Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Smithsonian's Avian Forensics Lab.

The New York Times has a very interesting article (to me at least) on the Smithsonian Institute's Feather Identification Lab, their main work is in identifying what species of bird managed to get sucked into an aeroplane engine. As you can imagine they wouldn't have much to work with so it gets down to feathers, DNA and bird guts. Once they've identified the bird they can then make management recommendations for the airport to avoid similar impacts.

(oh and for one of those names suiting the occupation things, one of the scientists working there is a Dr Dove)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Maggie Thatcher: Environmental Hero. Yes "that" one and yes I am serious.

Ok I admit it, I usually lean to the left on most political issues and tend to regard the right of politics with slightly more distrust than what is laughingly referred to as the "left" (personally I'm of the opinion that the last proper socialist Prime Minister we had in this country was Malcolm Fraser - and I know a few thinking lefties that agree with me). But having said that I do have a policy of giving credit where credit is due and despite having some major difference with her economic and social policies I do have to admit that following her conversion former British Pime Minister Maggie Thatcher was a very good environmental advocate. In fact if you really want to upset a climate skeptic, tell them it was Maggie and not Al Gore who was pushing all this.

Margaret Thatcher was probably one of the first prominant politicians in recent times to start talking about environmental issues. Despite being slow to initially come around to seeing the problems of chlorflourocarbons on the ozone layer....

".........when British scientists were able in 1988 to bring the ozone issue personally before Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had an academic degree in chemistry, the U.K. position changed almost overnight and the British thereafter became a leading proponent of phaseout for all ozone-depleting substances."

The change was so rapid that in a September 1988 speech to the Royal Society she was warning of the dangers of global warming, ozone depletion and acid deposition, the latter two are no longer contentious. Thatcher studied chemistry at Oxford University which gave her the knowledge to analyse the information put to her and realise the issues were real and helped her understand the real issues. Even now that influence continues in the British Conservative Party with the Tories quite rightly pressing the Labor Party for not doing enough, totally the opposite situation to here in Australia.

It is a sad fact of life that scientists are rarely drawn to go into politics with parliament tending to being filled with lawyers, accountants, bankers and union officials (on both sides of the house).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Indonesia, I take it back.

Well it did sound too good to be true. I wonder if this year the Japanese will prove definitively that firing an explosive harpoon into the head of a whale really does lead to it's death. It's the only possible research they could be doing.

From the ABC

Whaling ship repaired, will resume hunt: Japan
By north Asia correspondent Mark Willacy
Posted Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:26am AEDT Updated Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:25am AEDT
Japan says one of its whaling ships is heading back to Antarctic waters after having repairs done in Indonesia.
Greenpeace had earlier said the ship was returning to Japan.
The Yushin Maru II had made a port call in Indonesia to repair a broken propeller, and despite reports that the whaling ship was refused permission to dock Japan's fisheries agency says the ship has been fixed and is now heading back to Antarctic waters.
Greenpeace said last week that the ship had abandoned the hunt. Activists from the Sea Shepherd conservation group had confronted the Yushin Maru II on open seas, bombarding the whaling ship with tubs of rancid butter.
Japan has accused the group of eco terrorism.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

So it's not just me? Well that's a relief!

You may have noticed over there -----> that I've put a counter up for the purposes of seeing if I'm just talking to myself or not. And it appears I'm not, so that's one less reason to doubt my sanity (there's still a great long list though).

Oh and feel free to say "hello" if any of this is at all interesting.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Good onya Indonesia!

Now Indonesia cops a bit of criticism for all sorts of things but in the spirit of giving credit where it is due (I might even do a friendly posting on Maggie Thatcher sometime) I must congratulate them on their decision not to allow a Japanese "scientific" whaling ship to dock for repairs. Lets just hope they don't give in to the inevitable political pressure the Japanese government is likely to apply.

From the ABC.

Indonesia refuse repairs for Japanese whaling ship
By Indonesia correspondent
Geoff Thompson
Posted Fri Jan 16, 2009 7:38pm AEDT Updated Fri Jan 16, 2009 7:37pm AEDT

Authorities in Indonesia have complied with requests from Australian conservation groups to stop a Japanese whaling ship from being repaired in a Surabaya port.
The damaged Japanese whaling ship the Yushin Maru 2 has avoided attempting to dock in Australian ports because its crew fears prosecution under an Australian Federal Court order, says the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The Yushin Maru 2 has been seeking to be repaired in East Java at Surabaya's state-owned shipyard.
But following requests from anti-whaling organisations in Australia, port authorities in Surabaya have refused to allow the Yushin Maru 2 to be repaired there.
Indonesia's foreign affairs spokesman Teuku Faizasyah says the Australian Government made no formal request to deny port access to the Japanese whaling ship.

Another Damn Act of Political Bastardry

Using the principle of there being no point in having power unless you abuse it this week the New South Wales state government declared (it starts at page 131, interesting the Huntlee development at Cessnock has been declared as well, so why do we have local government if the state does all the approvals?) the Tillegra Dam to be "Critical Infrastructure" under Part 3a of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. This means that public input into the process is limited and there's no right of appeal, it also means approval is in the hands of the Minister for Planning.

Now as we've seen State Government aren't putting any money into it, the Central Coast (for whom the announcement was originally directed) isn't putting any money into it and neither are developers so it's all going to fall back onto ratepayers in the lower Hunter to finance the $400 million or so project. As well as this it means Dungog Council is going to lose rates revenue meaning they'll be even harder pressed to provide services for ratepayers (and those of us who pass through every now and then), like, umm, better roads, they're already in a shocking condition in many spots and are bound to get worse (another earlier post here).

Now while doing a little background googling for this post I found an interesting page for the modelling of how the whole thing would look, which despite my thoughts on the matter looked pretty cool and then I read down and found this:

"When Hunter Water Australia and the NSW premier's department approached Arterra, the company was given only three days to produce visualizations. The problem was how to create quality visualizations within such a tight timeframe................
...............The end products were provided to the media (television and press) at the announcement of Tillegra dam funding."

Indicating pretty much what we already knew that it was a rush job designed to shore up votes in the last state election.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Journalistic Claptrap!

Over at the Dilly Telegraph (sorry Daily Telegraph) we're seeing a great example of piss poor journalism, it starts off like this:

NASA tells Barack Obama Australia is destroying earth with coal emissions

Now NASA never said anything of the sort, go a little further into the article you'll see:

AUSTRALIA'S use of coal and carbon emissions policies are guaranteeing the "destruction of much of the life on the planet", a leading NASA scientist has written in a letter to Barack Obama.

The head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Professor James Hansen, has written an open letter to Barack Obama calling for a moratorium on coal-fired power stations and the use of next-generation nuclear power.

In the letter he says: "Australia exports coal and sets atmospheric carbon dioxide goals so large as to guarantee destruction of much of the life on the planet."

So we've already seen a bullshit headline designed to stir up the masses and sell newspapers and now it looks like Hansen is using the letter to attack Australia (well if that doesn't stir people into a patriotic frenzy - and sell more fishwrappers - nothing will). But what did Hansen really say? Well with about 30 seconds on "the google" we can find Hansens letter. You'll need to scroll down a bit as there's various notes and other bits of correspondence there but when you do you'll eventually find:

The physics of the matter, together with empirical data, also define the need for a carbon tax. Alternatives such as emission reduction targets, cap and trade, cap and dividend, do not work, as proven by honest efforts of the ‘greenest’ countries to comply with the Kyoto Protocol:

(1) Japan: accepted the strongest emission reduction targets, appropriately prides itself on having the most energy-efficient industry, and yet its use of coal has sharply increased, as have its total CO2 emissions. Japan offset its increases with purchases of credits through the clean development mechanism in China, intended to reduce emissions there, but Chinese emissions increased rapidly.

(2) Germany: subsidizes renewable energies heavily and accepts strong emission reduction targets, yet plans to build a large number of coal-fired power plants. They assert that they will have cap-and-trade, with a cap that reduces emissions by whatever amount is needed. But the physics tells us that if they continue to burn coal, no cap can solve the problem, because of the long carbon dioxide lifetime.

(3) Other cases are described on my Columbia University web site, e.g., Switzerland finances construction of coal plants, Sweden builds them, and Australia exports coal and sets atmospheric carbon dioxide goals so large as to guarantee destruction of much of the life on the planet.

Indeed, ‘goals’ and ‘caps’ on carbon emissions are practically worthless, if coal emissions continue, because of the exceedingly long lifetime of carbon dioxide in the air. Nobody realistically expects that the large readily available pools of oil and gas will be left in the ground. Caps will not cause that to happen – caps only slow the rate at which the oil and gas are used. The only solution is to cut off the coal source (and unconventional fossil fuels).

So did you see it? (You should've I put it in bold for you) One line, hardly a letter bagging just Australia, it sticks the boot into many other countries. And as for our carbon dioxide goals well Kevin 05 has figured a 5% cut is good enough which will do nothing to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere so technically the statement is right.

And the letter is signed:

James and Anniek Hansen
United States of America

He and his (I'm presuming, I couldn't be bothered searching) wife have signed it as private citizens, not as the head of NASA's Goddard Institue nor as a Professor from Columbia University, so NASA hasn't told Barack that Australia is destroying the earth. More hard hitting factual journalism brought to you by the Dilly Telegraph.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

From the front.

I've previously mentioned the actions by the locals opposed to coal mining on the Liverpool Plains. I was out that way last week and took a couple of pics. Their website here, good luck guys.

Friday, January 2, 2009

An Open Letter to Fred Nile.

New South Wales politician Fred Nile has been feeling a little neglected of late so has decided to stir things up by calling for a ban on topless bathing (supposedly for the sake of Muslims and Asians that want to go to the beach, which is a little hypocritical considering some of his statements about Mulims in the past), I wish I could claim credit for the following letter but credit where credit is due my old mate Drunkwombat is responsible for the following (reprinted with permission - Thanks DW):

A letter to Reverend Fred Nile MLC

G’day Fred, me ol’ China!

Haven’t heard from you for ages! I thought you’d dropped off the perch when you were trying to get the Dykes on Bikes off the road because they were a traffic hazard! Times flies when you’re having fun eh?

So it was of great surprise to hear you trying to protect the muslims and the asians from the sheer terror of women topless sunbathing at Bondi Beach. I know it must be hard for them to deal with all that ‘uncovered meat’ as they so eloquently put it. I mean, how does a man have the will and fortitude to walk past a half naked woman on a beach and NOT rape her? The male adult population of this fine land seem to be able to saunter by without barely a glance (well, maybe just a little one!) with no problems at all, but ever considerate busybodies like yourself insist on knowing whats good for the rest of us.

The women folk who choose to sunbathe topless are obviously comfortable with the situation, other wise they wouldn’t do it. Right? Tan lines are far worse, obviously, than being perved on.

So, Freddy, what’s bothering you? Really? Get right down to it.I know; you were walking around Kirribilli House and found John Howard’s old DOG WHISTLE, didn’t you? After giving it a few little peeps, you thought you’d try and stick it to all those liberal minded, free thinking left wing pinkos. I can imagine your little internal dialogue now “Oh yes, when the perverts say they don’t want topless sunbathing banned I’ll cunningly reply that you are a bunch of Cronulla type beach racists and then they’ll be stuffed! Hooray for me !!!”

Sorry Fred, me old mate. A decade of Howardism has left us with finely tuned ears for this kind of wedge politics. At least ol Johnny could get away with it on occasion. You, you old git, can’t It must be hard these days, being a man of the cloth. Hard to get a crowd of paying punters for your Sunday morning magic show and sing along. But when people evolve and develop the ability to think for themselves and not feel guilty about everyday activities, getting up early on a Sunday for a dose of scaremongering just didn’t cut it anymore. Especially when you’re coming down of a gut full of rum and disco biscuits.

So Fred, chill the fuck out okay! Get them Christians that are your supporters and go do something genuinely good, like help poor and sick people (which, if you read the fine print is ‘company policy’ for you God botherer types) If Allah don’t surf, that’s his problem. I wouldn’t go to Riyadh and demand I can run around with no pants, because I would respect the local customs (and they’d probably shoot me). C’mon Fred, put your feet up. CHILLAX MAN!

Yours SincerelyTim (aka Drunkwombat)Dungog

PS-If I’ve offended you, do the Christian thing: Forgive me.