Wednesday, 10 February 2010

'Pascal's Wager'.

QwkDrw has prompted me to expand on the renewable energy theme.

There must be a time when we realise the planet cannot continue to support human life in the manner to which some of it has become accustomed. It seems acid seas, polluted air and land, multiplying populations, loss of species and habitat, climate change and mountains of non-degradable rubbish etc are not enough to frighten us into taking decisive action now.

My beef, for over thirty years, has been that the longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive the fix will become. We will never be more equipped to change the way we generate power and manage resources than we are now. We have the technology and we have the wealth. It has been said that if the Rudd Government had spent the stimulus package on renewable energy, this country would have come close to carbon neutrality within a decade. Maybe so, and it didn't happen so what now?

For anyone who doubts the science of climate change, or doesn’t want to look in case it might requries a change in lifestyle, consider this ‘Pascal’s Wager’.

1. Greenhouse gases are causing climate change and we fix it, we’re OK.
2. Greenhouse gases are not causing the problem and we ‘fix it’, we’re still OK and we enjoy other benefits, like saving the oceans from disastrous acidification.
3. Greenhouse gases are causing the problem and we don’t fix it, we’re buggered.

Waiting for irrefutable evidence is like the sky diver who says, (when told he might have forgotten to put on his parachute).
“Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll check after the jump!”


    (standing, clapping with both hands)
    MAN-MADE Climate … change.
    (to sitting, hushed apprehension)
    Politician’s Hoax ??
    (still sitting, incredulous disbelief)
    (standing, confused enthusiasm, finding wallets)

    Thinking globally here: in America there is consideration being given to federal legislation that would provide for the creation and use of carbon taxes. In Australia, from what your observations of local actions, what costs and benefits have resulted from carbon taxes


  2. Hi and thanks for the comment and question!

    Here, as I suspect in the USA, we are suffering parallel realities. Climate science overwhelmingly indicates that burning coal, (cheap and plentiful) and oil, (relatively cheap, costing less than bottled water), are changing our atmosphere from the mix that has existed for millions of years, in which and for which air breathing organisms (including QwkDrw and I) evolved. Coal and oil are what was left over when CO2 in the original atmosphere (around 20%) was consumed by sea plants and later land plants, to build bodies that were to become coal and oil. In the process, they released free oxygen until a balance was reached at about 230 to 330 PPM. In that sense, coal; and oil are Natures Hazardous Waste Dumps which we are exhuming, reversing the process.

    One parallel reality here is; we know we must stop using fossil fuels but are welcoming the development of two new coal mines in Queensland that will produce more than a hundred billion dollars (Au) in export income. At the current coal price, that coal will generate in the order of ten billion tons of CO2! GW Bush said America is addicted to oil. He was right and we in Oz are addicted to coal.

    Two models are being debated in Australia. One is the Cap and Trade model, recently abandoned by Obama under the pressure of political reality but still the preferred model here. In the other, a more ‘communistic’ model, government decides which industries must cut and by how much, leaving all else as it is. It is bizarre that the ‘communistic’ model is being touted by our Conservative Party! In this model the overall carbon output is left to chance. In other words they are dodging the issue.

    A second parallel reality is political talk. We are being told of the urgency to phase out fossil fuel use, but the opposition says we can’t do it if it costs more than coal fired!
    It’s like an obese person, with diabetes, collapsing knees and astronomic blood pressure insisting that he/she can’t lose weight because healthy food costs more!
    Maybe it does, but to continue to consume products that will kill us prematurely, because the healthy alternative costs more, requires at least a suspension of reality.

    To answer your question. No model has passed into law as yet, but we are promised that revenue generated by the sale of carbon credits will be used offset extra costs of energy to households and small business. Note I said ‘promised’.
    Cap and trade purports to reduce overall carbon while leaving the details to the market. Dangers are, that while there is no binding global agreement, unilateral action will cost exports and jobs, both political poison.

    It is all academic really. While ever China (and maybe India insist on special exemptions as a conditions for agreement on global targets, other big polluters like Australia and the US are unlikely to take their medicine if it disadvantages them economically (and militarily).

    My book on the political and military responses that will eventually follow global inaction on climate change paints a terrifying picture. So far I haven’t found a publisher willing to put that picture into print but I am consoled by the fact that JK Rowling took many years to have Harry Potter recognised. Maybe mine is just a bad book but I am confident it would hold your interest and you would laugh in all the right places!

  3. Thank you professor for your thoughtful author’s response. Just curious, what is the nickname that Aussies sometimes call Americans?

    As one of those people and as a reader generally interested in scenarios told with historical perspectives and futurist thinking (Seriously, Historical Futurist?), it is an honor for this commenter to get a glimpse into the background and inspiration of the allegorist’s terrifying vision. The as yet unpublished book, “… on the political and military responses that will eventually follow global inaction on climate change …” indeed seems to have potential for a great read. If the engaging, judicious, and humorous writing style in your blog is a measure, this reader wants to be immediately informed of the book’s availability.

    For now, it is somewhat embarrassing not to know more about Australia’s (Oz - nice) lawmaking starts, stops, and results regarding carbon taxes. In America the efforts toward this sometimes have the tagline ‘Cap and Trade’ or ‘Cap and Tax’, depending. Given your agreeable observation of apparent addictions to specific types of energy sources, efforts that might shift or reduce usage bode well for a nation’s health.

    It may be interesting and possibly valuable to point out and discuss (perhaps in blog posts) obvious and subtle things about the situation, lawmaking, and consequences of carbon taxes, as you know things to be. You have already called out an addiction in Oz: coal (assumed to mean domestic coal)

  4. To answer your questions in the order they were asked, we used to call Americans Yanks, but that has fallen out of favour as we move closer culturally. Now most Aussies (pronounced Ozzies) call Americans 'Americans'!

    Every successful futurist must be an historian, so your term applies. If you are a sailor, you will be familiar with 'leads'. Leads are practical examples of the usefulness of using the past to project the future (when leads are astern). :-)

    American politics impinges on ours so often and so deeply that many of us are developing the opinion that we should be allowed to vote for your President! If we had, maybe you would have been spared Bush... then again, maybe you voted for him! Eeek! (Blushing) I know, I know, we had Bush’s Deputy Sheriff, John Howard. Blush!

    Right now, the situation here is interesting. Our proposed Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) is a cap and trade system that is supported by the House but blocked in the Senate. Under our constitution, when any legislation has been blocked twice in the Senate, the Government is entitled to call a 'Double Dissolution' election. In a DD election, members of both houses face the people at the same election and all seats are contested. When the new members are elected, the Government can then bring all members into the same chamber and move contested legislation as if there was one chamber only, producing a result.

    What is frightening the Government (and the Opposition) is that such an election would probably return one or two more Green Party members, giving Greens the balance of power in the Senate.

    TI give you an idea of the shape of our Greens, Schwarzenegger would fit into our Green Party with barely a ripple but as you know and I have the impression, his action on climate change in California has generated a few larger waves in US politics, so Greens there would be a little too far left to be elected.

    Most of our domestic power is generated using coal but coal is also our biggest export earner. Coal exports to China are keeping our economy buoyant despite the global downturn.

    The next few months will be interesting in both American and Oz politics as we follow our likely DD and Obama’s frustration with his hostile Senate following his loss of Ted Kennedy.(Now that must worry the Democrats!)Unfortunately, or my finger on the pulse tells me it may be fortunate for him, he is bound to serve his full term although he may well serve the remainder of his term as a castrated duck!

    Please keep me informed!!!

    About the book. It needs rewriting a little, but if you are keen to see it, I could send it as an attachment to an e-mail. It has been put aside for a while until I complete another story that is more likely to appeal to the middle ground.

    We live in interesting times!

  5. So many good things here professor. Your knowledge is impressive and interesting. That does not mean complete agreement, just saying it's impressive and interesting to read what you know of things Australian. And I know you are being TOO kind about the nickname for some of my countrymen.

    Not to forestall progress on any of your writing projects, let me simply say that my blog's email address is listed there for general correspondence -- and for now it will be a pleasure to read your next blog post


  6. Well, I don't, but there are some, those who, when they really get to like you, who might use the term 'Septic' as in 'Septic Tank' - Yank and the same person would probably refer to his wife as his 'Cheese' as in 'cheese and kisses'- missus and his children as his 'billys' as in 'billy lids'- kids. (Very Cockney and not nearly as common as it once was). He probably likes his kids too!

    Also, I beg forgiveness in advance and ask where I find your blog....

  7. Still laughin' here mate. Just love the fading slang and very much appreciate knowing the inside Oz information. Now to google 'Cockney' ...

    For my blog, just click moniker (QwkDrw) above my comments in your blog -- or --

    It remains an anticipated pleasure to read your next blog post


  8. If you become proficient at translating ‘Cockney rhyming slang’ as is still used sparingly here, perhaps you can translate this rave overheard at the local pub.

    “Fair dinkum me old China, I was so butcher’s I couldn’t face another day at back-a ‘n had a sickie.
    Well, by smoko, I felt a bit French ‘n went for a surf. Then, bugger me, I came up from under a woolly jumper and there was the bloody southern cross, right in me Peyton. I mean, what a bastard! Caught with me bloody bullies down, wasn’t I!”

    OK, if you needed to Google ‘Cockney’, you’ll need a bit of help with this.

    Here follows a partial translation.

    “Fair dinkum (truthfully) my old ‘China Plate’ (Mate), I was so ‘butcher’s hook’ (crook... oops, still slang, ie, ‘crook’ meaning ill), I couldn’t face another day at ‘back-a-Bourke’ (work) and had a sickie (paid day off work).
    By smoko (peculiarly Australian time off work to have a smoke, usually between start of work and morning tea), I felt a bit ‘French letter’ (better) and went for a surf. Then Bugger me, (acceptable cuss word, even on TV!) I came up from under a ‘woolly jumper’ (dumper, a breaker that dumps the surfer heavily) and there was the ‘southern cross’ (boss), right in my ‘Payton Place’ (face). What a bastard (also acceptable cuss word, no real connection with dictionary definition)! Caught with me (my) bloody ‘bully ants’ (pants) down, wasn’t I! (exclamation rather than question).

    So you see why I need to edit my American scenes before you read them! You deserve a fighting Jack Palance (chance)! ;-)

  9. We, the Readers, are waiting eagerly for that book to be finished , snapped up , and be available on the shelf.. Soon ..

    Meanwhile Stafford, such a shame your " Versatile Political Writing Talents " are not snapped by one of our larger Newspapers and featured as a weekly column..

    Cousin Malcolm may pick up some hints maybe..He sure will need to be better informed if he is to remain in politics and be at the " Helm "...H!mmm

    Skeleton Head will have to go from my T.V. soon, cause visually and verbally , he is a very " Disturbing Image " and gives me indigestion and heartburn ..( burp )

  10. Thanks for the vote of confidecne 'budgie hater', but do not, I repeat, do not read on before you take a prophylactic litre of Mylanta!

    Abbott-Bishop-Pope-God. What better team to lead us to... um, have they told us where they're going? Sorry, of course that's it, we're going back to the Howard Doctrine. But I thought we voted that old neo nazi out!

    talking about neo-nazis, what chances Sarah getting up as a Bush surrogate? Only two and a half years to go, plenty of time to blame Obama for the deficit, the big oil spill (continuing) North Korea's insanity and plenty more.

    Sing along with me now. "Everything old i-is new a-gain."


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