look at the recent ICAC hearings to see the undue influence mining has upon distorting our politics.  

In fact, so great is the influence and power of the mining industry, we now have a federal government prepared to slash public services, sack thousands of workers, openly debase and defund science, demonise the poor, dehumanise the disabled, break promises and increase taxes and levies on ordinary Australians, just so they can eliminate several taxes the miners don’t like because they take a few less dollars out of their multi-billion dollar profits.

Big miners and energy suppliers are happy for prices of essential energy supply to increase because it improves their profit margin, especially if we have no other alternatives.  And by deliberately stifling investment into alternatives, the miners are insuring they are the only ones in a position to provide that energy, creating a feedback loop that merely feeds their profits, to our detriment.  Considering too that 83% of our mining companies are foreign owned, considerable profits are flowing into overseas tax havens and away from our coffers, and we are the ones who will be left to clean-up the mess, once the party is all over.

I agree, mining certainly contributed us to reaching this point, but the continued cost of maintaining the same trajectory is growing as energy sources become harder and more costly to find and extract.  We are also now seeing the end result of this progress in our contribution to more dramatic weather events, pollution and degradation of environment that sustains us all; again these are intangibles that never seem to enter the equation around the total cost of mining.  The miners are very good at expounding the virtues of mining, but unwilling to acknowledge the damage it causes.

We need to acknowledge that it’s no longer socially and economically cost-effective to keep pursuing more scare energy resources and that we urgently need to divert those funds into innovation and development of alternatives.  We are fast approaching the edge of the cliff where the cost of non-conventional sources will exceed our capacity to pay for them and if we don’t have viable alternatives ready to go; we face a long, harrowing drop that will undoubtedly impact our lifestyle.

Given the right impetus and incentives, we could easily be at the cutting edge of the next major breakthrough that enables a smooth transition to long-term, sustainable renewable energy sources.  We are smart, well educated, resourceful, technically savvy and rich.  There are plenty of opportunities and much money to be made in the renewables space for development, installation, maintenance, and employment, more than enough to replace the jobs lost in mining.  But the only way we are going to achieve that is for the populace to compel change.  Setting a price on CO2 was a first step, in discouraging polluters and driving energy efficiency.  Simplest solution ever – don’t pollute and become efficient = don’t pay the price.  We’ve seen progress already as electricity demand has dropped significantly in the past 6 years and with the introduction of low cost PV, now installed on over 1.3 million homes and wind farms generating income for many rural properties, feeding communities without impacting their current farming business at all, rather than tearing those communities apart with intrusive, visually offensive, gargantuan open-cut coal mines or CSG fracturing that risks despoiling our aquifers.

Moreover, the price of coal is declining as India and China, criticised for the poor quality of their air and being forced the change by their own concerned citizens, invest heavily into renewables and adopting a long-term transitional vision that will see them at the forefront of development, a place we could be occupying.

But we need to do more, we need to demand our government and business be actively encouraging investment, to ensure the transition will be as pain free as possible.  We don’t have to sacrifice or impinge upon our lifestyle to achieve this, we just have to be smarter and willing to stand-up to those who want to profit excessively from maintaining the status quo.

The sooner we get started, the better placed we will all be and the less our lifestyle will be affected.  The added benefit is we can all then share in a healthier environment with far less pollution and threats to our health and the future well-being of our children, we can start to mitigate the effects of climate change, and we can ensure the security and safety of our valuable land and our precious water.  All it will take is vision and commitment.


Response to a climate change denier

I was reading an article the other day and was struck by the ignorance of the deniers making comments.  I know most are deliberate shills paid to express an opinion or simply be obstreperous trolls, and that even when confronted with the mountains of evidence that underpins Climate Change, they refuse to accept it.

I started a comment in reply, but it grew out of all proportion, so I decided not to post.  I leave it here as a reference.  There is still a LOT I could add, and may do some time, but for now…  Here it is:


OK.  Let me get this straight, using a few examples.

  • A physicist from CERN announces that have finally discovered the Higgs Boson and the whole world is aghast – Amazing!  Do you even know what a Higgs Boson is?
  • How about when an astrophysicist claims they have measured gravity waves generated 1/10,0000th of a second after the Big Bang.  Awesome – science is so cool.
  • Your cell phone rings, it’s a video call from your friend on the other side of the world, calling to wish you a happy birthday.  Do you have even a basic inkling of how the phone works?  What about the hardware, the transmission infrastructure, the wireless spectrum, the phone’s operating system, the software streaming the video and enabling you to chat in real-time with someone half a world away?
  • What about when a doctor claims they re-engineered the DNA of a newborn baby to completely eradicate all traces of the HIV virus from every cell in it’s tiny body.  You are simply astounded at how rapidly our knowledge is growing, how mind-blowing our science is and how fortunate we are to live in an age of such profound scientific advancements.
  • Only this week an article was published about scientists implanting nanobots inside cockroaches.  Unbelievable.  If someone had you this story 15 years ago, you’d have laughed it off as science fiction but nowadays we accept our science is capable of doing phenomenal things that were fiction only a short few years ago.
  • Perhaps, you feel fatigued, so you see your GP who sends you for an MRI which identifies a faulty heart value that needs urgent treatment or you will die in the next few weeks if untreated.  The surgeon performs the critical surgery and implants a cutting-edge silent electronic heart pump, affording you another 50 years of life – all thanks to the collective knowledge gained though our science.

In all these cases, your personal knowledge on the subject is minimal to none.  Even if you do have a degree of knowledge you still listen to and are guided by the advice of these scientists because they are “experts” – people who have devoted years of their life to study a a specialised field of endeavour in the endeavour that is science.  They have worked so long and hard to achieve “expert” status, and in doing so we afford their opinions significantly greater weight than those of the untrained.  Imagine the result if we had listened to Uncle Jack

Yet, when it comes to Climate Science, it seems the opposite rule applies.  When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) announces that CO2 in the atmosphere has reach levels unprecedented in 800,000 years, why is their expertise ridiculed, and called into question?  When NASA tells us solar radiation has been in decline for years, why do we question?  When the Bureau of Meteorology tells us 8 of the hottest days on record occurred in the past 10 years and that we broke 156 separate weather records in a single year, our Prime Minister calls it “crap” and quotes a poem about droughts and floods.   When major organisations like The Royal Society say our oceans are becoming so acidic we face a major threat to the entire marine food chain – yet our news services constantly indulge unqualified lunatics like Christopher Monckton who says CO2 is good for plants.

Why it is that Climate Scientists who have devoted decades of their life to intensive study are simply dismissed as Alarmists, Chicken Littles, attention seekers or those merely trying to get funding for their futile, money-wasting projects.  Yet all other branches of science are perfectly valid – even though we know far less about them and many present far less compelling weight of evidence than Climate Science does.

Do you know the really funny part about Climate Science?  It isn’t just one area of study.  It isn’t just looking at atmospheric CO2, it encompasses a vast range of other sciences including; physics, chemistry, meteorology, geology, palaeontology, botany, anthropology, climate sciences, earth sciences, medicine, biology, engineering, marine sciences and more.  It is the aggregated findings of research conducted in all these separate fields that forms the picture of Climate Change and it is the reason why the message should be so compelling, because it is fully supported by more diverse fields of scientific research than almost any other study.

Finally add to this the very foundation of science – the peer-review process.  Unlike journalism or social media, scientific research can’t just be thrown on the net and allowed to spread.  Each study must under a rigorous peer-review conducted by other experts in the field.  Their aim is not to rubber-stamp the findings or even to verify them.  Their job is to review and question the robustness of the methodologies employed by the scientists.  Only after a research paper has been through this whole process can it be published.  So, when you see statistics that say 13,950 peer-reviewed articles support climate change and only 24 do not, you know the findings have been rigorously tested and as true as our science can make them.

So, all those millions of scientists spanning most nations across the globe, working in multiple fields of endeavour all devoting many years of their life and considerable effort, using their acquired knowledge and expertise to build upon the wealth of our collective knowledge over many decades.

All those scientists (who clearly chose science as a career due to the extravagant lifestyle it affords; the money, the fame, the groupies, enormous houses, fast cars, etc.)

All these scientists somehow got together, concocted a fanciful disaster story of biblical proportions.  They then came to a collective agreement to commit the greatest fraud ever perpetrated upon humanity, risking their personal and professional reputations, their life’s work, their livelihoods, the security of their families, and the reputation of hundreds of major, independent scientific bodies, associations and organisations worldwide.  They did this just for a bit of a laugh or so they can destroy the worldwide economy and drive us all back into the dark ages.

Of course, I can fully understand how anyone could leap to that conclusion.  Most scientists would definitely fall into the category that makes them haters of technology and advancement.  Each of them I’m sure would love to work by see their job made much harder without the amazing technological advancements science has produced like; electricity, flight, computers, transportation, space exploration, television, internet, medical advances, etc.

What’s that you say?  The models they use are all wrong?  Duh.  If only those scientists were clever like you and devised thousands of new models every year, models they ran millions and millions of times, using the best available inputs to mimic the real-world observations and to tweak them to extrapolate multiple possible outcomes or to isolate the variables.  I can’t believe those scientists would be so stupid as to continuously use the same imprecise models over and over again.  You’d think experts would know better.

Still, based on that you still believe ALL those scientists and the respected organisations they represent are ALL WRONG and YOU are RIGHT.  Why?

Because it is easier for you to deny?

Or is it simply that the truth is too big and too scary to face?

Do you believe the problem is insurmountable, so why bother even trying?

Or maybe you think you’ll be dead before the worst effects occur, so why should you care?

Maybe you believe your god will take care of it or possibly that we brought it on ourselves through our sins?

How about blaming the foreigners and everyone else like the Chinese, the Indians or the Russians?

Perhaps it is simply a matter of laziness and expedience – that it is easier to abrogate one’s own responsibility than to acknowledge that our actions and our lifestyles have made us all complicit in this mess, and that they need to change, if we are to provide a better future for ourselves and our children.

Or is it simply that you don’t give a toss about anyone else outside your own sphere of ignorance?

Have you ever considered that there are people out there who profit from the status quo?  Who don’t want to see us change our lifestyle because it may affect their multi-billion dollar profit margin by a few percentage points?  People whose whole sociopathic existence revolves around acquiring as much power as possible or accumulating vast amounts of money for themselves, even if it comes at the expense of everyone else on the planet?

What you choose to believe is irrelevant – Climate Change is real and we are the major contributor.  It is therefore incumbent upon us to act, to mitigate the damage and to work to make amends.  If we don’t we condemn ourselves and future generations to a life worse then the one we currently enjoy.or not is irrelevant

Whether you care about future generations is not my concern.  However, by not helping or by arguing and being obstructionist, you are standing in the way of those of us who do care, who do want to act, who feel compelled to address this massive problem.

Therefore, get the hell out of the way and let the rest of us work toward fixing this mess.