Newsletter #12 - August 2007 for the Crisis Coalition at

An EDITOR is needed for this Newsletter as this will be my last.
Contact John James.

In this issue:-

. Demonstration of climate change.
. The world at 2C
. The end of cheap food.
. The Greenhouse Mafia
. Government duplicity

Comparison of US and Australian ecological footprints with African. Every Australian puts 26.5 tons of CO2-e into the atmosphere every year, every American puts 23.6 tons and most Africans a lot less than 1 ton each.

FOOTPRINTS Newsletter #12 - For earlier ones see the archive.

Proof that 2 degrees is now inevitable was given in Footprints #10.
Here is the same argument given graphically.

Demonstration of Climate Change

The rate of increase of CO2 emissions has increased from 1.1% per year in the 1990s to three times that today. This rate of increase is growing even more with China and India polluting more, and with logging in Indonesia and the Amazon to plant biofuels. In addition some natural systems that were sinks, such as forests and permafrost, are now becoming sources.

Shown in the first diagram on the right, it is expected that we will reach 420ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere within a few years.

The real problem (second diagram) is that the earth does not reflect back the heat that this amount of CO2 should have produced for two reasons:
a) The latent heat held in the oceans that will take time to warm to the same temperature as the air, and would gradually add another 0.5°.
b) the industrial haze that is shielding the earth by a further 20%.

We are now experiencing the heat produced by emissions only to 1980.

This means that were we to stop all pollution, immediately and everywhere, the average global temperature would still rise to 1.5°. This is double what we have experienced in the past 200 years.

With pollution increasing at 3% or more each year, in ten years we could easily reach 520ppm (third diagram). This is regarded as a critical threshold at which the temperature would rise globally from 0.78° today to 1.5°±. This could happen before 2020.

Many scientists are saying that the only way to avoid reaching 2° is to seriously level off all emissions straight away and then start reducing them at the rate of 8-10% per year. This means, of course, reducing consumerism by a similar amount. Only then might we be able to keep world temperatures below 2°.

Let us not forget that on top of 1.5° in ten years lies the impending impact of the latent heat and global aerosols to that level of heat. The calculation is scary: Surface temperature 1.5° + latent 1.0° + aerosols 0.5° = 3.0°. And this is rising.

Even at 2° it is believed that global heat would start to trigger a massive release of the greenhouse gases now stored in the oceans, in trees and in the soil. This is the much-feared tipping point at which the great ice sheets would disintegrate, food production would tumble, and billions be left homeless and on the move.

Once started the feedback process is unstoppable and could increase average global temperature by a further 6±o or more. This would shunt the world rapidly to double that. At such temperatures life on earth would become really precarious.

References to the major scientific and investigative reports that establish this scenario are to be found in our various FOOTPRINTS Newsletters and in

Right now 30,000 people die every day from hunger and disease,
ten times more than the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
Over 18,000 children die every day, mostly from hunger.

Kindly send this newsletter to your friends and encourage them to read the material on our site and join our mailing list.

What would the world be like at 2°C?

“Even the most progressive governments are giving up on the key target, which is to prevent temperatures rising by more than 2°C. This is the critical target. If you get beyond that, the positive feedbacks start to begin.
That's when the biosphere begins to absorb less of the CO2 that we produce, and that is a point beyond which we can't do anything more about it. 2°C global warming leads automatically to 3°, because of positive feedbacks. 3° leads automatically to 4°.
Once we get to that point, we wash our hands of it. There's nothing more we can do. So we must not get to that point. That is critical. We can't allow 2°C of warming to happen.”
George Monbiot

Combine the current temperature increase with the latent heat yet to be released from the oceans, and top it off with a temperature increase of 20% from the dispersal of aerosol dimming, and we get approximately 1.5°C without any further input from us. Given a few years more of the coal and oil bonanzas and we will be at 2°C before we know it. Knowing the greed of this industry, we can predict that 2°C is now inevitable. For scientific evidence see our report in Footprints #10.

What can we expect in a world of 2°C? What will it be like? Calling it the Age of Chaos may not be far wrong - and there certainly wont be any beaches left.

Think about these imaginary yet likely excerpts from a future newspaper:

Air strikes threatened against Chinese immigrants.
The Russian air force has been ordered to napalm the refugees pouring into Siberia from the flooded Yangtze Valley unless the Chinese government holds them back. Millions of men, women and children have been moving north in search of food and shelter. Fresh water is particularly scarce as most water supplies are massively polluted.
The rapidly rising sea-levels have inundated so much of China’s food-bowl that two hundred million people have had to flee. Most of them are moving north to the milder climate that has recently come to Siberia.
The Russian cabinet issued a warning today ….

Sea walls breached
The sea walls finished only a few months ago to protect the wealthy houses on Long Island, the Florida Keys and Byron Bay have been breached by the torrential rains and sea surges. This has been feared for a while, especially since the Dutch dykes were swept away last year leaving half the country under water.
Observers said that in spite of efforts by the owners and the municipalities to strengthen the walls, the impact of the hurricane-like winds and the torrential rain was too great to overcome.
In at least one place the Damn the Dammers League deliberately broke down the walls. A spokesman for the League stated “Why should only the wealthy be protected?” Social unrest …..

Christian Aid disbands
The major missionary charity has decided to close its doors and its 50 regional outlets. The political, and in some instances, military opposition to their efforts to obtain food and tents has become so destructive to their work the directors have been forced to suspend all operations.
“This is a world tragedy” stated the Chairman. “There are more hungry people every day, especially those fleeing the great coastal cities that no longer have docks or sewage. Food in some areas can only be transported by train, and lines have been broken in many places by storms and mud slides.”
Founded over 50 years ago Christian Aid has been the major NGO attempting to redirect food supplies to starving city dwellers in Africa, Asia and lately to Europe. The largest cities have been particularly affected by the 6 meter sea-rise in low-lying coastal areas.
The English Prime Minister, speaking from the relocated House of Parliament in Sheffield, stated ….


UN annual report
The Secretary-Generals report, issued from new UN headquarters in Ottawa, states that it is no longer possible to obtain accurate figures of world population as record-keeping has broken down in nearly every country. As far as can be gathered the world population has declined to just over 3.8 billion in the past decade, though this figure could be exaggerated.
Africa and Asia have suffered the worst losses, mainly from starvation and war. Australia has gained most, and now has a population of over 40 million, almost entirely from refugees. The tensions this has ….

Home reallocation scheme called a failure
The administrator of the Family Hospitality Law has complained that refugee families are being refused entry. Under the law only homes of less than 60 sq meters are exempt from hosting one or more additional families. In the wealthier larger houses refugees have been ousted at gun point.
Families demanding the right of free hospitality are complaining that local vigilantes have forced them onto the street, and in one case out of the suburb. “Its like an armed camp” one declared. “We once had a waterfront home and when sea rose we could not renew the insurance and the bank called in our mortgage. Though it was waterlogged they took over our house and we were allocated to this place - and now they have thrown us out. What do we do now?”
The local police office, when questioned, said “I am here to protect this area. These homes are far above sea-level and we intend to keep the area safe for those who live here. Federal law does not cut much ice down here now.”

Last shopping Mall closes
The closure of the Westfield Mall in Carolina has shocked locals, but they were not surprised. One resident said “The small stores can no longer obtain the range of goods that enabled them to flourish, and now that petrol rationing has become more severe few people are prepared to walk to the Centre.”
The manager said “It has been tough, especially as we were the last mall left in the city. We tried to stay open, but could not.”
The government distribution of essential supplies and food from local warehouses within walking distance of most suburban homes has alleviated the situation. But even with most back-yards being converted into vegetable gardens the cost of protecting the warehouses has driven up prices....

Cabinet Report from the Ministry of Health
… Concerning the spread of malaria the Minister stated that it is now prevalent over most of the globe to latitude 40. Because hospitals have been overwhelmed by other tropical diseases such as Ross River Fever, and from the injuries sustained in gang violence from the dispossessed and unemployed, it has been decided to limit the government action to providing advice to afflicted families. Drugs are in short supply, especially as most were once manufactured overseas ……

OK, these imaginary articles give a general picture of what we need to prepare for. You can imagine that were we to plan our response in time, these transitions could be made with a lot less suffering.

86% of Americans who voluntarily cut back their consumption
felt happier as a result. Only 9% said they were less happy.

The end of cheap food

It looks like the era of cheap food is over. The price of maize has doubled in a year, and wheat futures are at their highest in a decade. The food price index in India has risen 11%, and in Mexico in January there were riots after the price of corn flour went up fourfold. The floods in England and India have devastated crops. In nearly every country food prices are going up, and they are probably not going to come down again.

Before World War II, most families spent a third or more of their income on food, as the poor majority in developing countries still do. But after the war a series of radical changes, from mechanisation to the green revolution, raised agricultural productivity hugely and caused a long, steep fall in the price of food, to a tenth of many people’s income.

It will probably return to a quarter of a family's income within a decade, or higher, from four factors:

1) Demand as global population continues to grow and more people want to eat more meat. Early this month, in its annual assessment of farming trends, the UN predicted that in less than 10 years people in the developing countries will be eating 30% more beef, 50% more pig meat and 25% more poultry. With lot-feeding huge amounts of grain-growing land will move from human to animal consumption.

2) Global warming lowers crop yields: see the chart on the right. Christopher Field and David Lobell in Environmental Research Letters in March stated that for every 0.5°C temperature rise, crop yields fall between 3 and 5%. So 2°C hotter means a 12 to 20% fall in global food production just as the population is about to surge over the 7 billion mark.

3) Rising demand for biofuels replaces food production (see "Looming disaster", right), causing food price hikes that lead to social unrest, such as the recent riots in Mexico. This should be taken in context: a massive report by the major oil companies warns that oil supplies will peak within 8 years, if not sooner. It estimates that production from existing reserves would soon start declining by 3% pa even as world demand for oil is growing by 2% pa. In order to keep the driving public from facing reality politicians will take the easy road and legislate to use more land for biofuels.

4) Desertification, especially in the Sahara and Central Asia (see map below), is undermining food production for one third of humanity. Tree planting is not the answer as it puts more pressure on already-scarce water. Their food will have to be provided by just those breadbasket countries now turning to biofuels. “It creates a chain reaction that must lead to social turmoil”, Zafaar Adeel, author of the UN food report.

desert map

Since 1950, Americans have used more resources than EVERYONE who ever lived before them. Every year each individual uses 20 tons of basic raw materials; while together they throw away 7 million cars
and enough aluminium cans to make six thousand DC-10 airplanes.

The Greenhouse Maffia

I thank the Australian Citizens Climate Campaign who published this last month. [].

In February 2006 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Four Corners program exposed the fact that for the past decade government policies have been determined by a cabal of powerful fossil-fuel lobbyists. The Washington Post has reported similar stories in the US.

This cabal consists of executive directors of corporations in the coal, oil, cement, aluminium, mining and electricity industries, the very corporations whose commercial interests would be most affected by any move to reduce Australia's emissions.

The story was uncovered by Guy Pearse, while researching his PhD thesis at the ANU. Now published as High and Dry. []

As a member of the Liberal Party and a former advisor to Senator Robert Hill when he was environment minister, Pearse managed to coax the leading members of the fossil-fuel lobby into frank admissions about how they go about their business.

The members of the cabal, who happily described themselves as the “greenhouse mafia”, claim to be more familiar with greenhouse policy than the Government, because they are the ones who wrote it! This greenhouse mafia is the most potent lobbying alliance in Australia. Most of its members have been operating in Canberra for two decades, making their way up the bureaucratic ladder under Labor and Coalition governments.

After conducting hours of interviews, Pearse concluded that the Greenhouse Mafia is absolutely committed to defeating the environment movement on climate change. Their early big win occurred when they combined in 1996/7 to derail attempts by the deputy secretary of the Environment Department to promote a carbon tax.

The Howard Government has allowed the greenhouse mafia extraordinary influence over Australia's stance on climate change. Alone among the nations of the developed world, Australia included key members of fossil fuel lobby groups in its official delegation to negotiate the Kyoto protocol. Even the Bush administration did not permit this unseemly arrangement.

Green groups have been no match for such a potent opponent when it comes to crucial policy decisions. This is when the inside knowledge and connections of the Greenhouse Mafia makes a difference and the democratic process is overruled.

Cabinet deliberations, Ministerial committees and preparation of Cabinet submissions are required to be confidential and beyond the reach of lobbyists. Yet Pearse's research shows that the greenhouse mafia has unrivalled access to internal government processes. They have even used this access to help public servants in the Industry and Resources Department write submissions designed to counter proposals coming to Cabinet from the Australian Greenhouse Office through the Environment Minister.

When the inner workings of the Greenhouse Mafia and its influence on the Howard Government were exposed on Four Corners, the Opposition and the Greens called for an enquiry, but were unsuccessful.

The information above was researched from an extract from Guy Pearse's book High and Dry published in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend June 30 2007; and from Dr Clive Hamilton's book Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change. Dr Hamilton is the executive director of The Australia Institute and a leading authority on the economics and politics of climate change.

Americans' yearly waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks that would wrap around the Earth six times or reach half-way to the moon

Temperature and sea-level rise in the past

Jim Hansen (NASA Climate scientist) has warned that current sea surface temperatures are less than a degree from those of the two warmest interglacial periods of the past million years - shown in the figure below.

During both interglacials that were 125,000 and 425,000 years ago, sea levels rose at least 4 meters. The correlation is that for every degree rise there is a direct correspondence with sea levels. One degree means a minimum sea rise of 4 meters, though it may take more than a decade to manifest.

Hansen writes that at the currently escalating rate at which greenhouse gases are being emitted, global mean temperature must rise by at least 2-3C. Thus, we should look to sea-level rises of 8 to 12 meters or more!

His timing is that this should occur well before the end of this century. Some ice core samples have suggested that glacial collapse could occur in a decade.

If we work it out in the crudest way, we looking at a meter sea level rise per decade, more or less. This means that before very long half a billion people will have been flooded and on the move, and shortly after that another half billion.

For the survival of civilisation itself we must prepare, in detail, for what is coming. We will allow the greatest flowering of the human intellect and the enormous store of information that is held in our collective memories and libraries to be eliminated. Without preparation heaven help the few survivors.
surface sea temperatures

Government duplicity, or why we cannot trust politicians

The US and EU situation, for all the talk, is similar to this story.
Thanks Geoff Pearson for this analysis.

In May this year the Australian State Premiers (all Labor Party controlled) wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister saying, The States have committed to a National Emissions Trading Scheme to start in 2010.This is an indispensable step in tackling climate change.

Yet during the same time frame both NSW and Victoria had signed long term contracts with three of the biggest emitters of C02 that exempt them from any future scheme that could make them reduce emissions.

The Hazelwood Power Station at Morwell in Victoria was built in the 1960s. It is the dirtiest in the developed world. Every megawatt produces 1.54 tonnes of C02, double that of black coal and almost four times that of a modern gas-fired plant.

The company proposed to extend their operations. To by-pass environmental legislation the Minister for the Environment split the decision: approval to expand was dealt with separately to consideration of emissions.     

This was successfully challenged by the Australian Conservation Foundation. The Tribunal determined that the Minister had breached the law by attempting to exclude C02 from the environmental assessment.

The Minister made a notional change to the original approval requiring the company to reduce emissions by 8% pa. In contempt of the intent of the Tribunal’s order he stated that the reduction was not binding nor would there be any penalties if they did not comply. Yet the minister said, “This agreement is an opportunity for improved environmental performance.”

Greenwashing and deception in the one act.

The next two are in NSW. The government exempted Australia’s largest emitter of C02, Bluescope Steel, from any future carbon tax for 20 years.

Worse, the deal obliges the State Government to lobby the other States and the Commonwealth to insulate Bluescope from any pollution controls or penalties – and to pay all of the company’s costs were such penalties ever to be introduced.

In June the government approved the Anvil Hill mine and flagged the approval of a further 22 in the state. Anvil Hill contains 150 Mts of coal that would on its own produce over 10% of the state’s C02-e over the next twenty years, and will consume 1500 megalitres of water a year in an area that has been particularly hard hit by drought.

As in Victoria the Minister argued that the C02 emissions need not be considered in the environmental impact statements. A legal challenge in November was successful on the grounds that Intergenerational Equity and the Precautionary Principle should have been assessed where greenhouse gas emissions are concerned.

Intergenerational Equity requires the present generation to ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment are maintained or enhanced for future generations; and the Precautionary Principle requires that if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be a reason for postponing measures to prevent such degradation.

Nevertheless the judgment was ignored, and the Minister approved the coal mine at Anvil Hill.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of black coal, accounting for a third of world coal trade. The extent of future mining is indicated by the fact that Anvil Hill has only about 1% of total coal reserves in NSW.     

State royalties from coal mining in the early 1990’s were around $100 million pa, and by 2006, $604 million. Queensland royalties are double that. Do we need to look further for State Labor’s rush to approve coal?

Only our concerted action to compel our leaders
to look after us, the people, rather than the profits
and unrealistic consumerist lifestyle of a few, will stop the
relentless rush to over-heat our beautiful planet .....



This is what you can do personally.

Kindly send this newsletter to your friends and encourage them to read the material on our site and join our mailing list.

We can transform our life on this planet and maintain our lifestyles


What is a Footprint?

The figures in "Demonstration"

Projection chart 1

Projection chart 2

Projection chart 3

Projection chart 4
CO2 is carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas after water vapour.
CO2-e is the equivalent in CO2 of all greenhouse gasses.
Bts is billion tonnes metric.
ppm counts molecules per million.
IPCC is the UN International Panel on Climate Change.

Species die even when protected: A Costa Rican rainforest in one of the world's richest biodiversity regions has suffered an alarming collapse in amphibians and reptiles. It suggests that such havens may fail to slow the slide of species to extinction.

Compared to 1970, most species of frogs, toads, lizards, snakes and salamanders have plummeted on average 75%.

Elsewhere dramatic falls in amphibian and reptile numbers have been blamed on habitat destruction and the fungal disease chytridiomycosis. But we have all hoped that many species would thrive in dedicated reserves.

The researchers from Florida International University believe climate change has brought warmer, wetter weather to the refuge, with the knock-on effect of reducing the amount of leaf litter on the forest floor. Nearly all the species rely on leaf litter to some extent, either using it for shelter, or feeding on the insects that eat the leaves.

Farsighted miners: So as not to become irrelevant in a future carbon-saving world, the NSW Construction, Forestry and Mining Union has modified its position to the point of greenness. The “concrete it, chop it down, dig it up and burn it union,” is to pressure coal companies to invest $2 billion in carbon capture technology. This is responsive pragmatism, intended to save members’ jobs, it can also do the world a favour.

This week's poll of voters in 16 marginal seats found a majority did not support nuclear power. Just 39% supported nuclear, compared with 95% in favour of investment in renewable energies such as solar and wind. "Clean" coal technologies were supported by 74%.

Nuclear power on the loose: New reactors are now under construction in four European countries: Finland, France, Bulgaria (2) and Lithuania. In the UK a White Paper has recommended between 10 and 20 new reactors, each of 1000 to 1600 MW.

Reactors are also envisaged in the Czech Republic (2), Poland, Portugal, and Switzerland.

Elsewhere, China plans to build 30 (to start with), and similar numbers are planned for the US and Russia, while Japan, Korea, India, Brazil are also speeding up their nuclear programs.

In Canada, 8 reactors, which had been stopped, are being restarted in Ontario and at least 4 are under consideration.

South Africa will build at least 10 new large reactors of 1000 MW in addition to the two of 900 MW they already have.

Even some nuclear-free countries are considering the possibility of a nuclear program, including Australia, Turkey, Ireland and New-Zealand.

Navada will have the largest solar array in the US, in the desolate Mojave Desert covering 140 acres. It is hoped that it will be supported by subsidies from the new Democrat Congress and by states legislation that is demanding that a significant percentage of power supply has to come from renewable sources.

The EU has promised that 20% of all energy will come from green-power sources such as wind turbines, and solar panels within 12 years.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel challenged other nations to follow suit, saying the world still had time to "avoid what could well be a human calamity" caused by climate change.

At French insistence, the deal noted the role of nuclear energy. This move did not sit well with non-nuclear states such as Austria and Ireland.

Though the agreement does not yet have an enforcement mechanism, it is a turning point in the global warming fight.

An even more important part of the EU deal is that greenhouse gas emissions will be cut by at least 20% from 1990 levels - not from current levels. This is a huge undertaking.

Also one-tenth of all cars and trucks in the 27 EU nations should be running on biofuels made from plants. As noted on the left, this may not be as valuable as it sounds.

However, the deal gives Europe a clear leadership on this crucial issue. They hope this deal will encourage leading polluters, such as the US, Russia, China and India, to make similar cuts.

EU proposes making damaging the environment a crime:  The EU is drafting a law to punish serious offences such as the Dutch trader that chartered the ship blamed for dumping toxic waste in the Ivory Coast last summer that killed 10.

The rules would allow courts to put a company out of business and force polluters to clean up their own mess, especially as corporations were behind 73% of environmental crimes.

About time that these evils were made criminal offences: dumping toxic waste, trading in endangered species, polluting the air, water or soil and illegal shipments.

But the law would not cover oil spills. The EU says it will put forward a separate proposal to cover pollution from ships later this year.

cereal production

Chart of the global production of cereals (jagged line), and utilisation of land (straighter line). The growing discrepancy is obvious. How can we justify using cereals for biofuel as world population is rising?

The looming biofuels disaster: Biofuel production is pushing huge amounts of land out of food production. One sixth of the grain grown in the US this year will be "industrial corn" for ethanol. One third of US maize is now used for biofuel and there was last year a 48% increase in the amount of farmland devoted to biofuels. During that time hardly any new land was brought under the plough to replace the lost food production.

There is only a difference in scale in China, Indonesia and Brazil where primary forests are being cleared to plant energy crops. Yet, after fossil fuel use, deforestation is the largest single source of CO2.

The competition for water is likely to favour the biofuel producers as their crop, being subsidised, commands higher prices than corn or soya. Ethanol has roughly 70% the energy content of gasoline while costing 40% more to produce.

In Australia, if all our wheat and sugar output was diverted to ethanol it would supply less than 30% of our fuel needs. As these crops now feed 80 million people, what will they eat instead?

It is argued that Australia could increase its biofuel capacity by using marginal land, but Mick Keogh, executive director of the Australian Farm Institute, said: "A close examination of global biofuel experiences shows they are only viable with high levels of government support, and have at best a limited capacity to meet future energy needs."

The attraction of biofuels for politicians is obvious: they can claim they are doing something useful to combat global warming without demanding any sacrifices from business or the voters. For voters the attraction is that they can continue to drive their cars without a thought for the consequences. The attraction for business is that they can make lots of money out of biofuels, and be subsidised to do so.

A straight switch is happening from food to fuel. As oil prices rise - and Peak Oil guarantees they will - it pulls up the price of biofuels as well, so it becomes more attractive for farmers to switch from food to fuel.

Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute says: "The stage is now set for frontal competition for grain between the 800 million people who own automobiles, and the world's two billion poorest who will need it to survive."

The real answer is to consume less, drive less and to fund high-tech hybrid and electric cars so we dont panic for ethanol as oil production declines. Let's not forget that ethanol is NOT a renewable product: just consider the fuel and water required to produce and distribute it, and the clearing of the forests to grow it that is now releasing huge amounts of CO2.

Biofuels fuel greed: A row over the conversion of rainforests into biofuel plantations is creating a grave political crisis for a country until now seen as a beacon for democracy in Africa.

The issue has brought to a head the simmering conflicts between short-term economic gains and the conservation of vital natural resources in the continent. The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, is planning to give a large chunk of one of the country's last protected forests to a sugar cane company so it can expand its operations. The Sugar Corporation of Uganda wants to expand production to cash in on the booming global market in sugar for biofuels.

When a demonstration in the capital Kampala turned into an ugly race riot Asian shops were ransacked, an Asian was stoned to death and police killed two demonstrators.

Vigilantes were hired by the Sugar company to beat up the demonstrators. The forest is a controversial issue because it is the home of the Bugandan ancestral spirits.

The U.S. House of Representatives is watering down the promised energy bill, and seeking compromises to make it more palatable to business interests.

Clauses that would have raised vehicle fuel-economy has been dropped; as have those requiring oil and gas companies to pay royalties in cash instead of in product. Also removed is the clause that would have required utilities to get a greater percentage of their power from renewable sources.

In addition, a provision was slipped into the Senate-passed version of the energy bill that could make the nuclear-power industry eligible for an unlimited number of loan guarantees costing billions of dollars of your money apiece.

Had you thought the Democrats would be different?

A cheap way to beat the heat: When the mercury rose above 40°C degrees the 300,000 people in the Sydney suburb of Blacktown people kept cool by turning on their air conditioning and so putting huge pressure on the electricity network.

Rather than build a new coal-fired power station, and with to grants totalling $37 million the Blacktown Solar Cities project will combine up to 50% discounts on solar power and hot water units, smart electricity meters, energy efficiency and innovative electricity pricing to eliminate 25,000 tonnes of CO2 and $3 million off power bills.

The pricing package encourages consumers to use less peak power in return for discounts for off-peak power, so that (for example) pool pumps will automatically turn off during peak periods, and to encourage people to switch to compact fluorescent bulbs and to turn off appliances at the wall that use standby power.

Eating meat can be worse than driving: A kilogram of lot-fed beef produces more green-house gas emissions than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home. That is, producing and distributing one kilo of lot-fed meat creates 34 times its equivalent in CO2. Most meat from supermarkets is lot-fed.

Being lot-fed, over two-thirds of the energy goes in producing and transporting feed.

By contrast, a Swedish study suggested that organic beef emits 40% less greenhouse gases and consumes 85% less energy. One of the easiest answers is to stop eating lot-fed meat. [New Scientist, 18 July]

The massive and destructive rainfall in England last week was definitely caused by global warming, as predicted in computer models. More than a month's rain fell in a few hours. See forthcoming report from the UK Met Office.

"What this does is establish for the first time that there is a distinct 'human fingerprint' in the changes in precipitation patterns in the northern hemisphere. That means there is a detectable human cause from our greenhouse gas emissions. The 'human fingerprint' has been detected before in temperature rises, but never before in rainfall. So this is very significant."

Global warming is accelerating three times more quickly: From a series of authoritative studies, by the US National Academy of Sciences, shows that CO2 emissions have been increasing by about 3% a year during this decade, compared with 1.1% in the 1990s.

In step, the Arctic ice cap is melting three times as fast and the seas are rising twice as rapidly, all as predicted.

The study found that nearly three-quarters of the growth came from developing countries, particularly China. Also, developed countries, with less than a sixth of the world's people, still contribute more than two-thirds.

A study by the University of California's National Snow and Ice Data Center shows that Arctic ice has declined by 7.8% a decade over the past 50 years, compared with an average estimate by IPCC computer models of 2.5%.

This is much faster than even the highest scenario outlined in this year's massive reports by the IPCC - and suggests that the forecasts are probably understated by a factor of 3.

Calculated procrastination on carbon emissions: The lastest Australian report recommends free permits for the biggest polluters, no long-term target to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions and a showdown with the states to dump their renewable energy programs.

The taskforce is made up of senior government officials and business executives from the coal, oil, transport and power industries. Its targets are "aspirational", not mandatory.

The renewable energy industry was not represented on the taskforce, so the report has been largely fashioned by the fossil-fuel industry and its business customers.

Yet the Bureau of Meteorology stated that May was the hottest ever recorded: temperatures rose 2.4 degrees above average. May was also Sydney's sixth driest May on record.

Another task force is working out a guide on how to cut emissions progressively to 2050. This target is crucial. Without it, there is little to push business into buying carbon-trading permits, and if business does start buying, there is little reason for it to invest in low-polluting alternatives and energy efficiencies. Australia is unlikely to get a trading scheme before 2012.

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