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History

The ‘Great Debate’ on Climate Science

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 144 Comments

Some time ago Anthony Watts opened his website to what purported to be a ‘great debate’ on climate science, between William Happer, emeritus professor of physics at Princeton and very recently an adviser to President Trump (Professor Happer and I have corresponded from time to time), and David Karoly, a professor at Melbourne University who has been involved in a number of IPCC reports. I had a particular interest in this debate, because I had debated Professor Karoly myself, some years ago. Apart from saying that there was a lot in what I said that he would agree with, Professor…

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On Faith

By | Books, Climate Change, History, Media, Politics, Religion | 53 Comments

I have never met Cardinal George Pell, nor heard him speak save in television grabs, but I have read a number of his essays, and each of them seemed to be lucid, clearly expressed and sensible — the latter not in every respect, because I do not always agree with him, but logical and forceful in the way his argument is put forward. If you don’t agree with him, you have to be able to argue against him. That is not easy. In the most recent issue of Quadrant Cardinal Pell reviews a book about the situation of the Christian Church…

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Rimsky-Korsakov

By | ABC, Books, History, Music, Society | 13 Comments

A week ago I found it hard to deal with pain, and went to hospital, which fixed things up pretty well after three days. Those three days included the implosion of the Turnbull Government, and all that followed, about most of which I was quite unaware, and when I did know, cared less. Recovery from the pain episode is continuing, and I decided I would write again about something that has been part of my life since I was about eighteen, Western classical music, and in this instance, the life and music of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. Why him? Well, not so…

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Perhaps the worst policy botch ever

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 169 Comments

There is one over-arching imperative about the National Energy Guarantee: there must be agreement. The Prime Minister says so. The Leader of the Opposition says so. The media say so. The reason is quite clear. Once there is agreement the energy issue can be put aside for a while, and people can get on with other business. Unfortunately the issue itself won’t go away. It has nothing to do with Tony Abbott. The NEG has an utterly fundamental flaw, in that its two elements are incompatible. You cannot both produce lower, cheaper and more reliable electricity and gas, while at…

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Waste Not, Water Not

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Society | 13 Comments

First, a note about my capacity to deal with comments. The treatment I am on causes fatigue, and means also that everything else I do that might once have taken ten minutes now takes twenty. So I’m progressing slowly with responses to comments, and also writing a new piece every few days, not to mention completing a new book. I seem to slip behind everywhere. Where I think I ought to comment I’ll do so in time. Waste  The ABC seems to be hammering me, and all other viewers and listeners, about its ‘war on waste’. The last episode was…

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The changing Australian culture

By | Books, Economy, Education, Food & Wine, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society, Sport, Theatre | 22 Comments

To write a new website essay is now a challenge, but I feel up to it. And I’ve wanted to write about this subject at a little length, rather than as a series of asides. It is built around a most interesting book by the always interesting John Carroll, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University. Land of the Golden Cities is published by Connor Court, and my copy took me a month to acquire. And then I got ill. But reading it brought back a platoon of memories. Here are three. Late 1950s. Two of us, senior undergraduates,…

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At least, a real debate on climate change (I hope)

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 139 Comments

Slowly the Western world is facing up to the real possibility that the catastrophe that was supposed to lie in wait for us, as a result of our use of fossil fuels, might have been over-egged, and that climate change may not even be accessible to human action, let alone caused by it. Germany is having trouble with its push to make alternative sources the core of its electricity production. China has stopped subsidizing solar panels. A newly elected provincial government in Ontario is set to wipe out carbon-pricing rules. The UK has seen two weeks of nil power from…

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Is Western Civilisation worth studying?

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 47 Comments

The back-story to this essay is the bequest of Paul Ramsay, businessman and philanthropist, to ensure that what he saw as the true gifts of what we commonly call Western civilisation were taught and appreciated. He felt that they were being forgotten, ignored — worse, ignorantly rejected, and by those who should above all recognise and respect them. So he put some $3 billion into a Trust some of which was to establish teachers and scholarships in Australian universities to ensure that what he wanted happened. He had in mind, I think, the ‘Great Books’ curriculum famous at Chicago. It…

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Aboriginal politics gains a new supporter

By | History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 16 Comments

The newly elected President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Tony Bartone, has stated that the AMA will push for Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution, after the AMA endorsed the Uluru Statement. This might mean that materials supporting Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution might appear in doctors’ surgeries. Why is the AMA doing this? According to the ABC, Dr Bartone said that ‘we can’t really seek to close the gap when it comes to health outcomes until we address the fundamental building blocks… [The Uluru plan could improve] the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.’…

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The June Off-Topic Thread

By | Climate Change, History, Other, Politics, Research, Society | 57 Comments

(1) I’ll start this one with a reference to a new paper and a flashback to one of my own essays. The IPCC developed a concept for its last report called ‘Representative Concentration Pathways’ (RCP), which are scenarios  about what might happen given certain assumptions about the control of carbon dioxide. The scariest of these is RCP 8.5, which is, not coincidentally, the most favoured pathway if you are an alarmist writer. I wrote about it here. RCP 8.5 is not, as often claimed, a ‘business as usual’ scenario, but a highly unlikely scenario requiring people like businessmen to behave…

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