Actually DOING something about Climate Change

Over on Jeremy, he’s posted about the Garnaut report. I’ve no idea if he is serious or taking the piss.

I posted a comment, along the lines of my recent post about how everything Australia does is meaningless, and I’ve been torn apart (as usual) along two lines:

1) My definition of a closed system is wrong.

2) I’m immoral and we should DO SOMETHING because to do nothing is (morally) WRONG.

I’ve posted a long comment there, and then thought Obuggerit, I’ll post here as well.

Point 1: Closed System.

The planet is a closed system. Doing stuff in Australia makes sod-all difference if things are not done everywhere. To mix metaphors, you CANNOT be half pregnant, but Australia taking some kind of moral high ground is trying to do just that.

For the person who picked on my statement about “closed system” and went off into thermodynamics: Sorry – you are nit-picking.

As far as climate and CO2 are concerned you can ignore all the second order effects of thermodynamics, its irrelevant for all practical purposes.

If all you do is consider CO2 emissions globally, the point is that there seems to be an attitude that Australia changing its emissions will suddenly fix all problems, stop the drought, and so on. This is plainly bollocks.

As far as world CO2 emissions are concerned, it does not matter whether the CO2 is emitted in Australia, Antarctica or Callathumpia. When it’s in the air, it’s in the air.

So Australia doing STUFF without others doing STUFF is meaningless tokenism.

Point 2: Doing meaningful STUFF.

Australia can make a contribution which is NOT meaningless tokenism, but doing so is difficult.

Here is a prescription in 4 parts. All or nothing. All parts work together, all needed.

1/ Fund research into 10 or 20 new methods of generating electricity from solar.

Why solar?

The solar power falling on the surface of the earth is about 1000 Watts / m^2. If all that energy could be used, the roof of a typical house will produce something like 70 kW, more than enough for that house and many others. Even allowing for poor efficiency and cloud cover, getting 10 to 20 kW should be achievable.

Power grids help shift power from places with light to places without. Storage is a problem but is improving. Fund research there as well.

Right now solar is not affordable to all but the very rich, and the solar that’s available is photovoltaic, and based on some pretty old technology.

There is also dye solar in research which promises to be dramatically cheaper. FUND IT!

What about the Heliostat solar furnace? FUND IT!

How about the Power Tower, using pure convection? FUND IT!

There will be a bunch more. Fund them.

Be prepared to accept that of 10 to 20 funded developments, only 2 will be winners. The rest will be dead ducks. Get over it.

But then do steps 2, 3 and 4 (doing step 1 without the others is madness):

2/ A condition of funding research is that the scientists must be kept on a tight reign and the engineers let in.

Publishing papers (the reason for existence of the scientist) spreads the joy, and loses the rewards. Be sure, anybody else following the prescription will be doing these steps as well. Australia must learn!

Funding research will bring out every crackpot, looney, and rent-seeker imaginable. Accepting only proposals which include engineering, design, pilot plants and evaluation will help keep this in check.

Research without pilot plants is useless, so an outcome of research (a condition for getting the money) HAS to be that a pilot plant is to be constructed. The engineers are needed for that. Let em in early.

3/ Don’t permit publication of anything. No papers, nuffink, until the pilot plants have been built and THE PATENTS HAVE BEEN APPLIED FOR.

Historically Australia has been great at doing research and creating intellectual property, and poor at making a quid from those activities. This must cease. Patents are the only method. Use them.

4/ License the patents worldwide at reasonable costs, so the fruits of the research, pilot plants, and so on can be made available to all. AT A PRICE.

If we pay for the research it is only right and fair that we share the rewards. The license fees should be set by the Australian Govt (which funds the activities). And they should be reasonable.

And finally and most important, defend in courts of law the patents to ensure that the fruits of the Australian taxpayer are not stolen.


This is a concrete approach, with a 10 to 20 year horizon it could lead to a transformation. It can benefit all instead of doing a tokenistic, paternalistic, “poor little me” bullshit line, which is what Oz is doing right now. It can benefit all. It can reward Australians for their taxes being used for the benefit of all.


Those who attack me for having the the “we should not bother” line because others do worse are simply pious. Taking that approach without doing something tangible is simply to take the moral high ground. Doing that, we will have the most moral-high-ground-pious unemployed population living in a drought on earth. Whoopy-do.


There’s also serious questions to be asked concerning whether warming is real, given that it appears to have ceased ten years ago.

Comment by Leon Bertrand | July 6th, 2008 8:09 pm | Permalink


I’m not interested in looney left crap, or Andrew Bolt style neo-Liberalism. I’m interested in a reasoned, sensible society and future. Dreaming… yes.

There is much opinion, much divided. The sceptics are generally squashed, pilloried, or subject to threats or dismissed with mindless name-calling. (Example: in crikey, every sceptic is a “kook”.) This does not help informed debate.

We should move away from the silly “Climate Change” term which can be used now to justify anything anytime, and go back to “Global Warming”. De-bullshitting.

There is some speculation that warming is due to sun-spots, and sun-spot activity seems to go in 50 year cycles. Further, about 4-5 years ago the sun-spot activity dropped dramatically. Last time this happened the earth had “The little ice-age”.

IRRESPECTIVE OF ALL THAT: We have a duty to the generations that follow to conserve and wisely use a rare and precious resource. Once the oil is gone there won’t be any more. Well, not for a few million years, long enough to be considered forever.

So conservation, and careful, responsible use of what we have is warranted. I’m not the only one who feels like this.

Doing this at ANY cost is foolish. Careful conservation, on the other hand, is wise.

A market economy will never manage careful conservation because of the inherent lack of profit TODAY. So it is the realm of government.

Funding research into cheap, effective sources of energy is likely to have a long-term payoff: the oil can be used for something more beneficial.

As the price of oil rises due to shortage, world tension, access, or plain ole stupidity, the cost effectiveness of alternatives will improve.

Comment by Wally | July 6th, 2008 8:22 pm | Permalink

The problem with “global warming” is that it misleads people into thinking that localised temperature drops disprove the theory, when they are actually predicted by it – once you stuff up the wind patterns etc you create odd new micro-climates, including cold ones. But the average will be warmer.

I agree with you that doing something just for the hell of it is pointless. However, this is the problem:

1. There is pretty good evidence that the climate is changing as a result of our impact on the atmosphere – it won’t be 100% conclusive until it’s far too late to stop it, but since we only have one planet and can’t afford to make it uninhabitable, it’s probably best that we be cautious;
2. The largest greenhouse emitters being India, China and the US (IIRC), obviously they’re the ones who most need to change. And, following from one, we need to do everything in our power to make them change.
3. We will have precisely no luck at #2 if we haven’t demonstrated that we can change as well. Particularly given that we are already far bigger per capita emitters than the developing countries.

Other measures are good, too. Obviously, it is going to be expensive – we’ve got used to cheap coal, which simply isn’t sustainable, and the adjustment will hurt. I’d rather it didn’t – certainly the Labor party would! – but it’s kind of unavoidable.

Comment by Jeremy | July 6th, 2008 10:11 pm | Permalink

What I’m concerned about is that IF we find a new mini-ice-age coming upon us as a result of decreased sun-spot activity, we will still find (even though the whole planet cools) that it can be wrapped up in the label “Climate Change”.

If the whole planet cools, the theory on which Global Warming is based will have been found to be false, and it will give credence (though not proof) to the theory that global temperatures are caused by the sun.

Many measurements, over a suitably long period, are needed to confirm or deny a theory.

The stealthy change of terminology means that any excuse for anything at anytime can be used to justify the thing-to-do-today-to-prevent-doom. And that’s not a healthy place to be.

Comment by Wally | July 6th, 2008 10:26 pm | Permalink

Wally, I think I love you.

Do you realise how refreshing it is for me to read someone who shares my feeling that we are simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic (in a very self-important manner)? And wasting gazillions of dollars on the wrong things? Another summit anyone?

It’s coincidental that I too work in Building Automation (in administration). Our work is saving electricity, water and gas for buildings all over Sydney every day. That’s real.

Comment by Kathy | July 7th, 2008 6:54 am | Permalink


Thankyou. When you write such things, it’s easy for some to attack you with pseudo-science. But to read this is refreshing.


Comment by Aurelius | July 12th, 2008 10:35 pm | Permalink

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