In Australia, like most western countries, we live in a democracy where all members of society supposedly have the same rights and opportunities. In reality, we live in a society where CEOs and Board members of large companies are paid obscene salaries and bonuses, often to increase productivity by reducing staff numbers, and there are also people of extreme privilege, in an environment of stagnant wage growth, decreasing full-time employment, and increasing unemployment, homelessness and despair.
The AFL has recently become a microcosm of this wide divide. The football clubs are the powerhouse of the AFL, generating wealth that runs the system through their action on the field which is watched by fans and shown on TV, and spawning the various TV programs that rely on these games. In a COVID19 season, they have had to reduce salaries of players and reduce support staff yet endure unprecedented travel and strict quarantine lockdowns in hubs outside Victoria. In many cases, the AFL teams, who arguably play the most strenuous game on the planet, have 4-5 day turnarounds often on tired grounds whose size and shape ensure that the contests become close contact, physical encounters of gladiatorial proportions. Injuries abound, as indicated by concurrent injuries to the entire 2018 premiership midfielders of the West Coast Eagles for the match on 10 September. The greater potential for serious to career-ending injuries is a real risk for exhausted players.
Meanwhile, a suave Gillon McLachlan and his well-paid executives, with partners, children, and “essential support staff” escape lockdown in Victoria and swan into Queensland under special exemptions which see them in group quarantine drinking cocktails around the pool in a luxury Gold Coast resort. The essential mission of this massive group is to organise a Grand Final which is 7 weeks away, while most workers in Australia have learned to work remotely and many students have had to learn remotely at home. In addition, many Australians with far more urgent reasons to get exemptions from entering Queensland are denied entry.
We clearly live in a world of double standards where executives who only exist because of the efforts of others expect privileges they do not extend to others. We think we live in a democracy, but we really live in an Australia with an archaic and inefficient political system where privileged and minority groups call the tune and the majority are kept silent by political correctness. The AFL is simply a microcosm of such an unfair system.
Are We Really Living in a Period of Unusual Climate Change or is it Normal?
First, as background to understanding what is happening today, we have to appreciate that we are living in an extended Ice Age that started about 2,500,000 years ago. Since about 1,000,000 years ago, there has been an about 100,000 year cycle of about 90,000 years of a cold glacial climate and about 10,000 years of a warmer interglacial climate. At the present time, we are at about 10,500 years into such a warm climatic period in which life prospers, there is abundant food, and there are no mass migrations from higher latitudes towards the tropics with resultant conflicts. It is possible that, for about 9000 of those years, the climate on Earth was warmer than today. On average, we should be heading into another cold glacial period with its associated problems for humans who already overpopulate the Earth.
The question is: Is the climate change and sea level rise we are continually being warned about something new and unusual in its impact, and caused by humans, or is it part of a natural cycle that has gone on well before the Industrial Revolution and significant CO2 emissions from energy production? Let’s look at the evidence that we can glean from the past.
It appears that, in the present warm interglacial period, Earth was at its warmest about 6000 years ago. The aborigines were only able to migrate to Australia about 50,000 -40,000 years ago because we were in a cold glacial period when sea level was so low globally that the English Channel did not exist and England was joined to Europe. From about 12,000 to 6000 years ago, the sea level then rose by about 130 metres at an average rate of about 2 metres every 100 years: today we are concerned about predictions of 0.3 metres every hundred years. Since then, the average global temperature has fallen by about 2 degrees Celsius and sea level has fallen about 2 metres from its highest point. So, sea level changes are normal in an Ice Age and projected sea level changes, even if correct from notoriously inaccurate computer models, are less than in the past.
We also have to realise that as well as sea level rising and falling, the land is also rising and falling as ice sheets load the crust and ice melting lowers that extra weight. So, in some parts of the world such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, the land is rising, making sea level apparently lower whereas in other such as England and The Netherlands the land is sinking. Venice is sinking slowly because it was built on marshland near a large fault which is lowering the land. The Mediterranean region as a whole has seen major relative changes in sea level in historical times. Anthony and Cleopatra are reported to have arrived by royal barge at the seaside port of Ephesus in Turkey, a Roman town which is now many kilometres inland from the sea. We are always being told that populations living on island atolls will have to migrate if sea levels rise. They live on submerged volcanoes that are sinking due to geological reasons but luckily the coral atolls grow at a faster rate than sea level appears to rise, as Charles Darwin first predicted but has been ignored in recent times. So, islands like Vanuatu may actually grow during sea level rise provided that there is not excessive extraction of groundwater or mining of the coral for cement and roads.
We are also being told that we humans are causing temperature increases that are much greater than in the past. However, records from central England indicate that the average temperature rose 2.2 degrees Celsius from 1696 to 1732, a period of 36 years. The maximum in 1732 was only reached again in 1942 and there has only been a 0.7 degree Celsius rise in the last 100 years. Global temperatures do not seem to have increased for the past 18 years, although they may be recorded as higher than average if Australia is viewed in isolation and comparative measurements over 100 years can be believed. The 2014 expedition to the Antarctic to follow the route of Sir Douglas Mawson and show the ice was melting is a good lesson to us all. We all now know from TV coverage that their vessel was stuck in ice that Mawson had successfully navigated and that one of the vessels sent to rescue them also was stuck in the ice. Perhaps they hadn’t read the report that the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was minus 94.7 degrees Celsius in Antarctica in August 2010!
So, there has always been climate change, the climate has been warmer than present over much of the past 10,000 years, and sea level has been much lower and slightly higher over the same period. The concern about human-induced climate change is concealing what we should all be concerned about: an overpopulated Earth with a population out of equilibrium with Nature, overusing non-replaceable resources, polluting our environment with really harmful substances, not just CO2 which actually supports life, and causing extinctions of other species. We need to recognise these bigger problems and deal with them. If there really is global warming, or equally likely global cooling, in the near future with slow changes to temperature and sea level, our ingenious technology can deal with it. Our human energy should be spent on considering ways of slowing population growth to a sustainable level and preparing for natural catastrophic events which are far more threatening than those involving slow change.
Much of the data discussed here is presented in far more depth in Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth and Not For Greens and discussed by characters in The Digital Apocalypse, a novel by the author, all published by Connorcourt Publishing
Climate and Humans: The Real Threats
There is geological evidence that global cooling with global ice ages occurred in the past when carbon dioxide contents of the atmosphere were more than double those of today, and evidence from anthropology and climatology, so well summarised in the recent SBS-aired program “How Climate Made History”, that there have been dramatic natural changes in climate throughout the history of mankind. Despite this, the concept that humans are strongly influencing climate is now firmly embedded in the global psyche. It is consuming billions of dollars in research to prove it and global meetings to discuss it, with arguments about whether reduction targets should be 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius. This is despite the fact that natural changes of greater than 2 degrees Celsius are recorded over a decade or two from drill cores in lake sediments from the time of the Neanderthals and in the mediaeval mini-Ice Age in Britain in historical times, well before the Industrial Revolution. We should be far more concerned with a sudden return to Ice Age conditions, instead of our utopian interglacial conditions, because this would see massive crop failure at high latitudes and mass migrations to warmer climes that would make the recent refugee migrations in Europe seem like a picnic. According to some, our current interglacial period has already extended beyond its expected limit.
As there is now contention on whether global warming is occurring consistently over significant time spans, the human-induced global warming models have changed to those of human-induced climate change. Under this umbrella, all extreme events, whether hot or cold, dry or wet, windy or calm, can be placed at the door of human-induced low-percentage increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to burning fossil fuels. Is there really an increase in extreme events or is it an apparent effect caused by a switch from 1 hour news bulletins to 24 hour news services with stations desperate to report events in parts of the world that would go unnoticed by the western world 20 years ago, let alone 100 years ago? The reporters often say that this is the most severe storm or heatwave in a hundred years, with the implication that there have been more extreme events in the past. A good example was the situation in January 2015 which saw reporters scurrying to Marble Bar in the Pilbara of WA because it was predicted the maximum temperature would reach a record 50 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, this was not a record because that was set in 1922 and was followed by a record heatwave in 1923-1924, close to 100 years ago. Interestingly, the highest temperature recorded on the planet was at Death Valley in California in 1913, almost exactly 100 years ago. In fact, we often use the term “hundred year event”, because these events are one of several normal Earth cycles due to complex factors such as interactions between the tilt of the Earth’s axis and its rotation around the Sun as the Earth wobbles through the solar system
What I think is clear is that humans are a major cause of the disasters that arise from extreme weather events, simply because of population explosions allowed by a combination of the Industrial Revolution and its associated technology and a utopian warm climate. For example, Perth has approximately 20 times the population it had in 1915. We build ever increasing numbers of towns and cities on flood plains, which, by definition, flood to replenish the soils on the plains, often with extreme floods every 50 to 100 years. The floods in 2011 in Brisbane represent a case in point, where part of the city has been built on a flood plain and the population has increased to almost 17 times that of 1915. The houses and infrastructure severely restrict the area of the flood plain surface in a town or city, such that the same volume of water that once spread uniformly over the plain will be restricted and locally rise higher in the built-up area and flood it. We build tourist resorts at sea level that can be flooded during anomalously high tides or tsunamis that have occurred throughout history. We cut down trees on steep hills, causing landslides during extreme events. So, although many believe that we are inducing climate change, it is more important to realise that we are causing disasters relating to natural events because of population increase and habitation of environments that ancient peoples in equilibrium with their environment would have avoided. The ancient Egyptians, for example, farmed the flood plain of the Nile and lived and built their monuments on the adjacent desert.
It is doubtful that climate change involving mild global warming will drastically change our lives overall: there will be losses and gains dependant on geographic location and latitude as there have been throughout history. Sea level changes are normal. When the aborigines migrated into Australia, the coastal plain would have extended out to Rottnest Island, and there is evidence on our northern beaches of a rise of about 2 metres above current sea level since then. A global cooling event, while reducing sea levels would be disastrous for populations at high latitudes or those in the Indian subcontinent, for example, dependant on water from melting alpine snow and ice. Our greatest threat is catastrophic short-term climate change from eruption of super-volcanoes which would cause blockage of the Sun’s rays and a year-long winter with ensuing crop failure and famine throughout the Earth. The Earth’s plates are aligning such that we can expect more volcanic eruptions and earthquakes with associated tsunamis in the future. Our priority should be to plan how to survive such events with long-term food supplies, with current global supplies running out over a relatively short time span. We should also be concerned about the Sun, undoubtedly the major control on our climate. If there were a giant solar storm, it could knock out all satellites and most power plants, crippling our digital world in “The Digital Apocalypse” as described in my novel of the same name.
So, the real question is: “Should we be spending our energy and billions of dollars on human-induced climate change, in the quite arrogant belief that we can change climate, or should we be more concerned about natural climate changes that have occurred throughout human history and could result in our near-extinction unless we are prepared for them”. It is like our personal lives. We can adapt to gradual incremental change, but it is the sudden tragic events in life that exact their toll, just as such sudden events have probably caused extinctions of species in the past.
Dr David I Groves
Climate and Humans: The Real Threats
Despite geological and anthropological evidence of natural climate change throughout Earth history, we are obsessed with human-induced climate change. We spend billions of dollars attempting to reduce global temperatures by levels less than those experienced naturally in the past. We don’t consider the catastrophic effects of global cooling, with return to Ice Age conditions causing mass migrations that would make the current refugee crisis look like a picnic.
Global warming has recently morphed to include all extreme weather events, including the so-called “hundred year events”, which are part of normal Earth cycles. What is clear is that we, through an unprecedented global population explosion, enhance disasters by ignoring environmental dangers: building cities on flood plains and tourist resorts at sea level: cutting down forests on steep slopes, etc. We should be much more concerned about mitigating these human-enhanced disasters during natural climatic events than arrogantly believing that we can control the climate.
Our biggest threats are other natural phenomena, such as super-volcano eruptions and giant solar flares, which could cause nuclear winters or a digital apocalypse and totally disrupt the fragile global food chain which has replaced the robust self-sufficient one of the past.
Australia Unfairly Bullied on Climate Change Record
In Pohnpei, Malcolm Turnbull pledged an additional A$ 80 million (about 1000 Australian jobs), in addition to A$300 million over four years, to the Pacific Islands nations, reportedly for relief of disasters caused by climate change. Apparently, the region’s ungrateful politicians continue to criticise Australia’s efforts to mitigate anthropogenic climate change even after receiving the funding.
Isn’t it time our politicians resisted international bullying and explained the simple truths about Australia’s supposed role in climate change. Even if humans are significantly impacting world climate, Australia has only 0.33% of global population and produces about 1.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. So, if modellers predict a 2ᵒ C rise in temperature, our contribution is a meagre 0.03 ᵒ. We are also a vast continent with about 75 acres of forest or grassland per capita. A best estimate of rubbery figures is that Australian vegetation absorbs 2-3 times more carbon dioxide than we produce. In addition our black coals are the cleanest globally, contrasting with sulphur-rich northern hemisphere coals that cause acid rain.
So, our politicians should set the record straight that we are helping to save the planet by absorbing other countries’ carbon dioxide and burning clean coal, and not capitulate to global bullying and give taxpayers money away at a time when many of our own people suffer increasing financial stress.
Occasional Address: UWA Tuesday 9th March
UNDERSTANDING SCALE: THE KEY INGREDIENT IN PROBLEM SOLVING
I feel rather strange here tonight accepting a degree when I’m probably the only one doing so who doesn’t own an iPod, doesn’t Twitter or Blog, and doesn’t have at least 50 Facebook friends.
If we observe the UWA crest or logo, we see the motto “Seek Wisdom”. I know this because one of my cheekier students, now working for NASA on the back of his excellent UWA degree, added “Elsewhere” to the “Seek Wisdom” on our four-wheel drive bush vehicle.
The normal progression in life is to seek information and from this extract knowledge, which, if used sensibly and coupled with experience, becomes wisdom.
In today’s world we are increasingly overwhelmed with information, less and less of which is peer reviewed, so it is becoming more and more difficult to extract useful knowledge. It is even more difficult to obtain wisdom, as we can see from the many poor decisions by world leaders and the broad decline in social values globally.
All of you graduating tonight at UWA will have been presented with the best information available. However, how many of you have acquired wisdom from the knowledge that you should have gained during your studies?
During my studies at the University of Tasmania, Professor Sam Carey who was far ahead of his time, introduced his students to continental drift and global tectonics way back in the 1950s and 1960s. He imparted two pieces of wisdom that were to help shape my academic career at UWA.
The first was: “Disbelieve if you can”. Never sit back and accept what you read or are told. Question it rigorously and then if you do accept the model, you have verified it for yourself.
The second was: “To resolve problems, you have to view them at an appropriate scale, including an appropriate time scale”. The inability to do this has led to many of the global problems of modern societies, because the policies of world leaders are often dictated by decisions based on visions at too small a scale or too short a time scale.
Let’s look at climate change for example, or more specifically global warming ascribed to increased CO2 emissions by human activity, which has become THE political paradigm of the past decade, resembling the dogmas of the flat Earth or the Sun’s revolution around the Earth of past centuries.
If we view this at the correct time scale, we know from our geological and astronomical knowledge that the Earth is a dynamic planet wobbling through the solar system, on a dynamic journey through the variably energetic galaxy. This produces cyclical climate changes, the largest cycle 143 million years and the shortest group of five cycles between 210 years and 11 years. These climate changes can be quite sudden. Geologists, in their wisdom, have known this for two hundred years. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the whole Earth is thought to have been ice covered and named the Snowball Earth. One thousand years ago Greenland was green and farmed by the Vikings, and three hundred years ago the Thames River froze over and so on.
If we look at Australia’s coastline, 125,000 years ago sea level was 7m higher than now. It was much lower about 50,000 years ago when our first inhabitants crossed land bridges and narrow seas to Australia. The coastal plain probably stretched intermittently out to Rottnest Island. Then, just 6000 years ago, sea level was 2m higher in Australia. So sea level rise and fall is not a new phenomenon. Throughout these climate cycles in geological history, there were natural changes in the CO2 content of the atmosphere but no evidence of correlation between high CO2 and warming periods, often the opposite.
Despite doubts that we are actually causing global warming, the attention this has received, in combination with much more conclusive evidence for negative environmental impacts, for example increasing extinctions of species, severe atmospheric and water pollution, should alert us to the larger scale cause of these symptoms. We are overpopulating the Earth: overall we are increasing our standard of living and, with it, overusing our non-renewable natural resources; we are a serviced society out of equilibrium with our natural environment; and we no longer follow Darwinian natural selection.
The challenge for us is how to deal with these problems. In the short term, it would be much better to revive the lungs of the Earth in the Amazon and other jungles than to spend billions of dollars on Carbon Trading Taxes. In the long term it is to consider the consequences of the projected global increase in population from 6 to 9 billion by 2070, in terms of natural climate change and other natural phenomena such as earthquakes and tsunamis with greater and greater population densities in vulnerable areas. The increased population will also enhance the vulnerability of those areas to disasters such as landslides by over-clearing of vegetation. We have only managed to rapidly populate the Earth with 6 billion people, because of the Utopian climate of the past 100 years. A sudden cooling would be more of a problem than a sudden warming and sea level rise, because of the effect it would have on habitation and crop production in the Northern Hemisphere.
In terms of these global concerns, Australia is still the lucky country with a relatively small population and extensive natural resources. Despite political posturing, our carbon footprint is still like a flea in an elephant’s ear! However we have predictions of increasing population without clear strategic plans for water and urban development, and a desire to cut CO2 emissions with no real alternative for energy production, particularly since nuclear energy is a political taboo.
As graduates here today, you represent a section of the UWA graduates for 2010. You face some of the greatest challenges that humans have faced in their long history. There has undoubtedly been more change in the past 80 years than in the previous million years of human activity, the rate of change is accelerating and we are thinking on a shorter and shorter time scale. If I don’t Twitter or Blog soon, I will cease to be seen to exist!
Let us be confident that you have acquired sufficient knowledge and wisdom at UWA now, and have been taught to seek knowledge and wisdom throughout your lives. Some of you should be among that group of people who really make a difference, who can help resolve problems by viewing them at the correct scale, and who have the ability to instil wisdom in decision makers. The challenge to “Seek Wisdom” is yours!!
Please find below an idea I have developed for The West Australian newspaper based on discussions with friends and family about frustrations with TV news.
Many “baby boomers” are tired of the so-called news that is dished up by TV stations 24/7. It mixes important Australian and international news with local trivial issues and deals with news in an uncritical way, using mostly poorly informed “reporters”, looking at small issues in TV time-bytes aimed at those with the shortest attention spans, and failing to see the bigger picture.
For those of us who still read newspapers to educate ourselves on the news, it would be great to have a series of well-considered articles on the big-picture issues that face Australia. For us, such issues include:
These are just some of the big issues that come to mind. Unless we identify them and resolve them, Australia will stagnate and it will be the normal hard-working people in the population who will suffer due to an impotent, internally unstable Government faced with an “Opposition” and hostile Senate in an unworkable parliamentary system that wastes much of its energy on matters of limited national importance or related to social engineering.
Emeritus Professor David Groves