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The Intellectual and Moral Decline in Academic Research

I fully agree with the comments below by Edward Archer.  In my own research career, I constantly came across published research that was essentially worthless. Doing survey research with your own students as survey respondents was ubiquitous, for instance. That the population at large might think differently from young students never seems to have been considered on most occasions.

I made sure that in my own research I used rerpresentative general population samples -- and I routinely got results very much at variance with the accepted wisdom

That did however have a benefit.  I found it easy to get my articles published.  The editors had seen so few articles based on proper sampling that they almost had to publish my findings.

As well as  technical problems in research that I read, I often found severe intellectual problems.  Most articles I read were at best arid intellectual exercises -- exercises that routinely failed to consider explanations for findings that were outside the norm.  I was able to point out such deficits so clearly that I got a lot of pure critique articles published.  The editors could see my point.

Editors actually hate to publish critiques as it shows their review processes to be inadequate.  But around 50% of my critiques were strong enough to overcome that resistance and appeared in print. See list here

From what I saw, I would have to say that most published scientific research is worthless.


For most of the past century, the United States was the pre-eminent nation in science and technology. The evidence for that is beyond dispute: Since 1901, American researchers have won more Nobel prizes in medicine, chemistry, and physics than any other nation. Given our history of discovery, innovation, and success, it is not surprising that across the political landscape Americans consider the funding of scientific research to be both a source of pride and a worthy investment.

Nevertheless, in his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that the pursuit of government grants would have a corrupting influence on the scientific community. He feared that while American universities were “historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery,” the pursuit of taxpayer monies would become “a substitute for intellectual curiosity” and lead to “domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment…and the power of money.”

Eisenhower’s fears were well-founded and prescient.

My experiences at four research universities and as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research fellow taught me that the relentless pursuit of taxpayer funding has eliminated curiosity, basic competence, and scientific integrity in many fields.

Yet, more importantly, training in “science” is now tantamount to grant-writing and learning how to obtain funding. Organized skepticism, critical thinking, and methodological rigor, if present at all, are afterthoughts. Thus, our nation’s institutions no longer perform their role as Eisenhower’s fountainhead of free ideas and discovery. Instead, American universities often produce corrupt, incompetent, or scientifically meaningless research that endangers the public, confounds public policy, and diminishes our nation’s preparedness to meet future challenges.

Nowhere is the intellectual and moral decline more evident than in public health research. From 1970 to 2010, as taxpayer funding for public health research increased 700 percent, the number of retractions of biomedical research articles increased more than 900 percent, with most due to misconduct. Fraud and retractions increased so precipitously from 2010 to 2015 that private foundations created the Center for Scientific Integrity and “Retraction Watch” to alert the public.

One reason non-government organizations lead the battle to improve science is that universities and federal funding agencies lack accountability and often ignore fraud and misconduct. There are numerous examples in which universities refused to hold their faculty accountable until elected officials intervened, and even when found guilty, faculty researchers continued to receive tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars. Those facts are an open secret: When anonymously surveyed, over 14 percent of researchers report that their colleagues commit fraud and 72 percent report other questionable practices. The problem goes well beyond the known frauds.

The list of elite institutions at which high-profile faculty commit misconduct is growing rapidly.

In 2018, Duke University was the eighth-largest recipient of NIH funding with $475 million, and in 2019, Duke acquired over $570 million. Yet, in 2014, a whistleblower at Duke alleged that $200 million in grants were obtained using falsified data. Despite the retraction of nearly 50 papers, Duke refused to take responsibility and mounted a legal battle. The result was a $112.5 million penalty in which Duke did not have to admit culpability. That was Duke’s second major misconduct debacle in a decade. In each instance, Duke fought to keep the details confidential while continuing to receive hundreds of millions in public funds.

Harvard is the wealthiest university in the world and, despite being a private institution, received almost $600 million in public funds from the NIH and other agencies in 2018. In fact, some faculty received more NIH funding than many states, and these funds are sufficient to pay for tuition, room, board, and books of every undergrad at Harvard. Nevertheless, Harvard’s faculty has an ever-increasing number of retractions due to misconduct or incompetence. In one case, Harvard’s teaching hospital was forced to pay $10 million because its faculty had fraudulently obtained NIH funding. The penalty was only a fraction of the NIH funds acquired by the guilty faculty.

More recently, Cornell opened its third investigation of a researcher who received more than $4.6 million from the United States Department of Agriculture and $3.3 million from the NIH. As is typical, Cornell exonerated its faculty member in the initial investigation and only reinvestigated after intense media scrutiny.

Ubiquitous sexual harassment is also emblematic of the moral decline in academic science. The number of academics found responsible for sexual harassment has skyrocketed. Yet most universities simply “pass the harasser” so that faculty can transfer their grants to another institution. A 2019 headline in The Chronicle of Higher Education read: “‘Pass the Harasser’ Is Higher Ed’s Worst-Kept Secret.” The NIH has been slow to respond and “apologizes for lack of action on sexual harassers.”

Retractions, misconduct, and harassment are only part of the decline. Incompetence is another. An article in The Economist suggested, “[f]raud is very likely second to incompetence in generating erroneous results.”

The widespread inability of publicly funded researchers to generate valid, reproducible findings is a testament to the failure of universities to properly train scientists and instill intellectual and methodologic rigor. That failure means taxpayers are being misled by results that are non-reproducible or demonstrably false.

The widespread inability of publicly funded researchers to generate valid, reproducible findings is a testament to the failure of universities to properly train scientists.
A number of critics, including John Ioannidis of Stanford University, contend that academic research is often “conducted for no other reason than to give physicians and researchers qualifications for promotion or tenure.” In other words, taxpayers fund studies that are conducted for non-scientific reasons such as career advancement and “policy-based evidence-making.”

Incompetence in concert with a lack of accountability and political or personal agendas has grave consequences: The Economist stated that from 2000 to 2010, nearly 80,000 patients were involved in clinical trials based on research that was later retracted.

Beginning in 2013, my colleagues and I published a series of empirical refutations in top medical and scientific journals showing that no human could survive on the diets used by the U.S. government to create the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To be precise, we demonstrated that the methods used by government and academic researchers produced data that were physiologically implausible and inadmissible as scientific evidence.

Yet, rather than address the consequences of our refutations, academic researchers simply ignored the evidence. That lack of scientific integrity leads to evermore faculty and students using demonstrably implausible dietary data every year. Given that taxpayers fund thousands of meaningless studies that generate erroneous and often ridiculous conclusions (e.g., eggs cause heart disease or coffee causes cancer), it is unsurprising that policy architects and the public are confused about “healthy eating.”

As Eisenhower feared, the pursuit of government grants corrupted our nation’s scholars and money has now become a substitute for intellectual integrity and curiosity. Nevertheless, reform is possible.

Currently, universities take 52 percent of each NIH grant as “indirect costs” to cover administrative expenses. That revenue incentivizes both a lack of accountability and misconduct while allowing the wealthiest 10 percent of universities to receive 90 percent of NIH funding. Ending the “indirect cost” legerdemain and instituting mandatory penalties against universities for faculty misconduct would effectively double research funding while disincentivizing fraud and harassment.

Second, the NIH should limit the number of projects an investigator can simultaneously control and institute a mandatory age limit for grant recipients.  Currently, the NIH gives more money to investigators aged 56-75 than aged 24-40. Since innovation and discovery occur early in a scientist’s career, that policy would stop elderly but well-connected researchers from impeding progress.

Finally, disallow the use of taxpayer monies for publicity. Currently, investigators have free rein to “hype” their research with taxpayer funds. Misleading or exaggerated claims in press releases has contributed significantly to the public’s confusion on nutrition and many other health issues.

SOURCE

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Massachusetts eyes plan to improve diversity among teachers

Does Boston really want dummy teachers just because they are brown?

The fact remains that IQ and related tests give the best prediction of subsequent educational performance.  So to hire as teachers people whom the test identifies as academically deficient is to ignore a very old warning indeed:

"If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit" — Matthew 15:13-14

Asking teachers who have failed a literacy test to teach literacy is a very good example of what that scripture warned against


For more than two decades, the exams Massachusetts teachers and administrators must take to secure their professional licenses have been marred by gaping racial disparities in pass rates, driving a disproportionate share of educators of color out of the profession while raising questions about potential racial bias in the exams.

But on Tuesday, education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley will formally propose a potential fix: He is seeking to allow teachers who repeatedly fail their exams to receive a license based on their actual work experience — vetted by an expert — instead of their test scores. His proposal would also allow educators in some instances to take another licensing test offered in 26 other states.

The changes, if approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in the coming months, would be in place on a trial basis for three years.

“We are trying to see if there is a better way to identify potentially great teachers,” said Riley in an interview Monday.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks on the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure has been the communication and literacy skills test, which most aspiring teachers must pass before the state will even review their licensing application. While 83 percent of white candidates passed that test in the 2017-18 school year, a little more than 60 percent of Black and Latino candidates did, according to the most recent data.

Riley is proposing the changes as many districts statewide have been struggling to build a workforce that reflects their student populations. In Boston, for instance, people of color account for 85 percent of student enrollment, but only 42 percent of the teaching force, and in Springfield, students of color represent 90 percent of school enrollment, but teachers of color make up only 19 percent of the workforce, according to state data.

Many educators have long argued the testing requirements for a license further restrict an already narrow pipeline for recruitment — one fed by teaching colleges that are overwhelmingly filled with white students.

Under the state’s 22-year-old licensing system, most educators must pass two exams — a communication test and another tied to their area of expertise — to gain a license. However, the state allows a limited number of unlicensed educators to teach under waivers for a year or longer if the school district can prove difficulty finding a better-suited licensed candidate.

So far, Riley’s proposal, which will be subject to a 60-day public comment period, has received mixed responses.

In Boston, where 128 educators have been terminated over the last five years because they were unable to secure professional licenses, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius viewed Riley’s proposal as a positive step forward. About half those let go were Black or Latino.

“Knowing that a single standardized test doesn’t always guarantee quality, I support strategies that remove barriers and help us meet our goal of recruiting and retaining an excellent and diverse teaching corps,” Cassellius said in a statement.

But Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute, a Boston think tank, said the proposal could ultimately weaken teacher quality.

“The state’s MTEL teacher test and licensure guidelines have long been a model that led to historic gains on virtually every national and international measure of academic achievement,” Gass said in a statement. “It’s disgraceful that Massachusetts policy makers would even consider dumbing down expectations for teachers, which will only further accelerate the state’s now decade-long academic decline on the nation’s report card, not to mention widen achievement gaps.”

Across the country, many states have been re-examining their licensing systems in response to evidence suggesting testing requirements might be keeping too many educators of color out of classrooms. The issue has taken on more urgency in recent years as a growing body of research has shown that achievement can rise in classrooms when students of color are taught by teachers of similar demographics.

In California, for instance, the Legislature is weighing a bill that would replace its communications skills educator licensing exam amid concerns of racial bias.

Riley’s proposal is part of a broader effort to help districts diversify their workforces, which includes creating grant opportunities for recruitment initiatives and programs to entice high school students to pursue teaching careers. State higher education officials also are working on efforts to increase the diversity of teacher-training programs.

Thomas Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said he supports Riley’s efforts to temporarily loosen the educator testing requirements. “We know there are a lot of bright kids who don’t do well on standardized tests,” he said.

Tyler Fox, an attorney who represented a group of minority Boston teachers who unsuccessfully sued the state a decade ago after they could not pass the licensing exams, said it was good to see the state finally acknowledging a problem with the tests, but that the proposal doesn’t go far enough. Permanent change is needed now. “It seems like they are being tepid about it and trying to read the political waters,” he said.

Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, also faulted the proposal for being too limited. She would like to see reliance on the licensing exams permanently scaled back or eliminated, noting that supervised classroom experience is more informative, especially in determining whether a teacher can handle disruptive students. “A test is the wrong way to measure the quality of an educator’s work and their competency to become a successful teacher,” Najimy said.

SOURCE


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'Get rid of your chip off your shoulder': Pauline Hanson's Australia Day message to Aboriginal protestors campaigning for a change of date for the national day

This campaign about the date will immediately change to a demand to abolish the day absolutely if it ever succeeds.

It is entirely a creation of the political Left, to whom any national consciousness is anathema.

Both in the USA and Australia, the Left do their best to promote racial division and antagonism.  It is the Left who are the dangerous racists.  Without them, different races would have a much better chance of living together in harmony.


One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has claimed Aboriginal people who want Australia Day moved away from January 26 need to 'get the chip off their shoulder'.

The outspoken federal senator was involved with a heated argument with Melbourne radio broadcaster Neil Mitchell on the Today Show, a day after Australia Day protests across the country.

Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island flags filled streets across the nation on Sunday, as thousands of protesters called for the date of Australia Day to be moved because of growing tensions over what it celebrates.

January 26 - which marks the raising of the British flag on Australian soil in 1788 after the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Harbour - is regarded as 'invasion day' by many First Nations people.

During a passionate discussion with Mr Mitchell and host Karl Stefanovic, Ms Hanson said she does not believe the date should be changed - claiming there are far bigger issues for Aboriginal communities.

'They're not talking about this in Aboriginal communities and I was there two weeks ago,' Ms Hanson, 65, said.

'You know the big issues there? Kids are on the streets, they're starving, they've got the biggest rate of syphilis in their townships.

'You move the date from January 26th, whatever date you pick they're going to whinge about that as well.

'Get rid of the chip off your bloody shoulder. We are here, I was born here, this is my country... this is Australia Day where people join together.'

Mr Mitchell, the long-time 3AW talkback host, initially agreed that the date on which Australia Day is celebrated is not 'a huge issue for most Aboriginal people'.

But he took exception to Ms Hanson's comments that 'invasion day' protesters have a chip on their shoulder, claiming it was remarks like this that caused division.

'Get the chip off your shoulder? That'll really help. We need to be inclusive. I don't think it's a chip on your shoulder to be worried about history,' Mr Mitchell, 68, said.

Ms Hanson defended her stance, replying: 'Neil this has been going on for over 200 years do you think they have been affected by this?'

'They're using this as an excuse. It's either a political stance or they're pushing their own agenda.'

Today Show host Karl Stefanovic had the final say on the matter, claiming that such a debate highlighted how emotional the issue is.

'This is part of the problem, it is such a divisive thing and a divisive argument, and I want unification on this day,' he said.

SOURCE 

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Reducing Fire, and Cutting Carbon Emissions, the Aboriginal Way

The article from the NYT below gives a good sense of Aboriginal burning practices but does not give enough emphasis to the fact that Aboriginal burning practices -- very frequent small fires -- would not be tolerated for a moment in most of Australia.  They would rightly be seen as dangerous.

The Aborigines described below can get away with it for two main reasons:

1).  They live in Kakadu national park, which is only very lightly populated -- so they have few neighbours to bother them with criticisms

2).  The NT has predicable monsoons, which enables safer detection of risky/non-risky times to burn.  Rainfall in the rest of Australia is much less predictable, if it is predictable at all. So choosing safe times to burn is very approximate.

Adequate burns can only be done safely in most of Australia if plans for burning cover many areas -- so that a burn can start somewhere as soon as there is a good day for it.  Burns have to exploit ALL good burning days


COOINDA, NT. — At a time when vast tracts of Australia are burning, Violet Lawson is never far from a match.

In the woodlands surrounding her home in the far north of the country, she lights hundreds of small fires a year — literally fighting fire with fire. These traditional Aboriginal practices, which reduce the undergrowth that can fuel bigger blazes, are attracting new attention as Australia endures disaster and confronts a fiery future.

Over the past decade, fire-prevention programs, mainly on Aboriginal lands in northern Australia, have cut destructive wildfires in half. While the efforts draw on ancient ways, they also have a thoroughly modern benefit: Organizations that practice defensive burning have earned $80 million under the country’s cap-and-trade system as they have reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from wildfires in the north by 40 percent.

These programs, which are generating important scientific data, are being held up as a model that could be adapted to save lives and homes in other regions of Australia, as well as fire-prone parts of the world as different as California and Botswana.

“Fire is our main tool,” Ms. Lawson said as she inspected a freshly burned patch where grasses had become ash but the trees around them were undamaged. “It’s part of protecting the land.”

The fire-prevention programs, which were first given government licenses in 2013, now cover an area three times the size of Portugal. Even as towns in the south burned in recent months and smoke haze blanketed Sydney and Melbourne, wildfires in northern Australia were much less severe.

“The Australian government is now starting to see the benefits of having Indigenous people look after their lands,” said Joe Morrison, one of the pioneers of the project. “Aboriginal people who have been through very difficult times are seeing their language, customs and traditional knowledge being reinvigorated and celebrated using Western science.”

In some ways, the Aboriginal methods resemble Western ones practiced around the world: One of the main goals is to reduce underbrush and other fuel that accelerates hot, damaging fires.

But the ancient approach tends to be more comprehensive. Indigenous people, using precisely timed, low-intensity fires, burn their properties the way a suburban homeowner might use a lawn mower.

Aboriginal practices have been so successful in part because of a greater cultural tolerance of fire and the smoke it generates. The country’s thinly populated north, where Aboriginal influence and traditions are much stronger than in the south, is not as hamstrung by political debates and residents’ concerns about the health effects of smoke.

The landscape and climate of northern Australia also make it more amenable to preventive burning. The wide open spaces, and the distinctive seasons — a hot dry season is followed by monsoon rains — make burning more predictable.

Yet despite these regional differences, those who have studied the Aboriginal techniques say they could be adapted in the more populated parts of the country.

“We most certainly should learn to burn Aboriginal-style,” said Bill Gammage, a professor at the Australian National University in Canberra. “Our firefighters have quite good skills in fighting fires. But for preventing them, they are well short of what Aboriginal people could do.”

Last week, Victor Cooper, a former forest ranger in northern Australia, lit a wad of shaggy bark to demonstrate the type of fire that burns at temperatures low enough to avoid damage to sensitive plants that are crucial food for animals.

The preventive fires, he said, should trickle, not rage. They must be timed according to air temperature, wind conditions and humidity, as well as the life cycles of plants. Northern Aboriginal traditions revolve around the monsoon, with land burned patch by patch as the wet season gives way to the dry.

“We don’t have a fear of fire,” said Mr. Cooper, who burns regularly around his stilt house nestled in woodlands. “We know the earlier we burn, the more protection we have.”

This year, he will become certified to join the carbon credits program. Money earned through that system has incentivized stewardship of the land and provided hundreds of jobs in Aboriginal communities, where unemployment rates are high. The funds have also financed the building of schools in underserved areas.

NASA satellite data is used to quantify the reduction in carbon emissions and do computer modeling to track fires. Modern technology also supplements the defensive burning itself: Helicopters drop thousands of incendiary devices the size of Ping-Pong balls over huge patches of territory at times of the year when the land is still damp and fires are unlikely to rage out of control.

Those taking part in the program say they are frustrated that other parts of the country have been reluctant to embrace the same types of preventive burning. The inaction is longstanding: A major federal inquiry after deadly fires more than a decade ago recommended wider adoption of Aboriginal methods.

“I have many friends in other parts of Australia who can’t get their heads around that fire is a useful tool, that not all fire is the same and that you can manage it,” said Andrew Edwards, a fire expert at Charles Darwin University in northern Australia. “It’s hard to get across to people that fire is not a bad thing.”

Nine years ago, Mr. Gammage published a book that changed the way many in Australia thought about the Australian countryside and how it has been managed since the arrival of Europeans in the late 18th century.

The book, “The Biggest Estate on Earth,” uses documents from the earliest settlers and explorers to show how the landscape had been systematically shaped by Aboriginal fire techniques.

Many forests were thinner than those that exist now and were more resistant to hot-burning fires. Early explorers described the landscape as a series of gardens, and they reported seeing near constant trails of smoke from small fires across the landscape.

As Europeans took control of the country, they banned burning. Jeremy Russell-Smith, a bushfire expert at Charles Darwin University, said this quashing of traditional fire techniques happened not only in Australia, but also in North and South America, Asia and Africa.

“The European mind-set was to be totally scared of fire,” Mr. Russell-Smith said.

As the fires rage in the south, Aboriginal people in northern Australia say they are deeply saddened at the loss of life — about 25 people have been killed and more than 2,000 homes destroyed. But they also express bewilderment that forests were allowed to grow to become so combustible.

Margaret Rawlinson, the daughter of Ms. Lawson, who does preventive burning on her property in the far north, remembers traveling a decade ago to the countryside south of Sydney and being alarmed at fields of long, desiccated grass.

“I was terrified,” Ms. Rawlinson said. “I couldn’t sleep. I said, ‘We need to go home. This place is going to go up, and it’s going to be a catastrophe.’”

The area that she visited, around the town of Nowra, has been a focal point for fires over the past few weeks.

The pioneering defensive burning programs in northern Australia came together in the 1980s and ’90s when Aboriginal groups moved back onto their native lands after having lived in settlements under the encouragement, or in some cases the order, of the government.

Depopulated for decades, the land had suffered. Huge fires were decimating species and damaging rock paintings.

“The land was out of control,” said Dean Yibarbuk, a park ranger whose Indigenous elders encouraged him to seek solutions.

The Aboriginal groups ultimately teamed up with scientists, the government of the Northern Territory and the Houston-based oil company ConocoPhillips, which was building a natural gas facility and was required to find a project that would offset its carbon emissions.

According to calculations by Mr. Edwards, wildfires in northern Australia burned 57 percent fewer acres last year than they did on average in the years from 2000 to 2010, the decade before the program started.

Mr. Yibarbuk, who is now chairman of Warddeken Land Management, one of the largest of the participating organizations, employs 150 Aboriginal rangers, part time and full time.

“We are very lucky in the north to be able to keep our traditional practices,” Mr. Yibarbuk said. “There’s a pride in going back to the country, managing it and making a difference.”

SOURCE 

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The science behind climate change and its impact on bushfires (?)

I rather enjoyed this article, long-winded though it is.  Prof. Karoly is an old global warming warrior from way back so he has had a long time to perfect his arguments for global warming and, in the version of his talk below, he does present a much more detailed case than one usually encounters.

All of the assertions below are however unreferenced and most have been challenged many times.  And as is normal in Leftist writing, there is no mention of any of the facts which are contrary to his case.  The article leaves out almost all of the many facts which tend to contradict the global warming hypothesis.  Such argumentation is of course completely unscholarly and identifies the article as propaganda only.

Prof Karoly's scientific background does however show in a number of useful ways so it is a pity that such a long article will remain mostly unread -- as there are a number of basic scientific points below that Warmists would do well to note.

The one that stands out most below is his perfectly correct and perfectly basic point that global warming CANNOT explain Australia' drought or any other drought.  Anybody who has watched a kettle boil will know that heating water causes it to give off water vapour so warming the oceans will also give off more water vapour -- and that comes down again as rain.  So a warmer world would be a wetter world.  So, if anything, drought proves that global warming is NOT going on.

So in his words on the drought, Prof. Karoly contradicts the claims made by almost all Warmists.  There will be much reaching for indigestion remedies by almost all Warmists who read those of his words.

What Prof. Karoly leaves out:

It's hard to believe but in an article that is allegedly about bushfires, there is no mention of the biggest influence on the fires:  Fuel accumulation in the form of fallen branches and leaves.  Without fuel, there would be no fires. If it's not about global warming he doesn't want to know about it, apparently.


If only for the sake of argument, most climate skeptics are prepared to concede that atmospheric CO2 has SOME warming effect. The dispute is about its magnitude.  Is the warming effect large or is it utterly trivial?  The Warmists have little more than assertions for their claim that it is large.  There are, on the other hand, both theoretical and empirical reasons to say that the effect is trivial.

On the theoretical side, the fact that CO2 forms much less than one percent of the atmosphere should indicate that any effect from it will be trivial.  More importantly, however,  a heated atmospheric molecule will radiate heat in ALL directions, not just downwards towards the earth. And the higher up the molecule is, the less heat from it will hit the earth.  Rather than seeing heated CO2 molecules as a blanket or a greenhouse roof, a better analogy for their effect would be a bucket with a small hole in it.  Only what gets through the hole hits the earth.

But all theories must be tested against the facts so what are the facts?  The most basic fact is that over the last 150 years or so we have experienced only about one degree Celsius of warming.  Is that trivial?  If you walked from one room into another where the temperatures in the two rooms differed by only one degree you would not normally notice anything.  You would need an instrument to detect the difference.  So I think "trivial" is an excellent word for that difference.

But a much less impressionistic piece of evidence for the triviality of CO2 induced warming is also available.  If CO2 has the effect hypothesized and the effect is large, we should notice increased warming every time the CO2 levels rise.  But that is not remotely true.  Increases in CO2 mostly have no noticeable warming effect.  CO2 levels can shoot up with absolutely no discernable effect on global temperatures.

Perhaps the most striking example of that is the "grand hiatus". For 30 years between 1945 and 1975, CO2 levels leapt but global temperatures remained flat. See here.  How come?  CO2 molecules don't have a little computer inside them telling them to take a holiday from emitting heat.  They emit heat all the time. So if they were emitting heat from 1945 to 1975, that heat must have been tiny in amount, so tiny as to be undetectable.

Greenies say that "special factors" explain the failure of temperature to change in accordance with rising CO2 levels.  But what special factor could exactly cancel out the effect of CO2 for 30 years? It's an absurdity.


30 years of no effect would be notable in itself but 1945 is supposed to  be the year in which anthropogenic global warming began -- with all the postwar reconstruction.  The 1945 to 1975 period is a critical test of the global warming theory -- and it fails that test utterly.

So it takes only a few basic facts to show that Prof. Karoly's pontifications are a castle built on sand


Charis Chang

When considering the science around climate change, one expert believes it’s useful to compare it to another famous hypothesis – the theory of gravity.

Not many people would think to cast doubt on the theory of gravity, and according to Professor David Karoly, who leads the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub in the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program at CSIRO, the evidence that human activity is causing global warming is so strong it is equal to this theory.

“The theory on the human impact on climate change is just as strong, or stronger, than the scientific basis for the theory of gravity,” Prof Karoly told news.com.au.

Prof Karoly said that there was also evidence climate change was a factor in recent devastating bushfires in Australia.

Prof Karoly will explain the science at a free public lecture as part of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute 2020 Summer School public lecture in Melbourne on Wednesday, January 29. His speech will also be streamed online.

When we talk about science, Prof Karoly believes it’s helpful to remember we are not talking about “beliefs”.

Science is in fact a process that tests a hypothesis to provide conclusions about the way nature works.

Not convinced? Here’s the science.

Some say the world’s climate has always changed and in the past there have been ice ages and warmer glacial periods, which is true.

The difference is whether humans have caused the changes.

We know that humans could not have had any influence on the past ice ages for example, because there were no humans on the planet.

So how do we know that the climate changes now are due to human activity?

Prof Karoly said there were two approaches.

The first approach involves examining “observational data”. If we want to identify long-term trends we need to look at data collected over a wide area and across at least 30 years.

To figure out why the Earth is warming, there are some logical factors to look at first.

The main things that impact the Earth’s climate are sunlight from the sun, how it is absorbed in the atmosphere and how energy is lost from Earth and sent into space.

One thing that can impact the amount of sunlight we get includes the amount of clouds, ice and snow because they all reflect sunlight, making it cooler.

However, greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere can also affect temperatures. These gases make the planet hotter because they absorb heat radiation from the Earth and prevent this from being released into space as quickly.

Greenhouse gases can include carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour. “When greenhouse gases increase, the surface temperature of the Earth increases,” Prof Karoly said.

So what does the data tell us about these factors?

‘SOMETHING WEIRD IS HAPPENING’

Analysis of air bubbles from ice cores trapped in ice in Greenland and Antarctica showed that over the last 10,000 years, carbon dioxide varied a small amount, hovering around 280 and 290 parts per million.

But if you look at the last 150 years, it’s a different story. Carbon dioxide now sits at 400 parts per million.

“This has increased by more than 40 per cent,” Prof Karoly said.

“It is higher than at any time in the last 10,000 years. In fact, it’s higher than any time in the last million years.”

“So that suggests … something weird is happening.”

Prof Karoly said you had to go back more than three million years to find a time when carbon dioxide was around 400 parts per million.

“Three million years ago when carbon dioxide was higher, temperatures were more than two degrees warmer and sea levels were more than 10 metres higher,” he said.

Humans were not around three million years ago so they can’t be blamed for the high amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

So what was cause of these higher levels of carbon dioxide?

Some experts have suggested the carbon dioxide was actually being released from the ocean.

“A warmer ocean can’t absorb as much carbon dioxide,” Prof Karoly said. “As it heats up, it can’t hold as much carbon and this is released into the atmosphere.”

However, the type of carbon dioxide the ocean releases is different to that released by burning fossil fuels and land clearing.

Prof Karoly said the carbon dioxide has a different chemical composition so scientists are able to distinguish between the two.

“Carbon dioxide released from the ocean doesn’t use up oxygen,” Prof Karoly said.

Over the last 40 years, scientists have been able to monitor the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere and the fall in oxygen has exactly matched the increase in carbon dioxide that you would expect if it was coming from the burning of fossil fuels and decomposition of vegetation from land clearing.

“What we now know, is that the increase to carbon is not natural, it’s due to human activity, from the burning of fossil fuels and land clearing,” Prof Karoly said.

This is not just a theory, it is based on “observational evidence”, that is, scientists have data that shows the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is coming from fossil fuels and land clearing.

AND NIGHTS ARE GETTING HOTTER

We can also look at other observational data to help strengthen the theory.

If the Earth was warming up because of increasing sunlight, then you would expect temperatures during the day to increase and for it to be cooler at night (because there is no sun at night!).

However, what scientists found is that nights were actually warming up more so than days.

This points to greenhouse gases playing a role.

As noted above, greenhouse gases trap heat radiation from the Earth and stop it from being released into space as quickly.

This effect can be seen for example, on nights with more clouds, which don’t cool down as much as there is more water vapour in the atmosphere.

In contrast, deserts are more cool at night because there is not as much water vapour over these areas, and it’s a similar story in coastal areas.

So if nights are warming up more than days, it’s unlikely that the sun is playing a role in this, it’s more likely that greenhouse gases are trapping heat on Earth and pushing up temperatures.

Scientists have also looked at temperatures in the Earth’s stratosphere, which is the layer of the atmosphere from about 10km up.

The stratosphere warms because the ozone layer it contains absorbs the sun’s ultraviolent radiation.

If there was more sunlight, you would expect the upper atmosphere to warm up because it was absorbing more ultraviolet rays.

But if there was an increase in greenhouse gases then you would expect the stratosphere to be cooler because carbon dioxide is efficient, not only at absorbing heat radiation but also at releasing it into space, cooling it down.

“Observations have shown that the surface and lower atmosphere have warmed, and the upper atmosphere has cooled in the last 50 years — the entire time we’ve been monitoring it through balloons and other satellites,” Prof Karoly said.

“This pattern of temperature change has happened everywhere and cannot be explained by increasing sunlight,” he said. “And it’s been getting stronger, which is exactly what you would expect from increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

NOW ADD COMPUTERS TO THE EQUATION

The first approach to looking at climate change is “observational data” but you can also use complex mathematical models of the climate system.

Around the world, Prof Karoly said more than 50 complex climate models had been developed to test climate theories on a larger scale.

While some may question how scientists could simulate the climate when they can’t forecast the weather over long periods of time, Prof Karoly said it was because the climate models looked at levels of radiation, which determine long-term climate.

“Models solve physical equations for the absorption and transmission of radiation in the atmosphere, and for the motion of the air, and for the motions of the ocean,” he said.

These simulations have shown that without human influences there would not be any long-term warming trend.

Temperatures would have stayed pretty much the same with only two-tenths of a degree of warming.

Instead the world has warmed by 1.1 degrees and the warming over Australia has been even higher than the global average, at 1.5 degrees.

This is because land warms up faster than the ocean.

WHAT ABOUT THE BUSHFIRES?

So how does this relate to the catastrophic bushfires that have raged across Australia in recent months?

Higher mean temperatures give rise to a greater chance of heatwaves and hot extremes, Prof Karoly said.

“We have good observational data of the current summer and the last 50 years,” he said.

“There have been marked increases in heatwaves and hot days in all parts of Australia.”

Australia experienced its hottest and driest year on record in 2019 and December 2019 had a number of Australia’s hottest days ever recorded.

“We have also seen increases in sea levels, exactly what you would expect from climate change and the warming of ocean waters and melting of ice sheets and glaciers on land.”

When it comes to the intensity of bushfires, Prof Karoly said there are certain factors that were known to be important.

The McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index was developed to measure the degree of fire danger in Australian forests and the likelihood they will occur.

It combines factors including the temperature of air, wind speed, the dryness of the air (measured by relative humidity) and the dryness of the fuel and the ground (measured by rainfall over the previous month).

“So the combination of high temperatures, strong winds, low humidity and no rainfall leads to extreme fire danger,” Prof Karoly said.

These were exactly the conditions experienced in NSW and southern Queensland in September and October where there were record high temperatures and low humidity.

These conditions were also experienced in Canberra, coastal NSW and particularly East Gippsland in Victoria, which was why there was extreme fire danger in these areas.

The next question is whether climate change caused these conditions.

Prof Karoly says climate change has led to higher temperatures, as discussed above, but it’s unlikely it had a major role in the drought conditions.

He said if the rainfall in 2019 was related to climate change you would expect wetter conditions in northern Australia, not the record dry year experienced in 2019.

Climate change has also been linked with the long-term rainfall in the cool season in south-east Australia.

Prof Karoly believes the drought in 2019 may actually be due to “natural variations” and the “Indian Ocean Dipole”.

The IOD refers to the seesawing temperatures in the Indian Ocean, with colder waters closer to northern Australia and hotter waters closer to Africa.

There were also changes in wind patterns in the south of Australia and over Victoria and NSW, which led to stronger westerly winds that reduced the rainfall over the NSW coast and East Gippsland, where the worst fires and conditions have been.

Prof Karoly believes it was the stronger westerly winds and the Indian Ocean Dipole that ramped up the fire intensity, however, this was combined with the extreme temperatures caused by climate change, sparking Australia’s deadly fire season.

“So it was a combination of natural climate variability and climate change,” he said.

SOURCE 


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You can demand high academic standards in teacher trainees until you are blue in the face but people with high academic standards don't want a bar of chaotic Australian State schools.  They have better job options. So dummies are all you can get to teach there

What is needed to raise teacher quality is to make teaching more attractive and that means making public school classes less like a warzone.  And the only way to do that is to enforce civil standards of behaviour from the students.  Unruly students should be diverted to special schools where physical means can be used to enforce compliance with the rules. In the old days students were caned as a punishment for bad behaviour.  That could work again but Leftist opposition ensures it will not be reintroduced.

So what is the alternative?  Australia has a well-known alternative:  40% of Australian teenagers go to private schools.  Such schools are expensive so the kids concerned have to come from middle class homes -- where even a look can be sufficient discipline. 

So in such schools teachers are allowed to teach and that is where the good teachers go. At my son's private school, he even had two MALE teachers, wonder of wonders

So Leftist failure to permit adequate discipline consigns as much as 60% of the child population to schools where very little gets taught in the worst cases.  How compassionate!


THE way to lift Queensland's academic standards? Get brighter teachers. It's not rocket science - but then science, of any kind, is not the strong suit of most who are fronting our classrooms.

By accepting into education degrees the students at the bottom end of tertiary entrance rankings, we can't then expect top outcomes. An OP17 won't get you into most university degrees - and fair enough, too - but it will ensure you a seat in the lecture theatres at the Australian Catholic University.

I've written about this issue before and am familiar with the arguments of those who disagree with me, including fans of ACU and proud parents of young teachers who say the ability to relate to kids outweighs academics.

Now, Deanne Fishburn from the Queensland College of Teachers is claiming that "you can't be registered as a teacher in Queensland without meeting high and rigorous standards".

As director of the QCT - which, according to its website, "registers teachers for Queensland schools and accredits the state's preservice teacher education programs" - Ms Fishburn is hardly going to admit the status quo stinks. Naturally, she will defend it.

However, as part of her argument, she says that those high standards include that "teacher education students must have passed senior English and mathematics". That means obtaining a C. Hardly what I'd call excellence.

When economic experts are continually identifying the greatest jobs growth in fields that require higher level maths and critical thinking, such as engineering and technology, why are we settling for a pass mark in those who would inspire and instruct future job-seekers? It is unreasonable to expect people who are average achievers themselves to be able to confidently unpack complex problems to others.

Alarming findings from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute back me up on this. Only one in four teenagers is learning from a specialist maths teacher - someone who studied maths at university, including for six months as part of their four-year education degree. Too often, sports or music teachers are also taking maths classes.

It's no better in primary school, with AMSI director Geoff Prince saying that teachers are "breaking out in a cold sweat" when they have to teach maths. Contrary to the requirement to which Ms Fishbum refers, Mr Prince says many "haven't done maths through to Year 12 (and) don't understand fractions and percentages properly themselves".

Ms Fishburn argues that focusing on OP scores (soon to
be ATAR) distorts the real picture of the beginning teacher workforce. Reason being, she says, is the average age of graduate teachers is 28, meaning they are likely to have a career behind them or perhaps another degree. They might also have had several gap years, stuffed around  switching courses,'Or taken longer than usual to complete their teaching qualifications.

Don't get me wrong - life experience is valuable, but it shouldn't excuse academic mediocrity or underperformance.

In Finland - a much stronger performer than Australia in PISA international benchmarking - all teachers hold a master's degree.

Teaching polls as Finland's most admired profession, and you can't just walk into an education degree. You have to be the cream of the crop. This is how it should be.

As Peter Goss, director of the Grattan Institute School Education Program, told the Courier-Mail yesterday: "Teaching is a complex job. It requires strong cognitive abilities as well as the  emotional skills to relate to the  children, but unfortunately the academic backgrounds of new teachers has been dropping for 40 years and has continued to drop even over the last decade."

  Lowering the bar to address teacher shortages - which is partly why an OP17 is  considered adequate - will not  attract high achievers.  What will, however, is not an easy fix. It requires a major shift in how we, as a society, view the value of education and, in turn, respect, train and remunerate teachers.  Kids deserve the best educators - those who combine academic proficiency with "soft" skills such as creativity, communication and empathy, but as it stands now, that boils down to sheer luck.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 18 January, 2020

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Oil companies going Green

They're scared of CO2 regulation.  But, regardless of "renewable" fancies, the demand for oil and natural gas will still be there -- and there will still be a buck in it.  And if governments legislate harshly enough to cause public inconvenience, they will be thrown out

The threat that financial institutions will refuse to lend for fossil fuel projects is a real one but China is always looking for good overseas investment opportunities so that alone will put a big hole in the bucket.  China is very hard to bully, as Mr Trump has found


Occidental Petroleum has a compelling riposte to Greta Thunberg’s signature rebuke in Davos, that “nothing is being done” about climate change.

It also has a grim warning for those of its peers in the fossil industry (a minority) that persist in thinking that business can go on as usual with just a few tweaks here and there: a slew of major oil and gas companies will disappear in the Great Disruption of the coming decade, and it says they will deserve their fate.

“We’re fighting for our industry’s life,” said Vicki Hollub, Occidental’s chief executive, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The political landscape has suddenly changed beyond recognition and the world’s governments are about to clamp down drastically on carbon emissions, led by Europe. She said the laggards will be punished mercilessly.

Her emblematic Houston-based fossil company aims to achieve the impossible: to become net carbon negative on all its operations and the oil it sells in order to insulate itself against the enveloping climate backlash. Her premise is that financial markets will simply ‘disfund’ those companies that refuse to do likewise.

The imperative for Big Oil is to confound the critics by offering Negative Oil. “The ones that don’t get on board will be the ones that don’t survive, and I am convinced that markets will make that happen,” she said.

Lord Greg Barker, chairman of EN+ Group, has an equally surprising story to tell. He heads the biggest aluminium producer outside China, leader of a smelting industry deemed to be beyond the pale by climate activists.

Yet it is going to roll out its first sheets of carbon-free aluminium as soon as 2021. Over 95pc of the group’s base power already comes from green hydro.

The Russian-owned EN+ has developed an ‘inert anode’ technology that cuts CO2 emissions from the smelting process itself to zero, and will ultimately lead to net “negative aluminium”.

The task is to make it fully workable on a large scale. A carbon price would make that much easier by setting the global rules and drawing in billions of green funding.

Epoch change

“The 2020s are going to be very different to the last decade. People who think that is going to be just a slow continuation, of gradually getting used to the climate agenda, are in for a big shock,” he told a Davos forum.

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, said the $110 trillion alliance of global asset managers and investors now demanding decarbonisation – or at least a proper audit of carbon risk –  had just grown to nearer $120 trillion with the Damascene conversion of BlackRock’s Larry Fink. When the world’s biggest fund manager speaks, markets listen.

"We are seeing a fundamental reshaping of the financial system. What the market will do is to pull forward the adjustment," he said in Davos.

Companies that fail to take climate change seriously will go bankrupt and it could happen sooner than widely supposed. The Governor fears a Lehmanesque “Minsky Moment” for the international system if this is not handled in an orderly fashion.

Occidental says it is already injecting 20m tonnes of CO2 each year into rock formations within the Permian Basin in Texas. “This is equivalent to taking four million cars off the road,” she said.

It is the start of a massive expansion of carbon capture and storage. Ultimately this brings into view the Holy Grail of negative emissions.

Mrs Hollub said more CO2 is sequestered in the process of enhanced oil recovery than is later burned by cars and aircraft in transport fuel. For the world as a whole it is akin to a closed loop. 

“A lot of people don’t understand how you can put CO2 into an oil reservoir and generate lower carbon oil, but you can have net negative reservoirs. The challenge we face is getting people to understand the good things that we are doing,” she said.

“The Permian Basin has the capacity to store 150 gigatonnes of CO2. That would be 28 years of US emissions. That’s the prize,” she said.

Occidental’s ‘green’ strategy will not convince those who have lost all trust in the fossil industry and wish to shut it down entirely but it does show the moral complexity of the energy debate.

The more far-sighted oil and gas companies are an integral part of the net-zero transition. They bring the world’s best engineers to the task.

Environmental Schumpeterism

Lord Barker, who used to run the UK’s climate policy as a minister, said there are going to be spectacular winners and losers over the 2020s. Climate science has raised the stakes abruptly and political patience has snapped.

“This is where the rubber really hits the road. There are going to be stranded assets; there are going to price shocks, and I think we’re going to see carbon pricing. Those companies that don’t recognise the carbon intensity of their business are going to be left on the sidelines,” he said.

Lord Barker said the old debate about whether poorer countries should be given a free pass on coal power and rising emissions had been overtaken by market forces. New renewable power is in any case cheaper in most places than new coal plants.

“We have to have an honest conversation with developing economies like India and China: you can’t keep a manufacturing model and supply world markets if it is based on coal. Either you need CCUS (carbon capture) or you accept that it will shrink.”

“Investors now thinking about where to put their money in the 2020s won’t put it in carbon-intensive in economic models that rely on coal, that is the reality of investment flows. There isn’t a future for carbon intensive industries.”

Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s former climate chief, was brutally clear: “the 2020s are going to be disruptive. You either capture carbon or you don’t put carbon molecules up there at all. You will be regulated on that basis.”

“The current incumbents won’t be the incumbents in 2030 unless they are very smart. Some are going to make it. Some aren’t,” she said.

SOURCE 

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Fuel reduction, a contrary view

Every official enquiry into the causes of Australia's big bushfires has concluded that more off-season preventive burns are needed to prevent a recurrence of such fires.  Greenies worldwide however have a long history of obstructing such burns.

The far-Left ""New Matilda" has found a couple of scientists who defend the Greenie actions. They say that preventive burns are ineffective.  I excerpt their argument below.  They say that most preventive burns just consume the ground cover, leaving the tops of the trees intact.  And the tops of the trees are plenty to support a big bushfire.

So what do they conclude from that?  They conclude that we are always going to have big bushfires so we had better get used to it.

That is however a very strange conclusion. It is both a non sequitur and a counsel of despair.

If what they say is generally true, I would have thought the obvious conclusion to be that preventive burns have to be more thorough.  If wildfires burn the tops of the trees then preventive burns have to do that too.  Obviously, the bigger the preventive burn the riskier it is going to be but big efforts at containment should be possible.

A two-step procedure may be needed.  First burn off the ground  cover then attack the top cover.  That would surely halve the risk.

But it is all theory.  In most locations getting any sort of preventive burn done seems to be near impossible.  The inertia of the State government fire authorities seems set to ensure that we will continue to have big fires for many years to come.


Dr Byron Lamont a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Plant Ecology with Curtin University, and Adjunct Research Fellow Dr Tianhua He explain:

The knee-jerk response to the devastating wildfires that have raged in Australia this summer has been for some to demand a more intensive program of prescribed/controlled burning before summer begins. But what are they and do they even work?

Prescribed burns are fires created by fire management authorities to reduce fuel in an attempt to stop the advance of future possible wildfires.

Unfortunately, areas that recently received a prescribed burn have offered little resistance to the advance of current wildfires. The fires have just passed straight through them. But why?

Current practices of prescribed fires essentially burn the ground flora, the shrubs, herbs, and creepers. At most, heat from the ground might scorch the upper canopy, and they tend to be patchy. These are called surface fires.

But wildfires burn everything. They create their own inferno.

Their greatest heat is produced from fuel in the tree canopy. The convective currents created by the firestorm spray embers up to kilometres from the fire front – they simply drop onto or over areas that have received prescribed burns.

These are called crown fires.

The aim of fire managers is to avoid crown fires during prescribed burning for fear that the fire gets out of control and will go far beyond the area intended to be burnt.

Controlled fires are only meant to stop the odd cigarette thrown out of a car window from starting a fire, or lightning strikes igniting the ground flora. They may not even achieve those goals, because scorching the trees above can lead to considerable leaf drop and build-up of litter that increases flammability and deters germination and seedling establishment.

Nature conservation was never one of its overt goals, though research by these same fire management authorities claims that no harm is done. And because they always fall behind in their prescribed burning program, independent ecologists are usually satisfied that species diversity does not appear to be harmed.

The only effective deterrent is areas that have recently experienced a wildfire, as no combustible fuel remains. This inhibitory effect might last for five or so years when the vegetation can carry a fire again.

Ironically, the Australian flora has experienced wildfires of the current type for many millions of years.

It is adapted to wildfires, not prescribed burns.

Thus all eucalypts, paperbarks, she-oaks, and banksias release their seeds only when their canopies are burnt and there is massive seedling recruitment in the next wet season that ensures the vegetation recovers.

Ultimately, we are guests in the world’s most flammable continent and have to learn to live with that fact. The Aboriginal inhabitants learned to but we have not.

SOURCE 

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Insane childcare costs

A torrent of regulations have "gold-plated" childcare, making it generally unaffordable.  So the government tries to restore affordability by giving subsidies. But the subsidies are not keeping up

It's deregulation that is needed if affordability is to be restored.  One insane regulation is that a carer has to have a university degree or diploma -- and it goes on from there.  There must also be a minimum educator-to-child ratio of 1:15, which is well-up on what it used to be.

There are also regulations about premises, furniture, materials and equipment; fencing; laundry and hygiene facilities; indoor and outdoor space – unencumbered space; toilet and hygiene facilities; ventilation and natural light; administrative space; nappy change facilities; outdoor space—natural environment and shade.  And they all cost money that has to be recouped from fees in order to get a return on investment


"OUT-of-control" childcare costs are continuing to soar -under a new subsidy scheme, as the industry warns there is more hip-pocket pain to come. Even fees for some Queensland parents on the highest discount are hundreds of dollars higher than they were 12 months earlier.

Prices are expected to substantially rise again later this year with a review of child-care worker wages anticipated in the Coming months. The cost increases are biting now as parents return to work and scramble to find extra care for their children until school returns.

Education Minister Dan Tehan flagged that more action would be announced soon to crackdown on excessive fee increases by rogue childcare operators.

The annual cost of sending a single child to care  is now reaching higher than $16,000 a' year in the inner city and parts of Brisbane's south, before rebates are applied.

Parents are forking out hundreds to thousands of dollars more, depending on where they live and how much they earn, just covering the increased costs applied by pro-viders since the subsidy started on July 2, 2018. The subsidy covers up to 85 per cent of the childcare fee depending on a family's household income.

Education Department data from September 2018 to September 2019 shows that childcare costs rose 42 per cent on average from $9.50/ hour to $9.90/hour during the 12-month period. But the Nathan area was the most expensive in the state. topping $17,000 a year pre-subsidy for one child in care for 31.6 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year after a 12.5 per cent increase in the hourly rate. Families there on the highest 85 per cent subsidy were still paying $2600 a year.

Families in Nundah, Nathan, Outback Queensland and Bundaberg on the full 85 per cent discount were paying $200 a year more out-of-pocket in September, compared to a year earlier.

Queensland Council of Social Services boss Mark Henley said child care was becoming unaffordable for many families. "For someone on minimum wage there's a decision to be made as to whether it's more costly to have ajob and put kids in child care, or if you're saving money by staying at home," he said.

Australian Childcare Association vice-president Nesha Hutchinson said profit margins were falling as rent and wage increases put pressure on care operators. "When they're putting up prices they don't want to gouge fainilies; they're just trying to remain financially viable," she said.

Despite the soaring costs, Mr Tehan said many. Austraian families were still paying less out of pocket now than they were before the new sub-sidy system started.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 18 January, 2020

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Amusingly empty-headed Leftism

Leftists run as if from the plague if they encounter conservative discourse.  They have to.  So much of what they believe is contrary to the facts that they have a desperate need not to be proved wrong.  Conservatives have no such fears.  Conservatives just want to know what the facts are. Conservatism is built around the facts.  Mr Gradgrind was probably a conservative.

So I read Leftist articles almost daily.  They can have useful facts in them but never the whole facts.  So I had a look at the current article below from the far-Left "New Matilda" site. It is written by Rosie Latimer, who is a medical student. I feel sorry for any patients she may one day have.  The heading on her article reads "Climate Change Is Science Not Politics. So Can We Talk About It Yet?"

Yet she mentions NOT ONE scientific fact in her article. She probably knows none. She uses "science" as a sort of magic word that opens all doors.  She relies on a fictitious "consensus" among scientists to "prove" the reality of global warming.  Has no-one ever told her that once there was a consensus among all good men that the earth was flat?  Science relies on facts, not opinions.

I reproduce just her opening paragraphs below.  I give the link for you to read the whole article if you are interested in any more "ad hominem" fallacies


Australia is under attack from unprecedented bushfires, which are decimating our country, leaving a trail of physical, mental, and emotional destruction. Many have lost loved ones, homes, and some of our native plants and animals are facing extinction.

People are suffering under the toxic smoke that is billowing throughout Australia and the Pacific.

Yet in the face of this, our government and the Murdoch media contend this is not the time to discuss climate change, because the discussion of climate change is a political issue.

Climate change is not a political issue.

There is overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is occurring, caused by humans emitting greenhouse gases. The world has drawn links between Australia’s love affair with a coal-based economy and the bushfires ravaging our great nation.

This should be a bi-partisan issue, an issue that unites us all. So why is it a Liberal calling card to deny climate change, and a Labor calling card to let them?

SOURCE 



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Platypuses said to be on the 'brink of extinction'

This just about "fears" and what "could happen".  There is nothing factual below.  The journal article is "A stitch in time – Synergistic impacts to platypus metapopulation extinction risk".  It is pure armchair modelling based on extensive guesses.  There was no actual research involved. No feet were muddied.

And the assumptions are all one-sided.  What if some features of  modern environments are actually helpful to the platypus?  There are plenty of examples of modernity helping a species. The "bin chickens" (Ibises) are known to most Brisbane people

It seems to me that dams might actually be helpful to the platypus. They give it a big choice of what water level they want to feed and breed at.  But that would never have occurred to our modellers.

And the major scare the modelling was based on was global warming.  What if there is no global warming?  There has certainly been very little warming for the last century or so

This whole article is just a tawdry attempt to get something into the journals by using conventional scares.  The journal editors were negligent in publishing something so insubstantial


Australia's beloved platypus is now feared to be on the 'brink of extinction'. Researchers at the University of New South Wales say the number of platypuses in the wild could fall by 66 per cent by 2070 because of climate change and other threats.

Researchers said soaring temperatures across the country, the intense drought and land clearing are all contributing to the species' decline.

Richard Kingsford, director for UNSW's Centre for Ecosystem Science said the future for the animal was 'grim'.

'This is impacting their ability to survive during these extended dry periods and increased demand for water,' Mr Kingsford said in the journal article, Biological Conservation, The Age reported.

'If we lost the platypus from Australian rivers, you would say, 'What sort of government policies or care allow that to happen?''

Gilad Bino, the study's lead author said the threat of climate change could affect the platypus's ability to repopulate, noting they could face 'extinction'.

'We are not monitoring what we assume to be a common species. And then we may wake up and realise it's too late,' Dr Bino said.

The platypus is listed as 'near-threatened' under the IUCN Red List of threatened species but Dr Bino says the government needs to assess how much the animal is at risk.

The study's researchers said in order to prevent total extinction the platypus' habitat would need to be managed.

The Victorian Environment Department said they were working with the federal government over whether the platypus' status needed to be changed to 'threatened'.

NSW said they recognised issues such as the drought could be placing the platypus 'at risk'.

Platypuses live in freshwater areas and are found along the east coast and southeast coast of Australia.

SOURCE 


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'They are incinerators from hell': Biologist blames GUM TREES for Australia's brutal bushfire season - and says they should be banned anywhere near human settlements

I really like our native gum trees and would oppose any attack on them but there is undoubtedly some truth in the colorful claim below. They do burn easily.

It is irrelevant, however.  Fuel reduction will prevent the fires regardless of which trees the fuel comes from.  Fuel reduction is the Holy Grail.  With it, there CAN be no big fires.  Anything else is passing the buck

A prominent Australian biologist has blamed the country's bushfires on gum trees, labelling them 'incinerators from hell dressed up as trees'.

Also known as eucalyptus trees, gum trees are native to every Australian state and their leaves make up most of the diet of koalas and some possum species.

Despite being a source of food for iconic native animals, biologist Jeremy Griffith attributed Australia's current bushfire crisis to the widespread tree on Saturday.

The biologist, who is also an author, even went as far to say that people should be banned from growing eucalyptus trees anywhere near human settlements. 

'Humans can't live near them, and they are an extremely dangerous habitat for wildlife,' Mr Griffith wrote in The Spectator.

Australia's current bushfire season has claimed the lives of 28 people and an estimated one billion animals so far.

Mr Griffith explained eucalyptus trees actively encourage bushfires as their waxy and oily leaves are very flammable.

In addition, he said gum trees have epicormic buds hidden under their bark that are protected from flames and allow them quickly sprout back after bushfires.

'Eucalypts can survive an intense fire when few other species can; and since they can survive fire they can afford to encourage fire because it will eliminate competition from other species,' Mr Griffith said.

He pointed out that gum trees heavily shed leaves and peeling bark, which he believes is in order to generate tinder for fires.

Mr Griffith likened gum trees to 'dangerous crocodiles planted tail-down ready to destroy lives and our world'.

'There has to be a complete change of mindset when thinking about eucalypts that recognises their true nature. The stark reality is there should be legislation in Australia preventing eucalypts from growing in quantity near people,' he said. 

The biologist said there needs to be more regular hazard reduction burns in eucalypt forests, like those practiced by Indigenous Australians thousands of years before British settlement.

He explained that because Indigenous Australians would start small fires regularly, the intensity of fires would decrease, which would allow for safe fires in the summer.

Mr Griffith warned of the dangers that eucalyptus trees pose in other parts of the world where they have been introduced, such as California. [And China]

Australian gold miners introduced gum trees to California in the 1850s before the local state government began encouraging their plantation in the early 1900s.

During the Oakland firestorm in 1991, it is estimated that 70 per cent of the energy released from blazes was through eucalyptus trees.

In California, which has similar dry conditions to Australia, wildfires are a yearly occurrence and recently took the lives of five people in 2019.

Australia's current bushfire season arrived early in October 2019. So far, a total of 28 people have died in the horror blazes and more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed.

SOURCE 

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The Queensland desalination project

The article below was written before 12.12.19.  How do I know that?  Because it refers to the drought.  And for most of 2019 Queensland was indeed unusually dry.  On the night of 12.12.19 however, Brisbane had the mother and father of a storm that delivered 6 months of rain in one hour.  And there was a similar storm down the coast a couple of days later. So both the Wivenhoe and the Hinze dam (which are linked) would have received a big boost

It is particularly good for the dams to get all that rain at once. If the fall had been spread out over a long period, much of the fall would have been lost to evaporation and soaking into the ground.

The desalination project was an absolute boondoggle from the beginning. It was started by a Leftist government as an alternative to building a dam. It took years to get it working properly so it is lucky that the rains came and rendered it unnecessary.  It is however some consolation to hear that it is finally working and being marginally useful


DESALINATE or die. That was the dire warning from then-premier Peter Beattie as he was confronted by a lone protester at the under-construction Gold Coast desalination plant during the so-called "Millennium Drought" in 2000.

The protester, local green activist Inge Light, had slipped through a security detail to shirtfront Beattie about the controversial $1.2 billion project's environmental and financial costs.

"I've got to be honest with you, we're going to build it(the plant), we've got no choice -- unless you go up there and play God and make it rain for me," the premier declared. "If you don't allow us to get desalinated water, frankly no one's going to be alive. "If we don't have desal, we're not going to have any water. "If you don't have water, you're dead.'

It may not be quite life or death. Beattie, wasn't averse to a bit of hyperbole — but as Queensland grapples with arguably its worst drought on record, the Tugun desalination plant is playing a key role in keeping water flowing to residents in the state's south-east.

Largely on "hot standby" since it opened in 2009 due to consistent rain events, the facility has been cranked up to full capacity after a tinder-dry spring and early summer which has seen dam levels plummet.

Since hitting 100 per cent production on November 18, the plant has pumped more than two billion litres of water into the southeast Queensland water grid. It represents about 15 per cent of the region's water use, currently averaging at 212 litres per person per day, up from 183 litres this time last year.

The first large-scale desalination plant on Australia's east coast (Perth's plant opened in 2006), the Tugun facility occupies a sprawling site next to Gold Coast Airport, a few hundred metres from the beach. It was originally planned as a much smaller Gold Coast City Council facility. But as the Millennium Drought bit deeper, the Beattie government invested almost $870 million in the project to more than double its capacity to 133 megalitres per day.

Gold Coast mother and environmentalist Inge Light wept at Gold Coast City Hall in October 2006 after councillors voted 12-2 to approve the project, saying it would worsen global warming and damage the marine environment "I'm emotional because I see my children's future being affected by global warming," she told The Courier-Mail at the time. "It's incredibly sad and incredibly frustrating that we've got yesterday's politicians making tomorrow's decisions."

But the council, led by green-leaning mayor Ron Clarke, decided  overwhelmingly that the desal plant was needed, and urgently. "The region will run out of water if we don't deal with this and make the hard decisions," then finance committee chair and now Southport MP Rob Molhoek said.

Construction began irmnediately by an "alliance", incvolving  French water giant Veolia, construction firm John Holland, infrastructure company Cardno and engineers Sinclair Knight Metz.

In 2007, The Courier-Mail revealed that Veolia expected to take in at least $351 million from running the desal plant over the following decade. Anna Bligh, who had succeeded Beattie as premier, took the first sip of desalinated water at a Tugun open day in December 2008.

The plant officially opened in January 2009, but the State Government refused to accept ownership after a raft of serious defects were revealed, including rusting pipes, cracking concrete and faulty valves, as well as concerns over potential contaminants leaching from the former Tugun rubbish dump on which the facility was built.

In April 2009, the plant, supposedly the showpiece of the $9 billion south-east Queensland water grid, was shut down for almost six weeks as technical experts crawled through pipes to pinpoint faults. A year later, the plant was again shut down, this time for three months, as a giant barge was brought in to make repairs. Only months later, south-east Queensland was hit by the devastating 2010-11 floods.

Critics have labelled the desal plant a costly white elephant, but it has been used to help supply water during floods as well as drought, and when water treatment plants have been shut down for upgrades.

The Courier-Mail recently took a tour of the plant with its manager, Tina Feenstra. Right on cue for our visit, the heavens have opened. "It's a running joke for us here: whenever we're at full capacity, it starts raining," Feenstra says, handing us umbrellas.

Feenstra explains the desalination process, which begins with sea water being fed through a 4m mushroom-like inlet on the seabed, about 1km offshore, and into a pipeline to the plant. Larger particles are screened out before the water passes through a finer filter which removes smaller particles. The water is then pre-treated in large tanks which blend small suspended particles into clumps which are then removed by sand filters.

Next, the main process begins — removing the salt. The water passes through thousands of reverse osmosis membranes to purify the water. It ends up being so pure, Feenstra explains, that chemicals and minerals then have to be re-added to make the water suitable to drink before it is pumped into the water grid.

Desalinated water does not come cheap, costing up to $800 a megalitre to produce. It's also energy-intensive, consuming the equivalent electricity of about 12,000 houses a day when running at full capacity.

"But when it's hotter and drier than average as it is now, having use of a facility like this is a real asset, particularly when we don't know how long this drought will last," Feenstra says.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of January 4, 2020

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Conservatism = patriotism?

The late great English political philosopher Roger Scruton seems to have thought that patriotism is in fact the origin of conservatism.  There are many passages in his writings where he might as well be talking about patriotism when he is trying to define conservatism.

I think the close alliance between conservatism and patriotism is an important insight.  Leftists often seem to be unpatriotic and if Scruton is right they HAVE to be unpatriotic.  The relationship between conservatism and patriotism is organic.  They are not two branches of the same tree.  They are one single tree.

I won't try to do a scour through his writings in order to demonstrate that but I do give below some passages from an article in the WSJ that he wrote in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks



It is a tautology to say that a conservative is a person who wants to conserve things; the question is what things? To this I think we can give a simple one-word answer, namely: us. At the heart of every conservative endeavor is the effort to conserve a historically given community. In any conflict the conservative is the one who sides with "us" against "them"--not knowing, but trusting. He is the one who looks for the good in the institutions, customs and habits that he has inherited. He is the one who seeks to defend and perpetuate an instinctive sense of loyalty, and who is therefore suspicious of experiments and innovations that put loyalty at risk.

Sept. 11 raised the question: Who are we, that they should attack us, and what justifies our existence as a "we"? American conservatism is an answer to that question. "We the people," it says, constitute a nation, settled in a common territory under a common rule of law, bound by a single Constitution and a common language and culture. Our primary loyalty is to this nation, and to the secular and territorially based jurisdiction that makes it possible for our nation to endure. Our national loyalty is inclusive, and can be extended to newcomers, but only if they assume the duties and responsibilities, as well as the rights, of citizenship. And it is reinforced by customs and habits that have their origin in the Judeo-Christian inheritance, and which must be constantly refreshed from that source if they are to endure.

In the modern context, the American conservative is an opponent of "multiculturalism," and of the liberal attempt to sever the Constitution from the religious and cultural inheritance that first created it.

For the conservative temperament the future is the past. Hence, like the past, it is knowable and lovable. It follows that by studying the past of America--its traditions of enterprise, risk-taking, fortitude, piety and responsible citizenship--you can derive the best case for its future: a future in which the national loyalty will endure, holding things together, and providing all of us, liberals included, with our required sources of hope.

Sept. 11 was a wake-up call through which liberals have managed to go on dreaming. American conservatives ought to seize the opportunity to utter those difficult truths which have been censored out of recent debate: truths about national loyalty, about common culture and about the duties of citizenship. You never know, Middle America might actually recognize itself at last, when addressed in this way.

More HERE

Scruton was also spot-on here

"The Left is united by hatred, but we are united by love: love of our country, love of institutions, love of the law, love of family, and so on... what makes us conservatives is the desire to protect those things, and we're up against people who want to destroy them."

There are also some good quotes from here in which we see his conception of a close interrelationship between patriotism and conservatism

So do I agree with Scruton?  I think I do. I have long seen hate and anger as the wellspring of Leftism and that seems inimical to love of country. 

My previous comments on Scruton are here and here

I must stress in closing that we are talking here about the wellsprings of conservatism rather than day to day political issues.  Patriots can and do have different opinions about current issues.  There are even some gullible conservatives who think anthropogenic global warming is a thing

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Scruton



The recent death of Roger Scruton has brought forth a number of reviews of his ideas and praise for his determined defence of them.

As the article below points out, his ideas coincide well with Trump's campaigns.  Patriotism is once more respectable and Scruton could well be described as the prophet of patriotism.  He is certainly a British patriot and I think he defends that well.

He is spot-on here:

"The Left is united by hatred, but we are united by love: love of our country, love of institutions, love of the law, love of family, and so on... what makes us conservatives is the desire to protect those things, and we're up against people who want to destroy them."

But I think he is dead wrong here:

"Left-wing people find it very hard to get on with right-wing people because they believe that they are evil. Whereas I have no problem getting on with left-wing people because I simply believe that they are mistaken."

That may show what a nice guy Scruton was but it reverses reality.  Leftist beliefs are not mistaken.  They are beliefs tenaciously clung on to because of their destructive potential.  Leftists really are evil and we have a big struggle to defend ourselves and our way of life from their dictatorial impulses

I also think that there is much in Scruton's view of conservatism that is rather idiosyncratic.  To me he is more a reactionary, not a conservative. He summarizes his view here.  There is much that he says about conservative psychology which is correct and insightful (such as: "British conservatism has always been suspicious of ideas" and "conservatism is less a philosophy than a temperament") but he claims to say what conservatism is without once mentioning the major policy preference which springs from that psychology -- the desire for individual liberty. 

And is there ANY American -- conservative or not -- who would agree that "the future is the past"?  That is  Scruton's summary of  a core conservative outlook.  By that criterion there are no (or very few) conservatives in America, I would think.  I prefer an infinitely more influential conservative's view of what is important in conservatism,   Ronald Reagan's :  "If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism....  The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom"

There is a good article here by Janet Albrechtsen which contrasts Scruton's thought with Leftist thought.  Scroll down to the heading "Hate is all that the Left have"

I have written more extensively on Scruton here


Sir Roger Scruton Is Dead, but His Ideas Live On

“Conservatism,” wrote Sir Roger Scruton, “is not a matter of defending global capitalism at all costs, or securing the privileges of the few against the many… Its underlying motive is not greed or the lust for power but simply attachment to a way of life.”

The great English philosopher, taken by cancer at the age of 75, was certainly no Chamber of Commerce conservative. For him, conservatism was not defined by the clash of competing economic systems, but by far simpler and more important matters; the preservation of truth, beauty, tradition, heritage, place, and identity.

His definition of patriotism, too, involved concepts you’re unlikely to hear at a Koch-funded lecture:

“When we wish to summon the ‘we’ of identity we refer to our country. We refer simply to this spot of earth, which belongs to us because we belong to it, have loved it, lived in it, defended it and established peace and prosperity within its borders.”

Scruton’s ideas, marginalized for many decades, have bubbled back to the top of the mainstream conservative movement. Under the leadership of nationalist and populist firebrands like President Donald Trump, Matteo Salvini of Italy, Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and Viktor Orban of Hungary (which recently awarded Scruton the Order of Merit), all manner of Scrutonite ideas have returned to the frontline of politics.

Take the concept of Oikophobes and Oikophiles, which Scruton often talked about. Oikophobia — from the Greek word “Oikos”, meaning “home” — refers to an aversion to one’s home; to its people, its traditions, and its culture.

As Scruton described it in a 2006 speech in Brussels, the Oikophobe opposes and ultimately seeks to supplant his own nation with rootless, bureaucratic political entities:

The oikophobe repudiates national loyalties and defines his goals and ideals against the nation, promoting transnational institutions over national governments, accepting and endorsing laws that are imposed from on high by the EU or the UN, and defining his political vision in terms of cosmopolitan values that have been purified of all reference to the particular attachments of a real historical community.

Is there any doubt that the division between Oikophobes and Oikophiles — or, one might say, globalists and nationalists —  is now the primary political divide in the west? Has it not sidelined the old, 20th-century battle between capitalism and socialism, which defined the left-right divide in that era? To be sure, the Kochs and the Chamber of Commerce and the D.C. think tanks are still deeply entrenched in the conservative establishment, but the momentum of the movement is no longer behind them.

This is not to say that Scruton was in any way soft on socialism. Far from it: in the 1980s, he played a leading role in the underground academic networks behind the Iron Curtain that helped bring about the collapse of Soviet communism. Socialism and communism, after all, are Oikophobe ideologies — throughout the 20th century they laid waste to national loyalties, to traditional architecture, to Christianity and other religions. Their fanatical adherents sought to supplant the authority of the masses with the authority of politburos whose loyalty lay not with their nation or people, but with a transnational ideology.

What set Scruton apart from mass-produced “conservative intellectuals” of the think-tank circuit, however, was his recognition that western neoliberalism was perfectly capable of producing its own kind of Oikophobia.

Even as eastern and Central European nationalism flowered amid the ruins of communism, western politicians — including so-called “conservatives” — pushed for mass immigration and deeper ties to artificial constructs like the E.U., which Scruton firmly opposed. Domestically, opponents of the agenda were demonized as cranks, conspiracy theorists, or racists. (Scruton himself recently fell prey to this well-oiled witchhunt machine). Overseas, western powers sought to import their rationalist, liberal values into cultures to which they were alien, with predictably disastrous results.

The rise of leaders like Trump, Bolsonaro, and Salvini has undermined that post-Soviet order, but Scruton wasn’t uncritical of populism either. He took issue with its American variant’s opposition to free trade, and thought Trump, “a creation of social media,” lacked intellect.

Despite this, Scruton recognized the conservative instinct behind two central ideas of the Trump movement, opposition to mass immigration and a revival of national identity.

As he wrote in 2018:

National identity is the origin of the trust on which political order depends. Such trust does not exist in Libya or Syria. But it exists in America, and the country has no more precious asset than the mutual loyalty that enables the words “we, the people” to resonate with every American, regardless of whether it is a liberal or a conservative who utters them.

Those first words of the United States Constitution do not refer to all people everywhere. They refer to the people who reside here, in this place and under this rule of law, and who are the guardians and beneficiaries of a shared political inheritance. Grasping that point is the first principle of conservatism.

Our political inheritance is not the property of humanity in general but of our country in particular. Unlike liberalism, with its philosophy of abstract human rights, conservatism is based not in a universal doctrine but in a particular tradition, and this point at least the president has grasped.

Happily, Scruton lived to see the twilight years of globalism, the Oikophobe ideology that despises national identity. In the early 2010s, if you said you were a “nationalist”, or that place, culture, and people matter, you would receive funny looks at best or be denounced as a racist at worst. Some people still think that way. And yet, everywhere you look, nationalists are now openly campaigning and winning elections.

Roger Scruton may be dead, but his ideas, grounded in a deep understanding of how people actually are, not how 20th-century ideologies wished them to be, have a destiny that stretches far into the future.

SOURCE