Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Further uncertainties in the Carbon cycle

July 4, 2013

The Carbon cycle is far from being fully understood or quantified. The absorption and release of carbon dioxide by the oceans and from biological plants and fungii – both on land and in the ocean – are a long way from being established. The amount of Carbon locked up in the earths crust is equally subject to great uncertainty.

A new paper shows that deep soils hold much higher levels of carbon than is usually assumed.

R. J. Harper, M. Tibbett, The hidden organic carbon in deep mineral soilsPlant and Soil, July 2013, Volume 368, Issue 1-2, pp 641-648

Abstract: Current estimates of soil organic carbon (SOC) are based largely on surficial measurements to depths of 0.3 to 1 m. Many of the world’s soils greatly exceed 1 m depth and there are numerous reports of biological activity to depths of many metres. Although SOC storage to depths of up to 8 m has been previously reported, the extent to which SOC is stored at deeper depths in soil profiles is currently unknown. This paper aims to provide the first detailed analysis of these previously unreported stores of SOC. ….. Mean SOC mass densities for each of the five locations varied from 21.8–37.5 kg C m−2, and were in toto two to five times greater than would be reported with sampling to a depth of 0.5 m.

PhysOrg reportsCurrent estimates of soil organic carbon are based largely on measurements to depths of 30 cm. This approach has evolved in North America and Europe, where soil is generally more shallow. 

However, many plant species have roots extending many metres deep, suggesting there is also carbon stored at such depth and inspiring researchers to explore the storage potential of deeper soils in older landscapes such as the Amazon or Australia. Researchers in the Amazon had previously sampled soils to 8 m. 

The researchers took soil measurements from samples taken to almost 40 metres deep at a range of sites in south-western Australia. They found that small amounts of carbon were present throughout the soils all the way to the bedrock, and that deep soils store up to five times more carbon than is normally reported.

Lead researcher Professor Richard Harper, an expert in water management and sustainability at Murdoch University said the findings extend our concept of the amounts and potential of carbon stored in soils.

“This carbon has been previously overlooked, and this opens up several lines of inquiry – for example, what happens to this carbon with land use change such as deforestation and reforestation?” Professor Harper said.

“There is likely more carbon stored in the world’s soils than previously considered. What will happen to this carbon – that is, will it be released as a result of either land-use change or climate change – is unknown. This is what we are working on now,” he said.


Parliamentary pigs and taxpayer troughs

June 11, 2013

Apparently pigs and humans share many genetic characteristics:

Researchers, who undertook the largest ever study of the pig genome, found that swine are adaptable, easy to seduce with food and susceptible to domestication – much like humans. 

Insights into the genetic code of pigs reveal the swine and its cousin the wild boar have much in common with humans.


This affinity between human and pig behaviour is demonstrated daily – and especially – by parliamentarians the world over. They don’t just feed – they gorge themselves. Perhaps it is the availability of the trough of taxpayers money which triggers our parliamentarians to revert to ancient type. Following the recent revelations about UK parliamentarians and their greed (Trougher Yeo), or in the US for example, comes this story from Australia:

The New South Wales Finance Minister Greg Pearce is facing further accusations about his parliamentary travel, with a Sydney newspaper reporting that he spent thousands of dollars on flights that coincided with sports events.

Last week, Premier Barry O’Farrell initiated an inquiry into claims the minister may have breached travel guidelines by taking a trip to Canberra that was initially booked through his office but was subsequently repaid by the minister.

The move came just days after he was accused of being drunk in parliament, prompting a public warning from the Premier.

Now the Daily Telegraph newspaper is reporting Mr Pearce has made at least $9,000 worth of trips to major sporting events around the country.

It says the events include the Melbourne Cup, AFL Grand Final and Australian Open, although Mr Pearce has denied the newspaper’s suggestions that he travelled to a V8 event on the Gold Coast last year.

I suppose they could all employ the defence that it is all in their genes and it is the fault of the taxpayers in providing them with the temptations which trigger their piggy instincts.

Border-Gavaskar trophy: Australia win 4 in a row but get white-washed

March 24, 2013

The first time ever that India has managed a white-wash on their opponents in a test series. They won 4 tests of the 4 test series at home against Australia. (They already know how to be white washed!)

But the Australian team can take comfort in the fact that practice paid-off and they won the toss 4 times in a row – and elected to bat each time and lost each time. 

And they all learned how to use PowerPoint.

Cricket by PowerPoint

Cricket by PowerPoint


  • This is the first time India have won four Tests in a series. They’ve won three in a series on three occasions, two of which were clean sweeps at home – against England in 1992-93, and against Sri Lanka the following season.
  • For Australia, this is only their second clean-sweep defeat in a series, after their 4-0 rout in South Africa in 1969-70. This is the sixth time they’ve lost four or more Tests in a series, and the first such instance since the Ashes at home in 1978-79, when an Australian team depleted by the Kerry Packer exodus lost 5-1.

  • This is only the second time in Test history that a team has won four or more tosses in a series, and lost four or more Tests in the same series. The only previous such instance was in the Ashes series of 1978-79 mentioned above, when Australia won the toss in five out of six Tests, but lost the series 5-1.
  • India have won 12 Tests at the Feroz Shah Kotla, which is next only to the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, where they’ve won 13. Of their last ten Tests here, India have won nine and drawn one. Their last defeat at this venue was in 1987, against West Indies.
  • Cheteshwar Pujara was not only one of the Indian heroes for the match and the series, but also for the entire season: he scored 857 runs in eight Tests 85.70, which puts him in 15th place in the all-time list forruns scored in a season for India. With a 600-run cut-off for a season, Pujara’s average of 85.70 puts him inseventh place.
  • Pujara’s unbeaten 82 in the fourth innings came off only 92 balls. His strike rate of 89.13 is the third-best for India in fourth-innings knocks of 75 or more.
  • The 104-run stand between Pujara and Virat Kohli is the tenth century stand for India for the second wicket in the fourth innings of a Test match.
  • R Ashwin’s series haul of 29 wickets is the seventh-best for India in a Test series, and the best since Harbhajan Singh’s 32 against Australia in 2001. The only Indian bowlers who’ve taken more wickets in a series are BS Chandrasekhar, Vinoo Mankad, Subhash Gupte, Kapil Dev, Harbhajan and Bishan Singh Bedi.
  • There were five five-fors for India in the series; only three times have there been more five-fors in a series for India.
  • Peter Siddle became the first batsman in Test history to score at least a half-century in each innings of a Test. He scored 51 in the first innings and 50 in the second, top-scoring for Australia in each innings.
  • Glenn Maxwell became the first Australian to open the batting and bowling in the same Test since Percy Hornibrook in 1929. Hornibrook, a left-arm bowler who bowled some medium-pace and spin, opened the batting and bowling at the MCG Test against England.
  • For only the third time in their entire Test history, Australia opened the attack with two spinners. The last such instance for Australia was in Georgetown in 2003 against West Indies, when Stuart MacGill and Brad Hogg opened the bowling in West Indies’ second innings.

Australia rejects carbon credits for killing camels because emission reduction assessment was incomplete

January 27, 2013

The Australian carbon credits scheme goes from bad to mad!!

So, killing camels for carbon credits is perfectly acceptable provided only that the emissions reduction by the curbing of their flatulence can be properly assessed.

The Reasons for Refusal of the application states:

The Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee (DOIC) advises that it has decided to refuse to
endorse methodology proposal Management of large feral herbivores (camels) in the
Australian rangelands (Ref: 2011FA001) because it does not satisfy the requirements for a
methodology determination specified in Section 112 of the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming
Initiative) Act 2011 (the Act).

Feral Australian camel: wikipedia

I expect that after a program of installing measurement balloons to the rear end of feral camels and measuring their typical flatulence the application could be resubmitted.

Camel-Slaughter Plan Rejected for Australian Carbon Credits

A plan to give carbon credits for slaughtering camels, curbing emissions coming from their flatulence, was rejected by an Australian government committee.

The proposal by Northwest Carbon Pty, a land and animal management consultant, didn’t provide clear instructions for protecting animal welfare, and the method for assessing emission reductions was incomplete, according to a report by the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee published yesterday on the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency’s website.

….. “This decision by the DOIC simply serves to highlight the significant challenges faced by private proponents attempting to develop any genuinely innovative new methodologies under the CFI,” Tim Moore, managing director at Northwest Carbon, said in the e-mail. “We expect to submit a new, revised methodology in the second quarter of this year, having dealt with all the specific issues the DOIC raised,” he said.

Northwest Carbon proposed shooting the camels or sending them to an abattoir, after which the meat would be processed for animal or human consumption. Wild camels are estimated to cause more than A$5 million ($5.3 million) in damage to pastoral lands, fences and buildings annually, according to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. …… The legislation for Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative listed management of feral camels as potentially eligible for carbon credits, Moore said in his e-mail. “A feral animal methodology is important to the ability of the CFI to deliver quantifiable emission reductions domestically within Australia.”

Migration from India brought genes, tools and dingoes to Australia 4,200 years ago

January 15, 2013

It is generally assumed that the expansion of AMH from Africa (or Africarabia) reached S-E Asia around 70,000 years ago and Australia some 40,000 – 50,000 years ago. The Australian population then remained virtually isolated until quite recently. But a new genome-wide study suggests that there was migration from India to Australia some 4,200 years ago during the Holocene and that they brought stone-tools and the ancestor of the dingo with them. The study suggests that after the first migrants originally arrived in Sahul, the Australian, New Guinea and Mamanwa populations split from each other some 36,000 years ago. But by – an as yet unknown route – migrants from India arrived in Australia between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.

Though this coincides with the height of the Indus Valley civilization in 2600 BC, I think it is more likely that any ocean-based, island-hopping migration at this time would have started – at least geographically – from S-E India rather than from the Indus Valley civilization in N-W India. But coastal navigation around the Indian coastline of that time would have been well within the capabilities of the Indus valley inhabitants. This is also the period when proto-Dravidian was the language across most of India (including in the Indus valley civilization) and it would be interesting if there are any traces in language which match this genetic data.

Genome-wide data substantiate Holocene gene flow from India to Australia, by Irina Pugach, Frederick Delfin, Ellen Gunnarsdóttir, Manfred Kayser, and Mark Stoneking, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Abstract:The Australian continent holds some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the expansion of modern humans out of Africa, with initial occupation at least 40,000 y ago. It is commonly assumed that Australia remained largely isolated following initial colonization, but the genetic history of Australians has not been explored in detail to address this issue. Here, we analyze large-scale genotyping data from aboriginal Australians, New Guineans, island Southeast Asians and Indians. We find an ancient association between Australia, New Guinea, and the Mamanwa (a Negrito group from the Philippines), with divergence times for these groups estimated at 36,000 y ago, and supporting the view that these populations represent the descendants of an early “southern route” migration out of Africa, whereas other populations in the region arrived later by a separate dispersal. We also detect a signal indicative of substantial gene flow between the Indian populations and Australia well before European contact, contrary to the prevailing view that there was no contact between Australia and the rest of the world. We estimate this gene flow to have occurred during the Holocene, 4,230 y ago. This is also approximately when changes in tool technology, food processing, and the dingo appear in the Australian archaeological record, suggesting that these may be related to the migration from India.

BBC reports:

“For a long time, it has been commonly assumed that following the initial colonization, Australia was largely isolated as there wasn’t much evidence of further contact with the outside world,” explained Prof Mark Stoneking, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

“It is one of the first dispersals of modern humans – and it did seem a bit of a conundrum that people who got there this early would have been so isolated.”

To study the early origins of Australia’s population, the team compared genetic material from Aboriginal Australians with DNA from people in New Guinea, South East Asia and India.

By looking at specific locations, called genetic markers, within the DNA sequences, the researchers were able to track the genes to see who was most closely related to whom.

They found an ancient genetic association between New Guineans and Australians, which dates to about 35,000 to 45,000 years ago. At that time, Australia and New Guinea were a single land mass, called Sahul, and this tallies with the period when the first humans arrived.

But the researchers also found a substantial amount of gene flow between India and Australia.

Prof Stoneking said: “We have a pretty clear signal from looking at a large number of genetic markers from all across the genome that there was contact between India and Australia somewhere around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.”

He said the genetic data could not establish the route the Indians would have taken to reach the continent, but it was evidence that Australia was not as cut off as had been assumed.

“Our results show that there were indeed people that made a genetic contribution to Australians from India,” Prof Stoneking explained.

The researchers also looked at fossils and other archaeological discoveries that date to this period.

They said changes in tool technology and new animals could possibly be attributed to the new migrants.

Prof Stoneking said: “We don’t have direct evidence of any connection, but it strongly suggestive that microliths, dingo and the movement of people were all connected.”

Nurse hoaxed by Australian call commits suicide

December 7, 2012

This is more than sad.

Update: The nurse has been named as Jacintha Sadanha. She was married with 2 children.

Update2: It is now early Saturday morning in Australia but there is as yet little regret for this childish prank gone horribly bad. Sky News Australia reports that Sydney-based 2Day FM was continuing to promote its prank call on air during the early hours of Saturday morning in the city”.

The hoaxers, Mel Greig and Michael Christian will no doubt get away with it. After all it was just a clever prank call. They have been bragging about it all week. But can they really not have any responsibility? I can only begin to imagine the harassment and embarrassment and ridicule the poor nurse came under — which was probably multiplied several times by today’s social media.

Mel Greig and Michael Christian: image

The Independent:The nurse who took a prank phone call at the Duchess of Cambridge’s hospital has been found dead in a suspected suicide.

The woman received the phone call from two Australian radio presenters and, believing she was speaking with the Queen, passed it to a colleague who revealed private information about the Duchess’ condition.

An ambulance was called to the hospital this morning where the woman was found unconscious.

Paramedics made efforts to revive her but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

The nurse is understood to be the first person to be heard during a hoax call to the Edward VII Hospital from two presenters from the Australian radio station 2Day FM.

…. The woman nurse who has been found dead took the call from the radio DJs in the early hours of Tuesday morning saying: “Hello, good morning, King Edward VII Hospital.”

The presenter, Mel Greig, who was impersonating the Queen said: “Oh, hello there. Could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter?”

The woman answered: “Oh yes, just hold on ma’am.” ….

… The two hoaxers, Greig and Michael Christian, were put through to a second nurse who told them: “She’s sleeping at the moment and she has had an uneventful night. She’s been given some fluids, she’s stable at the moment.”

Update! Nurse named but hoaxers are silent

The hospital said in a statement: ““We can confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha.

”Jacintha has worked at the King Edward VII Hospital for more than four years. She was an excellent nurse and a well-respected and popular member of staff with all her colleagues.

“We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital has been supporting her at this difficult time.”

Hospital chief executive John Lofthouse said: “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends. Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague.”

“Undiscovery” of Sandy Island in the Coral Sea – or “Now you see it, now you don’t”

November 22, 2012

There are no good antonyms in English for the verb “discover”. In this particular case where an island was apparently “discovered” a long time ago, which was then included on many maps and which is now found not to exist, such words as “loss” or “concealment” or “miss” or “cover up” don’t quite fit.

But in this age of satellite imagery and GPS it is more than a little surprising that such an “error” – if error it was – could survive for so long!

I suspect that a clever hoaxer  – once upon a time – invented the island, introduced it into some reference map and is now laughing his socks off !!!!

So an “undiscovery” it is.

BBC reports:

A South Pacific island, shown on marine charts and world maps as well as on Google Earth and Google Maps, does not exist, Australian scientists say.

The supposedly sizeable strip of land, named Sandy Island on Google maps, was positioned midway between Australia and French-governed New Caledonia.

Sandy Island – “Now you see it now you don’t” image BBC/Google

But when scientists from the University of Sydney went to the area, they found only the blue ocean of the Coral Sea.

The phantom island has featured in publications for at least a decade.

Scientist Maria Seton, who was on the ship, said that the team was expecting land, not 1,400m (4,620ft) of deep ocean.

“We wanted to check it out because the navigation charts on board the ship showed a water depth of 1,400m in that area – very deep,” Dr Seton, from the University of Sydney, told the AFP news agency after the 25-day voyage.

“It’s on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no island. We’re really puzzled. It’s quite bizarre. ……

…… Australia’s Hydrographic Service, which produces the country’s nautical charts, says its appearance on some scientific maps and Google Earth could just be the result of human error, repeated down the years.

A spokesman from the service told Australian newspapers that while some map makers intentionally include phantom streets to prevent copyright infringements, that was was not usually the case with nautical charts because it would reduce confidence in them. ….  ….. while most explorers dream of discovering uncharted territory, the Australian team appears to have done the opposite – and cartographers everywhere are now rushing to undiscover Sandy Island for ever.

Long term investment: Avoid the carbon taxers (Australia) and follow the shale gas (US)

August 24, 2012

It is electricity price – rather than energy price – which is I think the more telling parameter for growth and investment. And it is electricity price which matters fundamentally. Winning “brownie points” for being virtuous and politically correct is irrelevant and often counter-productive.

Historically, a  low (unsubsidised) electricity price has nearly always given high growth, increased exports to regions with higher electricity prices and an attractive climate to invest in. This simple observation will now lead to my shifting my (small) investments away from  Australia for some time – at least as long they continue with their virtuous but meaningless carbon tax. On the other hand, the relatively low electricity prices resulting from the advent of shale gas  in the US augur well for the US economy and for US exporters – irrespective of which party the President comes from.

In my own field of power generation I expect a gas turbine combined cycle boom in the US in 2014/15 (which will also be a boom for steam turbine manufacturers). So my message for the next 5 or 6 years is to shift your investments away from Australia (and other virtuous but economically silly countries) and into countries promoting low energy prices (US and other countries where the environmental regulations and tax regimes allow  production of electricity at the lowest possible cost).

Sydney Morning Herald: 

BHP Billiton head Marius Kloppers has told European investors that Australia’s carbon and mining taxes have helped to render the nation’s coal industry unworthy of further investment at this time. ……. 

In comments that appeared to be more pointed than those given in his Australian media conference, Mr Kloppers put some of the blame on the federal government’s two controversial new taxes.

”What I am seeing on the eastern seaboard in Australia is that the coal industry has been very heavily impacted by lower prices, higher operating costs, carbon taxes and increased royalties,” he said.

Royalties were increased by the New South Wales government as it sought to exploit a loophole in the federal government’s new mining tax, and a similar tactic is now being considered by the Queensland government. ….

Financial Times:

….. Today, few realise that the US stands on the cusp of significant economic gains stimulated by low energy costs. High quality global journalism requires investment.  …..

The consensus view discounts the economic boost from natural gas, arguing that the energy sector cannot generate so many jobs. The doubters wear blinkers; they see nothing but the energy market. They commit the mistake made by forecasters in 1991. They miss the tectonic shifts in trade,  ….

(The shale gas) advantage gives manufacturing plants in the US a 60 per cent, 70 per cent or even 80 per cent cost advantage over those operating in China, Japan, South Korea or European countries.

Read more:

Unions+con-men+lawyers+sleaze = Julia Gillard?

August 13, 2012

I first came across Australian politics some 25 years ago when trying to sell a turnkey power plant to be located in W. Australia. I found myself trying to negotiate through a morass of cronyism together with convoluted local and national politics which I never did succeed to decipher.  Since then I have been a fascinated – but always confused – observer of Australian politics. I never did manage to sell that particular power plant in Bunbury but I did manage to see a couple of Test matches at the WACA. I have subsequently sold steam and gas turbines  in Australia where these projects did not attract the same level of political interest. But I still have  a very meagre understanding of how things actually get done within Australian politics.

An Australian political cartoonist – Larry Pickering – has been running a series of articles on his blog (4 parts – so far – with part 5 yet to come just published). The contents seem to reveal a web of corruption and deceit encompassing a crooked union leader, the AWU, dirty weekends, a law firm and Julia Gillard who was then employed at that firm. Somewhere along the line Ms. Gillard was apparently sacked from the law firm and then entered politics. The revelations appear quite explosive to me but I note there is almost no coverage of these in the Australian media. I am not quite sure what to make of the apparent disinterest of the MSM. It could be that the “revelations” are pretty tame and just represent  the “normal” and expected behaviour of Australian politicians?

Part One: Our Prime minister is a Crook

Part Two: Is our Prime Minister a Crook?

Part Three: Is our Prime Minister a Crook?

Part Four: Is our Prime Minister a Crook?


Part 5: Is our Prime Minister a crook?

Larry Pickering’s cartoons are pretty interesting as well. The Bolt Games are over now and I like this one:

Cartoon by Larry Pickering

“Even the dead don’t escape the carbon tax”

July 9, 2012

Julia Gillard’s carbon tax in action!


AN apology has been issued to a grieving family by a cemetery which told them they were being charged a $55 carbon tax to bury a relative. ….. 

The family claimed that the cemetery slapped them with a $55 carbon tax bill for burying a relative – saying “even the dead don’t escape the carbon tax” – just days after the tax was introduced.

The outraged family complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, describing it as a “tax on the dying”.

Erica Maliki said the Melbourne cemetery told her and two other relatives that a $55 charge would be applied to her father-in-law’s burial due to the carbon tax. …..

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said it would be “reprehensible” if any cemetery took advantage of grieving families by misleading them over funeral expenses.

It comes as three companies were reprimanded by the consumer watchdog for cashing in on the carbon tax.

The ACCC said that it was investigating solar panel suppliers

Polaris Solar and ACT Renewable Energy for providing false information on the cost impacts of the tax, while bakery chain Brumby’s was caught advising outlets to raise prices and blame the carbon tax.

While cemeteries are not liable entities under the carbon tax, the funeral industry has previously warned of indirect price rises for both burials as well as cremations through higher energy prices and councils passing on their carbon tax costs.

And as ACM points out:

In any event, technically, burial is carbon sequestration. If it had been a cremation, however…

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