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John Passant

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If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)



A dagger in the heart of climate change scepticism?

Mike Steketee has stabbed the flat line climate change sceptics in the heart with his lucid and readable analysis in last Saturday’s Australian of climate figures and patterns since records began in 1850. (‘Skeptics skip the long view’ The Weekend Australian, January 3-4 Inquirer, p 16).

His analysis shows there has been, in his words,  “a long term rising trend.  It is not huge – it is of the order of 0.8C – and it is not without fluctuations – but it is unmistakable.”

He debunks the flat liners who say that temperatures have not increased since 1998.  The flat liners draw a line between temperatures in 2008 and now. Indeed some argue the temperature has been declining since 1998.  

Of course  there are other factors at play apart from greenhouse gases, and some of them will in the short term be countervailing processes to global warming.  Steketee says La Nina produces cooler ocean temperatures and more rain and colder weather and that we are currently in a La Nina period.  This is just another example of one of the fluctuations that is occurring in the context of a long term climate increase.

As Mike points out, 2008  is the tenth hottest year on record.

So, is this climate change related to human activity or not?  It would have been interesting for Steketee to compare the climate increase against the increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 1850.  I know that doesn’t prove causation but it might make us ponder as to whether our own mode of production is the dominating factor in the earth’s warming.

Steketee then says:

Last year’s report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that the warming trend is “unequivocal” and that there is a greater than 90 percent chance the net effect of human activities in the past 250 years has contributed to it.  The Rudd Government’s white paper last month makes the point that there probably is no scientific document in the world that receives more scrutiny.  Its findings may be conservative so far; global mean temperature and sea level rises are at the upper range of IPCC projections.”

Steketee finishes by arguing that in the face of the evidence and the consensus among the overwhelming majority of scientists, we should take out insurance against global warming. I agree.

However the Rudd Government’s 5% emissions target and free permits to polluters is more like buying a Lotto ticket and hoping we win a fortune to stave off the effects of the global financial crisis.  Rudd’s plans are useless, a sell out to the big polluters.

In fact,  as I have argued elsewhere on this site (or at least reproduced and adopted Liz Ross’s arguments contained in her notes for a talk on Climate Change and Capitalism), it is doubtful whether capitalism can in fact reform itself to address the crisis of global warming.  Certainly market based solutions seem madness given that it is that very same market that got us into this environmental mess.

It is the very logic and actions of capitalism (and the existing momentum derived from that logic and previous actions which continues to increase greenhouse gases) that seems to lead to inexorable climate change.  To save the planet we need a new way of organising production, a democratic and planned society in which production occurs to satisfy human need, not to make a profit.  Remove competition and start cooperation and we can begin to address climate change in a real and human way.  In such a society we would recognise our symbiotic relationship with the earth and not pillage and plunder it for profit.

Jon Jenkins, adjunct professor of virology at Bond University specialising in computer modelling in The Australian (‘The warmaholics’ fantasy’ Opinion  January 2009) attempts to rebut Steketee’s arguments.  He says the pre-1970 figures are unreliable and that since 1970 there has been no climate change.

He claims sea level rises are minimal and consistent with tectonic plate movements.

He also says that the IPCC scientists number 44, not 4000, and they are incestuous. I’ll address these issues in a later post.

I just think of big tobacco. The big polluters will have planned how to risk manage global warming and public perceptions. Part of that will involve promoting legitimate scientific scepticism. But part of it will involve in-house or supported research, research which is likely to produce more favourable pro-polluter analysis and results.

Jenkins talks about people like me as warmaholics.

Hi, my name’s John and I’m a warmaholic. It all began when I started reading those damn left-wing tracts about humanity’s relationship to nature, and how the incessant drive for profit, profit, profit, was destroying the planet.



Comment from Sylvia Else
Time January 7, 2009 at 1:23 pm

If climate change is real, then we need to deal with it, one way or the other. Whether or not man is generally responsible, it is clear that we in Australia have a minimal role, and that we alone can do little to prevent or reverse it. Absent significant action by the world’s greenhouse gas producers, Australia would be better off spending money on measures to deal with the consequences of climate change, than engaging in futile symbolic acts that will do nothing useful, but will leave us as exposed as we would otherwise be.

Comment from David Chapman
Time January 7, 2009 at 7:39 pm

My hope is that I live long enough to see the AGW hypophysis revealed as the rubbish it is. Science will,eventually, reveal the truth in spite of all efforts of the the polititians. Rember, years ago, when the left were telling us what a wonderful place the Soviet Union was?

Comment from John
Time January 7, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Thanks Sylvia and David

Sylvia, I think it is about leadership and getting the ball rolling. A small movement (such as Australia having real targets, not mickery mouse ones) could create an avalanche among advanced nations.

The global financial crisis will impede the ability to do this, but I think it is encessary. The cost of inaction appears greater to me than the cost of action. But I am not sure capitalism can reform itself. The profit motive seems to contradict the idea of dealing with global warming and the other environmental issues facing humanity.

David, the poltical tradition I am in has never said how wodnerful the USSr was. We regarded it as state captilaist, ie the state became the embodiment of capital, expropriating the surplus workers cereated and re-investing it in heqavy industry in comeptition with the west both econoonimcally and militalriy.

That measn we argued for a workers revolution, ans supported East German workers in 1953, Hungarian workers in 1956, Polish, Czech etc workers in their struggles against the Stalinist dictatorships.

Remember when the polar caps weren’t melting? When it rained more regularly (even if still sparsely) in Australia?