Homepage

Updated and relaunched 8/5/2016, new sections are; Prologue, Introduction, and Priorities. The most important things to understand begin at paragraph 9 of the very long introduction (following the rambling prologue - it is a big topic). If you are reading this I assume that you care and I apologise if my angry writing offends you, but if you are up to date on the topic I am sure you understand the anger, civil discourse has not provoked sufficient action. My earlier writing (below 'priorities' section) is a bit easier to read.

The rest of the topics and links on this page and the linked pages will be updated soon.

On this page:

Prologue

Introduction

Priorities

About this website

What is global warming or 'climate change'?

How to fix climate change

Climate change 'uncertainty'

What is a Human?

A 'secular morality' for Humankind

References

Prologue

Humanity can reverse climate change and effectively stabilise and control our climate. Climate change is not just caused by excessive greenhouse gases in the air, it is also caused by land use change, especially tree clearing and changes to surface and groundwater systems which are usually linked.

In Australia one can equate our natural water supply systems to a giant evaporative air conditioners water supply, and the vegetation it supplies is equivalent to the air conditioners evaporative surfaces. In order to effectively address climate change in Australia we must reverse our greenhouse gas emissions and return our continental air conditioner to its pre-European invasion functional state, the work will require additional freshwater which can only come from desalinating seawater, although it may also be possible to desalinate groundwater where appropriate, like in coal pits, and recharge the desalinated aquifers with freshwater in order to re-habilitate some types of degraded landscapes.

All works will require rigorous environmental impact assessments to ensure that the net impacts of the works are positive impacts. We have to use every tool available to us to effectively address climate change or we will become extinct. Unfortunately, most Homo sapiens are obsessively self interested which is slightly understandable given our biology and commercially influenced social trends, however we should expect more than obsessive self interest from our Governments. We should expect Governments to take a longer view and to be concerned about our children’s future, but they currently do not. In Australia, Governments act for the short term benefit of the wealthier ‘baby boomers’ (starting with themselves) – a demographic that seems determined to take the Earth with them and cruelly betray their children in the process. I gave up trying to edit this complicated picture so that people conditioned to think in simplified ‘cartoon’ fashion and ‘sound bites’ can understand it. However, most people are probably more intelligent than they seem to be, and non- thinkers are probably not reading this. Anyway I can almost guarantee that the reader will find some novel and useful information if you persevere.


This website has been relaunched using the Authors last dregs of hope that humanity might wake up to itself in time to avoid the effectively total, destruction of our biosphere. My previous website of the same name was taken down when I ran out of funds and energy to maintain it, this site has been sitting idle while I attempted to complete a hugely difficult PhD and battled with despair, disgust and rage at watching our world be destroyed by our ignorant, selfish ‘leaders’ while being cheered on by the majority of my ignorant selfish contemporaries. I am still battling with the PhD, my despair has been largely replaced with a constant smouldering rage, my writing ability is decreasing as the rage burns my mind so I have decided that despite these problems I must try once more to promote a better, viable world where humanity becomes Human and begins to appreciate and repair our Mother Earth, before I can no longer write at all.(making excuses for poor, ranty writing I suppose)


It would not be so bad if humanity just destroyed itself, it will be a shame when the ~20% of people who do appreciate the Earth suffer terrible needless deaths, but I have no sympathy for the majority of my peers as they have just about proved that they are not worthy of the priceless gift of life on Earth. Unfortunately though, when humanity collapses, it will take most of the biosphere with it, all of the beautiful birds and other macroscopic animals we say we appreciate will be destroyed forever, the universe will suffer a huge pointless loss of wonderful diversity, trillions of creatures will suffer needlessly and ‘disappear’ forever.


Even if a virulent virus wiped out all Homo sapiens tomorrow, we have already done so much damage to Earth that it is almost certain that most of our ecosystems would continue to collapse until only algae, bacteria, viruses, and some small invertebrates are left. So, unfortunately, the fate of our Earth rests in ‘humanity’s’ hands. The solutions are simple in concept, as our problems of viability are caused by two major factors which are: What we do with the Earth (our destructive actions) and the number of us who are performing, and currently depend on, those destructive actions (our exponentially growing populations).


So, in order to maintain a viable biosphere we must do two main things immediately: (this bit may shock many people but we will have to control our population or it will be controlled by mother Earth and she won't be nice about it) We must limit and preferably reverse human population growth. A gradually but swiftly introduced one or two child policy and cessation of 'lifestyle choice' immigration would be a good start. People who have profited from the destruction and/or overcrowding of their own part of the world should not be allowed to move to less spoiled environments, they should stay where they are and help to repair the damage they have caused or allowed. If 'lifestyle choice' immigration is stopped it would be possible to increase our relatively low refugee intake while still drastically reducing immigration, and we are morally obliged to accept climate change refugees from Pacific islands. However, if the refugees have more than one child they should be sterilised. Population control might sound shocking but when food becomes limited in an overpopulated place nastier shocks can occur. We had better get real and drop the utopian 'endless growth' rubbish soon.

The other major action we must undertake is the active repair of our biosphere to a condition as close as we can get to its pre-industrial state. Specific biosphere repair actions must include: Extremely rapid cessation of fossil fuel extraction and use, revegetation of landscapes, rehabilitation and organic carbon loading of degraded soils, rehabilitation of river and groundwater systems, and active removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by means of revegetation and soil improvements and also by other means such as producing high carbon ‘bio-crude’ oils from algal and other biomass and injecting them back into suitable geological formations such as exhausted oil fields.


In Australia we must stop killing our rivers and allow our aquifers to recharge, we will have to desalinate water for our own use, and to support revegetation. Desalination can have negative impacts but they can be minimised and managed more easily than the impacts that our current water supply systems cause, and one of the major impacts – the addition of water to the landscape, is a positive impact. I have outlined the scale and some details of the renewable energy and desalination capacity necessary to begin to address climate change in Australia in my Honours thesis (2009, but still valid) “Developing an integrated renewable energy, water supply and carbon management system in Australia as an alternative to fossil fuelled systems”please download a pdf copy (4.63MB) here. Brine discharge from desalination plants could also be used to maintain or enhance ocean currents if it was piped or shipped to carefully chosen locations. All major rehabilitation projects and supporting infrastructure and all other related and unrelated major works must be subject to rigorous, proactive, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which includes widespread consultation and transparent reporting.


Harebrained geo-engineering schemes such as loading the atmosphere with reflective aerosols, or salt particles to enhance (‘dry’, salty, non rain producing) cloud formation for the purpose of increasing Earths albedo (reflectivity) should be avoided because those industrial inspired ‘band aids’ will cause more problems than they solve. The only geo-engineering that should be allowed are those projects which repair past geo-engineering mistakes such as dam removal and rehabilitation, and projects which enhance natural cycles. Ecology is not rocket science, although it can include just as much advanced mathematics and calculus as rocket science, it is much more complicated, so people who do not have much of an understanding of ecology should not make decisions which affect ecosystems, that is the purpose of EIA and EIA’s must be used correctly without allowing politicians to bypass them as is now usual in Australia.


Obviously, reforming our society and economy in order to save our Earth as we know it could be a bit inconvenient to many people; however our society is constantly changing so we may as well consciously change it for the better. The economy, a totally artificial system that is moving further from reality by the day, must be reformed in any case as it is increasingly favouring a small wealthy elite to the detriment of us all and that situation will not end well if we let it run its course. The economy must be reformed to serve society and the environment or it will fail. Technology, in particular the advent of AI and robots, will require a major overhaul of our societies and economy in any case. The alternative to reforming Australia’s society and economy, and ignoring climate change will play out as follows: Australia’s population will grow beyond Australia’s capacity to support it without imports, most of our ecosystems will be destroyed, sea level rise and rising temperatures inland will force people to crowd into the great dividing range and a few other elevated spots, global climate change will interrupt food imports, remaining ecosystems will be destroyed as people scrabble and fight for food and water, there will be no one left to worship the economy. I would prefer the inconvenience of reform to the inconvenience of extinction, that is our choice. The next paragraph outlines a few other obstacles and stuff.


The majority of the human world, especially in Australia, is being run like a gigantic Ponzi scheme that requires endless growth in population and resource exploitation. It is insane to think that endless growth in a finite world is possible, it is criminally insane (if ultimate genocide, and 'planetcide' is a crime) to promote actions that support uncontrolled growth. Therefore: most of our Australian governments (and governments on many other countries) and the people who elect them are criminally insane, or just criminally careless. To be fair, individuals usually act from the perspective of a short lifespan and they strive to maximise their wellbeing within their perceived and/or actual limitations as individuals, they think that they can excuse themselves by saying there is not much they can do to help the Earth, then they proceed to do nothing to help and in fact continue to destroy things. These selfish individuals could actually help things with no additional effort (voting is compulsory in Australia, and still an option in most countries), all they would have to do is to vote for progressive leaders, in Australia they could vote for the Greens (hit a nerve did I? their policies are online and they have demonstrated integrity so far) or for progressive such as Tony Windsor. These types of candidates actually look beyond their individual desires and act for the good of the future. However, to date, the majority of my peers vote for the Labour/’Liberal’ – ‘Nationals’ tag team who, together seem to have formed a cynical alliance in order to enrich themselves as individuals by facilitating the destructive exploitation of our Earth by their sponsors – property ‘developers’, miners, warmongers and bankers who back and depend on the miners, warmongers, developers and other rent seekers etc. A Federal independent commission against corruption (ICAC) would be able to rectify most of these political aberrations but our ‘leaders’ do not want to establish a Federal ICAC. I wonder why?


The best and probably only way to realise the reforms outlined above is to educate people or help them educate themselves so that they can understand and appreciate the need for conscious reform. It is very important that people gain ‘Wisdom’ as one wise person noted “to know is to be clever, to understand is to be wise” or something like that. For those that appreciate the Earth, apologies for my poor writing and flagging efforts, for the rest, I hope you wake up to the bigger picture soon.


The following introduction outlines some of the essential knowledge required to inform decisions about landscape management, fairly detailed environmental knowledge should be taught throughout schooling as a compulsory part of school curriculums, we will need a lot more Ecologists, Ecosystem Engineers and engaged, informed people if we wish to effectively maintain our Earth. Some issues above will be repeated in expanded form.

Back to top

Introduction


The name of this website suggests that climate change is a problem that can be solved. Climate change does cause many problems but it is more useful to recognise that current climate change is actually just one symptom of a broader problem, which is; global environmental degradation and destruction, or, in anthropocentric terms: the destruction of humanities life support system. In order to ‘solve’ climate change we must identify and effectively address the causes of climate change.


Obviously, excessive and accumulating amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been identified as a major cause of current climate change and ocean acidification, and most of the sources of excess gases are well known (some are less well known) and are caused directly and indirectly by human activities. Also fairly well known but hardly ever discussed is the direct climate changing impacts of land use change which includes; Urbanisation, infrastructure construction, vegetation, animal and soil property changes, river regulation and diversion, surface water capture and diversion, groundwater extraction, etc. Land use change alters the local and regional climate by several direct and indirect mechanisms (discussed later in text) and usually reduces the landscapes capacity to absorb carbon and water.

The issues above will be discussed in increasing detail through the following text, however: Given that ‘human’ actions are motivated by ‘human’ needs, and increasingly ‘wants’ which are informed by how we think, it has become obvious to me that the root cause of ‘human’ mismanagement of our world lies in the way we think (or if we think at all) our values, priorities, and our misunderstanding of how the world really functions.


The good news is that it is very possible to ‘save our world’ for future generations, and in the process, create a constantly improving Environment, Society, and economy for everyone – even the 1% who are (terribly) ‘controlling’ human activities in order to maintain their own ‘wealth’. The bad news is that any attempt to engage with most people on the issues of environmental destruction are met by aggressive ignorance often coupled with aggressive defensive apathy, people seem to be frightened that they may be considered partially responsible or may be asked to actually do something potentially inconvenient. The usual reaction is denial and when the denier can finally deny reality no longer, they instantly switch to stating that ‘it is too late to do anything now anyway’. So, I have been trying to write this document in order to cut through or bypass that aggressive ignorant apathy. It is a bad headspace to be in, pondering an almost certain but unnecessary physical/ecological hell we are creating while contemplating the darkest, pathetic depths of the ‘human’ psyche. Over the past 5 years I have written and discarded tens of thousands of words in an attempt to re-launch this website while also trying to complete a PhD on manipulating naturally occurring microalgae communities for bio-fuel production, carbon sequestration and wastewater remediation. The process has depleted almost all of my resources and ruined my former easygoing demeanour. As I write I battle the urge to rant, but the situation demands an occasional rant so while I have editorially ‘pulled my punches’ I will include some of my ranting because; I am a Human trying to bypass the ego and misconceptions of, and connect with, the Human in the reader in order that they might Understand and actually Care about the crises we face, and then do something constructive. Climate change affects every aspect of our physical, social and emotional world and it is the biggest and most complex ‘can of worms’ that humanity has ever faced, but one that must be opened somewhere. I will start with three paragraphs of extremely toned down ‘rant’ to warm up, filter out the useless swine, and reveal some of this Human in the process, then I will describe some the understanding that is required to Appreciate our world and thus avoid the effectively total destruction of our biosphere.


This has been extremely difficult to write, and so, could be a bit difficult to read. One difficulty is; how does one tell a species that is powerful and intelligent enough to Destroy, or Preserve and Enhance its life support system, that it is stupidly/selfishly/needlessly/gutlessly destroying its world? It is especially difficult when the writer is a member of the species that has ignorantly/carelessly and with baseless hubris, decided that it is ok to risk the destruction of our priceless legacy and damn our children to a short lived hell on Earth. Another difficulty is that the subject can be distressing and infuriating at the same time, and that just about all of the problems relating to ecosystem destruction seem to be so obvious that one is tempted to think that people simply do not care.


To be fair, things that are now obvious to me may not be so obvious to others because I became very concerned about climate change in 2004 and decided to formally study Natural Resources at the university of New England. I had a faint hope that my studies would reveal that in fact, we did not have to worry too much. However my studies actually confirmed my original impressions and enhanced them with 5d technicolour and surround sound. My studies hugely enhanced my understanding and appreciation of the wonderful synergistic complexity and co-operation that occurs in our natural world, I could see much, much more when looking at a Forest or Grassland or River. While my life was vastly enriched by the detailed knowledge of earth systems I accumulated, my understanding is a double edged sword, on one hand my appreciation of the Earth has increased a hundred-fold, on the other hand my distress and fury towards the wanton destruction of our Earth has also increased at least a hundred fold.


In any case my studies have allowed me to clearly see the path to ‘hell’ we are currently on, and to those self proclaimed ‘Judeo Christian’ Australian and American politicians, what do you think ‘God’ will say when ‘God’ learns that you have helped destroy Eden, (before you even managed to name all of the living things as you were asked to by ‘god’?) or watched it happen without lifting a finger? I, and many other ignored people can still see the path to saving our world, but that path is fading, we must act before it is too late. On that: none of us has the right to declare that it is too late to act, especially those who have denied reality for so long. Where there is life there is hope, so do everything that you can to help preserve our Earth, and damn those who would destroy it, and if you couldn’t be bothered to do anything constructive, please go a bit easier on the world and try not to obstruct those who are trying to save it. Look at yourself; does the phrase ‘save the world’ inspire uncomfortable and perverse feelings? Why?


‘Reality’ (our world as best we can objectively ‘prove’ it) is conflated (totally interconnected, one); reality does not fit easily within the confines of our English language with its ambiguities, implied linearity, confused definitions, and the confused assumptions of its users. Words like ‘sustainability’ which has a definite definition (if something is sustainable it can be done effectively, forever) have been mangled to imply that something is sustainable (until some CEO retires), or that mining a finite resource is ‘sustainable’. Our politicians and business ‘leaders’ are masters at mangling perceptions of reality by the use and abuse of words and so peoples understanding of reality suffers from the lies, half truths, and other distortions we are constantly fed. Therefore I have decided not to stick to classic writing structure as it is difficult for me to convey the following ideas in such fashion. If any reader thinks that they can write on this subject in a better way than I can (and I am sure that many can) do it, do something constructive anyway. My hope is that this text will help the reader to understand a more ‘real’ version of reality based on a scientific (evidence based) understanding, rather than the artificial, anthropocentric ‘understanding’ that is impressed on us from birth by a society that seems to be designed to support an artificially unequal hierarchy and an artificial ‘economy’ designed to increase inequality. I will try to convey this understanding by presenting a rather long introduction that attempts to describe some of our world as it is. Anyway, the following text is the best I can do with the time and resources I currently have.


Earth’s climate arises from incoming solar energy interacting with the Earth’s atmosphere, Earth’s surface and rotational momentum, Earth’s climate is also occasionally perturbed by cosmic rays which may affect cloud formation to varying degrees. Extreme cosmic events such as a gamma ray burst could ionise Earth’s atmosphere and lead to the total sterilisation of the planet. Other events such as a large meteor strike, volcanic eruptions, or nuclear war could also effectively render Earth’s climate unsuitable for life as we know it. Solar energy input is moderated by the Earth’s rotation, Earth’s orbital characteristics, and the energy output of the sun itself. Also, it is extremely important to keep in mind that while solar output is fairly steady, it is slowly, inexorably increasing and so, even if the atmosphere and Earth’s surface and orbit were returned to an identical state to one that existed a few hundred million years ago, it is almost certain that Earth’s climate would be warmer now…


Humans can only affect two of the four major factors which create and control our climate; we cannot affect solar input to the top of the atmosphere (or cosmic rays, or meteors, or volcanic eruptions), or significantly affect the Earth’s orbit and rotation, but we can and do affect atmospheric composition, and we have a massive impact on the Earth’s surface.  Human impacts on the atmosphere and Earth are the causes of our current emerging climate crises. Therefore, if humanity can repair enough of the damage done to Earth’s Surface (includes subterranean and sub-coastal aquifers, lakes, oceans, etc) and atmosphere, humanity could then effectively control Earth’s climate.


Simply put: In order to control our climate and preserve all of the genetic diversity and ecosystems that we can; we must Understand (not good enough just to ‘know’) all factors which create our climate and adaptively manage those factors which are under our control in order to compensate for the effects of those factors which are currently beyond our control.

Humanity has sufficient knowledge of the laws of physics and enough understanding of biology and ecosystems to be able to commence effectively managing our physical world. However, it is apparent that our ‘leaders’ and the powerful “vested interests” that control them are more interested in short term personal gain than they are in leaving a viable planet for their own descendents let alone the millions of species and trillions of other sentient beings we share our irreplaceable world with. So, before we can control our climate we must reform our power structures (social and economic – we cannot change the laws of physics) from those that reward the destructive exploitation of society and the environment to systems that reward the appreciation of the environment and society. Such reform will only be possible when the majority of voting and otherwise influential ‘Homo sapiens’ decide to be ‘Human’ in the implied sense of the word (somehow superior to animals? Can rise above animal desires? Not inhuman?) And vote and otherwise act appropriately. The following ‘paragraphs’ outline what people must understand in order to think and act appropriately.


Life on Earth, especially photosynthetic organisms such as algae and terrestrial plants, have created and moderated Earth’s climate by profoundly altering the chemistry and dynamics of Earth’s crust, oceans, and atmosphere. Oxygen liberated by early blue-green algae photosynthesis caused elements which were previously dissolved in the ocean, such as iron to oxidise (rust) and settle to the bottom of the oceans, forming the vast deposits of iron ore we now exploit. The subsequent availability of free oxygen allowed for the development of more complex and energetic microscopic and macroscopic plants and animals to evolve. Common rocks such as; chert, chalk and limestone were created by early organisms accumulating remains, the weight of coral reefs growing around ancient continents may have caused, and certainly influenced, the initiation of oceanic plate subduction and continental drift, changing the shape and dynamics of the crust and oceans, and climate.

Subducted biogenic sediments containing water alter the chemistry and properties of the Earth beneath the crust and oceans and facilitate the concentration of valuable minerals through hydrothermal transport and concentration. Remelted biogenic sediments are involved in many (not all) volcanic events which have, and continue to, shape the Earth’s surface. Symbiotic, synergetic, co-operative and competitive interactions between early organisms allowed increasingly complex food webs and ecosystems to evolve, which in turn supported increasingly complex organisms such as trees and mammals. The hydrological cycle; a fundamental component of our climate and life support systems, is profoundly affected by land surface features such as mountains etc, but also by the presence or absence of vegetation, soil depth, fertility and water capacity, and the availability and quality of ground/surface water systems.


Trees are not just pretty to look at – most Homo sapiens are genetically predisposed to seek ‘greener pastures’ and complex ecosystems which are usually dominated by trees, these type of environments are where mammals such as us can expect to find food, water and shelter. In many cases those very trees have created the conditions that allowed the accumulation of soil and nurtured the associated micro and macroscopic vegetation and animals, and took part in symbiotic/competitive/cooperative evolution that eventually created the local ecosystem, a part of the biosphere. Trees provide shade which helps to protect/conserve the soil/water beneath them. Green is the dominant colour of vegetation due to photosynthetic pigments (chlorophyll) the green part of the solar spectrum is also where most of the radiant energy from the sun is concentrated, so when green leaves reflect light they also reflect much of the solar radiation which would otherwise be absorbed and accumulate as heat which would either heat the air on contact or be emitted as infra red radiation which can be temporarily trapped by the atmospheric greenhouse effect. Green light passes through our atmosphere without significantly heating it, unlike infra red light. That is part of the reason that the shade from a tree is much cooler than that from a tin roof.


Trees are also cool because they draw water from the soil and evaporate it from within their leaves, while at the same time they transpire – ‘breath’ in CO2 and release O2 by diffusion, this process is called ‘evapo-transpiration’. Evapo-transpiration removes heat from the canopy in the form of water vapour which contains ‘latent heat’ (hidden heat – Google it if necessary) this vapour accumulates in the atmosphere and eventually condenses to form clouds and ultimately precipitation. When the vapour condenses it releases its heat, usually higher up in the atmosphere where it is more likely to be radiated into space than bounce around the lower atmosphere. When masses of trees and other vegetation evolve together and become concentrated, the assemblage creates its own climate and rainfall, this effect is not seriously disputed and has been known for hundreds if not thousands of years. Rainforests are the pinnacles of terrestrial evolution and biodiversity and when intact, virtually control their own climate and hydrology (water cycle, major part of climate anyway, conflation or redundancy). Unlike most wet surfaces and water bodies that usually have a significant thermal mass and warm up slowly in sunlight then cool slowly in its absence, leaves are almost instantly responsive to solar heating due to their usually small thermal mass, they immediately begin to evaporate water when exposed to sunlight and the water is constantly replaced by the plants roots and vascular system which also brings nutrients to be processed within the leaves. Thus trees and other vegetation can rapidly build moisture in the atmosphere and promote afternoon storms and rainfall. Conversely, when sun warms the surface of a water body such as a lake, the surface water temperature only increases slowly and the energy released by evaporation occurs over a longer time period than that of evapo-transpiration, and the atmospheric humidity may not reach the level required to initiate precipitation. Condensation and rainfall are threshold events – if the relative humidity of a volume of air is 99% water will not condense in it, however if just a tiny bit more humidity is forced into the air and it becomes 100% humid, condensation can occur if nucleation sites (hydrophilic dust) are present, otherwise super-saturation can occur but usually only up to ~101% before condensation initiates.


Conversely, if a forest or perennial woodland or deeply rooted grassland is cleared and that region experiences just a small reduction in moisture input to the atmosphere and/or a small increase in air temperature which also serves to reduce relative humidity, the atmosphere may not quite reach the threshold where rainfall can occur and the region begins to dry, soil moisture deficits increase and the region is on a path to becoming an arid desert. Crops also have hydration thresholds which determine productivity, if a crop receives 100% of the water it needs to complete its lifecycle it will produce a good yield, but if it only receives say 80%, it will yield far less than 80% of its potential, it will most probably fail and yield nothing at all.


Rainforests, and forests in general, are powerful weather engines but they are also fragile. Even the act of cutting a small road or clearing into a forest can alter the climate and viability of the forest, light and wind penetration are immediately enhanced and the sub-canopy climate becomes more extreme (warmer and cooler) and drier, and these effects can penetrate the forest for hundreds of metres. Trees bordering the clearing are left with exposed trunks which can become too warm to allow for effective water transport and die, trees and smaller plants become exposed and subject to competition from weeds and grasses, they die. The conditions for fire become enhanced; debris which previously decomposed and recycled now dries and builds up, dead trees and shrubs dry, hot destructive fires can ignite where such fires had never existed before. The blight spreads; whole suits of species of trees, shrubs, fungi, bacteria, and the animals that tied them all together decline and ‘disappear’, our biodiverse legacy is irreversibly reduced, the climate is changed. The fires burn organic nitrogen, sulphur, carbon etc, ash carries other plant nutrients away in the air and when rain and runoff scour the now exposed and hydrophobic Earth, rivers are filled with silt and algal blooms, nutrient runoff goes on to stress and destroy coral reefs, silt seals interfaces between ground and surface water systems, groundwater reserves decline, more trees die, seagrasses die because their sub-seafloor supply of fresher, groundwater-biota moderated, water is cut off or contaminated, fish die, bigger fish die, Whales and Dolphins suffer. Native fish which previously migrated up-river ‘disappear’ and exotic, pathogen bearing mosquitoes can become established, exotic fish like carp become established and stir up sediments, previously crystal clear waters become turbid, benthic algae dies, new strains of algae and zooplankton become dominant, the whole river from source to estuary and beyond is detrimentally changed.


Trees, and probably most terrestrial plants, especially in Australia, benefit from, and sometimes totally depend on symbiotic relationships with soil bacteria and fungi, the fungi often form underground fruiting bodies (truffles) which are dug up, eaten and dispersed by animals such as wallabies and possums, if habitats are fragmented too severely and species are lost it is possible that many of these diverse fungi and the trees, plants and animals that depend on and support them will also be lost. Many Australian plants, especially our diverse range of fig species, have pollinators such as native wasps which exclusively use one species of fig to reproduce in, and in that process pollinate the plant, the plant in question may be a keystone species for the local ecosystem and just the removal of one species from an ecosystem may cause cascading changes which can alter or destroy the whole system. When building developments spread and roads etc are cut through native bush, previously connected ecosystems become fragmented and eventually die, if hot fires destroy soil fungi in an area, regrowth that requires that fungi may not be able to be inoculated by wallaby droppings because domestic dogs that arrive with the new settlement may exclude them, or may have killed them all, regrowth fails, grasses and weeds replace former forest, rabbits move in, followed by foxes which along with introduced domestic cats, destroy whole communities of native animals, vegetation is irreversibly changed, bushfire fuel accumulates.


Trees and shrubs provide food and habitat for many Animal species including small bats which eat copious amounts of insects – many of them crop and human pests, each night. Bats also pollinate some rare plants. By weight, small bats are often the dominant mammal present in Australian (and probably other continent’s) ecosystems, and even though they are virtually invisible to most humans they provide us with a huge service, if all bats were removed from a region, that area would most likely become decimated by plagues of insects and would suffer a huge loss of biodiversity and amenity. Trees also obviously support many larger mammals such as Possums, which can help to maintain microbial diversity, and Birds, many of which also eat insects and disperse seeds and which also spread plant nutrients and are a delight to observe and even interact with.


Trees create and /or improve soils; as well as attracting birds which fertilise the soil around the trees – often carrying nutrients back up the hills from which they were leached from, deep tree roots draw nutrients which were leached from surface soils into the deeper subsoils where shallow rooted plants cannot access them, and deposit the nutrients in their branches, leaves and fruit. When the tree drops the leaves and fruit onto the ground it decays and makes the previously unavailable nutrients available for the more shallow rooted plants in the area. Tree roots also physically break up the subsoil rocks and release acids and bases which chemically decompose the rock, eventually turning it into soil and facilitate the penetration and storage of water. Tree roots also feed fungal and other microbial communities which release enzymes which further the processing of rock into soil and which symbiotically help the tree to survive. When rainfall percolates down past tree roots the roots draw excess nutrients from the water, further purification is carried out by de-nitrifying bacteria, and other bacteria which breaks down sulphates, toxins and pathogens, thus water percolating through tree and other plant facilitated biota becomes purified as it enters groundwater systems from whence pure springs and water supplies for other plants and animals emerge.


Most of the wetter, human inhabited areas of Australia are (or were) dominated by Eucalyptus trees which look much the same as each other to the casual observer and seem to be able to cope with a lot of climate variability. However, most of the many species of Eucalypts can only survive within a narrow envelope of climatic and soil conditions, while they may cope with occasional droughts, heatwaves, and insect defoliations they are actually quite sensitive to average temperature increases and an increase of 2 or 3 degrees can doom them to death and ensure that their seeds are no longer viable in that area. The most widespread Eucalypts are the River Redgum and Yellow Box, but it is highly likely that slight genetic divergence may make one strain of River Redgum or Box unable to grow where its closely related cousins can. It is important to understand that while Governments are supposedly aiming to limit average global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees, that is an average figure over the whole globe which includes thermally massive oceans that only change temperature slowly, and tropical regions that due to high humidity and an already strong greenhouse effect will not change temperature much compared to temperate and polar regions. Under a 2 degree average warming scenario most of Australia away from a narrow coastal strip could experience 6 degrees of warming or more. It is already obvious that many trees in the New England region of NSW are highly stressed and many have already died. The consequences of widespread Eucalypt death in Australia are terrible to contemplate.


The more arid inland regions of Australia are dominated by Acacias and most if not all of these arid adapted trees and shrubs rely on groundwater. For example, the Thargominda area in South West Queensland has a water table only ten metres beneath the surface, no grass grows there except in the river bed and nearby, yet there is a thriving grazing industry, the sheep and cows eat the Acacias which rely on that groundwater and they do not have to be wormed because they do not eat off the ground. Furthermore, the mutton meat from that region is the nicest tasting meat that I have ever tried; seasoned by the Acacias the animals eat and free of artificial chemicals. Most, if not all of these arid zone, near-surface aquifers, are replenished when the inland rivers flood, rainfall is very scarce but big floods come down the rivers and across the plains where they saturate the soil and replenish the groundwater systems. The construction of dams upstream threaten to dry these semi arid systems out and if they do dry and die the resultant heating and increased aridity will be felt across Australia.


Australia’s inland river systems, soils and woodlands actually function as components of a giant evaporative air conditioner: hot dry air that descends into central Australia during prevalent summer high pressure systems encounters these woodlands and absorbs water from the vegetation, this process cools and adds humidity to the air, as the air spreads out over the continent it becomes further humidified. Humid air helps plants by reducing moisture stress, and if the inland system is well wetted it can actually create rainstorms. If we dam too many inland rivers we may well turn these semi arid zones into true deserts and the effect will be felt across Australia and even in Tasmania and New Zealand. We must not destroy this natural air conditioner lest all of inland Australia becomes a hot desert and even plants near the coast become susceptible to lethal water stress.


Another disturbing aspect of current climate change is the ‘carbon dioxide fertilisation effect’ which is promoted as a good thing by ignorant fossil fools. Enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide can help plants grow because CO2 is an essential plant nutrient. However, enhanced CO2 makes it easier for plants to synthesise sugars but reduces the relative protein content of the plant, thus it will become increasingly difficult to grow ‘prime hard wheat’ for example and experiments have shown that plants grown in enhanced CO2 conditions are unable to support insect larvae that depend on those particular plants. Further unbalancing the insect component of our life support system is a very bad idea. Furthermore, we already have an obesity epidemic and it will become much more difficult to overcome that when the protein content of our primary production systems decline.


Fossilised remains of one ancient tree species, the Gingko, have been used as a proxy indicator of prehistoric atmospheric CO2 concentrations. When CO2 concentrations were high the Gingko leaves formed a lower areal density of stomata (pores where evapo-transpiration occurs) because the Gingko found it easier to collect the CO2 it needed for growth. The reduction in stomata also reduced the plants water use which at first glance may seem like a good thing but it is not. Reducing the stomata makes it more difficult for the leaves to cool themselves by evaporation thus lowering the heat tolerance of the plant. Furthermore, as already outlined, trees and vegetation create their own regional climate (global climate is the sum and average of micro and regional climates). Consider the Amazon region in South America, it is sometimes called a ‘global air conditioner’ and that is undeniably true. Rising CO2 levels will probably cause most Amazonian plants to reduce their stomata density and thus reduce water use and the ability of the plant to cool itself and the surrounding area. At some point this effect, combined with rising temperatures, will cause the whole hydrology of the Amazonian system to effectively collapse. When the Amazon dies it will burn and become a hot desert, trillions of tons of CO2 will be released, the oceans will probably die. On our current greenhouse trajectory we could see this happen soon, if not in our lifetime almost certainly in our children’s lifetimes. Contemplation of these issues is very disturbing but please do not become depressed, it is relatively more useful and healthier to become enraged yet strive to do something constructive with that rage, it is not easy but we must try.


Much, much more could be written on the function and ecosystem services of trees, but for now suffice it to say that if it were not for trees we would not be here, and if we create a world where trees cannot grow we will cease to be here also, some pockets of Homo sapiens may survive for a while but it will be a terrible existence.


Rivers are not just drains and irrigation channels as our current Federal Agricultural minister and deputy PM seems to think they are. Water flowing from a river out to sea is not ‘wasted’ water, estuarine and coastal/oceanic ecosystems have evolved to rely on that fresh water and the nutrients and sediments it contains to exist and thrive. Any major, sustained change to the flux of fresh water through estuaries, and the nutrients and sediments it contains (either a chronic increase, or decrease) will detrimentally impact on the systems that have evolved over millennia with the natural flows and variability of the rivers in question. Furthermore, rivers can ‘die from the mouth’ so impacts in the estuaries can cause cascading effects upstream. Impacts are carried upstream by the absence of fish and other animals that previously navigated upstream, and by the presence of exotic species that can gain a foothold in the perturbed system and subsequently modify it into a degraded and less biodiverse and resilient state. Such degraded systems suffer declining water quality and can provide habitat for exotic mosquitoes which can then become a source of diseases such as Malaria, Japanese encephalitis, Dengue fever, Zika virus, Ross River virus, Chikungunya etc, and no doubt new viruses will emerge as we crowd more people into degrading ecosystems.


Rivers and groundwater systems are intimately connected, directly and indirectly, the direct connections should be obvious, but they are apparently not recognised by policy makers who artificially separate them in order to justify their exploitation and minimise the perceived impacts of their exploitation. The indirect connections are less obvious but they do exist, consider Australia’s Great Artesian Basin (GAB) which is not normally considered to be connected to any River system but almost certainly was (prior to its depressurisation) through the existence of artesian springs which fed into the Murray Darling River system and possibly other catchments as well. Prior to the European invasion of Australia the GAB was undisturbed by humans, it would have been full and its recharge zones along Eastern Australia would also have been full and the water in the recharge zones would have been accessible to trees etc. Any rainfall and runoff that encountered the recharge zones would have quickly replaced the water used by the vegetation and topped off the recharge zone until it overflowed, thus making the excess water available to rivers and/or to intervening vegetation. However, once Europeans and their Australian descendents pierced and drained the GAB in thousands of places the water levels in the recharge zones would have dropped way beyond the reach of tree roots and when rainfall and runoff subsequently encounters the recharge zone it simply ‘disappears’ into the aquifer without a chance of topping it up, therefore, excess water that was previously available to feed vegetation and watercourses now simply ‘disappears down the drain’ and the rivers, vegetation, and atmosphere suffer from increased aridity.


The same River and stream drying effect occurs when the hundreds of thousands of small bores and pumps drain smaller aquifers, those aquifers then simply become buried dams which ‘steal’ water from our rivers and are now useless for supporting the deep rooted vegetation they previously sustained.


Many of our aquifers are directly connected to our river systems, especially west of the Great Dividing Range where sedimentary basins have formed layers of ancient, braided river beds beneath our existing Murray Darling river system. These ancient gravel beds form subterranean channels and reservoirs which are often connected directly to the river system; use of water from the connected systems immediately decreases stream flow. Removal of water from ‘isolated’ (nothing on our planet is really isolated) aquifers can cause the ground above to subside and may cause subterranean cracking which can drain adjacent aquifers as well, some of these adjacent aquifers may contain salty water or coal seam gas which can contaminate the originally tapped aquifer and will add to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


Consider the Ogallala aquifer in the United States, excess extraction from this aquifer has caused large regions above it to subside by 30 metres or more in places. When unconsolidated aquifers such as the Ogallala aquifer collapse they cannot be ‘reinflated’ their water holding capacity becomes permanently reduced. Now consider the Darling River, it has an average gradient of 16mm per kilometre, or 1.6 metres per 100 km, what do you think may happen if the coal seam gas and coal mining projects proceed as planned in NSW and Queensland? Subsidence is inevitable although many of the aquifers impacted by these fossil monster assaults are consolidated (in porous rock) many are not and even relatively small subsidence will almost certainly impact on the flow path and dynamics of the Darling river, large shallow lakes could form and be contaminated by emissions from the cracked coal seams and the poison the CSG proponents are pumping into them, subsequent floods would then flush these poisoned reservoirs across the plains and down the river to the Coorong and beyond. If you meet a CSG or coal mining proponent, please do not treat them nicely.


Rivers and their associated aquifers also function as water treatment plants. All water is recycled through evaporation and precipitation, however a few years ago there was ‘mainstream’ discussion about recycling sewage water in Australia for reuse by humans, it was not received well, most people said ‘yuk’ and the proposal was shelved. However, if you live on a River downstream of a town or city and use water from that River, you are already using water that has a portion of recycled sewage in it. If you use water in Adelaide which draws its water from the MDB system, you are using water that has been through scores of sewage treatment plants. You see, the River makes the water safe again, algae, bacteria, fungi, small crustaceans, fish, and other biota process the water and destroy pathogens and remove excessive nutrient loads – all for free (if we keep the River in a functioning state). I live near Armidale NSW which draws most of its water from Malpais Dam near Guyra, Guyra does not discharge its (quite well) treated sewage into Malpais, it discharges into another watercourse which flows into the Murray Darling system. However, Guyra used to have an Abattoir which did discharge its waste into a watercourse that ended up in Malpais and that discharge, along with inputs from the highly fertile basalt soils and grazing industry which exists in the catchment, allowed a build up of phosphates in the reservoir’s sediments which has to be managed by expensively aerating the dam because otherwise the excess nutrients cause regular toxic blue green algae blooms to occur.

 
It is not only the biota within the rivers that cleans the water flowing through it, biota in the sediments, river banks, and aquifers also play an essential role. When water flows into sediments oxygen breathing bacteria and other organisms begin to consume organic contaminants and in the process also remove oxygen from the water. As the water flows deeper into the sediments or groundwater system, free oxygen is totally removed and other bacteria that cannot tolerate oxygen take over and use nitrates and sulphates as oxidisers. These oxygenated/anoxic cycles remove pathogens from the water and liberate minerals that were tied up in organic matter and sediments, and make those minerals available for plant roots or for algae if the water flows back into the river. The communities of anoxic bacteria die when exposed to oxygen, they can persist and /or re-establish when water levels rise and fall with the natural variability that they evolved with, but naturally they are perturbed by floods and droughts. However, when rivers are used as irrigation canals and the water rises and falls frequently and erratically as it is released from dams to be used by irrigators downstream, the oxygen using and anoxic communities’ viability and function are reduced, resulting in reduced pathogen removal capacity and reduced water quality. Rivers that have evolved with periodic flooding require occasional floods to renovate their beds and floodplains, silt and organic matter accumulations are flushed from gravel beds (the ‘filter is flushed’) and adjacent aquifers are maintained and refilled etc, damming rivers is usually equivalent to damning them.


Water level fluctuations caused by discharges from dams for irrigators also de-stabilise river banks and cause them to collapse, thus increasing erosion and turbidity and further reducing water quality. Dams and the way they are managed can also have many other detrimental effects on the rivers they are built on. As well as the obvious effect of blocking passage of the river for many organisms, water released from dams may be anoxic compared to previously natural flows and it may be much colder than pre-dam flows. Changed water chemistry and temperature can detrimentally affect the fish and other biota for hundreds of kilometres downstream of the dam. Dams can also have detrimental effects on adjacent groundwater systems as they force water through previously isolated aquifers which may contain salts that then move with the water and can then contaminate soils and kill trees, pastures and crops. Reduced flood peaks can also have a detrimental, drying effect on aquifers downstream of the dam and result in tree deaths and other changes.


The use of dams for hydroelectricity production may equate to ‘renewable energy’ (if it rains enough) but dams are certainly not ‘carbon neutral’ as was recently claimed by our local climate change denying MP and now Deputy PM, Barnaby Joyce. Australia is not a meritocracy. Our Federal Environment minister, Greg Hunt, won’t be able to correct Barnaby either as Mr Hunt recently stated in an interview by the Sydney Morning Herald that he does not even understand how a wind turbine works – one of humanities simplest machines and far simpler than any organism let alone an ecosystem. Yet subsequent to that revelation Mr Hunt was presented an award for being the ‘World’s best Minister’. The World is not a meritocracy either.


Anyway, when a concrete dam is constructed the first step is to dig the foundations, roads must be built, vegetation and soil are removed, explosives and earthmoving equipment are employed and all of these actions release copious amounts of greenhouse gases. Then limestone must be quarried then crushed using a huge amount of energy – usually coal or diesel fuelled, and then the limestone is burned with coal to create the concrete. Then sand must be mined from somewhere and basalt must be quarried and crushed – again using tax-free fossil fuel, and iron ore and coal must be mined to produce steel for reinforcing the concrete. All of these materials must then be transported to the site then be processed and installed to create the dam. Temporary dams and other earthworks may also be constructed – again using fossil fuelled energy. During the construction phase water flows are perturbed and water quality is severely impacted.


After the dam is constructed and filled it becomes a source of methane. Organic matter such as leaves, branches, dead animals, etc are washed into the dam and whatever sinks to the anoxic bottom becomes food for methane producing bacteria which convert the carbon to methane which then bubbles or diffuses into the atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which has a half life of ~12 years in the atmosphere where it gradually oxidises to CO2. Averaged over 20 years 1 ton of methane has the same global warming potential as 72 tons of CO2, when averaged over 100 years 1 ton of methane is equivalent to about 21 to 25 tons of CO2. So, dams are not carbon neutral.


Soil is not just a mix of minerals, healthy soil is alive with thousands of species of bacteria, fungi, algae, micro, and macroscopic animals. As well as the well known nitrogen fixing bacteria and phosphate mining and transporting fungi there are hundreds of species of bacteria and fungi that supply enzymes that can moderate a plants stress responses and resilience, boost productivity and protect the plant from other less beneficial organisms which can also be present in the soil.


Earth’s soils contain huge amounts of carbon in the form of living and dead biota which accumulates under suitable conditions such as those that exist beneath well watered permanent vegetation. Microscopic and larger life forms in aerated soil breathe oxygen and metabolise the carbon in their food into CO2 during respiration which is then released into the air. If inputs of carbon from dead roots, root exudates and plant litter exceed the soil biota’s capacity to oxidise the carbon, and / or the carbon becomes semi-stabilised as humus, the carbon content of the soil increases. Cooler conditions slow micro-biota’s metabolism and their capacity to oxidise carbon and can allow more carbon to accumulate. Conversely, if the soil is tilled vegetative inputs of carbon cease until new plants become established but microbes are still consuming the carbon. If the tilled soil dries, many microbes die, some form resistant spores and when re-wetted the nutrients and carbon released by the dead microbes are rapidly consumed by other re-emerging microbes and that, along with the temporary cessation of inputs from vegetation and increased soil temperatures caused by the removal of shade, results in a net loss of carbon from the soil to the atmosphere.


 Organic soil carbon is essential for healthy soil, it provides a source of nutrients while being decomposed and it can hold on to nutrients which would otherwise be washed away from plant rooting zones and make those nutrients available for plant roots on demand. Organic matter also improves soil structure; it discourages soil particles from forming dense impenetrable masses and facilitates air and water penetration, water storage, and root growth. Soil carbon also buffers changes in pH and moderates the impacts and activity of industrial fertiliser inputs. Virtually all agricultural soils, and most other soils on Earth, would be substantially improved with increased soil organic matter. However traditional farming techniques involving; tree clearing, slash and burn, and ploughing tend to reduce soil carbon, fertility, structure and productivity, and release copious amounts of carbon to the atmosphere. ‘Zero Till’ farming methods are being increasingly used to maintain soil carbon and productivity as well as reducing costs of production.


The use of ‘bio-char’ in the form of charcoal from incompletely burned wood or other vegetable matter such as crop residues is sometimes enthusiastically promoted as a means to improve soil fertility and sequester carbon in the soil. Bio-char proponents sometimes cite the example of ‘Terra Preta’ soils which were enriched with charcoal and ash by early South American farmers, as evidence for the efficacy of bio-char. However, the use of bio-char should be considered with caution as it can have several drawbacks and potentially cause the net release of more carbon from soils than it stores.


In the case of the Terra Preta soils, wood and organic matter such as food and fibres were gathered from surrounding forests and clearings and concentrated in farming areas when charcoal and ash were spread about with manures and other composting materials. While these processes concentrated nutrients in the farming areas they also depleted nutrients from the surrounding areas and could actually cause a net loss of carbon and fertility when averaged over the whole area of impact. One study on the use of corn stover (corn crop residue) for biofuel found that the removal of a given amount of crop trash from the soil actually caused the soil to lose more carbon to oxidation than was contained in the residue that was removed. This increased loss of carbon was due to the interrupted input of composting material to the soil and the soils subsequent reduction of structural quality, water holding capacity and increased heating due to reduced shading from the crop residues, which accelerated microbial oxidation of the remaining soil carbon.


ANU historian; Professor Bill Gammage’s excellent book “The biggest estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia” is based on the earliest accounts of European settlers in Australia and those accounts describe a much wetter, richer, and more productive landscape than we see in Australia today. Professor Gammage reveals accounts of the Darling River having crystal clear waters and deep pools where large fish could be clearly seen in the depths. Now the river is turbid, the deep clean pools are gone and the river is dominated by introduced Carp and periodically experiences massive toxic algae blooms. Early (pre ~1850’s) inland rivers were often wandering braided beds, sometimes even perched on rich sediments above the adjacent plains which were covered with deep absorbent organic soil. The introduction of hard hoofed grazing animals pulverised the soils and removed much of the original vegetation, the result was a total loss of the fine soil to wind and water erosion and the remaining landscape became rock hard, hydrophobic and infertile. As a result rains which fell on the hard ground immediately ran off in flash flooding which also scoured deep channels in the previously deep water holding soils, these channels then served to drain the remaining water holding soils and they too blew away. This situation was exacerbated by the deliberate draining of inland swamps and the removal of logs and rocks from rivers to allow navigation by steam boats – it is hard to imagine paddle boats in many of these rivers now as they are usually fairly dry. I have seen an early photograph of some children standing among the roots of a Mallee tree somewhere in the Riverina, they were standing on flat subsoil and one could see that the original ground level on which the tree grew was about 2 metres above the ground the children stood upon.


Overgrazing and clearing effectively destroyed the productivity of the western half of NSW to such an extent that the Western Lands Act was introduced in 1902 in order to prohibit freehold land ownership and to only grant pastoral leases which were subject to strict stocking conditions. Of course, as with all progressive environmental legislation, pressure and bribes and the promise of lucrative ‘jobs’ for politicians from ‘vested interests’ has gradually amended and constantly reduced the enforcement capacity and effectiveness of most environmental laws. The Massive loss of soil has probably caused a loss of water storage capacity in the Australian landscape that exceeds the capacity of all of our dams by orders of magnitude. “Look Dad, I dug a hole”, any fool can burn down a barn.


The root of the problem of correctly managing the Earth we now ‘dominate’ is a lack of respect for and appreciation of, life in the human psyche. In order to maintain an artificial hierarchy based on unjustified power without merit. We are taught from birth to rank other peoples and other species ‘worth’ based on this artificial socio-economic construct before we even have the capacity to reason about or justify these prejudices, they become a part of ‘who we are’ and usually allow us to be ‘controlled’ for others benefit. As soon as we deem another human (or species)  to be ‘inferior’ we have denied or reduced their basic ‘value’ as a living creature and in the process have reduced our own basic value, for example, many wealthy people have contempt for those ‘beneath’ them and thus deny the priceless value of their own and the ‘others’ life and when misfortune or mismanagement cause those wealthy people to lose their assets they suddenly become one of those they have contempt for and they cannot handle it and some take their own lives and sometimes take the lives of their children and partners as well. It is evident that many corpulent self indulgent billionaires are just de-humanised money hungry monsters who are never satisfied no matter how much they have accumulated because they have denied their own basic gift of life and cannot really appreciate it or anything else, hungry, empty, accumulating, consuming, monsters. Thankfully not all wealthy people are smaller than their money and have not have discarded their ‘Humanity’ and some have even regained it and are initiating and supporting many useful and appreciative actions in the world. Any prejudice is de humanising, by definition pre-judging occurs before evidence is considered so the prejudiced deny themselves the chance to understand. A ‘poor’ persons contempt for the ‘wealthy’ is just as destructive as the obverse.


Appreciation has two main meanings; one is to gain greater value from a ‘thing’ by understanding it and becoming grateful for the intellectual and/or emotive wonder, and/or the benefit it confers to us or to others, or other ‘things’ in this sense appreciation is a reward itself and part of a path to wisdom. The other meaning of appreciation is to increase the value of a ‘thing’, for example we can appreciate our children’s chances of a better life if we give them a good education, or better enable their contemporaries to gain a good education also. Or we can appreciate the value of a bare paddock by planting appropriate groundcover, trees and shrubs. Wisdom (understanding – not just thinking we ‘know’) Respect and Appreciation are indispensible if we are to effectively manage our Earth.


In our current socio-economic system people are often identified as being on the ‘left’ or ‘right’ side of politics. Those on the ‘left’ are considered to have a social and community based conscience and their priorities lie in improving society and the environment, the ‘extreme left’ is usually associated with ‘communism’, where ideally everyone is considered to be equal and everyone has an equal chance to have a satisfying life, however once a power structure is established those with the power usually betray the communist ideals and strive to benefit themselves and their friends and family at the expense of everyone else. As a result of this, communism based systems are often spoiled by power hungry dictators whose hypocrisy is clear and obvious in contrast to the ideals they are supposedly supporting. Those on the ‘right’ are ‘capitalists’ who give priority to property ‘rights’ and who imagine a utopia where the ‘market’ is supreme and will fix all ills even though they ignore reality in that markets always fail. Their measure of worth is the ‘dollar’ or some other currency even though the value of that currency is not intrinsic, the ‘value’ is actually a result of consensus reality, a dollar is worth what we think it is and that value can change by the minute. Look at what happened after a cyclone hit New Orleans, money became virtually worthless to those who simply wanted clean water to drink. Extreme ‘right’ capitalists are known as ‘Fascists’ although that word is seldom used by our current fascist politicians who lack the courage to declare their allegiance to fascist ideals as the word lost popularity during WW2. The fact that our ‘leaders’ are afraid to identify themselves as fascists is cause for some hope as they are still afraid of public perceptions which proves that we, the masses, still have some influence in our respective ‘democaries’. Mussolini stated that ‘Fascism is a wedding between big business and government’ sound familiar? At least the fascists dictators avoid the hypocrisy that communist dictators suffer when they seek to ‘feather their nests’.

It is said that most people begin life with a ‘leftish’ perspective, indeed a sense of innate fairness can be demonstrated in human babies, we are ‘hardwired’ to fit into societies, to be communal creatures, it is the basis of our ‘dominance’ of the world, ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. However it is then said that the ‘leftish’ youth usually ‘wake up’ and move towards the right. However the only ‘awakening’ is the realisation that our ‘human’ world is corrupt and then a choice must be made whether to betray our humanity and become a hungry dehumanised cog, which has ‘sold their soul’ and damns themselves to a shallow subjective grasping existence. Or alternatively, one can retain their socially and environmentally responsible ‘leftish’ morals and try to lead a decent life and enhance their life and the lives of others and other creatures so that they may live a truly satisfying and useful life; the leftist path requires courage, the path of the ‘right’ requires short sighted selfishness and compromises or destroys our Humanity.


That will probably do as a long introduction, however; given the massive complexity and manifold interconnectedness of our world, a comprehensive intro’ could justifiably run to hundreds of pages, there could be several PhD’s involved in comprehensively describing the organisms in one teaspoon of river water, or a teaspoon of soil, so I would say that we should demand some intelligence, integrity, transparency, wide consultation, consideration, and humility from our ‘leaders’, I suspect that we shall have to replace most of them, the best politicians money can buy are worse than a waste of oxygen.

Back to top

Priorities

Homo sapiens sometimes divide ‘reality’ into three broad categories; Environmental, Social, and Economic, only one of the three categories is intrinsically ‘real’ that category is the Environment, the Environment is a physical reality which behaves predictably according to the ‘laws of physics’ which unlike the ‘laws of man or ‘god’ cannot be broken. If a law of physics is broken it ceases to become a law. Living creatures are obviously subject to the laws of physics but when trying to understand complex ecosystems things can become fairly unpredictable due to complex interactions between the components of the system, however if the system were fully understood it would be predictable as all of the interactions still occur within and are constrained by the laws of physics. We cannot change the laws of physics, we cannot force the environment to comply with our social or economic dreams unless we act within the laws of physics and within the intrinsic characteristics of the real organisms and objects that make up our physical world, King Canute demonstrated that long ago but our ‘leaders’ still don’t get it, and politicians are happy to ‘keep the dream alive’ when it suits their goals.


Society is a totally artificial construct, albeit based on the very real intrinsic instincts of a communal species. Our societies developed from small tribes of hunter gatherers whose populations were limited by; the naturally occurring resources available to them in their range, and predators, injuries, infections and diseases for which they had little or no treatments. These early groups of hunter gathers, like other species of ape would have been led by the strongest and most skilled individual in the group; biologically the strongest individual would have usually been a male.


The development of agriculture allowed larger and denser populations of humans to form ‘civilisations’ which required organisation. The most successful way of organising growing groups of people was to appoint a leader with demonstrable intelligence. However it was probably more common for leaders to appoint themselves by using allies, force and intimidation.


 As groups became larger, hierarchies were created to manage the increasingly complex societies and force became the most expedient way to establish and maintain power. When an aggressive civilisation encountered a more peaceful one, the aggressive power usually conquered and destroyed or subverted the more peaceful one. However, hierarchies depended on a contented or at least controllable population to grow the food, build infrastructure, and supply soldiers. Slavery was often used but exploitation of resentful slaves was inefficient, so religions were developed and manipulated to ‘justify’ and support the ruling classes. Religions evolved from human attempts to make sense of, and explain their world. It is genetically advantageous for a species to be able to understand how their environment works and a big part of that is being able to understand cause and effect, for example; if one ate certain poisonous plants (a cause) one could die (the effect). However if someone died without an obvious cause their surviving peers would expect and look for a ‘reason’ for the death and to satisfy their misconceived expectations of a hidden ‘order’ and ‘purpose’ in the world they invented ‘spirits’ and ‘gods’ etc to explain events that occurred without obvious causes. Early Pagan (based on nature) religions were often quite useful because they were based on the observable world and they helped people to plan their actions, for example, an astronomer priest or witchdoctor would know that when a certain constellation arose in the sky it meant that spring was coming and it was time to plant some crop, or they could expect a run of fish in their river etc.


However these early religions based on real observations were not very useful for manipulating people because people could understand them and they engendered respect for the natural world. What the leaders required was unquestioning obedience and a lack of respect for the natural world so they developed religions that incorporated some of the Pagan beliefs but were absurd, contradictory and required the ‘interpretation’ of the priests who were either the ruling class or were directly subservient to the ruling class. Naturally, those interpretations would benefit the rulers. A common feature of contemporary religions is the concept of an ‘afterlife’ with a big ‘carrot’ (heaven) and a big ‘stick’ (hell), these concepts helped the masses if they were suffering because they believed that they would find a reward for their suffering in heaven, and alternatively the fear of hell kept them in line. It is at best amusing to see religious proponents claim ‘moral superiority’ because of their religion when in fact they are acting with the hope of a reward and the fear of everlasting punishment, both totally selfish motivations and no basis for any claim to moral superiority.


Concurrently with the evolution of religions, economies evolved from simple bartering of goods and services which; like early Pagan religions were quite simple and useful systems and dealt with real goods and services. As the world became more complicated economies evolved into more complex systems which used mediums of exchange with some intrinsic value such as salt and gold and later used objects with symbolic value such as coins and paper money and now simply numbers in a financial database.


It was much easier to control people when those people could realise benefits from engaging in the economy. However, as economies became more complex and banks and other financial institutions became established, these institutions saw benefits in devising increasingly complex methods of exchange which, like organised religion were designed in part to confuse people so that they could be more easily exploited for profit (usually, money for nothing) and required new forms of priesthood to interpret and apply these new methods of exchange. This new priesthood includes Bankers, Lawyers, Economists, Financial planners, Insurance brokers etc. Bankers in particular were particularly adept at manipulating people and in the early part of the 1900s managed to gain the ‘power’ to create money from nothing by means of bribing, coercing and murdering key people in governments. So now the financial system ‘controls’ human affairs by means of ‘credit’ and usury (charging of interest) even though these institutions deal with nothing really tangible and they are parasitic by nature, they largely control human affairs, a mortgage is equivalent to a transferrable slavery ticket and the economy has become the new global religion.


So now we have a situation in Australia (and the rest of the ‘civilised world) where we are expected to worship and serve the ‘economy’ instead of the economy serving society, the economy now serves only the ‘top’ 1% and exploits the rest of society and the environment to the detriment of both society and the environment. Our ‘governments’ stated priorities are now first, second and third the ‘economy’ followed by ‘society’ and the environment is usually ignored. However, the ‘economy’ cannot exist without ‘society’ and society cannot exist without the Environment. It should be plain to any intelligent, thinking individual that our priorities are backwards and they should actually be: priority one, two and three; the Environment, priority four; Societies, and the economy should be managed to support those first four priorities.

Back to top

About this website

Original text from previous website below, may repeat above a bit, will edit later, time is short.

This website is being developed to facilitate effective action on climate change mitigation and adaptation in Australia and Globally.

Most of this site will be used to explain what 'anthropogenic climate change' or 'global warming' is, and how the Human race can act to control our climate in order to return it to pre-industrial condition while concurrently enhancing ecosystem and agri-ecosystem resilience, diversity, stability and productivity in a truly sustainable fashion.

While the bulk of this site will focus on the sciences and technologies we need to deploy in order to effectively address the manifold issues of climate change, some comment is also provided on the nature of the 'Anthropogenic' factor of the problem in order to clarify just what is at stake in 'moral' or 'spiritual' terms in the hope that such understanding will spur Humans to wake up and act appropriately.

Climate change affects virtually all aspects of the environment (or biosphere) and therefore impacts on almost all human endeavours within the biosphere simply because all human activities on earth occur within the biosphere and those activities are ultimately limited by the available resources, conditions and functions of the regional and global biosphere.

As a result of the interconnectedness and complex nature of the biosphere and our interactions within it, it is very difficult to simply describe the 'big picture' of climate change impacts and how we can mitigate and adapt to them. However it is vital that people do understand the 'big picture' and so this site is my attempt to communicate the big picture in an understandable fashion.

Therefore, due to the complexity of the subject I begin by outlining large chunks of the situation and linking diverse factors in a way that may appear initially confusing to many readers. However if you bear with me and do your own external 'googling' and research while interpreting my text and diagrams the big picture will soon emerge.

You could also read just some of the huge amount of scientific literature on the subject and you would understand, but apparently, less than half of the population has bothered and so I am working on this site to try and increase that proportion.

I also have no doubt that many people can write much more concisely than me, if you are one of those writers please feel free to send suggestions or edited upgrades to my text which will be acknowledged if used. Otherwise post your own version wherever you choose. My updated contact details and apology to anyone who tried to contact me after my previous contact account expired are included at the bottom of this page. I will also manage a correspondence forum once this version of the site is launched, so please email me with any queries or information you may have.

Solving the problems of climate change will not be difficult when the majority of Humans understand the issues. Infrastructure needs to be renewed and upgraded in any case, we must simply upgrade with appropriate (sustainable, renewable) technologies and insure that the technologies are applied in a way that enhances the environment instead of degrading it.

Applying the solutions will not be onerous if effectively managed, appropriate renewable energy technologies can supply energy in many forms much more economically than non-renewable technologies.

Furthermore, in a world of diminishing non-renewable resources, robust and efficient national infrastructure is an asset far better than any 'money in the bank' or budget surplus, especially given the global financial 'crises' which wasnt really a 'crises', just the inescapable and forseen result of unrestrained greed and the fact that when too many people get 'money for nothing' the 'money' or 'financial asset' becomes virtually worthless but at some stage, someone (usually almost everyone) has to pay.

The main obstacles to effectively addressing climate change are;

1) A lack of wisdom (understanding) of the nature of the interactions of climate change related factors (natural and artificial) and issues within the integrated system that is our biosphere (the life-support system of 'spaceship' Earth) and:

2) Insufficient social will to address the problems which has led to insufficient political will to create and enforce appropriate policy and legislation.

There are two main factors which contribute to the lack of social will to address climate change, the first; already noted, is the general lack of understanding of the importance of the problems of accelerating environmental degradation driven by population growth compounded by unsustainable and inappropriate resource destruction. Climate change is actually just one symptom of manifold resource destruction and environmental degradation and it is most usefully understood as such. Earth is an integrated system and we must be aware that a change in any component will eventually affect the whole system to some degree.

This website will attempt to address the first obstacle by explaining what we can do to constructively control our climate and reverse the trend of unsustainable resource and ecosystem destruction in a manner that will improve living standards and conditions for the majority of Homo sapiens and other species on Earth immediately and into the forseeable future.

The second factor contributing to insufficient social will is a lack of care - many people just don't care about environmental degradation (climate change, global warming etc) and there are two main reasons for this: The first is again, ignorance of the suicidal danger of changing our biosphere into a system that is unsuitable for complex life forms such as mammals.

The other reason for the lack of care is that many people are simply selfish and and apparently have no genuine care for others and even their own childrens future, I have been told this to my face when pressing individuals about their attitudes to climate change and there is ample evidence that such selfishness and short sighted subjectiveness is prevalent in the 'westernised' world. It is very distressing to deal with such people.

To be fair, much of the apparent carelessness is probably a reaction to fear - deep within these people know there is are dire problems but they believe that they can do nothing so they cling to their ignorance. Another factor is denial, the ignorant suspect (or know) that they have participated in endangering their descendants future but they would rather deny responsibility by declaring and aggressively promoting ignorance and misinformation.

Much of the damage done in the past was caused by actions guided by the best intentions but with little or no understanding of the consequences. That excuse no longer holds as the sciences of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) are well advanced albeit insufficently used. 'Mankind's' dominant attitude must be adjusted if we wish to have a viable future, a possible path is suggested in the last two sections of this page.

Back to top

What is global warming or climate change?

The Earths climate (average weather patterns) is generated by the interaction of 'external factors' which occur outside of the Earths atmospheric envelope (predominantly solar radiation modulated by Earths orbit and spin) with 'internal factors' that occur within the Earth/atmosphere system. Any change to an external or internal factor will change the climate.

Global warming is currently occurring because certain 'human' activities are causing a net increase in the atmospheric concentration of several 'greenhouse gases' (GHGs) of which carbon dioxide (CO2) is currently giving most concern in terms of global warming. GHGs allow most of the suns radiation to pass through to the earths surface, however when the surface absorbs the solar energy it re-radiates the energy at lower wavelengths as infra-red radiation, or heat. GHGs then absorb some of the outgoing radiation and re-emit it in random directions, basically about half is emitted upwards (where it may again be absorbed and re-emitted in random directions) and half is emitted downwards where it adds to the radiation budget and causes increased warming. Some of the heat energy trapped in the greenhouse gas molecules may also be passed on contact directly to other gases, vapors and aerosols in the atmosphere, in either case the presence of greenhouse gases cause increased warming at and near the earths surface. As the concentration of greenhouse gases increase the 'greenhouse effect' (GHE) also increases. (More details given in 'Climate control' section).

Average global warming obviously changes the earths climate: global warming = warmer global climate = climate change - simple - but too simple because the Earths surface is not homogenous and different surfaces react to increased radiation in different ways.

Bleached dry deserts reflect most of the radiation they receive and the rest is ultimately turned into sensible heat (you can feel it). Water surfaces absorb almost all radiation they recieve if the sun is overhead but reflect most of it when the sun is low to the horizon. Water releases most of the absorbed energy as latent (hidden) heat - water vapor, which releases its energy (heat) when condensing to form clouds. As cloud condensation usually occurs a few kilometers above the ground the released heat has a much greater chance of escaping than if it was released at ground level and the clouds themselves reflect incoming solar radiation causing cooling, but also reflect heat from the ground back to the ground causing a warming effect.

The ultimate warming/cooling effect of clouds is one of the most difficult factors of the climate to predict, however it seems that low level tropospheric clouds have a net cooling effect but higher clouds (which are much less common) may have a warming effect. Overall it is indicated that clouds have a net cooling effect.

The atmosphere over tropical regions usually contains large amounts of water vapor which is itself a powerful greenhouse gas, and tropical regions are often covered with cloud also, therefore increased atmospheric GHG's have a relatively low impact on most tropical regions. Cooler regions away from the tropics react to increased GHG's much more strongly because the atmosphere is drier to start with and the relatively larger warming effect allows the air to hold additional water vapor which further re-inforces the regional greenhouse effect.

Furthermore, 'average' global warming figures are largely accounted for by near sea surface temperatures because the oceans cover most of the Earth's surface. The oceans also have the capacity to absorb and store a huge amount of energy before they warm significantly and so they tend to moderate the immediate effects of increased GHG's and lower the 'average' figures of global temperature increases predicted by climate models.

However; terrestrial ecosystems and people exist above sea level and the atmosphere rapidly thins (becomes less dense) and becomes cooler and drier as altitude increases. Therefore the greenhouse effect is initially 'weaker' at higher altitudes but the addition of extra GHG's causes a relatively larger warming effect than that which occurs at lower altitudes.

The following figure from Skinner, Porter and Park. shows the expected distribution of global temperature increases that should result from a doubling of carbon dioxide (to ~550 ppm (parts per mllion)).

Many more recent and higher resolution model outputs are available now, however most of the more recent projections use emission scenarios that underestimate the actual emission growth trend and therefore produce outputs that underestimate actual and future warming, for clarification see pages 61 - 64 in the Garnaut climate change review final report (2008). These diagrams were specifically chosen because they clearly illustrate the affects of averaging and how averaging moderates the apparent magnitude of global warming, the warming projections represented in the figure are still valid for a 550 ppm CO2 atmosphere.

Note that the 'average' global warming represented by the figures below is about 4.50C (the map projection exaggerates the relative area of the higher latitudes) and that some regions in the arctic could experience up to 180 C waming while the 'average' global warming is 'only' 4.50 C.

Map of global warming temperature distribution for 550 ppm

Figure 1): Expected distribution of temperature changes due to increasing CO2 concentration to 550 ppm - average warming represented about 4.50 C. Source: Skinner et. al. (2004).

The following diagram from the same source and model as above shows the average zonal (east west) distribution of temperature changes expected over a year under a ~550 ppm CO2 concentration. Note how averaging across zones also reduces the apparent magnitude of regional warming.

Graph of average zonal (east west) temperature change distribution from 550 ppm atmospheric co2 concentration

Figure 2): Expected average zonal temperature changes due to 550 ppm atmospheric CO2 concentration. Source: Skinner et. al (2004).

The next figure from Pittock "Climate Change: An Australian Guide to the Science and Potential Impacts" (2003:60) illustrates the range of projected temperature increases expected across Australia given the range of IPCC emission projections.

Note Pittock and other Scientists were gagged from speaking out on climate change impacts by "Federal Government bureaucrats and CSIRO management" (see 'The Age' 2006) under the Howard Government. See also Clive Hamilton's 'Annual University Lecture at the Australian Defence Force Academy' (2008) (also linked at the top of this page) for an insight into the psychology of climate change denial and what it could lead to in the near future.

map of range of temperature increases expected in Australia in 2030 and 2070

Figure 3): range of projected temperature increases expected across Australia in 2030 and 2070 given the range of IPCC emission projections. Source: Pittock (2003)

Note that as you look more closely at regional climate change projections it becomes clear that some areas will warm by much greater amounts than 'average' global warming figures indicate. And as you begin to look in detail at the impacts on a broad range of factors such as agriculture, ecosystems and society the future begins to look absolutly horrendous. But we can change the future if we just wake up and address the problems.

The following text introduces some of the broader factors and issues of climate change.

The Earth/atmosphere system - henceforth referred to as 'The Biosphere' is a dynamic, reactive system with the capacity to buffer, adapt to, and moderate changes in external (and internal) factors. For example; James Lovelock (2000, 'Gaia: The practical science of planetary medicine' and earlier papers) describes how oceanic phytoplankton responds to increasing temperatures by releasing dimethyl sulphide to the atmosphere which oxidises to sulphuric acid which provides cloud condensation nucleation sites and enhances cloud formation, which in turn reflects an increased amount of sunshine thus cooling the region. This process represents a 'negative feedback' system that can act as a 'thermostat' within the conditions in which the system evolved.

Unfortunately, our atmosphere is now so loaded with man-made aerosols and dust that such natural 'cloud seeding' processes are unlikely to function as they evolved except for in the relatively clean atmosphere over the southern ocean - incidentially this is the same reason that artificial cloud seeding is only really effective over Tasmania now.

Hydrated vegetated surfaces also react swiftly to solar input by reflecting most of the near infra-red component and immediately increasing evapo-transpiration thus releasing most of the energy that is absorbed as latent heat (water vapor) which serves to increase regional humidity and the chance of convective cloud formation and precipitation. Vegetation is functionally a very powerful, reactive 'air conditioner'.

Water bodies and wet surfaces also absorb solar radiation and release latent heat, however these surfaces tend to absorb and store the energy as heat due to their greater thermal mass and conductivity as compared to leaves which have very little mass or capacity to store heat. Therefore, massive wet surfaces tend to warm up slowly and cool slowly, hence they do not experience large temperature variations such as a leaf can, and so water bodies tend to evaporate water at a relatively steady rate throughout the day and night, although generally reduced winds and air temperatures at night can reduce night-time evaporation from water bodies depending on conditions.

The climate's dominant external factor is solar radiation input to the Earth/atmosphere (biosphere) system. Since the Earths formation (~4.7 billion years ago) the suns energy output has increased by about 30% (or increased from about 75% of current output) in a fairly linear but slightly exponential, trend. Or in other words, solar input to the top of the Earth's atmosphere has increased from about 1,000 Watts per square metre (Wm-2) to ~ 1,367 Wm-2 at a slowly increasing rate of around 70 Wm-2 per billion years. When averaged over the Earth's atmospheric surface (a sphere with half in shadow) solar input is effectively quartered, therefore average solar input to the top of the atmosphere has increased from ~ 250 Wm-2 to ~ 342 Wm-2 since the Earths formation.

Despite this large increase in solar radiation the Earth has managed to maintain a fairly steady temperature since life evolved. One of the Earths mechanisims for stabilising the climate has been the sequestration of carbon in the form of peat, coal, oil, gas, methane hydrates and carbonate rocks. However Homo sapiens are rapidly excavating, extracting, burning, exposing and wasting many of these carbon stores and increasing temperatures are causing the release of methane from hydrate sources in (not now) 'permafrost' and sediment stores. increasing CO2 is also accellerating the release of carbon from peat deposits and soils.

Note that because the sun is warming' the Earth needs to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations in order to maintain a climate that is optimal for Earths current inhabitants. However, we are causing those gases to increase. Given that the suns output is increasing and Homo sapiens have already severely degraded our biosphere it is likely that even if all Homo sapiens were wiped out by a plague tommorrow, the Earth would continue to warm and species would continue to go extinct and it is unlikely that the Earth would ever be able to support the evolution of 'higher' life forms again.

We have created a mess that we will now have to manage indefinitely if we are to survive into the future.

On this website the term 'climate change' or 'Global Warming' generally refers to 'Anthropogenic (man-made) climate change' because Homo sapiens now control the dominant terrestrial variables (internal factors) responsible for controlling our climate, those variables are:

1) The composition of our Atmosphere.

2) The composition and hydrological status of most of the earths land surface.

The ocean is a major internal climate factor which we can not directly control. However, ocean currents and temperatures are affected by winds that are generated from land/sea energy gradients and we can alter the energy gradient by altering the lands energetic charachteristics. For example, the flooding rains that occurred in northern Queensland in 2010 caused a huge influx of water to the eastern central region of Australia. This caused this normally dry region to flourish and the resultant hydrated vegetation and soils were then able to absorb much more solar energy than was possible in the landscapes normally dryer, and therefore more reflective state. The increased energy absorbtion on the hydrated landscape is converted to latent and sensible heat, however the near ground temperature is likely to be cooler in the hydrated state due to the much larger proportion of latent heat (water vapor) released even though more solar energy is absorbed. (Google 'Bowen Ratio').

The increased energy absorbtion over central Australia is therefore transferred into the atmosphere in the form of humidity and heat. Humid air is more bouyant than dry air and so the air tends to rise which then generates a regional low pressure zone. Air is then drawn into the low pressure system at low levels, thus creating a situation where surface winds blow towards the low pressure system and moist onshore winds increase. When the effect is strong enough a net influx of low level moist air occurs, balanced by the export of dried air higher in the atmosphere (the air is dried as it is forced to rise, cool and moisture condenses into rain). The increased rainfall into inland Australia then causes the landscape to absorb more energy and the process is reinforced.

If the system persists, the onshore winds tend to blow the warmer surface layers of water towards the land and eventually the seawater near the land becomes relatively warmer and more able to pump more water into the air thus strengthening the system as the oceans reaction increases the regional energy inbalance. The result is what we call the 'la nina' weather condition. The 'Southern oscillation index' is a measure of the air pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin, during the wetter (in Australia) 'la nina' conditions air pressure is relatively lower over Darwin (lower pressure = greater atmospheric energy [more warmth and moisture]).

Excellent introductions to climate change science can be found at the IPCC and the CSIRO, however these (and most other) sources tend to focus primarily on the climatic effects of 'greenhouse gases', - mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) as its rapidly increasing atmospheric concentration is the primary driver of global climate change. However if we are to effectively address climate change we must understand and consider the whole situation as an integrated system (ie- as it is). The following text attempts to facilitate such understanding.

Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration does not just enhance the greenhouse effect, it also causes the ocean to become more acidic which will cause profound disruption to the oceans food web (of which we occupy the top position) if left unchecked.

Increasing CO2 also affects plant physiology, the so called 'carbon fertilisation effect' can actually degrade food quality by allowing the plant to synthesise extra carbohydrates at the relative expense of protien. This process can actually degrade a plants nutritive qualities beyond a point where the plant becomes unsuitable as food for the organisms that have evolved to use it and the process could lead to a collapse of terrestrial food webs (and we are on the top of those too).

Increasing carbon dioxide can also cause a plant to reduce its respiration and close its stomata (leaf pores) earlier than if carbon was limited. The Ginko plant develops less stomata on its leaves in elevated CO2 concentrations, in fact ginko fossils stomata density has been used as a proxy indicator for prehistoric atmospheric CO2 concentrations. In either case increasing CO2 can cause a reduction in plant transpiration of water which can lead to increasing regional temperatures and aridity in vegetated areas and could even lead to the collapse and desertification of systems such as the Amazon Basin - and many other forests.

When mainstream discussion focuses on the science of global warming most attention is given to the greenhouse effect, some attention is given the landscape as a source and sink of carbon but virtually none is given to the landscape as a primary, multifunctional tool which we can manipulate in a constructive, rather than destructive fashion.

Climate change is best understood as just one symptom of anthropogenic environmental degradation.

We must stop fiddling with the symptoms and begin to address the causes of climate change which are: multi-faceted anthropogenic environmental destruction and inappropriate resource use.

Back to top

How to fix climate change

Our control over the atmosphere, the landscape, flora and fauna, surface water and groundwater has given us control of our climate although most of us are ignorant of the fact. Even when we are aware of our control we behave with ignorance: For example, the urban heat-island effect is a well known phenomenon yet our planners give it little or no consideration and continue to allow our cities to spread water-shedding hot surfaces such as bitumen, paving and roofs over a previously hydrated and functional landscape. Simply painting roofs white probably wont help much - salt lakes and deserts are highly reflective also, air becomes stratified over such surfaces and the chance of cloud formation and rainfall is reduced. Research is being done but most policymakers seem to be ignorant so far.

The solution to moderating urban and regional climates is to create a hydrated surface that intercepts solar radiation, uses some of it for growth and releases most of the energy as water vapor, in short we must revegetate our landscape and provide it with water. To achieve effective climate moderation however, we must use exploratory climate modelling on our tentative landscape modifications. The effects of historic vegetation change on the climate have been modelled by Mcalpine et al. (2007) which gives an indication of the magnitude of the effect on the climate of changing the landscape. Some very useful background information re life/thermodynamics is available on James Kay's memorial website linked here.

Climate change is a physical reality and operates under the 'laws of nature' - ie the laws of Physics and Chemistry and the interactions of the biosphere (Life) with and within the physical (abiotic) environment. We can modify the biotic and abiotic components of our world but the outcome will be dictated by natural laws.

Therefore policymakers must adapt their policy and laws to be compatable with reality - King Canute demonstrated the futility of trying to legislate change to natural laws - one cannot change the fundamental laws of the universe so it would behoove our politicians to try and understand these basic laws. So far they have not tried, this is amply demonstrated by nearly all Australian politicians who choose to 'believe' or to 'not believe' in the science of climate change etc, apparently few (if any) of them has made the effort to actually 'understand' the science, or the reality.

It has been said that to 'know' is to be clever but that to 'understand' is to be 'wise'. It would be good if our current politicians made the effort to 'know' enough that they may 'understand' the issues - then we may have a chance to survive. Failing that, we should at least make an effort to elect people (preferably Humans) who can and do understand the issues.

What is ultimately required is a comprehensive, adaptable plan for national land and water use, designed to improve our biosphere. And additional water must be provided from renewably powered desalinated seawater plants so that we may revive our river systems and rehydrate our landscape and its aquifers. My thesis and project proposal outline the the essential sciences, technologies and their appropriate applications which are neccessary to address climate change in Australia, these sciences and technologies are also applicable in most inhabited regions of the Earth. Fossil fuel extraction and use must also cease.

The above paragraph touches on some current 'taboos' for example, landholders may resent being told what they may and may not do with their land, however the reality is that landholders are already constrained with what they can do and for good reason - unrestrained land use almost always leads to extreme resource destruction, for example the Western lands act in NSW was created because farmers virtually destroyed the productive capacity of the western half of NSW by overstocking and inappropriate farming practices.

The resultant soil loss probably reduced Australia's water storage capacity (soil water) by a greater volume than the combined capacity of all of the dams we have constructed since, this water storage loss also has the potential to profoundly effect the regional climate and it is almost certainly doing so as Ausrtalia's deserts grow. Having said that, Australia's farmers are now amoungst the best and most innovative in the world, they are now addressing their problems albeit usually with insufficient resources, and they are relatively well informed and prepared to cooperate with effective projects. However, on top of historical degradation, Farmers are also dealing with the additional impacts of climate change and they require extra resources and assistance to sustainably manage their landscapes. We all eat food (stored solar energy) and so we all have a vested - even mortal, interest in the viability and sustainability of our farming sector.

Simply put, Austrailan farmers manage most of our productive landscape and are therefore essential to any effort to seriously address climate change. We must give them all of the support they need in order to achieve productive and sustainable resource/landscape management and climate moderation.

Another taboo is desalination, however, best practice desalination plants have far less negative impacts than removing water from natural (or altered) river systems. Our growing population and farmers need a reliable water supply and our rivers need all of their water to function properly. Appropriate application of renewably powered desalination technology is essential if we are to rehabilitate and improve Australia's biosphere and future prospects.

The third taboo is the end of the fossil fuel industry, which, being unsustainable will end in any case. Fossil fuel industries need us to go along with their abominable projects in order to survive, but we do not need the fossil fuel industries and the Earth definitely does not need them, the sooner we move away from fossil fuels the better. A small group of vested interests must not be allowed to destroy the earth for their own petty amusement.

This website will provide further and hopefully more accessible explanations of the issues and their solutions as it is developed. Hopefully feedback from interested people will guide the evolution of this site and perhaps a large enough group of concerned and informed humans will develop and eventually be able to effect positive changes to our resource use.

I welcome any input, guidance or assistance that may help to manifest a truly sustainable human civilisation with the capacity to appreciate (in all senses) our unique home.

Back to top

Climate change 'uncertainty'

'Uncertainties' about the developing effects of climate change have often been cited by politicians and others as an excuse for inaction. However, on examination there is virtually no uncertainty that climate change and related effects will severely damage the Earth and its inhabitants.

The properties and 'greenhouse effects' of atmospheric gases are well understood: All things being equal, the increasing concentration of certain 'greenhouse gases' in the atmosphere will cause the Earths surface and lower atmosphere to recieve additional reflected radiation from the atmosphere and thus become warmer. The increased heat will allow the atmosphere to hold more water vapor, which is itself a 'greenhouse gas' thus reinforcing the local 'greenhouse effect'. However, increased water vapor can cause increased cloud which can reflect sunlight back to space, thus reducing the local energy input and therefore temperatures.

The effects of cloud cover are the main source of uncertainty in climate models, the uncertainty is not that the climate will change, it about how much the climate will change as there is a small chance that increased cloud cover will offset the greenhouse effect. However, it is almost impossible that this effect will cause temperatures to remain unchanged globally. And even in the odd areas that may experience this cloud cooling effect, the cooling will come at the expense of reduced sunlight leading to a reduction in photosynthesis (primary productivity) also the altered quality of light may cause profound ecosystem changes and seriously damage the amenity of the region. Also, increased latent heat can lead to destructive flooding.

Another element of uncertainty is that polar melting could stop the oceans thermohaline conveyer leading to freezing in Europe and Asia but possibly accelerating warming in the southern hemisphere at the same time due to a stagnant ocean. In any case we must stop this suicidal climate experiment ASAP.

Furthermore all things are not equal, we have damaged our biosphere in many ways, excessive land clearing, landscape degradation and inappropriate water regulation, extraction and use have already led to increased regional temperatures and aridity (climate change) and loss of overall productivity which can only be exacerbated by increasing greenhouse gases.

To a scientist, a 95% probability of a model being correct virtually means that the model is correct. Good scientists always have doubts when dealing with complex systems but they attempt to identify, quantify and address them all when seeking answers.

The destructive impacts of climate change are at least 95% certain or at least 20 to 1. those who cite doubt as a reason for inaction (or an excuse for continuing destructive action) are virtually playing russian roulette with 19 (or 20) rounds in a 20 round cylinder, the only problem is that they are not pointing the weapon at their own head, they are pointing it at our children and our future. The other problem is that the other chamber may contain a rubber bullet, or it may contain pandora's box.

There is no doubt that increasing CO2 concentrations are causing the ocean to become more acidic which, if it continues, will almost certainly lead to the collapse of the oceans current food web. That alone should be sufficient reason to cease fossil fuel use but we hear virtually nothing on that topic from our 'leaders'.

The impacts of climate change can be seen now, droughts, floods and bushfires are increasing in severity due to the effects of climate change, the distribution of species is changing. Many species have gone extinct and many more are threatened by climate change and other man-made threats.

What do you think will happen when Homo sapiens populations, with armies, airforces, biological, chemical and nuclear weapons begin to starve?

If we do nothing about our increasing environmental destruction it is certain that the human race will suffer severely, the only uncertainty is the exact nature, extent and temporal duration of that suffering.

Back to top

What is a Human?

Many unpleasant things are excused as 'human nature' yet people like Hitler and many others are regarded as 'inhuman' or 'sub-human' so where does one draw the line between Human and inhuman? And why is it important?

It is often implied or even asserted that 'Humans' are somehow 'superior' to 'animals' and 'sub-humans'. It follows that a world managed by Humans would be sustainable and vastly superior to a world (mis?) managed by sub-humans. (Not that it is easy to construct something well, it is just very, very easy to destroy important things - any fool can burn down a barn).

The topic of climate change elicits three types of reactions in people, concern, lack of concern and denial. Denial and lack of concern often occur simultaneously in the same individual, but that same individual may also be concerned in a selfish sense and express fear that they will somehow be personally impacted by others efforts to address climate change. In effect, these latter type of people are saying that their perceived personal inconvienience is more important than the rest of the world for the rest of time.

Ignorance is no defence in 'the eyes of the law' and it can be lethal in the real world. So should ignorance be acceptable Human behaviour? I think not. Climate change deniers are simply being aggressively ignorant in the face of now overwhelming evidence of the dangers of climate change.

I contend that those who are concerned about the 'Big Picture' of climate change are Human and those who do not care and/or choose to deny or ignore the problems are inhuman or sub-human. Sub-humans should be given very little respect and no power in a sensible, sustainable world. Evidently the world is currently managed by sub-humans, that must change.

How and what we think determines how we will act. Therefore how we think will dictate what sort of world we create. If we think like monsters we will create a monsterous and short lived world. Currently, overwhelming evidence suggests that we are creating a monsterous short lived world. On the other hand if we think like Humans we will create a sustainable world suitable for humans and the many species with which we share.

Personally I have had to make a distinction between Humans and sub-humans because I feel that to try and help 'save our world' would be a futile excercise if the effort results in saving this world for a bunch of cunning, ignorant, dangerous, inappreciative, sub-humans. If the world was full of sub-humans why bother? They would only find another way to stuff it anyway. However the sub-human perspective is disproportionately represented by powerful vested interests and institutions that include and use large chunks of the mass media have a single, selfish sub-human motive - profit. There are actually millions, if not billions of fine Humans on Earth, but they are drowned out, ignored and even destroyed by these powerful, hollow institutions.

Why 'lift the bar' now? In the past Humans had very limited knowledge or understanding of the consequences of their actions. That has changed, people can now access photographs of our planet taken from the moon. Artificial satellites monitor the Earths surface moment by moment. Our understanding of Earth sciences is almost total, as is the understanding of our impacts on the Earth, now and into the future. Given our vastly increased knowledge and power it is only reasonable to see that our responsibility has also increased and therefore the standards and expectations of Human behaviour must also improve in order to honour our increased responsibility. A Human accepts their responsibility, a sub-human denies any responsibility or care.

It is no longer 'good enough' to blame any stupid or selfish act on 'human nature' we must do better than that. In the past it was argued that 'humans' were somehow 'better' than 'animals' and therefore we could do what we liked to animals because we were somehow 'superior' to animals. In fact we are animals, very dangerous animals at that, and we have no inherent 'superiority'over other animals save by our own biased judgment. Humans must prove that they are at least responsible, if not 'superior' if we are to honour our responsibilites and justify or realise our self professed 'superiority'.

All humans are born as Homo sapiens or 'clever apes' - intelligent animals with the ability to understand their environment and manipulate it to satisfy their immediate needs and wants. These clever apes are driven by, and subject to, their basic animal needs and desires and they are only able to experience short term satisfaction when their needs and desires are gratified. But they cannot experience genuine, deep satisfaction or appreciation and so they increase their consumption and or 'wealth' in order to gain some meaningful sense of comfort or wellbeing. However, material gain or consumption cannot satisfy the 'emptyness within' that many people feel, thus fat millionaires become fatter billionaires but their hunger is not sated and they posess no meaningful peace or happiness. Greed is a mental illness (born of fear) that is destroying the Earth.

The only way that a clever ape can attain meaningful peace and happiness is to become a Human. A Human 'appreciates' the world in both senses of the word; A human is appreciative in that they feel gratitude for being alive and part of an amazing diverse interconnected world within the universe. A Human also appreciates the world by attempting to understanding their place within reality and acting in a manner intended to improve the world and their self. A Human learns from their mistakes and those of others and attempts to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. A Human honours their appreciation by ensuring that fellow and future Humans have and inherit a world that they can also appreciate.

A Human is not a racist, sexist, nationalist, specist, ignorant or a liar. Being a 'humanitarian' or an 'environmentalist' is not 'optional' (as implied by the 'ist') for a Human today, they are intrinsic qualities of a Human now because a Human cares for other Humans by definition, and a contemporary Human knows that Humans need a healthy environment if they are to realise their full potential.

A Human knows that they are not perfect but they attempt to constantly improve. A Human does not attempt to define the limit of others potential because they know that to limit others is to limit oneself, indeed a Human does not know the extent of their own potential because as a Human grows, greater understanding and opportunities constantly unfold.

Again; it has been said that: "to 'know' is to be clever, but to 'understand' is to be wise".

If we are to effectively address climate change we must subordinate the clever apes to Human control, the apes can, as always choose to become Human or remain as sub-human apes. However the apes can no longer be allowed to run things, they are far too dangerous and must be restrained.

Also 'corporations' are amoral, unliving, entities created mostly by clever apes in order to allay their insecurities and feed their hungers, these corporations are guided by their charters to make a 'profit' for their investors and the result is usually an optimisation of this profit function within the corporations system at the expense of the optimum operation of the larger system (the biosphere) within which all earthbound entities and sub-systems exist. Reformation and control of artificial corporations is easily achievable if there is social and political wisdom and will to simply change legislation and force corporations to operate in a fashion that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable (sustainable).

We are at a crossroad now and the choice is clear to those who have looked - we can choose to become Human and move confidently into a constantly improving and enriched future that is sustainable for the forseeable millennia. Or we can choose to remain as selfish, fearful, ignorant but 'clever' (cunning) apes and fight each other over the scraps of a dying husk of a world untill we become extinct within a century and take most of the biosphere with us.

Back to top

A 'secular morality' for Humankind

I suggest that 'mankind' must conciously evolve into 'Humankind' if we are to survive beyond the 21st century, we must adopt a 'secular morality' based on a viable, logical, enlightened appreciation of our world.

First, we must realise that 'no human is an island' - we all depend on each other and many other species, and the only reason that we live today is that we have benefited from eons of good fortune backed by the viable decisions, actions, nurture and co-operation that our ancestors provided to their descendants down through the ages. - Competition may have benefited some at the expense of others (or all) at times in the past but only co-operation can benefit all in the long run. (At a glance nature may seem to be 'red in tooth and claw' but a deeper investigation uncovers amazing webs of dynamic and intelligent interdependance). Read Fritjof Capra's book 'the web of life' for enlightenment on this topic, see also James Lovelocks book 'Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine' for another perspective.

Secondly, we must define and understand what a Human Being is compared to what a Homo sapiens is so that we may define and encourage acceptable Human behaviour and discourage unacceptable inhuman behaviour. It is not 'good' enough to ascribe any behaviour as being 'Human Nature', it is not 'human nature' to perform inhuman acts, however it is within Homo sapiens nature to be sub-human just as it is possible for them to be Human.

I may expand on these non-scientific issues in future as they are important and I would like to recieve feedback on these issues. However as my background is in science and engineering I will mainly concentrate on those aspects of the problem for now.

Back to top

References

Most of the documents I have refferred to have links to them from this site and so will not be included in the reference list. Please contact me if you have any problems with that. The documents that I use images or extracts from in the main text will be included in the reference list, but cover images used to illustrate links will not be included in references as the link will connect to the source. PS will indent when I work out how.

Capra, F. 1997. 'The web of life: A new scientific understanding of living systems'.
Anchor Books - Random House
ISBN: 0-385-47676-0

Lovelock, J. 2000. 'Gaia: The practical science of planetary medecine', (2nd edition).
Gaia Books Ltd
ISBN-10: 1856751910
ISBN-13: 978-1856751919

Pittock, B. 2003. 'Climate Change: An Australian Guide to the Science and Potential Impacts'
Accessed February 2011 from:
http://www. ccma.vic.gov.au/soilhealth/climate_change_literature_review/documents/organisations/ago/science-guide.pdf

Skinner, B. J., Porter, S. C. and Park, J. 2004. 'Dynamic Earth: An introduction to physical geology'.
John Wiley and Sons. Inc
ISBN: 0-471-45157-6

Back to top

Authors Honours Thesis, contains important background information, for a pdf copy(4.63MB) click here

Melbourne Universities(ZCA)(by 2020) report, which supports my thesis choice of primary energy supply systems and costs the basic systems. Note: my thesis (completed in 2008)did not include the depth of detail contained in the ZCA however my thesis scope was much broader and addressed the issues of carbon neutral transitional fuels and chemical feedstocks, sustainable and reliable water supply, and also describes how we can directly moderate regional and national climate without having to wait for international consensus. Will try to find new link for this paper later.

Essential Reading, source: Mcalpine et al. (2007)

Major vegetation change in Australia since European settlement, source: Carnahan et. al. (1990) Can no longer locate map online

Australia's recent rainfall trends, source: BOM

mouseover