Active Thinking Topic 01 - Dilemma - The Politics of Climate Change

Monday 8 March 2021, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer - thormay@yahoo.com

Venue: Cafe Brunelli, 187 Rundle St · Adelaide (You must buy a drink or something. We are 'renting' the space for 2 hours)


About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding

Focus Questions

1. Is political change to manage climate change too hard? We have adapted to changes in technology. With more reluctance, we have adapted to changes in social behaviour. But adapting successfully to climate change will be immensely complex and require cooperation across the whole range of human societies - the smart, the stupid, the enlightened, the superstitious. Failure spells mass extinction, but effect will be gradual, not instantly dramatic (on the whole). Humans are not good at 'gradual emergencies'.

2. How can ordinary people be persuaded to think and act in practical ways on issues of climate change? In common discourse, climate change is typically not seen as a practical challenge, but rather an emotional posture. Anything with the words 'environment' or 'climate change' in it tends to spark a political reaction across the spectrum, from scorn to resignation, to street demonstrations.

3. Managing climate change is the biggest project ever attempted by humans. Is it feasible? The pattern of human development has been from monkey-like forest foragers, to tribal hunter-gatherers, to farmers, to urban labourers and crafts people, to urban trained specialists depending on large organizations. At each step, humans have sought to control ever larger parts of nature. The process has required ever more complex organizations, many now global. The attempt to control climate change is very close to displacing traditional ideas of 'god(s)'. It will require human cooperation on a scale never before attempted. The sheer scale is beyond the focus and comprehension of most ordinary people (... and this means that conspiracy theories will proliferate ..).

4. The reality of climate change is not seriously doubted now by most sane people looking at the evidence. However, there is division over a) whether humans are really a cause of such change; b) whether anything can be done about the change. What are your views on a) and b). What do you think is the dominant public feeling about a) and b) in i) Australia, ii) other countries?

5. Is the nuclear power option a viable solution to reducing atmospheric emissions? Note: Existing nuclear plants are almost all high pressure systems which also breed plutonium (used in weapons - which is why they were adopted); are at risk of catastrophic meltdowns; produce waste which is toxic for centuries. There are alternative technologies available or in development which bypass these issues (e.g. see the Tennanbaum articles). France currently gets 80% of its grid power from nuclear reactors, and South Korea has 24 reactors in a country half the size of Victoria.

6. What are some effects which you understand climate change will have on Australia (e.g. on Adelaide)? What time scale are we looking at? How do you think we might adapt?

7. Can you imagine some geopolitical effects and power shifts which might come out of climate change? For example, the North West sea passage across the top of Russia has already become ice free for part of the year.

8. Both of Australia's main political parties are fixated on votes from electorates north of Brisbane. They think these electorates are the key to winning power. The perception in those electorates is that coal is an essential major employer. This has held Australia's energy policies hostage for 10 years. Solution?

9. Across geological time, natural systems like climate cycles are prone to 'tipping points' - inflections where things change quite suddenly. After watching the Covid pandemic cut a swathe across human societies, what are your predictions for how the world would react to a sudden climate tipping point?

10. Is climate change denial driven by a conspiracy of vested interests? (e.g. the fossil fuel industry + media (Murdoch press) and political actors bought by big money). In the age of Covid we have heard a lot about toxic conspiracy theories like Q-Anon inflaming scared populations and used by political populists like Trump. Q-Anon and similar conspiracy theories are easily discounted by unbiased factual research. Yet factual research has also uncovered real past conspiracies such as the Tobacco Lobby, and in Big Pharma etc, not to mention the military-industrial complex.



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Extra Reading

Jonathan Watts (27 February 2021) "Climatologist Michael E Mann: 'Good people fall victim to doomism. I do too sometimes'". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/27/climatologist-michael-e-mann-doomism-climate-crisis-interview  [comment, Thor: recommended reading]

Bill Gates (15 February 2021) ‘Carbon neutrality in a decade is a fairytale. Why peddle fantasies?’ The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/feb/15/bill-gates-carbon-neutrality-in-a-decade-is-a-fairytale-why-peddle-fantasies 

Asimov (recorded 1988) "Isaac Asimov talks about superstition, religion and why he teaches rationality. He also explains why some people who think that we should abandon science are wrong and how scientific worldview is the best.". Youtube @ https://youtu.be/VSxMZBp-2Zs 

Stuart Layt (February 19, 2021) "Don’t panic, Adams wrote. But Earth’s magnetic field collapsed years ago" Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/don-t-panic-adams-wrote-but-earth-s-magnetic-field-collapsed-years-ago-20210218-p573tk.html  [Quote: "A temporary breakdown of the Earth’s magnetic field 42,000 years ago had a catastrophic effect on the entire planet, research across the Tasman has found... the researchers dubbed it the “Adams Transitional Geomagnetic Event” in honour of writer Douglas Adams, who wrote in his comedy novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that the answer to life, the universe, and everything was 42. “If a similar event happened today, the consequences would be huge for modern society. Incoming cosmic radiation would destroy our electric power grids and satellite networks,” he said. .. “A magnetic pole reversal or extreme change in Sun activity would also be unprecedented climate change accelerants.”

Royce Kurmelovs (19 Feb 2021) "Australians fear climate change more than catching Covid, survey shows. Edelman Trust Barometer records big gains for attitudes towards government, media and business, but not technology". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/19/australians-fear-climate-change-more-than-catching-covid-survey-shows 

Rob Harris (February 19, 2021) "Climate transparency register to track companies’ progress on net zero targets - A new climate transparency register will encourage big business to provide detailed progress to shareholders, supply-chain partners and the public towards their emissions targets, including reaching net zero by 2050". Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/federal/climate-transparency-register-to-track-companies-progress-on-net-zero-targets-20210218-p573nx.html 

Adam Morton (2 March 2021) "'A duty of care': Australian teenagers take their climate crisis plea to court - Anj Sharma, 16, and her team hope to force change they say is not coming quickly enough from government". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/02/a-duty-of-care-australian-teenagers-take-their-climate-crisis-plea-to-court 

Michael McGowan (25 February 2021) "How the wellness and influencer crowd served conspiracies to the masses". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/25/how-the-wellness-and-influencer-crowd-served-conspiracies-to-the-masses

Ben Butler (Wed 24 Feb 2021) "Climate crisis bigger concern than pandemic for Australian businesses, survey finds - Australian executives rate climate change as their No 1 concern followed by technological disruption and Covid in an Ernst & Young survey.". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/24/climate-crisis-bigger-concern-than-pandemic-for-australian-businesses-survey-finds 

Rob Harris (February 19, 2021) "Climate transparency register to track companies’ progress on net zero targets". Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/federal/climate-transparency-register-to-track-companies-progress-on-net-zero-targets-20210218-p573nx.html 

Wikipedia (2021) "Global Warming Conspiracy Theory" @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_conspiracy_theory 

Dave Makichuk (February 27, 2021) "Can eFuel keep your classic car on the road? - German carmaker Porsche says its synthetic fuel will make internal combustion as clean as EVs". Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2021/02/can-efuel-keep-your-classic-car-on-the-road/ 

Lana Bandoim (n.d.) "We may soon be able to make gasoline from thin air". The Week @ https://theweek.com/articles/789404/may-soon-able-make-gasoline-from-thin-air 

Jonathan Tennenbaum (March 1, 2021) " Watch out! Biden wants to save the planet
- Technology choices will decisively impact whether climate-pivoted economic policy brings benefit or disaster". Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2021/03/watch-out-biden-wants-to-save-the-planet/ 

Georgina Connery (June 16 2017) "Solar paint prototype to offer endless energy from water vapour ". Brisbane Times @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/sci-tech/solar-paint-prototype-to-offer-endless-energy-from-water-vapour-20170612-gwpnoq.html

Stephen Luntz (02/06/2017) "Ultra-Stable Perovskite Cells Signal Dawn Of A Solar Age". IFLS website @ http://www.iflscience.com/technology/ultra-stable-perovskite-cells-signal-dawn-of-a-solar-age/

Jonathan O'Callaghan (06/07/2017) "France Will Ban The Sale Of All Petrol And Diesel Cars By 2040". IFLS website @ http://www.iflscience.com/technology/france-will-ban-the-sale-of-all-petrol-and-diesel-cars-by-2040/

Jonathan Tennenbaum (April 19, 2020) "Hydrogen-boron fusion could be a dream come true - The exciting promise of 'extreme light' is rewriting the rules of nuclear fusion". Asia Timese @ https://asiatimes.com/2020/04/hydrogen-boron-fusion-could-be-a-dream-come-true/

Philip Ball (27 Oct 2019) "A lightbulb moment for nuclear fusion? - Boris Johnson’s gung-ho claims may be wide of the mark, but scientists pursuing the holy grail of energy generation are taking giant steps". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/27/nuclear-fusion-research-power-generation-iter-jet-step-carbon-neutral-2050-boris-johnson

Jonathan Tennenbaum (February 2020) "Molten salt and traveling wave nuclear reactors - Two advanced nuclear power reactor designs that can solve a multitude of problems" Asia Times @ https://www.asiatimes.com/2020/02/article/molten-salt-and-traveling-wave-nuclear-reactors/

Andrew Forrest (22 January 2021) "Andrew Forrest on how green steel and hydrogen offer a chance to fix our climate and our economy". ABC Radio National @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-22/boyer-lecture-andrew-twiggy-forrest-green-hydrogen-climate/13077070

Renee Cho (Januaray 7, 2021) "Why We Need Green Hydrogen". Columbia University @ https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2021/01/07/need-green-hydrogen/

Jasper Jolly (1 Mar 2021) Fossil fuel cars make 'hundreds of times' more waste than electric cars". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/mar/01/fossil-fuel-cars-make-hundreds-of-times-more-waste-than-electric-cars  [ Quote: "Only about 30kg of raw material will be lost over the lifecycle of a lithium ion battery used in electric cars once recycling is taken into account, compared with 17,000 litres of oil, according to analysis by Transport & Environment (T&E). A calculation of the resources used to make cars relative to their weight shows it is at least 300 times greater for oil-fuelled cars".]

Bradley K. Martin (March 1, 2021) "Ex-PMs call on Japan to ‘eradicate’ nuclear power - 'We have solar, water, wind – it’s not necessary to look at nuclear,' said one former prime minister". Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2021/03/ex-pms-call-on-japan-to-eradicate-nuclear-power/

Dave Makichuk (March 1, 2021) "Is Toyota’s fuel cell module a hydrogen breakthrough? - The largest automaker in the world says the technology will help achieve global carbon neutrality goals". Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2021/03/is-toyotas-fuel-cell-module-a-hydrogen-breakthrough/ 

Graeme Paton (March 2, 2021) "Hybrid cars can use four times more fuel than makers claim". The Australian @ https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/the-times/hybrid-cars-can-use-four-times-more-fuel-than-makers-claim/news-story/9491a705ccb75e334a7ecab0d545e5e9 

Tzeporah Berman and Nathan Taft (3 March 2021) "Global oil companies have committed to 'net zero' emissions. It's a sham". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/03/global-oil-companies-have-committed-to-net-zero-emissions-its-a-sham 

Simon Lewis (3 March 2021) "The climate crisis can't be solved by carbon accounting tricks". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/03/climate-crisis-carbon-accounting-tricks-big-finance 

Glen Norris (March 4, 2021) "Hydrogen exports to Japan set to boom amid carbon neutral push". The Australian @ https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/hydrogen-exports-to-japan-set-to-boom-amid-carbon-neutral-push/news-story/91dee8e814b3aee7617b949b2a33e238  [TM: what this article is careful not to say is that the "hydrogen supply chain" they are creating is based on using coal as an energy source with the hydrogen mostly extracted from water. Hydrogen produced in this way creates as much CO2 as burning coal directly in a power station - see https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/coal-to-hydrogen/  . The Latrobe valley plant is owned by Kawasaki Heavy Industries is a demonstration plant, and Australian taxpayers are throwing in a cool $100 million as encouragement. The political coal lobby is alive and well]

Milanda Rout (March 5, 2021) "Brew that could help the planet". The Australian @ https://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/wish/brew-that-could-help-the-planet/news-story/56968a2333cec08e8891977fc1d720f8  [A Sydney brewery is creating its own carbon neutral production cycle - Quote: "It turns out algae and brewer’s yeast have a lot in common. They are both microorganisms that live in a wet environment. Brewer’s yeast eats sugar, creates alcohol and emits carbon dioxide, while algae eats carbon dioxide and turns it into oxygen. Each tank we have creates the equivalent amount of oxygen as a hectare of Australian bush. It’s mind-blowing.”]

Jonathan Tennenbaum (March 5, 2021) "Biden’s climate plan has a nuclear solution -
Biden has few, if any, options apart from nuclear to achieve his goal of 100% carbon-free power by 2035". Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2021/03/bidens-climate-plan-has-a-nuclear-solution/

Jonathan Tennenbaum (May 8, 2021) "A ‘red team’ view of climate science - Steven Koonin's 'Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, And Why It Matters' is essential contrarian reading". Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2021/05/a-red-team-view-of-climate-science/

Jonathan Tennenbaum (May 9, 2021) "The not-so-drastic truth behind climate change - Ex-US Department of Energy chief scientist Steven Koonin tells Asia Times it's not clear yet climate change is leading to global catastrophe". Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2021/05/the-not-so-drastic-truth-behind-climate-change/ 

Jonathan Tennenbaum (May 11, 2021) "Rising seas no cause for climate change alarm - Former US Energy Department chief scientist Steven Koonin says sea levels rise at changing rates and sees 'no signs' of a climate apocalypse". Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2021/05/rising-seas-no-cause-for-climate-change-alarm/  

The Economist (15 February 2021) "How Britain decarbonised faster than any other rich country". The Economist @  https://www.economist.com/britain/2021/02/15/how-britain-decarbonised-faster-than-any-other-rich-country   

Warren Entsch (7 March 2021) "Getting to net zero isn't all pain and expense - there are huge opportunities for Australia. The warming of the planet is not some arbitrary political concept one either subscribes to or doesn’t — it is a scientific reality that we have to deal with." The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/07/getting-to-net-zero-isnt-all-pain-and-expense-there-are-huge-opportunities-for-australia 


Crystal Reid (9 March 2021) "China’s appetite for meat fades as vegan revolution takes hold - Concerns over carbon emissions and food crises are fuelling a move away from meat consumption as a symbol of wealth." The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/09/chinas-appetite-for-meat-fades-as-vegan-revolution-takes-hold 

Nick Toscano (March 10, 2021) "Victoria’s Yallourn coal power plant to close early as clean shift slashes prices". Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/the-economy/victoria-s-yallourn-coal-power-plant-to-close-fours-early-as-clean-shift-slashes-prices-20210310-p579bw.html 

Angus Houston (10 March 2021) "The single most important resource underpinning Australia’s food security [the Murray-Darling basin] is under threat." Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/the-single-most-important-resource-underpinning-australia-s-food-security-is-under-threat-20210309-p57953.html#comments 

BP Bridger Photonics (n.d.) "How Does Methane Affect the Environment?" @ https://www.bridgerphotonics.com/blog/how-does-methane-affect-environment  [Quote: "Methane (CH4) is the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas (GHG ... Earth’s second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide (CO2), methane is comparatively short-lived. Even so, methane plays a much greater role in warming the planet. Over a 100-year period, methane is 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the earth. Over 20 years, that comparison jumps to approximately 80 times."

CiceroGrimes1 ( https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/09/its-unavoidable-we-must-ban-fossil-fuels-to-save-our-planet-heres-how-we-do-it  ) "In global energy rankings, one country stands out. China is the world’s hungriest consumer of energy worldwide — demanding the energetic equivalent of almost 3.3 billion tonnes of oil last year. Since 2011, it has burnt more coal than all other countries combined. And its reliance on this fossil fuel adds up: China emits around one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases, the largest share of any country. China is also the world’s most prolific producer of wind energy, with the capacity to make more than twice as much as the second-largest generator, the United States. And it has about one-third of the world’s solar-generation capacity, building more systems last year than any other country". [comment quoted from the linked Guardian article]. References provided:
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02464-5  ; https://www.csis.org/east-green-chinas-global-leadership-renewable-energy 

Jillian Ambrose (11 Mar 2021) "China leads world's biggest increase in wind power capacity - Developers built windfarms with a total capacity of almost 100GW in 2020, a rise of nearly 60% on previous year". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/mar/10/china-leads-world-increase-wind-power-capacity-windfarms 

Max Maddison (March 11, 2021) "Hydrogen hubs boost NSW regional centres". The Australian @ https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/hydrogen-hubs-boost-nsw-regional-centres/news-story/6568b81f8bb952c7f64056d19f02996d 

Adam Morton (13 March 2021) "Outcry at Australia's coal plant closures misses the point: change is coming". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/12/outcry-at-australias-coal-plant-closures-misses-the-point-change-is-coming 


Mark New [Director, African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town] (September 18, 2019) "Climate explained: how much of climate change is natural? How much is man-made?" The Conversation @ https://theconversation.com/climate-explained-how-much-of-climate-change-is-natural-how-much-is-man-made-123604 



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Dilemma - The Politics of Climate Change (c) Thor May 2021 

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