January 31, 2011 | Graham

Prepare for more flooding

My sister writes adventure romance novels, and she is also a commercial airline pilot.

So she knows something about imagination, but she is also practical and keeps an eye on the weather.

She just sent me a link to this map of weather in our more or less immediate vicinity as a partial answer to my question as to whether Brisbane could face more flooding from a cyclone(s) making landfall and then coming south as a rain depression.

Cyclones and Queensland on 31 January, 2011

You can see Cyclone Anthony looking relatively anemic in central Queensland, but its “ugly sister” Yasi (ugly name too),  looks huge off the coast.

It would be unwise for anyone in Queensland or northern New South Wales to put away their gumboots and shovels just yet.

Posted by Graham at 7:34 am | Comments (1) |

January 26, 2011 | Graham

Reconciliation in the climate debate?

Judith Curry reports on a Workshop on Reconciliation in the Climate Change Debate. Sounds like a neat and hopeless idea, like tilting at windfarms. It would be nice to think it had a chance, but a look at the list of attendees shows that it is all people who are on the “outer” of the debate.

They are:

  • Judith Curry
  • Steve Goddard
  • Steve McIntyre
  • Ross McKitrick
  • Steve Mosher
  • Fred Pearce
  • Nick Stokes
  • Hans von Storch
  • Peter Webster

These are people, like me, who don’t necessarily dispute that the world is getting hotter but demand rigour in the measurements and ask the “so what” questions.  It’s galling to be called a “denier” and inferentially lumped-in with those who deny things like the holocaust, but I doubt that this conference is going to change anything.

In fact, it’s intriguing that they would agree to attend at all. At the moment the climate change establishment is on the back foot. It’s colder in some parts of the world than they predicted, and wetter, the globe hasn’t warmed for 13 years, and the issue is losing its political urgency (apparently only tangentially rated a mention in Obama’s State of the Union address).

That the anti-establishment is prepared to attend is further proof of their bonafides. They’re in a strong position but they still want to talk. Well you generally won’t talk unless you’re in a strong or a weak position. But when the strong will talk it’s generally a sign not just of strength but of confidence. Those in a weak position never want to talk, and the IPCC establishment has never been in a strong position which is demonstrated by their unwillingness to admit as much as a single mistake.

Having politicised the issue the IPCC establishment and the political left now complain that their opponents are waging a war on science, when what they mean is a war on them, and one which they provoked.

For reconciliation to work it takes two (at least).  But it seems that only one side is interested. If you’re not up to the science (and who is?) it gives you another metric for sifting truth from dross.

Posted by Graham at 12:08 pm | Comments (3) |
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January 18, 2011 | Ronda Jambe

Recalibrating the Risks

‘Put it all on the red!’ That’s the phrase my spouse uses when joking about any situation where all the eggs are in one basket, and chickens double-counted well before they become hatchlings. He used to enjoy blackjack, probably a bit too much, and has strong memories of what can happen when bets aren’t hedged.

Ironic then, that global hedge funds led the charge to the GFC. More concerning is governments’ reluctance to hedge their bets.

Queensland has now had two hundred year floods in 40 years (please correct me if I’ve overstated the situation). Horsham in Victoria is preparing for a one in 200 year flood. Thank heavens there isn’t any climate change, or who knows what we might be in for.

The bill for all this will be absorbed in an inflated GDP. Even the black plague has a silver lining for economists, as Henry Thornton pointed out on this site.

But how much of a good thing can you have, from that distorted economic perspective, before all is exhausted?

Anna Bligh has said the enquiry into the floods will consider urban planning, and will look for ways to ‘price in risk’ to ensure future safety.

When 90% of roads and an area the size of Germany and France combined is under water, perhaps a reconsideration of what risks really mean is needed.

You won’t find such philosophical digressions in the federal government’s discussion paper on a national urban policy:


I’m working my way through this doc so I can draft a submission for a community group. While the document makes many mentions of meeting the challenges of climate change and sustainability, the impression is that these are not to be taken so seriously as to interfere with the main aim, which is supporting growth.

To me this is like a diet plan that says you can eat lots of cake.

But then, who of us in our personal lives can successfully steer away from growth? Money in the bank doesn’t keep up with inflation: no growth means a mediocre investment at best.

What if the decent proposals outlined in the discussion paper are far short of the mark? What if what we need is a transition to a post-carbon economy, with real definitions and metrics for achieving sustainability, and a serious look at population, and how we might limit growth, rather than accommodate it? A UK expert offered alternatives to growth on the ABC recently. They roughly  agree with the directions I’m haltingly moving towards.

There is much sensible consideration of serious issues relevant to urban policy in the document, and the phrase ‘food security’ even appears once, but ‘peak oil’ not at all. The paper says the best estimates are for a temperature rise of about 3.5 C by 2070, if no abatement efforts succeed.

It is very hard, for governments and individuals to put metrics around words like ‘resilience’ and ‘sustainability’.  How many of those who were flooded will also decide it’s too hard, and move away. What impact will that have on property prices and GDP? Maybe it’s time for a nap…

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 3:32 am | Comments Off on Recalibrating the Risks |
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January 12, 2011 | Graham

We’re 90% OK in Brisbane

To all the people who’ve been texting me and ringing, convinced that living in Brisbane I must be at imminent risk of being washed away, I, and at least 90% of us, are fine.

Brisbane from Coorparoo balcony Thursday 13th January, 2011

This is the view from my balcony in Coorparoo this morning. Coorparoo is listed as flood effected, and it is…just.

Here is some of the flood affected area from late yesterday afternoon.

Langlands Park Coorparoo January 12th 2011

That’s Langlands Park, a playing field down by Norman Creek, and home to Easts Rugby League Club. Deshon Street below, is also closed, except to the most foolhardy traffic. The car in this picture almost didn’t make it and was blowing smoke and sputtering until it went out of sight.

Main Avenue Coorparoo Deshon Street Woolloongabba January 12th, 2011

Like most in Brisbane, life is relatively unaffected for me. Which doesn’t mean I don’t feel for those who have lost possessions, or lives in the floods. I spent half of yesterday trying to rescue a car (a 20 year old immaculately restored Chevrolet Corvette belonging to the new boyfriend of an old girlfriend). Alas, when we actually managed to get to where it was, this is all that could be seen of the lower level carpark where it lived.

58 Sandford St Saint Lucia January 12th 2011

That’s $40,000 of restoration that is now rusty junk.

The flood peak was about a metre lower than in 1974, although the media seemed to be willing it to be higher. (While in sporting contests it is appropriate to fixate on records, it’s a little morbid and ghoulish to do it with floods). Yesterday they were predicting around 36,000 properties would be affected. That’s around 10% of Brisbane’s 356,000 or so rateable properties. As the peak was lower than expected, that figure should also be lower.

From the mainstream media coverage you would think that Brisbane is completely devastated, but in the last 12 months there have been worse places to be – Christchurch, Santiago, Bangladesh, Haiti and the Mentawai Islands spring easily to mind.

The fevered media coverage has surely fed some of the irrational behaviour, such as panic buying in supermarkets and long queues at fuel pumps. And  it will make it harder for Brisbane to recover. What tourist wants to visit a flood ravaged city? Who would relocate their head office to a CBD that is likely to be under water?

Over the next few days  and weeks I’m going to be trying to show a more balanced picture via On Line Opinion. We’ll do facts and figures, and we’ll do emotions. But we want the good as well as the bad. We’ll do our best to make a contribution to the historical, not the hysterical, record.

There are plenty of places you can post photos or stories, but if you want to send them to me we can post them here, in On Line Opinion itself, or on our Facebook page.

We’ve started our coverage this morning with an article from Peter Pyke on the really devastated areas of Queensland – those west from here in the Darling Downs, Condamine and Maranoa country.

Posted by Graham at 9:45 pm | Comments (2) |
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January 11, 2011 | Ronda Jambe

Everybody talks about it…

You know the rest of the jingle, from the weather man, a guy called Norm. Can’t remember what channel or how long ago, but no platitude could be more relevant today. …Nobody does a thing about it.

Weird weather is becoming the real Norm, just in case you hadn’t noticed. Not just the incredible rains in Australia, the snow in the northern hemisphere, the typhoons that we hear less about. Weird is the sudden warm snaps that unleash water in the wrong season, or the create mid-winter tornados in the US mid-west.

Interesting indeed, especially from a safe ridge in wet Moruya, where I eye the river and wonder if it could isolate us here some day.

Different matter in much of Queensland and northern NSW, where lives have been lost and the economic cost could top $6 billion.

The lost food production alone will be felt across the country, and will apparently drive wheat prices up globally. Food security is no longer such an arcane idea.

As for doing something about it, well, we’re still waiting for the penny to drop. It’s gone beyond a joke, gone beyond trying to stop climate change.

Remember how the talk during the Copenhagen meeting ‘decided’ that warming should be kept to 2 degrees Centigrade? Hubris indeed.

This isn’t going to be fun, as the residents of Queensland are already discovering. Time for adaptation, and better make it snappy. Welcome to the new normal.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 3:52 am | Comments (8) |
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January 05, 2011 | Graham

Please phone me Gerry Harvey

Maybe they are targetting the only demographic sympathetic to their cause, but amazingly the retailers campaigning for GST to be applied to overseas online purchases are running their campaign exclusively in the print media at the moment.


Posted by Graham at 3:03 am | Comments (14) |
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January 02, 2011 | Graham

Ellis in terminal decline with NSW Labor

Bob Ellis is lucky he has such a large deposit of intellectual capital built up over 40 or so years, otherwise I doubt anyone would publish him today. Certainly not as a political analyst where he has developed an unenviable record of writing complete rubbish.

However, perhaps the date of his ultimate decline ought to be set at today with this piece published in The Drum. Headed “How Labor can win in New South Wales”, an untenable proposition in itself, this paragraph, which purports to show that the Libs are unfit to rule, particularly caught my eye:

“Askin was a crook, Brogden a suicide, Coleman lost his own seat and in NSW the Greiner government was investigated for corruption. All this happened in O’Farrell’s and Skinner’s time as backroomers and they probably looked the other way.”

Now, he’s probably right about Askin, but why these 35 year old allegations should give Labor an edge is unclear, given its own reputation for corruption. How “Brogden a suicide” got through the editor puzzles me. It’s a nasty brutal allegation that stigmatises mental illness in a way we have been trying to eliminate in the last 10 years.

The Coleman point is pointless –  John Howard lost his seat, but what bearing did that have on the quality of government he provided? The allegation about Greiner is technically correct but practically dishonest. The “corruption” consisted of offering a position to Terry Metherell, an independent, which he accepted, causing a by-election beneficial to the Greiner government. Charges of corruption against Greiner went to court and were dismissed.

Concocting this cocktail is one thing, but to take it and throw it over O’Farrell in an attempt to smear him is completely unpardonable.

It’s time for the curtain to fall on Ellis’s career as a political “commentator”.

Posted by Graham at 10:49 pm | Comments (5) |
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