Thursday, July 10, 2008

Siti, a bit of an Indonesian hottie

Yes, it would appear that Siti is well used name in those parts...hearing it mentioned here, and there, whilst grubbing about, one would turn and look for the one we have to come know here in Sydney, and be surprised, by, well, another.This one was encountered with her family in Bogor, and of course put on fine display of cuteness, and tingling in one's netherparts.However, she possessed keen intelligence, perfect English, and is studying to a vet, you know one of them animal doctor type people...That could be a slightly wasted occupation in Indonesia, as wherever there are people, there is a distinct lack of animals.Except for, well, dogs, cats, and rats, all in various states of starvation.This not include the house rat of the infamous backpacker's dive, The Scumbag Vermin, or the Pension Firman to give its real name.The rat in question is exceptionally sleek, and well fed, and delights in taking a shower with unsuspecting western women in the outdoor dunny.Anyway, after, um, all that, here is Siti, forthwith.

More warnings from those, who, well can.

Mainstream debate about global warming has moved on from the question of what needs to be done to when it needs to be done. There is broad agreement that heat-trapping emissions need to be cut. That is prompted by the science. But there is furious argument over when to start doing it. That is an especially tricky one because it's where the science ends and politics and economics take over.
And while science may be imprecise and incomplete, it is usually a better guide than politics, which Ambrose Bierce defined in his 1911 classic The Devil's Dictionary as "a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles". And physical science is generally more dependable than economics, the so-called dismal science. As George Bernard Shaw said: "If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion."
Yet these are the disciplines, or perhaps indisciplines, that societies are obliged to work with. So what do they tell us in answering this question - should a country act unilaterally and cut its carbon emissions even if other countries do not?
Modern history gives us two models for weighing the merit of unilateral action in a highly interdependent world.
One is from the world of military strategy and the other is from trade policy. In the case of military strategy, the Cold War posed the question of whether one of the superpowers should start cutting its nuclear arsenal even if the other did not.
The argument in favour of unilateral disarmament said that doing so would break the cycle of confrontation and escalation, ease tensions, save money, and move the superpowers to a better relationship.
But reality showed otherwise. Unilateral disarmament turned out to be the equivalent of surrender. The Soviet Union abandoned the arms race and lost its empire. The lesson here is clear - unilateral action is a bad idea.
In the case of trade, one of the big questions of the last century was whether a country should cut its protective tariffs even if other countries did not.
We shouldn't cut the tariffs on our car industry, for example, unless other countries do. Because if we did lower our protective barriers unilaterally, other countries will flood our market and ruin our industry. To this day, global trade negotiations are based on this concept of reciprocity - I will if you will.
But in the real world, experience showed that it doesn't work that way. Even if other countries keep their protective barriers in place, the country that liberalises its trade reaps big benefits of efficiency and competitiveness. So the experience from trade is that unilateral action is generally a good idea.
How do these examples help us understand whether to start cutting carbon emissions unilaterally?
The eminent economist Ross Garnaut, the man appointed by the Rudd Government to report on the economics of climate change, put it to me this way: "With trade liberalisation, you are going to benefit whatever the rest of the world does. With unilateral disarmament, you open yourself to a security risk, but at least you save money in the national budget.
"With climate change, it's even worse than unilateral disarmament - if you are the only country to move, there is only cost."
If Australia were to impose a significant price on the right to emit carbon and other countries did not, companies here would be put at a disadvantage.
Some, like the electricity companies, are stuck and would have to sit tight and put up with it. But the ones that sell so-called tradeable goods could just take their factories overseas, and their jobs with them.
And if Australia managed to curb its greenhouse emissions as a result, so what? Accounting for all of 1.5 per cent of global carbon output, it would make no discernable difference whatsoever. Australia would have punished itself economically for no good purpose environmentally.
In his report to the Federal Government released last week, Garnaut likens this to the prisoner's dilemma.
Consider: Two people are arrested for a crime. They are questioned separately. Each may give evidence against the other, or say nothing. If both say nothing, both go free for lack of evidence. But if one rats on the other, he goes free and the other is severely punished. If both give evidence, both are severely punished.
Not knowing or trusting what the other may do, the best individual - or local - strategy is to give evidence against your friend. In climate change, this translates into a strategy of allowing other countries to act while you do not. Or as Garnaut puts it: "With climate change, a country can be rewarded for cheating."
But the best overall - or global - strategy for the prisoners is for them to each trust the other and for neither to give evidence. This way, both go free. Or, in climate change terms, for all nations to agree to act at broadly the same time in roughly the same manner.
This was the aspiration that Kevin Rudd voiced at the G8 meeting in Japan this week, urging the developing countries and the developed to act in unison. But the response from China and India starkly revealed that, even with the US signing up to a communiqué that supports the idea of cutting emissions in half by 2050, the two biggest emerging economies are not interested in acting at the moment.

So does that mean Rudd should take Brendan Nelson's advice and not even start the emissions trading scheme he has pledged to begin from 2010?
Rudd's thinking is that he will proceed with the program. How is this good politics? With the Greens and the environmental movement clamouring for more action from Rudd, and the Liberal Party urging less, Rudd will position himself in between these voices of the Left and the Right at what he calls the responsible reforming centre of Australian politics.
The emissions trading system can start off assigning a low price to the right to emit a tonne of carbon. The Government can set out on a gently-sloping upward trajectory of carbon-curbing. This would keep all Australia's options open as international negotiations proceed.
The Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change, including firms such as BP, Westpac, Origin Energy and Visy, has urged the Government to act swiftly because "the longer we delay acting, the more expensive it becomes for business and for the wider Australian economy".
Similarly, an impressive group of 1700 US scientists and economists, including six Nobel laureates, has told the US Government that "the longer we wait, the harder and more costly it will be" to curb carbon emissions.
"The most risky thing we can do is nothing," they wrote.
This is true, but, as Garnaut points out, "only if other countries act eventually". And if not, we should forget unilaterally cutting carbon emissions and start unilaterally building seawalls.
Peter Hartcher is the Herald's political editor.

Today's doom for you...Antarctic ice shelf again, update

Antarctic ice shelf 'hanging by thread': European scientists
July 11, 2008 - 3:57AM
New evidence has emerged that a large plate of floating ice shelf attached to Antarctica is breaking up, in a troubling sign of global warming, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday.
Images taken by its Envisat remote-sensing satellite show that Wilkins Ice Shelf is "hanging by its last thread" to Charcot Island, one of the plate's key anchors to the Antarctic peninsula, ESA said in a press release.
"Since the connection to the island... helps stabilise the ice shelf, it is likely the breakup of the bridge will put the remainder of the ice shelf at risk," it said.
Wilkins Ice Shelf had been stable for most of the last century, covering around 16,000 square kilometres (6,000 square miles), or about the size of Northern Ireland, before it began to retreat in the 1990s.
Since then several large areas have broken away, and two big breakoffs this year left only a narrow ice bridge about 2.7 kilometres (1.7 miles) wide to connect the shelf to Charcot and nearby Latady Island.
The latest images, taken by Envisat's radar, say fractures have now opened up in this bridge and adjacent areas of the plate are disintegrating, creating large icebergs.
Scientists are puzzled and concerned by the event, ESA added.
The Antarctic peninsula -- the tongue of land that juts northward from the white continent towards South America -- has had one of the highest rates of warming anywhere in the world in recent decades.
But this latest stage of the breakup occurred during the Southern Hemisphere's winter, when atmospheric temperatures are at their lowest.
One idea is that warmer water from the Southern Ocean is reaching the underside of the ice shelf and thinning it rapidly from underneath.
"Wilkins Ice Shelf is the most recent in a long, and growing, list of ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula that are responding to the rapid warming that has occurred in this area over the last fifty years," researcher David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) said.
"Current events are showing that we were being too conservative, when we made the prediction in the early 1990s that Wilkins Ice Shelf would be lost within 30 years. The truth is, it is going more quickly than we guessed."
In the past three decades, six Antarctic ice shelves have collapsed completely -- Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller and the Jones Ice Shelf.