Mood: don't ask
All the press in Sydney today, and the lead story on ABC 7pm tv news are awash with the 5 odd rocket launchers that are allegedly in the hands of local terrorists. The leading coverage has been in the Fairfax press, as here:
Five stolen Australian Army rocket launchers are in the hands of a home-grown terrorist group, say police.
The American Express building in the CBD as well as Lucas Heights Nuclear Reactor in outer suburban Sydney are mentioned as targets.
This writer through community newspaper distribution over the last several years can vouch for the suspiciously high security in the vicinity of the American Express building. Similarly there are two other places at least in inner Sydney we are aware of with similarly curious increase in security: The extra police nearby, the rubbish bins removed, the official staff scanning patrons entry and exit. That kind of thing. And not the most obvious places like the Sydney Opera House or Harbour Bridge.
As for Lucas Heights Reactor, recently replaced at enormous and wasteful cost, as an avowed anti nuclear person the delivery vehicle for Alternative Media press carries this poster:
Some experts are quoted today saying the reactor has such thick concrete a rocket would never get through. The problem with this advice is most never would have believed the twin towers could collapse on Sept 11 2001 in New York either. Secondly even a military dunce can envision multiple rocket strikes onto an already weakened concrete shell etc etc.
As the guy running the climbing gym at Tempe commented today as he scanned his newspaper "this is a real worry". What are the odds most of Sydney who aren't too busy having holidays will be thinking exactly the same thing with consequent broad political impact? National security credentials of the federal government are indeed being "questioned".
But the Fairfax SMH press excelled itself for scaring the bejesus out of it's readers today on another front: Errorism is one thing of perhaps limited if extreme impact (absent reactor meltdowns), but dangerous climate change on the other hand will almost certainly finish Sydney and sooner than people realise the way things are going now.
The full page feature
spilling onto a second page, quoting eminent scientists like James Hansen of NASA, was if anything worse than terrorist rocket launchers or even radioactive plumes. Curiously the article is last on their web index of national news but it was alot more prominent in the weekend paper version and for good reason too.
An early quote is indeed chilling:
"Chemical analyses of the tiny bubbles of air in Greenland ice cores establish that the last ice age started to teeter about 14,700 years ago. As it gathered momentum, melt-water poured into the oceans, raising levels by half a metre or more each decade. The sea moved inland like a slow tsunami at a rate of up to 450 metres a year."
Another quote just as serious:
"[James Hansen of NASA] concludes in an article in Climatic Change on the storing of heat in the oceans that "any increase in global temperature beyond 1 degree could trigger runaway melting of the world's icesheets". Shrinking ice means less sunlight gets reflected and more gets absorbed, exacerbating the problem of warming. "Even 1 degree additional warming may be highly undesirable; 2 to 3 degrees is clearly a different planet," he says.
The first act looks to have played out in the Arctic Circle this northern summer, when large freshwater lakes formed on the Greenland icesheet and then drained away to the depths. Fred Pearce, writing in Britain's The Guardian, records how scientists observed, within hours of the lakes forming, that the vast icesheets rose up, as if floating on water, and slid towards the ocean. The Penn State University glaciologist Richard Alley commented: "We used to think that it would take 10,000 years for melting at the surface of an icesheet to penetrate down to the bottom. Now we know it doesn't take 10,000 years; it takes 10 seconds."
Pearce says: "This highlights why scientists are panicky about the sheer speed and violence with which climate change could take hold. They are realising that their old ideas about gradual change - the smooth lines on graphs showing warming and sea-level rise and gradually shifting weather patterns - are not how the world's climate system works." (New research on the Ross Ice Shelf reveals that collapses over the past 3 million years have taken place very rapidly, with sea levels rising by between 7 and 17 metres.)
The quickening pace of that understanding is proving daunting to climate-change science watchers (but not, it would seem, the politicians).
Hansen stresses the urgency of the policy response. "I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change … no longer than a decade," he said last year.
If he is right we now have nine years at most, and there has been no let-up in emissions growth since then. And the latest UN conference on climate change could not even agree on a timetable for vital decisions on curbing emissions."
Yet in October last Fairfax was running on it's front page a graphic claiming only a 1 metre rise by 2100 here
in a story called "Our vanishing future" on page 1 that had all of Sydney talking, but were they misled into false mild concern?
The opening text is here under the following image of a token, highly manageable, 1 metre sea rise:
[Caption] "Now and then … the Herald's digital projection of how the approach to Spit Bridge might look by the next century."
Our vanishing future
October 30, 2006
This writer lampooned the 1 metre figure at the time (on the currently defunct Sydney Indymedia website) as bogus and more like "7 metres" and this view is corroborated by Fairfax themselves today. Seems the Fairfax earlier version of reality is already redundant. By the above equation in the revised version of reality 6th January 2006 we are talking at least 4.5 metres sea rise by 2100 at 1/2 a metre a decade. That will kill Sydney as we know it in 94 years time, but it will also kill the property economy NOW.
How so? Well who is taking out 30 year mortgages on flood prone land for the rest of their lives? That's how sensitive the issue really is - the economic and political impacts now.
Funny revision too by Fairfax because their own science writer at least countenances a 6 metre sea rise back in August 2006 as here:
But how could this sea rise happen so soon and so dramatically stuffing the plans of so many economists and politicians and industrialists and their triumphant western capitalist system? A quote in today's article gives the answer so it is worth repeating from above:
"We used to think that it would take 10,000 years for melting at the surface of an icesheet to penetrate down to the bottom. Now we know it doesn't take 10,000 years; it takes 10 seconds."
It's those damn crevasses, like the one that swallowed up and killed Australian Mountaineer Sue Fear earlier this year: The melted water gurgles to the bottom of the ice shelf and loosens and floats the ice into the ocean much faster than anyone realised. In short dangerous climate change.
On a lighter note, and everthing is lighter than the end of civilisation as we know it, the press today had some silly season uplifting stories:
- Two guys in New York apparently caught, like a football, a toddler falling from a high balcony and saved the lucky child's life.
- Another hero in New York jumped onto the train tracks and saved a man suffering an epileptic fit, with both retrieved from under the train's 2nd or so carriage intact, and despite the electrified third rail. Go figure.
- A fiesty goat that counter attacked the knife man, was duly called George after the US President and spared from slaughter in a middle eastern country.
- The 'G team' from Australia won the World University Debating championships. Really. Doesn't auger well for Teams A to F or Oxford and Cambridge teams does it? Or perhaps they are just the champs they are now truly acknowledged to be: Meet the G whizzes who beat the rest of the world
- There was even a big feature story in Fairfax on ethical reasons to bail out the world's poor by author/professor Peter Singer called "Hey buddy, you can spare a few billion" (not online). Which raises the whole question of a global rich tax for the poor.
- a guy called Dave Evans who dumped ACDC to join a band called Rabbit in 1974 and thus made way for Bon Scott, will do a tribute to Bon (who got this writer through an at times mind numbing double uni degree with the anthem "It's a long way to the top".) RIP Bon Scott: www.bonscottconcert.com.au
- last but not least the blonde airheads were in force in the gossip pages but not this snippet: My source who sells bling at the Roscoe St market stalls at Bondi says Paris Hilton was given a sarong from another stall down there and wore it for a whole day recently. Seems usually she is paid $1000s to change 4 times a day to model designer rubbish, so this is considered quite a retail coup. Go figure. Meanwhile the dear and highly intelligent Nicole Kidman of The Interpreter etc is still being harrassed by stupid "paps".