A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Koalas extinct? Hardly. “Nearly everything you have read or heard about koalas is wrong”

Since Europeans arrived Koalas have been booming and busting

The calls were out this week saying that koalas will be extinct in New South Wales in 30 years. But they didn’t mention that Koalas thrive and multiply so fast that in the right conditions scientists talk of ‘plagues’. On Kangaroo Island last year, there were so many koalas, the South Australian government has been trying to sterilize or relocate thousands of them over the last twenty years.  Periodically scientists even discuss whether we have to cull them (the horror!).

They’ve survived twenty megafires in 200 years. They can recover. Ponder that Koalas were only introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1930′s but by the 1990′s there were 14,000 of them and even though they are considered a tourism asset they are also considered a problem and pest too.

“Nearly everything you have read or heard about koalas, is wrong” — Vic Jurskis

Photo, Koala eating young gum leaves.

Koalas favorite snack  |      Photo by pen_ash

Vic Jurskis is a veteran forester and fire expert who studied them for years. He’s written The Great Koala Scam, Green propaganda, junk science government waste and cruelty.

Jurskis estimates that thanks to European settlers there are more koalas now than there were 250 years ago.

He describes how koalas have been booming and busting for two centuries. Before the first fleet arrived, koalas were so rare that the new settlers didn’t even see one for fifteen years! But after the indigenous cool burns programs stopped, dense forests grew which were choc-full of tender new shoots that koalas love to eat. So koala populations would flourish and boom right up until a fire wiped them out. In other areas farmers cleared land, but the “paddock” trees would get sick and resprout continuously, which also worked out pretty well for koalas. So koalas boomed in the valleys too. Sooner or later a drought would come and the valley koalas would starve and get sick themselves.

Jurskis recommends we use koala rescue funds to start doing better forest management with cool burns so the megafires don’t incinerate the next oversupply of koalas. It’s a man-made cycle of pain and suffering.

You’d think The Guardian and The ABC would be able to give us a more rounded view, especially since they covered the boom stories and the Koala Wars.  Here’s the ABC in 2002:

Scientists say the only solution to this crisis is to begin culling Koalas. Against the scientists are people who believe we need to be creating more habitats or the koalas. The Australian Koala Foundation are planting wildlife corridors to link koala habitats. But the scientists say this is just going to feed the problem – wherever the koalas have been introduced they thrive and eventually destroy their habitat.

Last year gave up sterilizing them to stop the plague on Kangaroo Island:

Koala and kangaroo culling considered as numbers become ‘overabundant’

  A report from a parliamentary inquiry has recommended the state’s environment minister make an immediate decision to declare koalas, western grey kangaroos, long-nosed fur seals and little corellas overabundant in some areas. The committee heard that sterilisation of the Kangaroo Island koala population had had little success.“Population numbers on the Island continue to rise and their impacts are threatening its biodiversity,” the report says. — The Guardian, 12th July 2019

This year, plagues in Victoria too:

Blue gum plantations in south west Victoria fuelling huge koala populations

Eucalyptus trees provide the main food source for koalas, so it’s no surprise huge numbers of them are gravitating to the vast blue gum plantations in south west Victoria. So much so that landowners nearby are reporting koala populations are growing to “plague proportions”. New research shows the skyrocketing koala populations are becoming unsustainable and damaging vegetation. — ABC February 2020

Koalas on Kangaroo Island went from zero to plague proportions in just 60 years

From a blog called ConvictCreations, we get a colorful history of how South Australia dealt with the dilemma of culling cute koalas:

Koalas were introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1930s. By the 1990s, their populations had reached almost 14,000. Although they were the jewel in the Kangaroo Island’s ecotourism crown, some scientists believed they had no right to be on the island. According to David Paton, an environmental scientist from the University of Adelaide, there was a hierarchy of animals rights on Kangaroo Island, and the koalas’ rights were close to the bottom. In his own words:

“You are going to cause major problems for other species — other species that are endemic to the island. Those things have a right, a greater right, to be here than koalas.”

As a compromise between the environmental scientists that wanted to kill them and the tourism operators that wanted to conserve them, between 1997 and 2005, the South Australian government paid for the sterilisation of 3,400 adult koalas and relocated a further 1,000 to the mainland. Each sterilisation cost around $140. Needless to say, the remaining koalas kept breeding and environmental scientists kept asking for more money to manage the koala problem and run public “education campaigns” about the problem. For whatever reason, the government then decided there wasn’t a problem and ceased funding. Mysteriously, the koalas then developed a disease which dropped their populations by half.

 They’ve survived megafires, drought and disease. Jurskis uses the term “irrupting” which means a sudden increase in an animal population.

Bushfires and Koalas: It’s Not That Simple

Vic Jurskis, Quadrant, 27th Feb, 2020

Before Australia’s fire regime changed, koalas were naturally rare because they eat tender, juicy and nutritious new leaves which are a rare commodity in healthy, mature eucalypt forests. Europeans didn’t see a live koala until 15 years after they arrived in Australia. The Sydney Gazette of August 21, 1803, reported that “its food consists solely of gum leaves, in the choice of which it is excessively nice”. This was common knowledge for more than a century.

In total, there were 20 megafires in 200 years. Koalas are still there in unnaturally high densities. There is an average of one koala per three hectares anywhere that monkey gums, blue gums or yellow stringybarks grow.

… koalas irrupted in the dense young forests that grew up after the demise of the Yowenjerre people. Koalas have persisted for 150 years despite heavy clearing and repeated megafires. The experts claim that clearing and hunting caused extreme declines and loss of genetic diversity in Victoria’s koalas.  However, the South Gippsland population is supposed to be “of high conservation significance” as a population retaining its naturally diverse gene pool.

The $3 million being handed out by Minister Ley would better be spent reintroducing mild fire to areas burnt at high intensities, before the scrub bounces back. This was the recommendation of traditional burning expert Victor Steffensen at the Koala Inquiry on December 9 (p. 27).

While-ever our leaders continue to take advice from green academics and bureaucrats, emergency services generalissimos and misguided children, instead of people who know and love the land, our future will get progressively sadder and badder.

Vic Jurskis, a veteran forester and fire expert, is the author of the just-published The Great Koala Scam: green propaganda, junk science, government waste & cruelty to animalsIt can be ordered here

Inquiry into Koala Populations, Parliament House, NSW, December 9th, 2019 [PDF]

Vic Jurskis explained the situation late last year to the NSW Parliament. From page 7 onwards:

I am one of very few who have studied natural koalas. They live in large home ranges with thousands of trees, so you do not see them. Healthy old trees mostly have poor, hard, dry leaves that cannot sustain koalas. They move long distances to find fresh browse. Explorers did not see them in the valleys because they were not there. John Gould wrote that they could rarely be detected, even with the help of Aborigines. After settlers cleared paddocks, sowed pastures and disrupted Aboriginal burning, koalas erupted because dense young forests with millions of new shoots grew up in the foothills. Paddock trees got sick and started turning over new shoots all the time, so koalas invaded the valleys. The fur industry was a response.

In the Federation drought, trees were not able to keep reshooting, so koalas suffered starvation and chlamydiosis. They died out in the valleys but they survived in the forests. After World War II, timber cutters got chainsaws and tractors. Intensive harvesting created dense young forests and koalas bred up again. Then we stopped burning and grazing and locked up most of the forests. Trees got sick again; now koalas and scrub are erupting through declining forests—both regrowth and old growth. The dense population in the Pilliga crashed again in the millennium drought, whereas low-density populations continued to erupt.

Nearly everything you have read or heard about koalas, including NSW Koala Strategy, is wrong because it is based on denial of history and unwitting studies of unsustainably dense populations. NGOs and national parks service rely on misinformation to support fundraising, political campaigns and land grabs. The Senate inquiry swallowed it whole. When Mr Singh, who is now the member for Coffs Harbour, called it out, AAP FactCheck said his statement was false. They quoted the ridiculous Senate report and World Wildlife Fund report about millions of koalas in 1788.

You have got my ecological history. It was submitted, refereed and accepted as a review—the only reasonably comprehensive review of koalas that has ever been published. After they announced its imminent publication, CSIRO rebadged it as an opinion piece, implying a low standard. When I challenged AAP, they used this to deny the facts. But I am here today to share the facts with you. As I wrote in my submission in July, denial of history leads us to set up reserves of dying trees and scrub for unsustainable populations. Then they face lingering death in droughts or incineration in megafires. You have got five photos of a koala that I saw crossing the highway south of Eden Wednesday before last, where Dr Lunney says they are extinct. I will use them to illustrate the problem with koalas and fires. Thank you.

Here’s the nub of it:

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: You are very critical of the NSW Koala Strategy. What is wrong with it, in your view?

Mr JURSKIS: It aims to stabilise and then increase populations, when there are already too many koalas because of the unhealthy, chronically declining forest. That is the same reason why we are having uncontrollable wildfires: It is because of the structure of the forest. As Victor Steffensen says, it is upside-down country: It is thinning on top and thick underneath. I would like to refer to those photos that you have got. For example, the first photo—if you have a look at the ground you can see it is all litter and dead wood. There is no grass or herbs or anything. That is where all the biodiversity is in a healthy forest: It is in the ground layer and the small animals that rely on that layer. It is not there; it has been choked out by scrub.

So you have got litter on the ground, and it is continuous with scrub in the middle and it is continuous with the thinning canopy on the top. You get a fire in that, it is uncontrollable because in severe conditions you get fire storms and ember showers that can be tens of kilometres in front of the fire front. That is why fires are uncontrollable. The only thing that is unprecedented about these fires we are having at the moment is the amount of fuel in the bush. It is right through Australia; there is three-dimensionally continuous fuel and declining trees wherever you go because we no longer use mild burning. In fact, in New South Wales it is illegal to manage the bush properly by burning it frequently and mildly. It is against the regulations to do it properly.

One MP has trouble grasping how rare koalas were:

Keep reading  →

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Thursday Open Thread

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EVen the UN is warning about the environmental damage Electric Vehicles will cause

Child Labor in Congo mining.

Child Labor in Congo mining. Photo Julian Herneis

Welcome to the Clean Green Future. Demand for rechargeable car batteries is predicted to rise 700% in the next four years. But even at current levels, children are already dying in mines in the Congo, and farmers in Chile are being forced off their land.

The UN is now slightly “concerned” about a car battery boom which it helped create.

…a new report from UNCTAD, warns that the raw materials used in electric car batteries, are highly concentrated in a small number of countries, which raises a number of concerns.

…two-thirds of all cobalt production happens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 20 per cent of cobalt supplied from the DRC comes from artisanal mines, where human rights abuses have been reported, and up to 40,000 children work in extremely dangerous conditions in the mines for meagre income.

And in Chile, lithium mining uses nearly 65% of the water in the country’s Salar de Atamaca region, one of the driest desert areas in the world, to pump out brines from drilled wells. This has forced local quinoa farmers and llama herders to migrate and abandon ancestral settlements. It has also contributed to environment degradation, landscape damage and soil contamination, groundwater depletion and pollution.

The UN’s answer, of course, is not to slow the transition, but to project out three shades of hope. They hope people will find some other deposits of cobalt and lithium. They hope people will figure out how to recycle them, and they hope someone will design some batteries that use other materials.

In the meantime, though, little black lives in The Congo matter slightly less than an undetectable temperature change.

Children mining cobalt in slave-like conditions

ABC News

Former child labourer Yannick from Kolwezi, a city of more than 500,000 people in the south of the DRC, dropped out of school and went into full-time work at the age of seven.   “People died in the mine, and you could suffocate when you are deep in the mine,” he said. “When it rained, it created a lot of landslides.

As Thomas Williams says at Breitbart –  we’re only talking about one hundred thousanth of a degree C:

For his part, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said that in 2018, electric cars saved 40 million tons of CO2 worldwide, sufficient to reduce global temperatures by a mere 0.000018°C — or a little more than a hundred-thousandth of a degree Celsius — by the end of the century.

“If you think you can save the climate with electric cars, you’re completely wrong,” Birol said.

Keep reading  →

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Cheap ways to starve a virus: Masks reduce spread by 70%, Distance by 80%

One good thing about Coronavirus is that people are suddenly paying attention to all the cheap easy ways to slow viruses. Hopefully we will get a bit better at preventing other respiratory infections too. 

As I’ve mentioned before, masks stop as much as 75% of influenza, and now we know the number is similar with Coronavirus. If any drug was this effective, it would be hailed as a Gamechanging Breakthrough (!).

Indeed, just yesterday Anthony Fauci said he’d settle for 70%, 75% effective vaccine, but masks are here already. And we don’t have to wear them forever, just til we starve the virus, set up border checks, and get the cases to zero. Then we wait for a long term solution. 2020 is going to be the year of the mask.

With Coronavirus cases ramping up again all over the world, people like Mike Pence, and Australia’s Health Minister are talking about them. If we add Vitamin D at 5c a dose (which can reduce the spread of influenza by 40%) perhaps some states could avoid a repeat mass lockdown?

Given the cost in deaths and dollars of the spread of this virus, it would be cheaper to give out free masks, free glasses and a years supply of Vitamin D for whole nations than to lockdown for one week. Even if a lockdown is necessary, masks and social distancing would shorten it. What’s not to like?

As with all counter-virus measures, there are no guarantees, but masks protect both the wearer and protect those around them. In regions with free-range viruses, the sooner masks and distancing are started, the better.


 Metastudy shows masks and distance helps

A review study pooled 172 studies with 25,697 participants. They looked at whether distancing or masks reduce the spread of Coronavirus, or SARS or MERS. Most were in healthcare settings, unfortunately none were randomized.

Remarkably, surgical masks reduced the odds of getting infected from 17% down to 3%. N95 “respirator” masks were even more effective. The lower grade surgical masks reduced the odds by 78%, but the N95 masks reduced that to 95%. Distancing was also useful. Even being more than 1 meter apart reduced the odds from 12.8% down to 2.6%.

Eye protection may also prevent 60% of infections.

Masks, distancing, eye protection, effectiveness, covid-19

Best available evidence supports physical distancing and wearing face masks

Medical News Today

The authors found good evidence that both face masks and eye masks significantly reduced transmission of the virus for health care workers and people working in the community, such as care home workers.

The odds of developing an infection with a coronavirus were reduced by 78% when wearing any mask, compared with the odds of infection when not wearing a mask. When using masks that conform to the N95 standard, this figure increased to 96%.

According to co-lead study author Dr. Holger Schünemann, who, like Dr. Chu, works at McMaster University, in Ontario, Canada, “Although the direct evidence is limited, the use of masks in the community provides protection, and possibly N95 or similar respirators worn by healthcare workers suggest greater protection than other face masks.”

 Some of the error bars are wide, but the message is consistent. Masks = lower spread.

People who are not trained won’t find them as useful. (So let’s train people).

Chu, Masks, Coronavirus.

We are so lucky Coronavirus is not measles. Even I am surprised that a 1 meter distance was useful.

If you really want to avoid it a three meter distance is probably much better.

The authors conclude that there is good evidence that maintaining a minimum distance of 1 meter, or about 3.3 feet, from other people is likely to have a significant effect on reducing the spread of the virus.

Across 38 studies that included information about distancing, infection rates overall were reduced to 2.6% when maintaining a distance of more than 1 meter from a person with the infection. By comparison, among studies in which distancing was less than 1 meter, the infection rate was 12.8%.

Furthermore, the authors found evidence that increasing the distance to 2 meters was likely to have an even greater effect.

 In the graph below distancing helps reduce the spread.

Masks, Effectiveness, Graph, Lancet, Coronavirua, metastudy, review

Review | Click to enlarge

Eye protection may prevent 60% of infections, hard to say:

Thirteen studies (across all three viruses, including 3,713 participants) focusing on eye protection found that face shields, goggles, and glasses were associated with lower risk of infection, compared with no eye covering (risk of infection or transmission when wearing eye protection was 6% vs 16% when not wearing eye protection). The authors note that the certainty of the evidence for eye coverings is low [1].

Still no non-randomized study, nor big study outside the hospital setting?

Amazing what we don’t know. Here we are with 10 million cases, and half a million deaths, and one hundred years of influenza, and yet we still don’t have top notch, mass randomized and solid studies.

That said, spare a thought for researchers — just yesterday Medpage discussed why so many single point studies in coronavirus had failed – they barely got time to raise funds and start enrolling patients when the wave moved to another hospital.

Handy things to know about masks:



Chu et al (2020) Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Vol 395 June 27, 2020, 

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Tuesday Open Thread


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“Apologizing for the climate scare” — Another Environmentalist joins skeptics


Click to go to Amazon*

UPDATE: The page this links to may or may not be “inactive” at Forbes. Perhaps they’ve run out of electrons? If the article link doesn’t work. Try Google Cache. Web archive. Or Tallblokes PDF.

At some point there will be a rush — a phase change as real environmentalists realize they are being used as useful idiots for multinational giants and Big Bankers. Then there will be a scramble to outgreen the establishment Greens by denouncing some key aspects of false alarm. We’re not there yet. But the Michael Moore documentary is significant and Michael Shellenberger fits a similar mold. We’ll know the moment has arrived when there is more cheering for rather than vitriol against the “traitors”.

Michael Shellenberger was, a long time ago, very Green. Among other things, he was named a Time magazine Heroes of the Environment (2008), winner of the 2008 Green Book Award.  In 2015, Shellenberger joined with 18 other self-described ecomodernists to coauthor An Ecomodernist Manifesto. He’s been shifting through a transition over the years from extreme Green, to pragmatic Green (pro nuclear in 2004, see his TEDX in 2017) and now to a pro-civilization, pro power, anti-alarmist. But seemingly not as far as to become a climate science skeptic?

This is what I mean by extreme Green:

Some people will, when they read this imagine that I’m some right-wing anti-environmentalist. I’m not. At 17, I lived in Nicaragua to show solidarity with the Sandinista socialist revolution. At 23 I raised money for Guatemalan women’s cooperatives. In my early 20s I lived in the semi-Amazon doing research with small farmers fighting land invasions. At 26 I helped expose poor conditions at Nike factories in Asia.

He’s seen the light (or perhaps just the data):

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.


How easily bullying and namecalling silences people

At first he didn’t speak because he was embarrassed. Then he was afraid:

…mostly I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it I suffered harsh consequences. And so I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public.

At least he’s honest:

I even stood by as people in the White House and many in the news media tried to destroy the reputation and career of an outstanding scientist, good man, and friend of mine, Roger Pielke, Jr….

Back in 2004 he was criticized as A radioactive wolf in sheeps clothing. So this is part of a long transition. It’s not like he discovered the wonders of nuclear power last year.

His new book is  Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.

Agreeing with the IPCC but disagreeing with their recommendations

His list of points, as he said “from” the IPCC, FAO and IUCN:

  • Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
  • The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
  • Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
  • Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
  • The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declinedby an area nearly as large as Alaska
  • The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
  • Carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for decades and peaked in Britain, Germany and France in the mid-seventies
  • Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor
  • We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
  • Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
  • Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
  • Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

Lukewarm? Does Shellenberger still think CO2 needs to be reduced?

He’s an energy and policy skeptic, but not necessarily (yet) a skeptic of their science.  He’s called a “science communicator” so we hope takes a hard look at it. As long as junk science rules, we won’t figure out how the climate works, or stop science from being abused and used again for the next scare, and the one after that. I suspect he still thinks CO2 should be reduced.  If I’ve missed it, let me know.

UPDATE: Charles Battig reviews the Shellenberger book  with Michael Moore’s documentary, and Bjorn Lomborg’s new book.

He [Shellenberger] reflects upon his early devotion to environmentalism as a manifestation of an “underlying anxiety and unhappiness in my own life that had little to do with climate change or the state of the natural environment.” It became a quasi-religion offering “emotional relief” and “spiritual satisfaction” for those, like him, who may have lost the guidance of traditional spiritual faiths.

Schellenberg concludes with the observation that “the trouble with the new environmental religion is that it has become increasingly apocalyptic, destructive, and self-defeating.”

American Thinker

It’s easy to be cynical about a slick marketing campaign (which the book promotion certainly is). It’s a tad pompous to apologize on behalf of “environmentalists everywhere”, as if he is a self annointed spokesman, and it means something. At least his book and interviews will open some new eyes, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Here’s hoping he really looks at the science of CO2, not just rehash the options for a different kind of low carbon future.

h/t Another Ian. Charles M. Climate Skepticism. Adam W. John Droz. Eduard H.

* Yes, that’s an affiliate link, and I might get a small commission.

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Weekend Unthreaded

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Climate skeptics are terrorists now (the “terror”is talking about coal)

We can tell skeptics are winning by the scale of the panic

Labor made a “big” concession this week and it has triggered the Anti-carbon Tribe. Anthony Albanese dared to concede that coal might have a future but only with impossible fantasy carbon capture limits. In his horror at this, Bernard Keane of puts forward his best scientific argument — essentially that 50% of Australians who don’t hate coal like he does, are ignorant denialist terrorists who vote for pork barrelling representatives who are willing to “blow up their own government”.

As usual, he is projecting his own destructive politics onto those who disagree. He aims to silence debate through personal denigration, to win an argument through character assassination, and to continue being (in his terms) a debate-denialist who pretends that tens of thousands of skeptical engineer’s and geologist’s and meteorologist’s opinions should be mocked and ignored. He’s also a voter-denialist suggesting that the representatives of half of Australia could not possibly represent a genuine point of view. They work as agents of  “Murdoch”.

Bernard Keane promotes the science of tribal namecalling

Bernard Keane,

Labor offers to deal with terrorists in climate wars

The worst possible outcome would be … offering to negotiate:

In offering bipartisanship on energy, Labor is offering to do a deal with the ‘terrorists’ who have thwarted all forms of climate action for years.

Cherry-pick a few hot years, ignore 4.5 billion, and namecall:

After the second hottest year on record globally, the hottest year on record in Australia, our second hottest summer ever after 2018-19, an unprecedentedly catastrophic summer of bushfires and record-breaking Arctic and Antarctic temperatures, Labor has opted to, in effect, surrender on climate to the denialists of the Coalition.

It’s not that Australians voted for people who disagree with Bernard, it’s just a big conspiracy:

By abandoning any interest in a National Energy Guarantee, Anthony Albanese will position Labor as weaker on climate action than Malcolm Turnbull, who at least sought to include both energy security and emissions reduction within his energy policy framework before another right-wing/Murdoch putsch forced him out.

When Labor sends carbon credits to Big Bankers, and giant multinational conglomerates for expensive ineffective methods of carbon reduction, that’s “accepting the science”. When Tony Abbott designs a scheme to pay any business that can reduce carbon cheaply, that’s “pork barrelling”.

In the Coalition’s hands, direct funding ends up being treated as a pork barrel, handed to key supporter groups like farmers, or to its donors.

Like most religious believers, Keane only cares about carbon reduction when it suits his politics. Carbon Capture is useless, but so are carbon emission taxes. Direct funding of carbon reduction reduces carbon at $14 a ton — 300 times more effective per dollar than the Carbon Tax.

For Keane, the point of “carbon taxes” is to send funds to fellow lefty dependents, not to change carbon emissions.

We know how far left Turnbull was because of how much the extreme far left still admire him:

As Malcolm Turnbull correctly put it, these people operate like terrorists, intent on blowing up their own government, with the support of News Corp, if anyone tries to address climate change. You can’t do any sort of deal with them. That merely rewards terrorists.

The people trying to “blow up the government” were the panic merchants who overthrew a 90 seat landslide winner because the ABC told them he was unelectable.

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Penguins pretty happy about melting sea ice

Adelie Penguins would probably benefit from a bit of global warming. When 175 were tagged and tracked it turned out that they ate more krill when there was less sea ice. This is not so surprising given that they swim better than they waddle, so long stretches of sea ice make it harder to get to the supermarket and back.

And Krill (dinner) apparently like less sea ice too. Phytoplankton bloomed when the sea ice was gone.

Penguins on sea ice.

Penguins on sea ice.  Photo by Danielle Barnes on Unsplash

Penguins may be an unlikely winner from climate change

Tom Whipple, The Australian

“Counterintuitively for this ice-dependent species, body conditions and breeding success ­improved in the ice-free environment,” wrote researchers from the Japanese National Institute of Polar Research, in the journal Science Advances.

The scientists used accelerometers, video cameras and tracking devices to plot each hunt. They found that when there was no ice the penguins did a lot more swimming — and this was a good thing.

“For penguins, swimming is a whopping four times faster than walking.

For the first three seasons the sea ice was large, then it shrank and the penguins went crazy:

Penguins foraging in sea ice

Fig. 1 Sea-ice conditions and penguin behavior.
(E to H) All foraging trips recorded by GPS loggers for each season. Yellow circles represent the colony.

When sea ice is higher penguins don’t breed as well, and populations are less likely to grow. Though for the 30% of penguins living in the warmer parts of Antarctica, the pattern is the opposite.

Of course, a warmer world may or may not mean more sea ice. For most of the last few decades Antarctic sea ice grew til it reached record highs in 2014-2015. Then during the last few El Nino years Antarctic Sea ice plummeted to record lows, and nobody can figure out why.  If only climate scientists understood the climate.

Whatever happens, it may take a while for Adelie Penguins to die out in Antarctica because there are about 15 million of them. And they are pretty well adapted to climate change since Antarctica was warmer 1,000 years ago, and about 40 other times in the last 10,000 years.

Vostok Antarctica, last 12,000 years.

Vostok Antarctica, last 12,000 years of Interglacial temperature.

But penguins that need a perfect climate are dead.

h/t to Lawrence Solomon.



Watnabe et al (2020) Foraging behavior links sea ice to breeding success in Antarctic penguins, Science Advances  24 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 26, eaba4828 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba4828

Lüning, S., M. Gałka, F. Vahrenholt (2019): The Medieval Climate Anomaly in Antarctica. Palaeogeogr., Palaeoclimatol., Palaeoecol., doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.109251

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Labor in Australia finally gets a message from the voters and “wants to end climate wars”

Labor dumps a bit of green extremism, but it’s mostly symbolic

Anthony Albanese says “Yes” to Coal (only with Carbon Capture) but still “No” to Nukes.  Keeps the same emissions target.

After losing three elections in a row on and with help from SARS-2, the Labor Party have realized they can’t wedge the coalition by being holier-than-all-the-workers that used to vote for them. They can’t be seen as anti-coal. So just in time for a key marginal byelection, Anthony Albanese, leader of the Opposition, offers a token olive leaf.

He’s got his eye on the Queensland election due in October, and all those seats the Labor party lost one year ago.

Anthony Albanese urges Scott Morrison and Coalition to work with Labor on energy policy

Federal Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has urged the Coalition to work with Labor on a bipartisan energy policy…

So Labor will support “development” of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). This is the impossible idea of stuffing a gas back down the small hole it used to live in, when it was a rock and before it met O2 and grew threefold in weight and 2,000 times in volume.* Everyone in polite society knows it can’t work, but if you have to hate coal and also live with it, CCS is the get-out-of-jail card, where people can pretend that they want to find a low carbon way of burning a fuel made of carbon.

Ultimately the Labor Party are still climate believers with an uncosted zero emission target by 2050.

They probably figure if they get lucky, and the Coalition does create a “scalable” energy plan with them, they can just ramp up the targets on it if they win the election, then say they’re just using the bipartisan plan and “speeding” it up.

It’s not about reducing carbon — it’s about helping the renewables industry

Watch the deck-chairs of Labor desires:

However he said those  [CCS] projects should not be funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) or the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), as recommended by a recent review, arguing support should not be diverted from renewables.

Labor also remains opposed to the Emissions Reduction Fund, which pays organisations to reduce their carbon emissions…

Labor don’t want climate-money paid to friends of the Coalition, meaning farmers or small business owners, it wants money shuffled to renewables companies (friends of Labor). But the farmers and small business owners are reducing carbon at bargain prices compared to multinational Renewable giants.

The Emissions Reductions Fund was Tony Abbott’s direct auction plan, but Big-solar and Big-wind can’t compete with $14 a ton carbon reduction, which is why Albanese wants to funnel the money through other agencies. He says he wants to stop the pork barrelling, but he’d be stopping a successful program in order to send more pork to his friends. Big Renewables need Big Government.

Nukes would be a disaster for the Labor Party, they’d “solve” the climate crisis

Some Coalition MPs have called for the Government to look at establishing a domestic nuclear power industry, but Labor has again made it clear it does not back such a move.

The worst thing for the Labor Party (and the Renewables industry) is if the Coalition managed to get a nuclear plant running in Australia. It would achieve all the carbon reduction that wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and carbon capture could never do.

The National Energy Guarantee — the NEG is dead

The Labor Party has effectively dumped the NEG — which Malcolm Turnbull promoted. It was a hidden carbon tax on electricity generators forcing them to buy international carbon credits – something that suits the Big Bankers and the Big UN. It was designed to be impossible for coal.   It was always a Labor preferred plan — improbably endorsed by Labor, but not the Coalition, reminding us of that old cliche, that Turnbull was the best Leader the Labor Party never had.

The Labor plan has no plan

Energy Minister Angus Taylor criticised Mr Albanese’s speech today at the National Press Club, arguing it left a lot of questions unanswered. “They didn’t explain how their energy policies will create a single job,” he said.

“They didn’t explain how they’re going to bring down prices, how they’re going to keep the lights on, they didn’t explain what their targets were and they didn’t explain how they’re going to achieve those targets.”

The most significant change announced here is that Labor is aiming more for the centre, trying to look less extreme-Green. They’re still pandering to the Green vote, but they are trying in a small way to pander to the struggling Australians and blue collar workers too.

The Coronavirus era has meant people like seeing more bipartisan governments — with some agreement, good manners, and less adversarial nit-picking and demonization. Albanese is trying to look statesmanlike and cooperative. But that’s a lot better than trying to present themselves as smug Guru’s opposing corporate Nazi planet wreckers..

Paul Kelly, The Australian: Albanese’s offer one Morrison must refuse

The Labor leader’s speech and letter to the Prime Minister shows the coronavirus, not the bushfires, is framing climate change policy for Labor — as distinct from the Greens. Albanese is taking Morrison’s success with co-operative politics over COVID-19 and inviting him to achieve “bipartisan agreement” on climate change.

It is a neat but deceptive ploy. There will be no negotiation and no grand bargain. Albanese’s calculation was that if Morrison agreed, that would boost Labor’s “olive branch” credentials; but if Morrison declined, then Labor would have the moral high ground for seeking to repair the great energy policy divide.

Symbolic deck chairs are shaking.


*Calculating the expansion of coal to CO2: 1 ton of Coal generates 2.8 tons of CO2. 1 ton coal fills 0.74m3.  1 ton of CO2 fills 556m3. Therefore, 1 ton of coal expands from 0.74 to 1590m3. or about 2148 times.


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Thursday Open Thread

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One in three hospitalized with Covid may be “harmed for life” say UK docs

It is never a good idea to let a mystery virus with likely man-made “Gain of Function” changes run free in the population.

Virus scars for life as doctors warn of long-term health damage

London: One in three patients who recover from COVID-19 could be harmed for life, with long-term damage to their lungs, as well as chronic fatigue and psychological disturbances, research suggests.

Experts said there was growing evidence that the virus could cause persistent or even permanent trauma, including impairment to the brain and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Hilary Floyd, clinical director at the NHS Seacole Centre in Surrey, said she had been shocked by how young many of its patients were. Healthy people who were in their 40s and 50s when the virus struck were now facing long-term fatigue and disability.

“These are people who were independent, they might be running their own business, going to the gym, swimming, active – now they are at the point they can’t get out of bed,” she said.

“We have a couple of patients in their 40s at the moment; we really didn’t expect that. We were expecting them to be older, we have seen a lot in their 50s and 60s, who are really struggling, particularly because their expectation of getting back to normal is much greater.”

The rate is even higher in patients who have been in ICU — perhaps as many as half suffering long term damage.

We won’t know for years what the recovery rate and actual numbers are. The biggest concern appears to be the blood clot damage. But even half of those with asymptomatic covid show some lung damage with blood clots. Some level of this must be repairable.

This story would have been better if there was some attempt to estimate the percentage of total infections that led to this. If 15 – 45% are asymptomatic and if, say, 5% of known infections are hospitalized, that implies long term permanent damage may be around 1.5-2.5% of total infections. Though that assumes that all of the damage in half of the asymptomatic cases can be repaired. That’s still quite a disease  burden.

h/t David B

See also: Asymptomatic covid patients with no symptoms still get lung damage

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In the pandemic, investors fled from “Green Energy”. Desperate industry predicts 40 deaths a month in wake

Is that the dark smell of desperation?

Green energy is so essential and profitable that when the chips are down, investors ran a mile.

Wind powerIEA: COVID-19 crisis causing the biggest fall in global energy investment in history

31 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has set in motion the largest drop in global energy investment in history, with spending expected to plunge in every major sector this year—from fossil fuels to renewables and efficiency—the International Energy Agency said in a new report.

The unparalleled decline is staggering in both its scale and swiftness, with serious potential implications for energy security and clean energy transitions.

global investment is now expected to plummet by 20%, or almost $400 billion, compared with last year, according to the IEA’s World Energy Investment 2020 report.

Not only has the money gone, but renewables have been out-competed at the thing they are supposed to do best.

The Global Pandemic is the world’s greatest carbon reduction program since the Black Plague:

Those short-term benefits [of the Coronavirus] have been substantial. Consumption for jet fuel and gasoline, for example, declined by 50 and 30 percent, respectively, from early March to June 7, while electricity demand fell by 10 percent.

Fans of green investments must be feeling squeezed out of the public arena as well as out of investors wallets.

The industry dependent on death threats from climate models has been crushed by real deaths from Coronavirus. Realizing they are in danger of dropping right off the Radar of Death, they have reshuffled advertising memes. The new approach is to convert the usual extinction-extortion into Pandemic-speak, which means trying to compete with the pandemic in deaths per million, or failing that, deaths per month. Remember Coronavirus has killed 476,000 people (so far). But, by saving all the Avgas and petrol, the lockdown is saving, wait for it… “an estimated 200 lives per month”.

So fighting for relevancy, the Green Blob’s new tack is to plead for subsidies and help because if investors don’t keep pushing money into windmills and solar panels, 40 people a month will die:

Under a worst-case — but realistic — scenario, they predict an additional 2,500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — or the equivalent of nearly 3 trillion pounds of coal burned — could be emitted, causing 40 more deaths per month, through 2035.

 They must be very worried, and so they should be. Humans did the ultimate Paris Lockdown, and CO2 hits record high anyway. The renewables industry is pointless every which way.  It doesn’t make much money, or energy, or save much CO2. The CO2 it does save makes no difference to global CO2, and the global CO2 makes no measureable difference to the climate.

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Freedom is closed borders, crowd limit now “30,000″

Western Australians will be allowed have 30,000 spectators at the biggest venue in the state this weekend. Phase four means half packed stadiums, nightclubs bars and gyms are all back in action. Venues will be allowed to pack in people to the two square meter rule. Phase five starts July 18th where all rules are dropped, bar two — the state border will stay shut and so will remote indigenous communities.

The state border is the reason nearly everything else within it, is close to normal.

Coronavirus crisis: Stage four of roadmap allows 30,000 fans to attend football at Optus Stadium from this Saturday

 The West Australian: “Big events at these venues can be organised over the next few weeks. Western Australians will hold the largest crowds in the country by far.

Suddenly open borders doesn’t look so appealling to NSW

All states in Australia closed their borders, except for New South Wales and  Victoria. For the last month the states with the most virus to share have been demanding the states without virus open up their borders. But after 160 new infections in Victoria this week, the Premier of NSW is now advising constituents not to visit Melbourne or the hot-spots in Victoria “unless it’s absolutely essential“. Other members of the NSW government are “not ruling out” travel restrictions. Queensland, which was thinking of opening up its borders, is now rethinking. The irony is that if NSW closed borders to Victoria, they might be able to travel everywhere else in Australia so much sooner.

This is the paradox of  border control: the smaller the units, the more expensive it is to impose, but it can be shorter, faster and much more flexible. In the post-covid world, hopefully we will see stronger national borders that can be quickly opened and closed as needed.

In Western Australia closing the borders with an enforced two week quarantine was the most effective virus control, but they weren’t closed soon enough. There was still community spread from unknown sources which meant some domestic restrictions were necessary.

Cases are still arriving from overseas, but they are stopped by the two week quarantine.

Western Australia Infections, Coronavirus, Graph.

In Western Australia closing the borders made the biggest difference. Source: Dept Health WA

According to the graph the last case of unknown source was the 6th of June (which doesn’t sound remotely distant enough to safely start filling stadiums). But it may be a misprint or error, as Health Dept press releases at the time appeared to account for all cases.  About 120,000 tests have been done. Currently there are only about 500 tests a day for Covid in the state at the moment, but test positivity is obviously “low”.

Good luck to Victorians.

Why is almost no one talking about the biggest mistake in national policy for decades? Open Borders.

The News

PS: Tonight on the 7:30 Report was the first time I’d heard anyone (other than me) say say that we should have closed borders earlier. That was former National Treasurer, Peter Costello, just wistfully.  8mins 50.

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Protest hypocrisy blows away social distancing. How much did that feed second waves?

As lockdown restrictions are released, and social distancing is blown away by riots and rallies, the virus is coming back in some parts.

Victoria gets 25 new cases, cancels “reboot” and ramps up restrictions again

Two weeks after restrictions were partially released and the BLM rallies took place in Melbourne, the surge comes. Actual spread at the BLM rallies is hard to pin down but the rank hypocrisy that allowed the rallies to take place skewered the community commitment to social distancing. With thousands congregating, almost entirely without fines and in breach of the rules, no wonder family gatherings grew. People had given up so much during the lockdown, but indulgent rally organizers could not delay the rallies by another month, or shift them to an online form.

Among a new string of coronavirus cases in Victoria are people who knew they were infected but continued to work and socialise anyway, Premier Daniel Andrews has revealed.   The state will reintroduce restrictions after recording another 25 new coronavirus cases in the past day, with concerns that a second wave of COVID-19 is possible.

Blaming families seems a bit rich given the flagrant disregard shown by protestors and the politicians, academics and journalists that enabled them.

Victoria, Coronavirus graph, June 2020.

Victorian Covid19 infections   |  Click to enlarge   From Wikipedia


The outbreak in Victoria doesn’t look like much of a second wave compared to the first one. Indeed, it doesn’t look much different to the bump on May 5th. But the big difference is that the May 5 bump was largely due to the meatworks cluster, and a couple of others. This latest jump in numbers is more sinister because it is more widely spread and much harder to contact trace.

Other states in Australia may have dodged a bullet if the rallies came after community spread was near zero. Some states appear to be free to rally away.

Readers outside Australia may marvel that 25 new cases qualifies as a problem, but here is a big distance between some community spread and none at all, with 97% of normal life, travel, business and socialization beckoning, as opposed to 20 person limits at restaurants and bars. This will be heartbreaking for some businesses.

By acting fast, hopefully Victoria can join the rest of the country again soon.

Second wave in Florida

Two weeks after reopening the state the numbers are up dramatically. Though testing has doubled since May, so that explains some of the rise, but test-rate positivity has risen too. One expert cites a general fatigue with social distancing and the lack of masks., but there were BLM rallies in Florida too likely skewering the mood for social distancing. Not many people seem to be mentioning that.

Tourists are also arriving. The Republican Governor, who was trumpeting their success a few weeks ago, claims the numbers are up due to extra tests and cluster outbreaks in places like prisons and farms (one watermelon farm has 90 positive tests out of 100). But with 4,000 new cases a day, that’s a lot of clusters.

Richard Luscome, The Guardian

The rise in Florida’s figures, with close to 90,000 cases and deaths surpassing 3,000, comes as the majority of its 67 counties reach the end of the second week of DeSantis’s “safe, smart, step-by-step” reopening plan.

“… experts at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania to conclude that Florida has “all the markings of the next large epicenter of coronavirus transmission”. “

Fortunately, deaths are not rising as quickly at the moment, because the cases are younger.

Florida Second wave, Graph, June 2020

Florida on the second wave   Worldometer USA

As for “more testing” — the rise in the rate of positive tests is very consistent. And the timing doesn’t fit.

Clearly, this is not just an increase in tests.

Florida, tests.

Tests in Florida rose in June, but the rate of testing positive is consistently higher.  Rate of positive tests John Hokins Uni

Molly Olmstead, Slate

Cindy Prins, [an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida]  noted that, anecdotally, a lot of Floridians appear to have given up on wearing masks.

Public health experts are familiar with the phenomenon she is describing: caution fatigue. One of the main reasons experts think Florida avoided a catastrophic epidemic in the first place is because its public began staying home before it was ordered to do so. But now, mentally exhausted after three months of stress, even residents in the hardest-hit parts of the country have grown complacent.

 Second wave in Israel

Israel, Second wave, graph. Worldometer

Israel, second wave.


Israel has gone from 16 cases a day four weeks ago to 250 cases a day now. Hospital wings are reopening. Israeli stocks are falling.

Israel enters second wave, Health Ministry orders corona wings reopened immediately

By David Isaac, World Israel News

“Israel is entering a second wave of the coronavirus illness and we have to take immediate and urgent steps connected to enforcement and to stopping the loosening [of regulations] in order to prevent the need for another lockdown a month from now,” according to an official statement released Saturday evening by Israel’s National Center for Information and Knowledge in the Battle Against the Coronavirus.

The second wave in Israel was seemingly not from foreign travellers, but from within. And strangely, from students. Sigh.

Rina Bassist  Jun 2, 2020

Thousands of students in the towns of Jerusalem, Hadera and Beersheba on June 1 were sent home to isolate after teachers in their schools were diagnosed with the coronavirus. Education Minister Yoav Galant said any school found with active cases of the virus must immediately close down.

Israel’s health authorities are expressing concern in recent days over a surge in coronavirus infections all across the country, especially in schools and preschools. According to recent data, some 5,000 students, teachers and staff are now isolating at home.

One hundred and fifty thousand new cases were recorded around the world (that we know of) each day this weekend.
There were 50,000 in Brazil alone (each day).


Rate of positive tests John Hokins Uni


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