OUR REST & REFLECTION SERIES: Heat is on as NT in limbo on global warming policies

By JIMMY COCKING

Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC)

 

Records are being broken across the country as we in Central Australia swelter through another week of the “heatwave” that continues to dominate the national conversation.

The heatwave is not only igniting fires across the eastern seaboard and the Centre but is also providing another strong reminder that climate change continues unabated.

In Central Australia, raised temperatures and increased intensity of extreme weather will increase the likelihood of devastating fires, floods and droughts across the region. The high temperatures we are experiencing in Central Australia are also driving the temperature across the country. This heatwave is what many commentators are referring to as “the new normal”.

So, what are we doing about it?

In the Northern Territory, we had a Climate Change Policy, Climate Change Minister and a Climate Change Unit under the previous government.

However, none of these remain and besides funding a number of small local projects and providing increased support for ecoBIZ, it is not clear what the Northern Territory Government’s approach to climate change will be but early indications are not encouraging.

Locally, a number of initiatives are underway including Alice Solar City, Alice Water Smart, Alice Springs Community Garden and desertSMART COOLmob.

These projects are characterised by collaborative partnerships between various levels of government and the community sector and are thus far proving quite successful.

In July this year, however the Alice Solar City and Alice Water Smart projects will reach the end of their funding periods and without more funds secured, the momentum gained by these projects will be lost.

It is uncertain times.

We have an inexperienced government with experienced Departmental chiefs brought back in from the 20th century to run things in the 21st.

Utility prices have been increased, the impacts of which will be determined by how people respond to them. The NT Government has raised the prices to raise revenue, yet there may be unintended environmental benefits.

Many people have become more interested in solar panels and energy and water efficiency since the announcement and are pre-empting the increases by seeking to reduce their consumption.

Many other people will get a rude shock in March-April when their summer cooling and watering bills come and some will be pushed into poverty. Climate change is only just beginning to make its presence felt.

Where can we go from here?

Dealing with climate change is not an “us” versus “them” battle as some would have us believe. It is “we” who need to be making sure that our decisions and decisions made on our behalf are for the long-term.

Short-term political decisions are not what we need. We need decisions being made on the basis of economic, social, environmental and cultural needs without trading off one for the other. This requires well-thought through policy that ensures that developments are well-planned and address greater needs than simply the economic.

We need to be making smart decisions that won’t have costly consequences. We need to be moving towards a more resilient economy and social system while reducing our impact on the environment and indigenous cultures.

Climate change is a global challenge but provides an opportunity for Central Australia to shine.

The harshness of this desert environment creates adaptations in the plants, animals and people to survive the extreme temperatures and environmental conditions.

If we are to move forward together, we need to be thinking and acting on a range of areas including energy, water, waste, the built environment, local food and transport options.

These focal areas are also part of the desertSMART Roadmap that was created as part of an exhaustive community engagement process in 2004-5.

This year, we have the opportunity to review the desertSMART Roadmap and produce an action plan for the next five years. If we are serious about working out the social, environmental and economic challenges we face in the region – we need to be addressing climate change locally.

We need to be creating opportunities for the business, government and community sectors to work together on addressing the key challenges we face.

Solar energy, water efficiency, arid agriculture, building design and town planning, turning local waste into local resources and exploring post-fossil fuel transport systems are but some of the big opportunities for our region.

As the 2013 heatwave continues – we need vision and we need leadership from our politicians. The abolition of all things climate change by the NT Government needs to be addressed by bringing climate change planning and resilience (including disaster management) into every government department and every development decision.

Every delay, every backwards step we take on climate change preparedness is failing the next generation. We have a visionary and resilient bunch of people out here and to succeed, we need to work together.

The heat is on … so, let’s get on with it.

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17 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Welcome
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 3:57 am

    I read this post fully on the topic of the comparison of hottest and earlier technologies, it’s an awesome article.

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  2. Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    @ Janet – Just to clarify the points you are trying to make

    1) As I was not yet employed at the Arid Lands Environment Centre when you made this complaint – I am unaware of it.
    2) RE: Coolabahs introduced – you must have caught them on a bad day – I cannot comment or explain why this may have happened.
    3) ALEC was the Chair of the Ilparpa Swamp Rehabilitation Group in 2002 which lead to Power Water Corp changing its practices from dumping raw sewage into the swamp and recycling wastewater.
    4) Our water comes from Roe Creek, although your water comes from the Wanngardi basin – which is more water stressed than the Roe Creek borefield. ALEC believes that water conservation and water efficiency are the best approaches to protecting our water supplies.

    ALEC is working towards a vision of “healthy futures for arid lands and people” if you haven’t already done so, please check our website http://www.alec.org.au and feel free to contact me about any of your environmental concerns.

    Cheers, Jimmy

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  3. Janet Brown
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Jimmy I remind you of a conversation when prior to your appointment I complained to head of Arid Lands at the lost of coolabah trees on the road side of Ilparpa swamp trees that were some 400 + years old and I was told they were introduced trees. I have asked how dumping raw sewage on the swamp is allowed. No response. No action from Arid Lands.
    But then you allow PAWA to continue unabated to continue drilling, knowing the damage they are causing to the aquifer, and other environmental damage here by governments who assist in your funding, it appears to me non-profits are awarded contracts due mainly to their ability to focus on everything else except governmental vandalism.

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  4. Posted January 21, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    @ Steve’s posts
    Thanks for all the time and energy you have put into these posts (I am flattered!) – though I am compelled to clarify a number of points …
    The reason community organisations are awarded funding from the government is to deliver services that the government and the private sector cannot deliver effectively. It is generally a competitive process.
    Wages and salaries in the not-for-profit sector are less when compared to the government and private sectors. People work hard in the community sector because we passionately care about the job we are doing and the impact we are having.
    I care deeply about this community Steve. I have lived here for almost five years and am committed to seeing this place get on the path towards social, economic and environmental sustainability. Your vitriolic comments do nothing for this positive vision except to inflame and irritate where open, trusted dialogue and cooperation are needed.
    I am extending an invitation to you and anybody else who reads this to come in and visit the Arid Lands Environment Centre and see what great work is being done to build the resilience of our community to climatic and environmental changes – check out the website http://www.alec.org.au, give me a call on 8952 2497 or email info@alec.org.au and we can have a cuppa and see where we could work together.
    @ all Thanks for your contributions to the debate … that’s all I’ve got time for today, I have to go get some real work done.

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  5. Bob Durnan
    Posted January 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Re Steve’s post January 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm: But as Alice said, as she slid further and further into Wonderland, “curiouser and curiouser.”

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  6. Steve Brown
    Posted January 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    @Bob Bob surely you’ve noticed I always extend to you and Ian the same courtesy and good will that you extend me.
    For me it’s a matter of policy Bob. “Well what can I say about your last comment Bob”!
    Perhaps you are just living justification for the old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”!
    However I’ll give it one last try. We are all talking; the world is talking about “Climate change”!
    “Global Warming, to be precise”! Have you got that?
    We are talking about taking some kind of action aren’t we? Therefore any action away from “Global Warming” is moving towards “Global Cooling” because Bob that is the opposite of Global Warming!
    So if we find a method for dealing with Global Warming like the reflective cloud particle idea that being put about if we were too successful with that, we would be heading towards “Global Cooling” and “Starvation” in a very short period of time!
    The last great extinction period on earth occurred in exactly the same way, only created by nature and not the hand of man.
    So surely Bob, it’s pertinent even just a little bit clever to ask, what poses the greater risk to life on Earth, Warming or Cooling?
    I have been attempting to point out to you that warming means “More Life” Cooling means “The End of Life”!
    Since my comment featuring “Max” have you noted how many times news reports have used the term “Way above Average” this weekend??
    What my little ditty about Max was trying to help you see is that the temperature is nearly always above or below average.
    That in fact an “Average” is a completely misleading meaningless figure! And that meaningless figure is being used by those with something to gain from the controversy to make the general population have an uneasy feeling that things aren’t completely normal.
    The news headline of the other night was Sydney “Hottest Day since 1939 Temperatures way above average”!!
    Hey Bob, mathematically speaking any of the higher temperatures are above average they have to be! Work it out and stop being duped!
    Wasn’t 1939 before the global warming period? The record breaking temp difference in Sydney was .5 of a degree. I suspect that amounts to margin of error in the recording standards, hardly worth the over the Top “Record Breaking” presentation!
    So much propaganda Bob, don’t you ever ask yourself why? Follow the money trails, Bob, follow the money trails.

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  7. Ian Sharp
    Posted January 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I’m with Bob Durnan, “rigorous debate” with Steve Brown just not possible for the reasons Bob outlined. And especially on this topic, Steve seems to characterise climate scientists as “a bunch of free loading non contributing con artists (seeking?) to extract funding fame and fortune at our, the normal tax payer’s expense!”
    Crikey! Argy Bargy is all that is possible with conspiracy theorists, not rational discussion. I would be more interested in a discussion with someone like Jimmy Cocking over the way we meet the crisis we face. I believe nuclear power should not be ruled out as part of the mix of measures we take to mitigate the the extent of climate change.

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  8. Posted January 19, 2013 at 5:58 am

    The topic that you wrote is very important. This is not only Australia’s problem but also our world problem. All those problems occurred just because of us. Especially, this climate problem is one of the most important problem in front of us. So thanks for your attention about that also. I like your news and will follow you from now on.

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  9. Bob Durnan
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    To Steve (Posted January 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm): I very much doubt that Ian gets much, if any, of his information from breakfast television. Why do you keep rabbiting on about it?
    Rigorous debate? It relies on the ability to make clear, coherent, logical arguments, based on evidence, and to listen to and understand your opponents.
    It also depends on a willingness to provide a degree of respect for other participants and the audience. These are not always hallmarks of your comments and rants.
    I read your first two comments here (“Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm” and “Posted January 17, 2013 at 7:21 pm”) several times, and could not decipher from them that you are “not arguing against … global warming and … not proposing that we are cooling.”
    Well that is interesting to find out now, but hey, why didn’t you say so at the time?
    After all, you did say in your first, typically incoherent comment – without any hint of irony – that “While making our assessments let’s keep one indisputable fact fixed firmly in our minds: There is something that is considerably more threatening to mankind’s existence than global warming! That is global cooling!”
    The mere presence of apparent contradictions or extreme and/or irrational assertions in your argument is itself no indicator of irony, as your statements are habitually full of contradictions and irrationality, a fact about which you normally appear either oblivious, unconcerned or simply in denial.
    You can’t expect people to be able to understand you if you are unwilling to take the trouble to be careful and consistent in your exposition of argument, as you will quickly wind up with scrambled logic, fail to communicate, and risk making a fool of yourself.

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  10. Steve Brown
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    @ Ian, Ian you really must read the posts a little more carefully if you are going to comment on them.
    I am not arguing against climate change or global warming and I am not proposing that we are cooling.
    I am protesting the huge con being created by deliberate overstatement and the deliberate misuse of the truth as demonstrated in my last comment.
    These overstatements, scaremongering, are being used by a bunch of free loading non contributing con artists to extract funding fame and fortune at our, the normal tax payer’s expense!
    They are not contributing anything that will actually assist us with climate change, they are simply weighing us down with ever greater burdens of bureaucracy and taxes.
    I am not prepared to be conned nor should you be, don’t just suck it up actually give what you are being asked to believe some thought.
    If what climate science is telling you is correct, it will stand up to rigorous debate, won’t it?? What are you scared of, Ian, maybe finding out all that stuff you heard on breakfast Television isn’t true! I mean, how unlikely is that!!

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  11. Ian sharp
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    I am amazed how much time and energy Steve Brown has put into his posts in response to Jimmy’s reflection.
    However time and energy were not well spent. He states “it is difficult to get any kind of accurate information” on climate change, and so gives up and presents us with his own “cool logical look” at the problem … and comes up with global cooling, a possibility put forward 30 years ago but since rejected in the light of overwhelming evidence.
    Steve is quite entitled to his views but people like him can create confusion in the minds of the less well informed.
    Anyone interested in credible information could start with the CSIRO website. Easy to find if you google “CSIRO understanding climate change”. Also other links there – “reducing greenhouse gas emissions” and “adapting to climate change”.
    And step outside at night and look at Venus. Cool beautiful, and as hot as buggery because of runaway greenhouse effect. No glaciers at all, even of dry ice.

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  12. Ian sharp
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Great post from Steve, I think? Bit like my efforts with the turgid prose of Tolstoy. I fell asleep early in the piece, but I know it proves my point, we don’t need CSIRO when we have Steve.

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  13. Steve Brown
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    @ Ian My comment was directed at those who retain the ability to think for themselves; from what I’ve read of your various comments I think that leaves you sitting pretty firmly on the bench doesn’t it?
    Make no mistake I’m not arguing about climate change or whether human activity is having an effect I’m arguing about what those effects are and protesting about the giant con, the giant swindle being perpetrated by an ever-growing mass of free loaders trying to extract wealth and fame from idiotic scaremongering about climate change.
    Let me give you a little example you might want to rest up a bit Ian because I’m going to ask you to think a little here, take it slowly this is a fictitious story so you are going to have to use your imagination.
    Somewhere in the world there is a little Town called Consville something rather odd occurs here the maximum temperature on any given day is either 2 degrees or 20 degrees in the past month of January 31, days long. It recorded 11 days at 2 degrees and 20 days at 20 degrees. The local weather man quite correctly worked that out to be an average temp for the month of January of 13.6129032 degrees. The weather man, no longer referred to as such but now as head of the local department of Climate Change, sadly had been struggling to attract much interest in the latest funding rounds leaving the boss and all the staff feeling a little bit vulnerable. Fortunately the boss called Max who was a bit out there, liked to be in the spotlight, had established a good relationship with the local news hungry media and saw a chance to capitalise both in elevating his own personal profile while at the same time applying a certain amount of political pressure amongst those handing out the grant funds.
    After all, everybody knows that grant funds are allocated on the basis of who can generate the greatest media attention.
    Max saw an opportunity, already appearing in media several times a day to report the up until now totally predictable and boring weather.
    Max, with the help of filler hungry media upped the anti, being aware that most people simply accept unquestioningly what they are told by media, especially breakfast television. Max went for it.
    For 20 days he was able to come on strong with sensational headers reporting to a story hungry and rather bored Consville, that the day temperature of 20 degrees was “well above the average”! Max had no qualms about doing this because it was of course absolutely true, somewhat misleading but nonetheless true.
    After the first few days of sensationalist reporting he introduced some helpful tips for dealing with the heat and as he basked in the glory of media attention. He upped the anti again, brought in a few mates from work to hypothesise about what all these days above average could mean – could it be something dreadful going wrong, something we doing to ourselves? He threw in a few health warnings for good measure, a few more dark doom-saying special guests.
    All this hyped up presentation generated a good deal of discussion in the local community. Max was the centre of attention down there in the grant funding bureaucracy. They had heard all the commotion, concerns were raised, should we do more?
    Answer, send Max more money! Max of course gratefully accepted the increased line of funding while sternly warning that more would be needed, we must do more, said Max!
    Max employed more staff, built new offices and basked in the glory over the next few years his empire grew as unfortunately did the tax burden on those few unfortunate souls who hadn’t been employed by Max, They of course needed to produce enough to support themselves and Maxes beautiful world saving empire. Sadly eventually the burden grew so great that they simply gave up resulting in the entire community of Consville including Max in starving to death. The tragic remains can still be seen today drifting through time 2 degrees one day 20 the next.
    We don’t need another bureaucracy of freeloaders. We don’t need ever increasing regulation. We need hard working energetic people willing to ADAPT!
    Jimmy, I am extremely well aware that there is more to weather and global warming than I put in my hypotheses. This however is a comment in a news.paper I’m not writing a book. I was also keeping it simple so Ian wouldn’t feel left out.

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  14. Ian sharp
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

    There I was all these years thinking Venus was incredibly hot, but no, it seems it is covered in glaciers. Steve certainly is a Renaissance man, expert on everything. No need for the CSIRO. We are blessed to have him here to correct us in our ignorance and errors. Pack your snowshoes for your next night flight to Venus.

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  15. Hal Duell
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Working towards adaptation seems to sum up a lot of this debate. There are now seven billion of us sharing an ever busier and ever more crowded world. Where will we all get our clean water, our food and our breathable air? Has anyone else been following the news coming out of Beijing the past couple of days?
    The present global system of turbo-capitalism that drives us all is firmly plugged into hydrocarbon generated energy. To some of us at least, there seems to be a dark absurdity at work when global warming causes the Arctic sea-ice to retreat thereby exposing new fields of extractable hydrocarbons, and then there’s a scramble to stake a claim. Its a bit like watching a junkie search for another usable vein on his terminally damaged body.
    Do we really want to go fracking under the streets of Sydney?
    Adaptation becomes a new and urgent imperative, and I have enough faith in mankind to believe we will. How we manage that is right now an unknown, but most of our assumptions will have to be reconsidered. For instance, how much of the objection to nuclear power is a rejection of technology that is well past its use-by date? I am beginning to think mine is.
    Or can solar power really get us all across the line? I still like to think so, but so far it hasn’t. Perhaps in small outstations like Alice Springs it has a chance, but in the world’s mega-cities? Maybe thorium is worth a closer look.
    And will Australia find an alternative earn to its economic dependence on coal exports?
    It is interesting times we have bequeathed our grandchildren, and some of it will be messy.

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  16. Posted January 16, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Steve – thanks for your prompt reply, though it is an increasingly marginalised viewpoint as climate change is now recognised as a mainstream issue.
    Firstly, I will make it clear that although I see climate change as one of the most significant challenges for the 21st century, I do not support geoengineering as a means of mitigating it. Geoengineering could lead to massive negative implications if a mistake is made – very similar to nuclear power and the problems attached to splitting atoms.
    Climate change is a long term process which is occurring over decades rather than centuries. It means that each generation from here on in will live in a world that is a little bit warmer than last and have less access to resources to do something about it – due to the increased economic impacts of climate-related disasters … so we should start now.
    The atmosphere is more complex than you have given credit to it for – eg. your interpretation heat=more water vapour = more rain = more plant growth = less climate change, fails to consider the impacts of deforestation and forest burning, the increased emissions from the melting of the permafrost in Siberia, the decreasing efficiencies associated with fossil fuel extraction (eg. tar sands in Alaska), the increased temperature of the ocean and the change of currents I could go on and on.
    Steve – for generations past and it continues that people destroy vast areas of land and return profits directly from this destruction. There is no accounting for the services these ecosystems provide to life eg. clean water, clean air, land for food production, waste disposal etc.
    For more than two hundred years the world has advanced by using up the natural resources much quicker than being able to replace, let alone recycle them.
    There has been little to no consideration for the damage being done or even keeping some money aside from all the “boom” to manage the impacts of continually taking and not giving anything back to help nature cope with the increasingly negative impacts we are having on our life support systems.
    This is why we need to act and create a new economy that takes environmental degradation into account when weighing up profit margins. Working towards adaptation while also seeking to mitigate climate change – eg. planting trees, effective fire and land management, renewable energy production, local food and horticulture … once again the list goes on.
    I truly believe that success is within our grasp Steve … if we only work together. No bogeymen, no fear mongering, just getting on and making the changes we need to make happen. Respecting each other, respecting mother nature and being responsible – that’s it Steve! You with me?

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  17. Steve Brown
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    What we’ve really got to do Jimmy is cut the reams of fear mongering propaganda around climate change clearly designed to attract further funding for opportunistic researchers and conservation groups who, without the fear of climate change in their funding arguments, would stand a chance of somewhere between zero and none, of attracting funding of any kind.
    Unfortunately for us the world, the truth this kind of research tends to attract the fringe dwellers, the disenfranchised, those who maintain a view that mankind is wicked and should be removed from the earth, their own saintly selves excluded of course! What am I saying! A Blasphemer! A denier!
    Well, actually I’m not. I think that it is quite a reasonable proposition that mankind and its activities are having an effect on world climate.
    However, because there is so much overstating of the position, it’s difficult to get any kind of accurate information on what those changes are.
    What any sensible human being who has retained the ability to think for themselves can do is take a cool logical look at what is occurring and asses the likely outcomes through known science.
    How does that match up with what we are being told? While making our assessments let’s keep one indisputable fact fixed firmly in our minds: There is something that is considerably more threatening to mankind’s existence than global warming! That is global cooling!
    So before we go marching off to change our world’s climate from warming as our climate scientists seem to think we can, we might just want to take that into consideration!
    So what consequences, less the scaremongering, does global warming really hold for mankind? There is a fairly general agreement that we will be facing some rise in sea levels although I suspect they will be a good deal less than our climate doomsayers would have you believe, for reasons I will outline.
    The most often used propaganda designed to frighten us into quivering submission by world saving climate change fanatics and opportunists is that we will be facing enormous rises in temperature, huge storms, bushfires, etcetera, all in extremes.
    This is a grotesque and deliberate distortion of the facts and as such is a barefaced lie! The science of global warming, the greenhouse effect has been around for a long time and is extremely well understood for those who are actually interested in the truth.
    We can view this phenomena in the tropical regions of the earth or in your local greenhouse if you like.
    It goes like this: More heat more water absorbed into atmosphere, more water in atmosphere the greater the humidity.
    Greater humidity means more cloud, more cloud more rain, more cloud more heat reflection, more cloud more heat retention.
    The effect of this is too bring “down” not “up” the maximum temperatures and to bring “up” the minimum temperatures.
    We end up holding more heat overall but are less extreme in temperatures, just like in the tropics the effect overall is to get much wetter more storms more major weather events such as cyclones.
    Because there will be more of these events then of course you are more likely to get an extreme occasionally, but condensation / precipitation still take place after the same temperature change.
    So storms and rain events are exactly as they are now! Just in greater quantity. The result for sea levels and countryside is much greater levels of water suspended in the atmosphere, held in soils lakes and rivers a huge escalation in the growth of plant life which also results in removing removes vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, in fact more than our climatologists say we need to remove to save our world!
    What all this means for the earth is greater production, curiously, almost as if by design, just at a time when we need it to feed our growing population.
    None of this takes place suddenly overnight as our climate fanatics would have you believe. It happens slowly. With every tiny increase in temperature more water is absorbed and the whole effect as described above increases by that tiny increment.
    Why, it’s almost as if the earth can balance itself without the Help of climatologists!
    How could that be? Surely it couldn’t be that we don’t really need these people in our lives, in our decision making?
    As I stated at the outset, there is something that is absolutely threatening to mankind’s existence and that threat is global cooling!
    Global cooling means less production, less production means less food, less food production means starvation!
    It only takes a tiny downturn in temperature to start this process! An accidentally triggered large downturn in global temperature, say by climatologists experimenting with reflective cloud materials as is being suggested by some, could bring about the end of our civilization, all of your lives, in just a few short months!
    That in my books makes the most direct and present danger to all of us, not climate change itself, but the so called science of climatology and the unchallenged actions of those involved in it!
    So the question I ask you to contemplate is this: Obviously, mankind and its vast numbers is having an effect on the earth’s climate but is that such a bad thing? Do we really want to risk changing it on the advice of a scientific viewpoint reached not by rigorous unbiased scientific study but apparently according to the UN and our media, by majority vote?
    I wonder if that means if we can get enough people to vote for it that we can return to magic and a Flat Earth.
    Think of all the possibilities for good propaganda! Hey what fun!
    Jimmy, there are plenty of local environmental issues to be resolved and plenty of lessons to be learned and put to work in dealing with our local conditions in the creation of new industries, horticulture, mining and tourism, to employ and create wealth for our community.
    Let’s concentrate on those issues an find ways to adapt to any climate change on the way to making these things happen and let’s put our environmental passions into making sure we do these things well, without poisoning our home especially with dumb over-regulation created in an attempt to regulate the impossible, climate change.
    This will simply amount to another productivity strangling burden on the shoulders of our already struggling economy and kill off any attempts to adapt to anything.

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