Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ireland Incorporated investing in bad debt

I was just checking out what the national debt of the US currently stood at as we approach 2010. What I learnt is that it stands at around 12 trillion dollars that’s about 70% of GDP. That's a lot of debt, a hell of a lot of money to owe anybody. However what I also found in this exercise, which was most interesting and quite frankly most worrying, is that Ireland owns 38 billion in US Treasury securities.

This is rather frightening when compared to other much larger economies and what level of US debt or us treasury securities they deem an acceptable risk. Lets look at the figures: Norway (29billion), France (24 billion), Italy (17 billion) Sweden (16 billion), Canada (20 billion), Netherlands(21 billion), Belgium (15 billion) and Australia with 10 billion.

How does Ireland compare to economies such as Australia? Well in a nutshell we don’t. Coal exports alone in Australia are worth 25 billion annually to their economy. What is obvious here is that we see countries with much larger populations and economies than Ireland, countries such as Norway, France, Sweden, Canada investing much less than Ireland in US Treasury securities.

Why? because foreign investors in the US Dollar have seen huge losses in their investments. It’s too big a risk.

I would like to know who is responsible for this? is it the central bank, Government, National Pension Fund?

I would also like to know why this money isn’t invested in essential infrastructure investments here in Ireland, developing renewable energy, IT, research and development, it looks to me that whoever is managing this fund is not willing to invest here at home.

This money if properly invested could turn this country around in a very short time. As it stands it's just losing value, as the dollar and US national debt continues to spiral our of control. We are investing in a country that is living way beyond its means to repay its national debt, a country that is insolvent and the risk of overexposure on this investment is enormous.

38 billion invested in US treasury securities would go a long way to sorting out the mess we are in right now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Debate with Professor Plimer on his Book: Heaven and Earth: Scientific Documentation or Misrepresentation

I include this information for anyone who may wish to challenge Professor Plimer on the conflict of interest between his private interests and professional work, examples include the distortion of science in his recent book, including lack of accuracy and academic integrity, intellectual honesty and sensitivity.

Heaven and Earth: Scientific Documentation or Misrepresentation
1. Introduction
Plimer’s book starts with the conclusion that there is no "evidential basis" that humans have caused recent warming and that the theory that humans can create global warming is contrary to validated knowledge from solar physics, astronomy, history, archeology and geology. Plimer appears to accept any reports that supports his conclusion and rejects any evidence that contradicts this conclusion. In some cases Plimer alters the conclusions of the cited reports to support his opinions.

2. Public Statements by Professor Plimer

2.1 Plimer has stated publicly the following:
“From my experience of challenging creationism, I argue that the global warming movement is an ascientific urban religious fundamentalist movement detached from the environment.”

“Adherents uncritically accept information from the web, Wikipedia and blog sites, yet have little knowledge of integrated interdisciplinary science”
"One group of scientists the Atmospheric scientists dominate climate science."

“What’s in it for climate scientists, follow the money, it’s a cause, a fad.”

"You don’t die because of temperature increase, humans adapt. Temperature change is not going to kill us."

Plimer claims “it is not possible to ascribe a carbon dioxide increase to human activity".

3. Plimer’s Data on Global Mean temperatures

3.1 Presentation of Graphs Fig 1.
The first graph in your book (page 11) figure 1 un-sourced (but is from the Handley centre Fig 1b) based on a graph in AR4WGI Technical Summary. This graph presents a incorrect drop in global mean temperatures of 0.3C between 2007-2008. This inaccuracy and distortion of scientific fact comes from using the temps for the first half of 2008 to represent all of 2008. In reality the fall is 0.089C. Has Plimer explained the discrepancies?

3.2 Figure 3
Figure 3 (Page 25) in your book presents to prove that CO2 doesn't cause warming because of all the cooling in the "post-war economic boom" you use a graph, without reference produced for the Great Global Warming Swindle on Channel 4.
It was shown that the programme altered the timeline, creating the false impression that most of the rise in temperature last century took place before 1940.
Subsequent editions of the programme corrected the timeline (see below IPPC 2007). But Plimer leaves the graph – and its convenient error – intact.

Yet on page 467 Plimer addresses their request claiming they did so because that deemed Swindle to present an "incorrect moral outlook", therefore you were well aware of what was wrong with the Swindle graph but nevertheless used it anyway.

3.3 Scientific Integrity
The presentation of information in the aforementioned manner questions the scientific integrity, ethical sensitivity and intellectual honesty of Plimer’s research. The conclusions that can be taken from using the graph one that was a schematic and was not based on data about temperatures in the 20th century are based on incomplete, old and apparently intentionally falsified data, and were used clearly to mislead the public regarding the status of current scientific knowledge.

Plimer is ignoring all of the peer reviewed research that has been done since then, you are intentionally misleading the public about the science of the reconstruction of past climate.

4. Volcanic Emissions of Carbon Dioxide

4.1 Mount Pinatubo emitted as much CO2 as humans in a year.

Plimer states that in June 1991, the second largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century at Mount Pinatubo emitted as much CO2 as humans in a year. (page 472)

This claim is not referenced. Where is the data to support this claim obtained from, what is the scientific reference? Monitoring data from the atmospheric monitoring station at Mauna Loa Observatory and others do not support your statement.

4.1.1 Scientific Evidence states otherwise

According to the British Geological Survey: "Measurements of CO2 levels over the past 50 years do not show any significant rises after eruptions. Total emissions from volcanoes on land are estimated to average just 0.3 Gt of CO2 each year – about a hundredth of human emissions."

4.2 Volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans.

Plimer states that volcaneous prodce more C02 than humans. This fact is not supported with any scientific reference.

4.2.1 Scientific Evidence states otherwise
According to the US Geological Survey humans produce 130 times more CO2 than volcanoes.

4.3 US GS does not include underwater volcanoes.
Plimer has since stated that the figure for the US GS does not include underwater volcanoes.

4.3.1 Scientific Evidence states otherwise
Dr. Terrance Gerlach of the USGC says that the 130 figure does include the underwater volcanoes so your comments are incorrect.

4.4 Further Reference: Volcanic Contributions to the Global Carbon Cycle. British Geological Survey 2005.
This report focuses on just the volcanic contribution to the global carbon cycle and is intended to provide a reference work for future studies. “Present day geological emissions of CO2 include volcanic emissions (both passive, from volcanoes in repose, and those related directly to eruptive activity) and non volcanic – direct emissions from the earths crust and litosphere. The contribution to the present day atmospheric CO2 loading from volcanic emissions is however relatively insignificant, and it has been estimated that subaerial volcanism releases around 300MT/Yr CO2, equalivent to just 1% of anthropogenic emissions (Morner & Etiope, 2002)”

5. Humans and Carbon Dioxide

5.1 Plimer claims that only 4% of the CO2 in the atmosphere is produced by humans.

5.1.1 Carbon in the Atmosphere
Over the last 150 years, carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have risen from 280 to nearly 380 parts per million (ppm). Atmospheric CO2 concentration increased by only 20 ppm over the 8000 years prior to industrialization. Emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel use and from the effects of land use change on plant and soil carbon are the primary sources of increased atmospheric CO2.

Since 1750, it is estimated that about 2/3rds of anthropogenic CO2 emissions have come from fossil fuel burning and about 1/3rd from land use change. About 45% of this CO2 has remained in the atmosphere, while about 30% has been taken up by the oceans and the remainder has been taken up by the terrestrial biosphere. Observations demonstrate that dissolved CO2 concentrations in the surface ocean (pCO2) have been increasing nearly everywhere, roughly following the atmospheric CO2 increase.

One way that we know that human activities are responsible for the increased CO2 is simply by looking at historical records of human activities. Since the industrial revolution, we have been burning fossil fuels and clearing and burning forested land at an unprecedented rate, and these processes convert organic carbon into CO2.

Careful accounting of the amount of fossil fuel that has been extracted and combusted, and how much land clearing has occurred, shows that we have produced far more CO2 than now remains in the atmosphere. The roughly 500 billion metric tons of carbon we have produced is enough to have raised the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to nearly 500 ppm. The concentrations have not reached that level because the ocean and the terrestrial biosphere have the capacity to absorb some of the CO2 we produce.

However, it is the fact that we produce CO2 faster than the ocean and biosphere can absorb it that explains the observed increase. Another, quite independent way that we know that fossil fuel burning and land clearing specifically are responsible for the increase in CO2 in the last 150 years is through the measurement of carbon isotopes.

Burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide enriched with carbon isotope 12C and reduced 13C and essentially no 14C, in other words you can ascribe the increase directly to human activity. CO2 produced from burning fossil fuels or burning forests has quite a different isotopic composition from CO2 in the atmosphere. This is because plants have a preference for the lighter isotopes (12C vs. 13C); thus they have lower 13C/12C ratios. Since fossil fuels are ultimately derived from ancient plants, plants and fossil fuels all have roughly the same 13C/12C ratio – about 2% lower than that of the atmosphere. As CO2 from these materials is released into, and mixes with, the atmosphere, the average 13C/12C ratio of the atmosphere decreases.

Isotope geochemists have developed time series of variations in the 14C and 13C concentrations of atmospheric CO2. One of the methods used is to measure the 13C/12C in tree rings, and use this to infer those same ratios in atmospheric CO2. This works because during photosynthesis, trees take up carbon from the atmosphere and lay this carbon down as plant organic material in the form of rings, providing a snapshot of the atmospheric composition of that time. If the ratio of 13C/12C in atmospheric CO2 goes up or down, so does the 13C/12C of the tree rings. This isn’t to say that the tree rings have the same isotopic composition as the atmosphere – as noted above, plants have a preference for the lighter isotopes, but as long as that preference doesn’t change much, the tree-ring changes will track the atmospheric changes.

Sequences of annual tree rings going back thousands of years have now been analyzed for their 13C/12C ratios. Because the age of each ring is precisely known we can make a graph of the atmospheric 13C/12C ratio vs. time. What is found is at no time in the last 10,000 years are the 13C/12C ratios in the atmosphere as low as they are today. Furthermore, the 13C/12C ratios begin to decline dramatically just as the CO2 starts to increase — around 1850 AD. This is exactly what we expect if the increased CO2 is in fact due to fossil fuel burning. Furthermore, we can trace the absorption of CO2 into the ocean by measuring the 13C/12C ratio of surface ocean waters. While the data are not as complete as the tree ring data (we have only been making these measurements for a few decades) we observe what is expected: the surface ocean 13C/12C is decreasing. Measurements of 13C/12C on corals and sponges — whose carbonate shells reflect the ocean chemistry just as tree rings record the atmospheric chemistry — show that this decline began about the same time as in the atmosphere; that is, when human CO2 production began to accelerate in earnest.
In addition to the data from tree rings, there are also of measurements of the 13C/12C ratio in the CO2 trapped in ice cores. The tree ring and ice core data both show that the total change in the 13C/12C ratio of the atmosphere since 1850 is about 0.15%. This sounds very small but is actually very large relative to natural variability. The results show that the full glacial-to-interglacial change in 13C/12C of the atmosphere — which took many thousand years — was about 0.03%, or about 5 times less than that observed in the last 150 years.
Studies of carbon isotope 12 conclude that varying degrees of carbon isotopic equilibration between atmospheric CO2 and surface water DIC during the industrial increase of atmospheric pCO2 reflect the dynamic response of the carbon cycle to human interference with magnitudes and rates of change that are unprecedented for the last 600 years and probably for the whole Holocene.

5.2 Plimer states "it is not possible to ascribe a carbon dioxide increase to human activity"

5.2.1 Climate change what and Isotope geochemists say.
“Varying degrees of carbon isotopic equilibration between atmospheric CO2 and surface water DIC during the industrial increase of atmospheric pCO2 reflect the dynamic response of the carbon cycle to human interference with magnitudes and rates of change that are unprecedented for the last 600 years and probably for the whole Holocene.”

5.2.2 What the INTERACADEMY Panel on International Issues a global network of 75 Science Academies state on Anthropogenic Carbon Emissions.

Over the past 200 years, the oceans have absorbed approximately a quarter of the CO2 produced from human activities. This CO2 would otherwise have accumulated in the atmosphere leading to greater climate change.

However, the absorption of this CO2 has affected ocean chemistry and has caused the oceans (which are on average slightly alkaline) to become more acidic. Carbonate ion concentrations are now lower than at any other time during the last 800 000 years.

Global atmospheric CO2 concentrations are now at 387 ppm. If current trends in CO2 emissions continue, model projections suggest that by mid-century CO2 concentrations will be more than double pre-industrial levels and the oceans will be more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of years.

The current rate of change is much more rapid than during any event over the last 65 million years with profound consequences for marine plants and animals.

At current emission rates models suggest that all coral reefs and polar ecosystems will be severely affected by 2050 or potentially even earlier;

Marine food supplies are likely to be reduced with significant implications for food production and security in regions dependent on fish protein, and human health and wellbeing; Ocean acidification is irreversible on timescales of at least tens of thousands of years; We must:

• Recognise that reducing the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere is the only practicable solution to mitigating ocean acidification;

• Recognise the direct threats posed by increasing atmospheric CO2 emissions to the oceans and therefore society, and take action to mitigate this threat;

• Implement action to reduce global CO2 emissions by at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2050 and continue to reduce them thereafter;

5.2.3 Ice-core studies, Climate change and Carbon Dioxide

A recent study “Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica” whose authors included:
• Institute of Geography, Moscow
• School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami
• Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton
• Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, Russia
• Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, France

The study examined the ice record of atmospheric composition and climate to the past four glacial–interglacial cycles.

The study concluded that: “Present-day atmospheric burdens of these two important greenhouse gases seem to have been unprecedented during the past 420,000 years”

6. Satellites and Radiosondes show that there is no global warming

Plimer states that Satellites and Radiosondes show that there is no global warming (Page 382) citing the following reference: Global Warming 2007. An Update to Global Warming: The Balance of Evidence and Its Policy Implications Authors: Keller, Charles F. Journal: The Scientific World JOURNAL

6.1 Report Abstract does not support Plimer Claim

The report states the following “Most notable the middle troposphere is seen to be warming apace with the surface. The big news is, the collapse of the climate critics' last real bastion, namely that satellites and radiosondes show no significant warming in the past quarter century… But now both satellite and in-situ radiosonde observations have been shown to corroborate both the surface observations of warming and the model predictions. Thus, while uncertainties still remain, we are now seeing a coherent picture in which past climate variations, solar and other forcings, model predictions and other indicators such as glacier recession all point to a human-induced warming that needs to be considered carefully.”

Plimer has somehow managed to reverse the findings of the published paper?

7. Climate Change and Human Health

7.1 Malaria
Plimer claims malaria is common in cold climates (page 199)

7.1.1 The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention state that
“at temperatures below 20°C (68°F), Plasmodium falciparum (which causes severe malaria) cannot complete its growth cycle in the Anopheles mosquito, and thus cannot be transmitted” Where is the evidence to support your claim?

7.2 Temperature
Prof Plimer Claims " don’t die because of temperature increase, humans adapt. Temperature change is not going to kill us"
European public health officials believe that more than 52,000 Europeans died from heat in the summer of 2003, making the heat wave one of the deadliest climate-related disasters in Western history

8. Climate change and Glaciers

8.1 Alpine Glacier
Plimer claims Alpine glaciers are not retreating. Ref p281 and references a scientific paper to support this opinion
Ref: Glacier mass balance: the first 50 years of international monitoring. Roger J. Braithwaite, School of Geography, The University of Manchester.

8.1.1. Report Conclusions
What this Report actually stated was:“There is no sign of any recent global trend towards increased glacier melting”
No mention was made of many other recent scientific studies on glacier retreat including:

8.2 International reports on Glacier Retreat

8.2.1 Recent Global Glacier Retreat Overview
Which states “Since 1980, glacier retreat has become increasingly rapid and ubiquitous, so much so that it has threatened the existence of many of the glaciers of the world. This process has increased markedly since 1995”

8.2.2 The World Glacier Monitoring Service
Which has noted 17 consecutive years of negative mass balances, that is volume losses. Preliminary mass balance values for the observation periods 2005/06 and 2006/07 have been reported now from more than 100 and 80 glaciers worldwide, respectively. The World Glacier Monitoring Service reported that ”The average mass balance of the glaciers with available long-term observation series around the world continues to decrease…The new data continues the global trend in accelerated ice loss over the past few decades.”

9. Climate change and Temperature
9.1 Statements by Plimer on Temperature and Climate Change

• “global temperatures have cooled since 2003”

• “atmospheric temperatures have been decreasing in the 21st century, despite an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide”

• “We've had a warming, up until the late 90s, now we're in a cooling phase.”
On page p391 Plimer claim the Hadley Centre has shown that warming stopped in 1998.

9.1.1 What The Handley Centre States:
“11 of the last13 years were the warmest ever recorded. Average global temperatures are now some 0.75 °C warmer than they were 100 years ago. Since the mid-1970s, the increase in temperature has averaged more than 0.15 °C per decade. This rate of change is very unusual in the context of past changes and much more rapid than the warming at the end of the last ice age Longer term analyses have shown that current warming is being caused mainly by human emissions of greenhouse gases which have accumulated in the atmosphere and intensified the greenhouse effect by absorbing more of the thermal radiation emitted by the land and ocean”

9.2 What the IPPC State: Global Average Temperatures

The IPCC state that “2005 and 1998 were the warmest two years in the instrumental global surface air temperature record since 1850. Surface temperatures in 1998 were enhanced by the major 1997–1998 El Niño but no such strong anomaly was present in 2005. Eleven of the last 12 years (1995 to 2006) – the exception being 1996 – rank among the 12 warmest years on record since 1850.”

10. Antarctic Climate Change & the Environment

This report published by the Scientific committee on Antarctic research. Nov 2009 includes contributions from one hundred experts in Antarctic science and reviewed by over 200 scientists.

The report highlights 'the profound impact that the ozone hole has had on the Antarctic environment over the last 30 years, shielding the continent from much of the effect of global warming. However, this situation will not last. Over the next century we expect ozone concentrations above the Antarctic to recover, but if greenhouse gas concentrations increase at the present rate then temperatures across the continent will increase by several degrees and there will be about one third less sea ice.'

10.1 Carbon in the Oceans

The reports states 'The carbon in the ocean is a mixture from both natural and anthropogenic sources. The anthropogenic fraction comes from human-induced emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere that have continued at an increasing rate since the start of the industrial revolution"

11. Who stands to gain from doubt?

This is one of the most important questions to ask when establishing the context for debate about any complex scientific issue. Interestingly, it is often nonscientists or scientists aligned with nonscientific agendas that raise objections to global warming, for example, lobbyists for the energy and automotive industries and groups have generally opposed government regulation. Much of the nonscientific, popular debate (and denial) centers on values and responses rather than facts, for example the importance of jobs for workers in the coal industry.

In the case of global warming, what is the agenda that justifies efforts to cast doubt on the consensus claims? If global warming becomes widely accepted, some of the consequence may be that:
• federal and state governments might establish more emissions regulations; and
• industries that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide might be required to invest in cleaner technology, etc.
Critics with a stake in those positions have political and economic motives to resist the conclusions of global warming experts. Of course, the strength of an alternative scientific hypothesis is not diminished by the mere motivations of its proponents. If global warming is not occurring, or it is independent of human activity, then the data will support that conclusion regardless of who gathers and interprets those data. What this article shows is that Plimer’s data is lacks transparency and is scientifically inaccurate and misleading.
11.1 Conflict of Interest between private interests and Professional work
Plimer is a director of three mining companies and therefore could be seen to be representing the mining industry not the science. The following statement by Plimer questions the critical judgement and ethical sensitivity of the author clearly demonstrativing his motivations in publishing such a book.

Quotation: Prof Plimer ABN Newswire Interview Brian Carlton
By accepting climate change.. “we will put ourselves out of work, we will put our children out of work, we will shift businesses in Australia, which have a great advantage like mining, smelting and energy industries we will shift them offshore. So if you want to be cautious about the future, don’t put yourself and your children out of work.”

12. The Science of Climate Change
Our planet's climate is anything but simple. Yet despite all the complexities, a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences.With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories.

12.1 Carbon dioxide is a Greenhouse Gas
We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas because it absorbs and emits certain frequencies of infrared radiation. Basic physics tells us that gases with this property trap heat radiating from the Earth, that the planet would be a lot colder if this effect was not real and that adding more CO2 to the atmosphere will trap even more heat. The level of CO2 is determined by the balance between sources and sinks, and it would take hundreds of years for it to return to pre-industrials levels even if all emissions ceased tomorrow. Put another way, there is no limit to how much rain can fall, but there is a limit to how much extra CO2 the oceans and other sinks can soak up.

12.2 Climate Science
Climate science is a multidisciplinary field that involves research in ecology, chemistry, geology, glaciology, meteorology, atmospheric science, marine biology, volcanology, computer modeling, and many other disciplines.
Few people—including scientists, who do not specialize in climate science—are qualified to tackle the technical issues in all these areas—at least in any depth.
Science is the most objective method we have for investigating the natural world, but it does not establish certainty and absolutes.
It leads to scientific knowledge that is tentative and incomplete, but consensus develops around well-supported hypotheses, which generally become stronger over time.
Science operates within a framework of explanations of observable phenomena limited to the natural world.
It is crucially based on two characteristics:
1. replicability, i.e., using well-accepted experimental systems and procedures
2. peer review and publication.
Science is not perfect, but it is self-correcting over time because other experts critically examine the work of colleagues and challenge weaknesses in methods and conclusions.

12.3 So is the consensus opinion of experts in climate change ?
An examination of scientific journals shows that the scientific consensus is undeniable. Of over 1000 published papers none of the authors disagreed with the consensus position. There have been arguments to the contrary, but they are not to be found in scientific literature, which is where scientific debates are properly adjudicated.
The IPCC 2007 final report goes even further, stating:
“There is very high confidence that the net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming.”
Furthermore the National Academies from every major county which includes the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council and scientific institutions from every continent on the planet have all published statements supporting the consensus that human activity is modifying the climate.

13. Australia: The Worlds Largest Coal Exporter
Australia is the hottest and, bar Antartica, driest continent on Earth. Parts have been embroiled in record drought for the past decade, leaving reservoirs empty and agriculture decimated. Things got so bad that thousands of camels besieged a Northern Territory town last week in search of water. Even the "ships of the desert" couldn't cope.

Australians have the highest per capita carbon emissions of any major developed country thanks to its sprawling suburbs and heavy coal use. According to figures submitted by Canberra to the UN, Australia's emissions from burning fossil fuel have risen 30% from 1990 to 2007 – more even than the US.

Also, Australia is the world's largest coal exporter. Coal exports are worth a staggering 25 billion dollars a year to the Australian economy and make up 30% of the total world coal exports. Industrialists have lobbied loudly against any limits on their emissions. Last year the Business Council of Australia called Rudd's cap-and-trade climate plan a "company killer", and declared war on the policy. In the past month they have seen off the Liberals' Malcolm Turnbull, because he backed that plan.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Emergency Preparedness, Communication and Flood Disaster Management

Emergency Preparedness

It is evident that the emergency services were only just able to cope with the recent floods. Authorities and the public have been taken aback by the "sheer scale" of the flooding that took place in November. Many of the residents, homeowners, farmers and business people experienced their properties been flooded long before they received a warning from any organisation. So what went wrong and can we learn from our mistakes?

The most critical element in any disaster management plan is the emergency preparedness and response activity. The response to a natural disaster warning must be immediate, comprehensive and demonstrate very clear lines of command. There must be a mechanism to draw upon external resources available at higher levels of government when the local level of response is not sufficient. The keys to effective emergency response are advance planning, ability to mobilise sufficient resources quickly, and periodic exercises to identify weaknesses and problems.

Urgent and fundamental changes are needed in the way this country is adapting to the risk of flooding, which is an ever-increasing reality because of the impact of climate change. Emergency response drills must be undertaken to ensure that services work and can protect the community. Emergency planning and preparedness is first a local responsibility. There must be strong and reliable communication linkages. Emergency response must include input from community and political levels, there must be clear lines of authority. Disaster management requires some form of inter agency body to take responsibility for overall control and leadership of essential services during an emergency.

One of the most urgent changes that is required are providing early flood warning systems, especially to flood-risk areas. A community and its local government must develop adequate disaster management plans to manage such risk when faced with the reality of future loss of life and extreme economic hardships when the future event occurs. A participatory process is required that includes community involvement identifying the various factors that increase or decrease risk exposure and can lead to greater community participation in developing solutions to the flooding problem in the future.

A change to proactive management of natural disasters requires an identification of the risk, the development of strategies to reduce the risk, and the creation of policies and programmes to put these strategies into effect. One agency must be given responsibility to manage this responsibility. Based on recent experiences we must adapt mitigation plans to assess the ability for reducing risk exposure by undertaking a thorough risk assessment of the event and put in place adequate disaster management plans and mitigation measures for the future. With the probability of extreme weather events increasing with climate change, activities such as the stockpiling of sandbags, emergency food and water supplies, and the evacuation of communities and businesses will become common. Centralised depots are required for each sensitive river catchment area that allow for fast and efficient access to supplies and equipment.

A key component of any emergency preparedness plan is an inventory of resources that can be accessed. In the case of flooding this would include items such as emergency vehicles, buses and trucks, earthmoving equipment, pumps, plastic, plywood, emergency generators, supplies of gravel and sand, sandbags, and mobile communication equipment.
The inventory should also include access to expertise such as surveyors, civil engineers, electricians, insurance valuators and other professionals and community leaders.

Access to information and communication are the most important aspects of disaster management. Flood preparedness and emergency response is to a large extent dependent on the ability of the relevant national, local and community institutions to communicate. A community cannot adequately respond to a natural disaster where they are not prepared or forewarned of the event. Local authorities should collate and map drainage systems and emergency services should work with telephone companies to introduce an "opt-out" telephone flood warning scheme, in which at-risk people are automatically signed up.
Poor coordination across administrative bodies and line agencies results in fragmented flood mitigation and prevention intervention measures including mobilisation and co-ordination of resources from the national to local level.

Coordination is critical in flood disaster management to overcome the invariable fragmentation that results from departmental specializations between local government and emergency services including healthcare, fire services, army and Garda Siochain.

Emergency services must not rely completely on mobile phone or landline telecommunications to communicate as where networks are damaged, as was the case in Bandon, this manner of communication collapses and with it the treat of proper co-ordination of flood relief. For urban areas emergency services must have access to other forms of communication including low frequency battery operated handheld radios.

Post flooding
The emergency response does not end with the flood event but includes clean up. People will want to know what assistance will be made available, who is responsible, and how to go about seeking that assistance. Waste containment or temporary waste disposal sites must be identified to segregate and store the huge quantities of waste material resulting from floods. Affected residents and businesses will need to access information on risks and cleanup. They will need immediate access to insurance valuators, waste disposal operators, clean drinking water, sanitary services, accommodation, support services and mobile water pumps.

After a major flood event it is beneficial to conduct an assessment of the causes and effects of the flood and to make recommendations that would improve preparedness for the next event and reduce future flood losses. The long term economic and social implications of flooding become evident in the post disaster period.

Governments need to demonstrate leadership and sometimes take bold steps to restore employment, address social issues and move the economy in a new direction. In that sense disasters can be a positive motivator for change.

Compensation as part of the disaster assistance should always have as a goal the reduction of future flood damages. Rather than simply paying for damages, the funds should be focused on flood proofing.

Economic and Social impact of Flooding
Apart from the cost to householders flooding can have a detrimental impact on the local economy and community in a number of ways: cost of repairing damages to property and businesses, cost of replacing goods and products, environmental cleanup, loss of home, public health concerns, stress, anxiety, depression and redundancy. The startling truth is that as many as 25% of small business do not reopen after a disaster. This figure may be seen to be much higher in a period of economic recession.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bandon Flood experience Nov 2009: A chronology of events, the forces of nature and bad planning

On 19th Nov 2009 the town of Bandon, Co. Cork experienced the worst flooding in living memory which resulted in approximately 190 business properties being flooded or affected in the town. This has devastated the area and caused significant financial hardship but thankfully no lives were lost. The flooding was the result of unusually high amounts of rainfall falling on an already saturated catchment. The month of November 2009 was exceptionally wet with many places experiencing in the first fortnight one and a half to two times the normal rainfall for the whole month. Valentia Observatory recorded 57.4mm of rainfall on the 19th November with Cork Airport recording 51.2mm and many other places receiving in excess of 30mm. Taken alone, this was a very wet day by any standards but with the ground already saturated by heavy rain over the preceding days, the effect was made worse.

As a result water levels in the River Bandon rose by approximately 4 meters and to such an extent that some temporary flood defenses were overtopped especially in the Caufield and lidl Supermarket area where an embankment was holding back subsequent flood waters which had accumulated in the area. Both these developments were constructed on a known flood sink for the River Bandon catchment area, development included importation of a large amount of fill to raise the ground level, the construction of a flood embankment and a large car park . The embankment would have an effect of raising the water level in the river and on adjacent lands upstream. In Bandon River further downstream the water level rose above the arches in the bridge, resulting in further raising of the river level as flood waters backed up. The huge volume of floodwaters exceeded the capacity of the drainage systems resulting in a small number of properties being flooded by surface water as the drains backed up and the water could not escape. Minor localized flooding started to occur around noon on Pearse Street and surface water was observed overflowing the drainage system on Weir street at 14:00hrs.

A large volume of flood waters accumulated alongside the Lidl development, which even in its construction was partially flooded in 2007. The embankment acted as a levee which on the afternoon of the 19th November breeched, flooding Lidl, the car park, Caulfield supermarket and contributing significantly to the flooding of Bandon town in particular South Main Street, McSweeney Quay, Weir Street and Factory Lane. The effect was similar to a dam breech, flooding everything in its path.

Brideswell River a tributary of the Bandon River further contributed to flooding as it was not able to release water into the Bandon River where the water level rose above the bridge arch on Bridge Street. As a consequence the stream channel was unable to accommodate any further waters causing this stream to breech contributing further to flooding Market Quay, Bridge street, Oliver Plunket Street, Brady’s Lane and Market Quay. On the north side of the river North Main street flooded as surface flood waters were not able to discharge into the Bandon River and waters levels rose to flood a number of business premises.

Over the course of the next few hours water levels rose in the town, flooding the road infrastructure in particular the cork road. In all approximately 190 businesses were affected by the disaster. Dozens of elderly had to be evacuated from social housing projects and no warnings were given to businesses or at risk developments. Local authority and emergency agencies were caught out by the scale and speed of the incident. Garda did not appreciate the severity of the incident as the Garda headquarters was flooded and evacuated, 15 cars were stranded within the Garda compound. It is apparent that inadequate provision was given to the provision of sandbags or emergency pumps or heavy equipment to divert floodwaters. The design and construction of the flood embankment at Caulfield supermarket did not meet the requirements to keep flood waters at bay.

There appeared to be a lack of clarity over the command and control of the disaster operation, with some agencies coming too late, with poor facilities to provide any adequate support. Communication difficulties were evident as telephone communications failed, the local telephone exchange being flooded and mobile telecommunications failed as the electricity was turned off to receivers. Technology was turned on its head as communications were passed by word of mouth. All the banking institutions were flooded and with no power or telephones no one was able to use credit cars, withdraw money or use bank cards in the town for four days. The two major supermarkets were flooded and closed along with many small shops, restaurants, butchers, clothing shops and newsagents. This was a close as one could get to a media and communication blackout. New Orleans had come to West Cork.

Planning for Extreme Weather Events

Extreme Weather Events Lead to crisis flooding in West Cork.

Last year I asked some of the worlds leading experts to participate at a climate change conference I organised in Cork City. I felt compelled to do this after reading many of the scientific studies and reports on climate change and global warming and witnessing the growing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events and flash flooding that Ireland was experiencing. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on climate change (IPCC) had recently published their most recent assessment on climate change so I met with the Chairman in London and asked if he would be willing to participate. He agreed. I contacted the Director of NASA Goddard Space studies Dr James Hansen the world’s leading climatologist. I also contacted the Head of the International renowned Hadley Centre Dr Vicky Pope in addition to many other experts from varying fields and professions from water management, flooding experts, agriculture, public health and humanitarian relief.

That day I had over 25 speakers participate in one of the most remarkable events I have ever participated in with over 300 attendees including one hundred third level students from eight universities and students representing twenty secondary schools in cork city and county.

Every sector of Irish society was represented apart from one, local elected councillor's. I was very disappointed at this as I had personally written to over 700 elected councillor's and some 160 TD’S inviting them to attend so that they could hear first hand what the worlds leading scientist’s and experts had to say on climate change, emergency preparedness, disaster management and adaptation. I genuinely thought local councillors would be interested in attending, I believed that they had a duty of care to whom they represented to be informed on climate change and its implications for the communities they represent at point I had communicated to each of them in my correspondence. Remember that the cost of flash flooding to Irish agriculture and the insurance industry in 2008 was in excess of 200million euro. The cost for 2009 will be order of magnitudes higher than this. As an environmental scientist I desired local councillor's to attend for a number of reasons, not only to learn about the impacts of climate change as I previously mentioned but also to find out what they could do as public representatives to minimize the risk for the public they represent. That means proper planning and development, flood relief, land use management and ensuring that services for emergency planning and preparedness are adequately funded and resourced.

In total three councillors attended the conference, representing counties Clare, Roscommon and Dublin; even though the conference was in Cork not one Town Councillor, City or County councillor was able to attend, not even when the Minister for Environment was in attendance as well as the principle deputies of the Oireachtas committee on Climate Change and Energy Security lead by Deputy Simon Coveney T.D. and Deputy Liz MacManus T.D. both of whom I had asked to speak on the work of the Oireachtas Committee of which they are principal members.

One year on, Skibbereen, Dunmanway and Clonakilty experience further flooding and Bandon town and Cork City experience the worse flooding in living memory. Flooding that was not just down to unprecedented rainfall but poor planning, land use management and flood protection measures and further exasperated by poor co-ordination of emergency relief, a breakdown of communications and responsibility which also played a major role in the catastrophe. The consequence of which the communities and businesses are not only coming to terms with. It was truly miraculous that their was no fatalities and for this we are to be thankful.

Last week I was invited to Waterford City to give a presentation for the Copenhagen Countdown on emergency planning, disaster management and climate change. The presentation was based on my observations and experiences in Bandon town. I would be delighted to give this presentation in Bandon or Skibbereen or Clonakilty to both the local communities and public representatives. It is apolitical as I myself have resigned from the green party, for a somewhat similar reason, that is, in my view, their inability to adapt to a changing political and economic climate, not preparing strategies for the future of the green party and their handling of the NAMA debacle. In light of the initial 10 million disaster fund created by the Government it is somewhat interesting to note that the cost of NAMA will be roughly 10million a day for the next 15yrs.

The weather is changing we need proactive management to reduce the risk and the creation of policies and programmes to put these strategies into effect. As a community we must adapt and learn from our experiences. A major flood disaster is sometimes an opportunity to correct not only the planning errors of the past but plan for the future.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Climate Change Seminar & Vegetarian Day Launch

Climate Change Seminar & Vegetarian Day Launch,
Waterford City, Friday 27th November 8pm Tower Hotel.

The Local Restaurants Who Will Be Showcasing Their Vegetarian Dishes On The Night.........
Cafe Lucia
Cafe Goa
La Boheme
La Palma
Jade Palace
Kasmir Tandoori
Limeleaf Restaurant
Arlington Lodge
Fan's Restaurant
Becketts Restaurant

Just to name a few!!!! More to follow.......
The City's Book Centre Will Be Showcasing Books Keeping With The Climate Change and Vegetarian Theme.

Press Release about the event:

Waterford' City's Green Party Representative Maria Raftis Kennedy is delighted to announced that the City is getting ready for the upcoming Countdown to Copenhagen Climate Change Seminar which is taking place at the Tower Hotel Friday November 27th @ 8pm and afterwards hosting a cheese and wine reception.

On the night the main guest speaker will be Declan Waugh. Declan is an environmental Scientist who resides in Bandon.Co Cork and he is giving a presentation on emergency preparedness, food security and climate change.He will also speak about the emergency response to the events of the flooding which took place around the country and in his hometown of Bandon which was severely affected. He will discuss how their emergency services, local councillors and representatives responded to the community of Bandon in the wake of the floods on the 19th November.

The Seminar is part of a series of events being organised throughout the world as part of the countdown to the United Nations Climate Change Conference being hosted in Copenhagen from December 7th to December 18th and Ireland will be represented by Our Green Minister John Gormley. On the same night the Waterford Green Party are announcing that the City embrace a Vegetarian Day to show their support for Climate Change."We wanted our goal to be easily achievable ,it's not hard to skip meat one day a week, also, we wanted it to be something people could rally behind" she says.

Local restaurants & bars who serve food in the City will be there on the night as well as local food artisans who like Ardkeen Market have a great range of produce. They will all have fantastic samples of their food and vegetarian being the theme on the night, people who come along will get to know all about the local restaurants and food producers.

The Book Centre will be there as well showcasing books with vegetarian themes and books on topics to do with green issues and have said they are delighted to be doing their part to support the City's Climate change seminar.. "How is the City embracing a vegetarian day supporting climate change I hear you ask.

It's simple, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation, meat production accounts for 18% of annual greenhouse-gas emissions,that's more than transportation, which is about14%. Each year, millions of acres of rain forest are cleared for cattle ranchers and suppliers of animal feed, further accelerating climate change. Then there are the urgent human-health issues. The world feeds much of its grain to cattle and other animals even as millions of people starve. Those wealthy enough to consume fatty animal products are themselves at higher risk of certain health problems, including heart disease and some cancers" she concluded. "This event will let people know that Waterford City Supports Climate change and that we can get behind our local restaurants and local food artisans and book suppliers, and by helping them achieve that,we can support them by getting out there and buying local produce, eating vegetarian dishes that the restaurants have on offer in their support for climate change”.

There will be also in attendance many other non green organisations. All members of the City Council have been invited as well as local environmental groups and we hope to see everyone there , which is going to be a taseful and informative night.Malcolm Noonan, a member of the Green Party and Killkenny's Mayor will be there as well to lend his support for the Waterford City event. For enquires if you wish to be part this event phone Maria (087-6487627).(Tickets for the cheese and wine reception after the seminar can be bought at the door,Tower hotel reception desk, or contact Maria)

All about Our Guest speaker

Declan Waugh

Declan is a Chartered Environmentalist and Environmental Scientist. He has many years experience in environmental management, risk assessment, renewable energy development, environmental research and more recently as a climate change activist.

Declan is the founder of Partnership for Change a new initiative set up to assist in education and awareness on climate change.

Declan organised amongst many other initiatives the largest and most significant climate change conference in to held in Ireland which included presentations by the worlds most prominent scientists including Dr R.J. Pachauri, Nobel Laureate and Chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), and Dr James Hansen, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA’s leading climatologist and one of the worlds leading authorities on climate change. Declan will be speaking on his recent experiences of the extreme flooding in Bandon, Co. Cork, disaster management, emergency preparedness, food security and climate change.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Hand of Injustice

If there is one thing that the sporting public should not stand is foul play yet tonight the worlds soccer media and supporters witnessed an astonishing infringement of the laws of international sport between two competition teams, in the world cup qualifier between Ireland and France.

Video evidence clearly demonstrated that two infringements occurred in the Thierry Henry offside and hand ball goal facilitating France qualifying to the next stages of the World Cup in South Africa. The two offences were clearly demonstrated in video evidence yet no action was taken by the match referee.

Notwithstanding the offside offence, the hand ball infringement by Henry was an act of unsporting behavior and a clear breech of the rules of international soccer.

So what did FIFA the co=governing body of soccer have to say about this?

FIFA News reported the game with the following comment on their website
"In the first additional 15-minute spell, France had an appeal for a penalty correctly turned down after striker Nicolas Anelka tumbled to the turf under pressure in the eighth minute. Five minutes later, William Gallas bunled the ball home to win the match for Les Bleus. The goal enabled France to qualify and avoid a repeat of their humiliating failure, at the hands of Bulgaria, to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals.”

It is astonishing that FIFA would be willing to state that the penalty decision was correctly turned down yet made no reference whatsoever to the handball incidence and the fact that the decision to allow this subsequent goal was incorrect. The reporting by FIFA that William Gallas bundled the ball home is an insult to ever soccer supporter worldwide and brings the game of soccer into serious disrepute.

Such reporting is completely unacceptable in the modern age where video evidence clearly shows that the goal should not only have been disallowed but the player Henry cautioned for unsporting behavior.

So what do the laws of the game have to say about such behaviour?

The FIFA Laws of the Game 2009-2010 require the referee to provide the appropriate authorities with a match report, which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players and/or team officials and any other incidents that occurred before, during or after the Match.

As video evidence will clearly shows a breech of the laws of the game, one that is a cautionable offence by a player the referee is obliged to report this to FIFA. The evidence clearly shows that since a serious infringement was committed by Henry the goal should have been disallowed and the player cautioned with committing serious foul play.

Furthermore prior to the goal itself video evidence clearly shows that players were in an offside position contravening once again the rules of the game. What was clearly observed for all to witness was two infringements from which France obtained the foul goal to allow qualification for the world cup.

According to the rules of the game as noted by FIFA when a player commits an offence such as that of unsporting behavior, it is a cautionable offence and they are required to be shown a yellow card.

While the illegal goal denied Ireland an opportunity to play in the world cup Henry received no caution or yellow card for misconduct and unsportly behavior.

His deliberately handling of the ball, an action resulting in an illegal goal denied Ireland, the opposing team an opportunity to compete in the World Cup in South Africa and should be viewed no less than bringing the international game into serious disrepute. So what do the FIFA rules of soccer have to say about this?

According to the FIFA rules the following conditions must be met for an offence to be considered a foul:
• it must be committed by a player
• it must occur on the field of play
• it must occur while the ball is in play

All three conditions were breeched by Callas in ensuring the goal and therefore without any doubt it should have been regarded as a foul goal.

Furthermore FIFA rules states that it is an offence for a player to handle the ball “handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into consideration: the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)”.

Video evidence clearly shows that the player Henry move his hand twice towards the ball in order to keep the ball in play and direct it towards his foot. This was a deliberate act that should have resulted in sanction by the referee.

For such actions the conditions for disciplinary sanctions by FIFA state when a player attempts to score a goal by deliberately handling the ball a caution for unsporting behavior is required. Yet Henry received no caution and the goal was allowed.

FIFA rules clearly state that the referee should caution a player for unsporting behaviour “when a player handles the ball in an attempt to score a goal (irrespective of whether or not the attempt is successful”.

What the viewer clearly observed was a player committing a deliberate act of unsportsmanlike behaviour, breaking the FIFA rules of soccer, receiving no caution or disciplinary and being rewarded with a goal that resulted in a place at the World Cup.

Article 27 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 states that the result of a match is annulled if the result reached on the field of play is disregarded. Ireland should clearly have disregarded the goal forcing FIFA to examine and review the incident in order to prevent such injustice taking place.

Article 57 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 states that anyone who violates the principles of fair play or whose behaviour is unsporting in any other way may be subject to sanctions in accordance with art. 10 ff.

Article 76 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 states that the FIFA Disciplinary Committee is authorised to sanction any breach of FIFA regulations which does not come under the jurisdiction of another Body.

The injustice of the referee’s decision and the actions of the offending player clearly illustrates the breach of FIFA Regulations and must be acted on by the organisation to ensure the integrity of the sport.

Article 77 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 is responsible for:
a) sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention and
b) rectifying obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions;

The video evidence provides clear evidence that must surely require FIFA to ensure compliance with Article 77 and rectify the obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions.

Article 96 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 states that various types of proof may be produced including declarations from the parties and witnesses, material evidence, expert opinions and audio or video recordings.

FIFA the FAI and the FFL must clearly allow the provision of expert opinions and video evidence to repair the damage done to international soccer for the injustice suffered by the Irish soccer team in their world cup qualifier against France on the 18th November 2009.

The Code of ethics of FIFA state that it is essential to the integrity, image and reputation of FIFA and the competitions that the conduct of the member associations comply with the standards of ethical behaviour.
Let us wait and see if FIFA live up to this code of ethics?

You can contact FIFA Here to lodge a complaint.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis.

The following is an extract from a new report from the Global Humanitarian Forum on Climate Change.

Public surveys show that people worldwide are concerned about climate change. Science is now unequivocal as to the reality of climate change. Human activities, in particular emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are recognized as its principle cause. Nevertheless awareness about the impacts of climate change is low, particularly among the poor. In industrialized countries, climate change is still considered a solely environmental problem. It is seen as a distant threat that might affect our future. A viewpoint reinforced by pictures of glaciers and polar bears — not human beings

And yet Australia is witnessing a full decade of drought. Large tracts of the United States are exposed
to stronger storms and severe water shortages — leading to crop loss, job loss, fires, and death.
We testify here to the human face of this dangerous problem. The first hit and worst affected by climate change are the world’s poorest groups. Ninety-nine percent of all casualties occur in developing countries. A stark contrast to the one percent of global emissions attributable to some 50 of the least developed nations. If all countries were to pollute so little, there would be no climate change

The effects of pollution driven by economic growth in some parts of the world are now driving millions
of people into poverty elsewhere. At the same time, decades-old aid pledges continue to go unmet. The Millennium Development Goals are endangered. And the poor lack capacity to make their voices heard in international arenas, or attract public and private investment. For those living on the brink of survival, climate change is a very real and dangerous hazard. For many, it is a final step of deprivation.

Where does a fisherman go when warmer sea temperatures deplete coral reefs and fish stocks? How can a small farmer keep animals or sow crops when the water dries up? Or families be provided for when fertile soils and freshwater are contaminated with salt from rising seas?

Climate change is an all encompassing threat, directly affecting the environment, the economy, health and safety. Many communities face multiple stresses with serious social, political and security implications, both domestically and abroad. Millions of people are uprooted or permanently on the move as a result. Many more millions will follow.

Even the most ambitious climate agreement will take years to slow or reverse global warming. A global carbon economy has been the basis of all productive efforts since centuries. Emissions are still steadily increasing, and the world population is set to grow by forty percent by 2050.

If we do not reverse current trends by close to 2020, however, we may have failed. Global warming will pass the widely acknowledged danger level of two degrees, since there is an approximately 20 year delay between emission reductions and the halting of their warming effect. This report’sclearly demonstrates that climate change is already highly dangerous at well below one degree of warming. Two degrees would be catastrophic.

Weak political leadership as evident today is all the more alarming then. It is not, however, surprising, since so few people are aware of just how much is at stake. That we are already this far into the most important negotiations ever for the future of this planet without a clear idea of the full impact of climate change on human society speaks volumes in itself. In this respect, I hope that the report will change political attitudes, spur public debate and more research.

Copenhagen needs to be the most ambitious international agreement ever negotiated. The alternative is mass starvation, mass migration, and mass sickness. If political leaders cannot assume responsibility for Copenhagen, they choose instead responsibility for failing humanity. In 2009, national leadership goes beyond the next elections, and far beyond national borders

We live in a global village and we each have a responsibility to protect our planet. Isn’t it logical and equitable, therefore, to insist that those who pollute have a duty to clean up? Pollution by some affects us all. Every one of us needs to understand that pollution has a cost, and this cost must be borne by the Polluter. Least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions are the world’s poorest communities who suffer most from climate change. This is fundamentally unjust. If efforts to build a global framework to address climate change are to succeed and endure they must be based on the principles of fairness and equity. People everywhere deserve climate justice. And everywhere people must stand up and demand exactly that from their representatives.

Climate change is a truly global issue. Its impacts, while skewed, are indiscriminate and threaten us all. People everywhere deserve not to suffer because of climate change. People everywhere deserve a future for their children. People everywhere deserve to have leaders who find the courage to achieve a solution to this crisis.

We must go beyond piecemeal changes to alter the very structure of the global economy. This will only be feasible if we manage to force a global price on carbon that is more representative of its costs to society, calculated at over 1 trillion dollars per year today according to this report’s findings. Taking these costs into account would redirect resources, exponentially multiplying possibilities for taking a greener path.

Indeed, that transformation is likely to prove the greatest opportunity for new economic growth since the advent of the industrial revolution. Renewable clean energy in particular would benefit the poor most, because of health, social and access reasons. It could also help springboard development: remembering, in particular, the 1.6 billion people on this planet who lack access to any modern forms of energy whatsoever.

When it comes to dealing with climate change, everybody must contribute according to their fair share of responsibility for the problem. No nation has the right to pollute. The role of this report is to document the greatest ongoing silent crisis of human history. When reading these pages it must not be forgotten that solutions exist: we can take preventative measures, we can adopt greener practices, and we can provide a dignified existence for all. We can contain climate change and end the suffering it causes.

But nobody can do it alone. Even if the United States or China — the world’s largest polluters in total emissions — were to stop polluting today, if others are not on board, climate change will continue to menace human society. Together, we can multiply the possibilities for overcoming it, and lessen the burden on everyone. But we must act now.

Humanity is facing a rare challenge. But it is a common challenge. There are no sides in the fight for climate justice.

Kofi A. Annan,
President of the Global Humanitarian Forum

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

ECONOMISTS are joining up with scientists to help save the planet threatened by global warming while species disappear at an alarming rate.

A major report says that much of the solution is to use and work with nature rather than just putting resources into expensive technology. The key joint EU-German global study, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity shows that it is essential to protect nature and that up to now we have failed to appreciate its value. 

For the first time the study has calculated the cost of using nature to clean drinking water as against building treatment plants; closing off and protecting fishing grounds; protecting areas of natural beauty. 

Eventually around one in every six jobs in Europe depends on the environment, or one in 40 if you take a narrow definition of such jobs based on organic farming, sustainable forestry and green forms of tourism. 

They show that controlling and adapting to climate change is closely linked to halting the loss of biodiversity. For instance, the loss and damage to forests is responsible for around 20% of global CO2 – more than all forms of transport combined and points to the need for a halt to deforestation. 

On fisheries the study says that it is an underperforming asset in danger of collapse and is generating €34 billion less than it could. 

The study found that the benefit of protected areas under the EU’s Natura scheme is considerable. 

Species are becoming extinct at up to 1,000 times the normal rate so that more than half the earth’s ecosystem has been degraded in the past 50 years. Should this continue at this rate in 40 years the cost will be 7% of global GDP. 

"There is little doubt left in the minds of scientists that we have entered the sixth Great Extinction, and that the losses are due to human factors," said Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the Environment. 

"Beyond the moral responsibility we have to protect our planet, the simple truth is that our future is inextricably tied to the fate of nature," he added. 

The report points out that we have no way of measuring, monitoring and reporting natural capital, unlike economic and human capital and says we have only scratched the surface of what natural processes and genetic resources have to offer. In the future the value of nature and the services she provides, especially to poorer regions, must be measured and factored in by those in charge of deciding policy. 

The report is available at:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Man's best friend, it turns out, is the planet's enemy.

Just what is the environmental impact of feeding the huge quantity of "companion" animals around the world?

A provocative new book titled ‘Time to Eat the Dog?’ examines how pets are bad for the planet. The book examined the ecological footprint of pet food outlining how pets consume vast amounts of precious resources, produce mountains of noxious waste – and they can be a disaster for wildlife as reported in Guardian Newspaper and
in New Scientist in a recent editorial entitled Cute, Fluffy and Horribly Greedy

Just like us humans, the millions of domestic dogs and cats – as well as our collective menagerie of rabbits, horses, lizards, tropical fish et al – consume a wide variety of foodstuffs. In recent years, and despite the economic downturn, the pet food industry has witnessed a move towards "premium products", but the market is still dominated by products made with ingredients including "Hydrolysed feather meal", "derivatives of vegetable origin", "ash" and "animal derivatives" are just some of the delights routinely found in pet food.

The Real Guide to Sustainable Living has triggered a highly charged debate about the environmental efficacy of our pet-owning habits. If we are to examine the environmental impacts of all our lifestyle choices, the book argues, then we must also include pets in the discussion, no matter how unsettling the answers. The various environmental impacts attributed to the human food chain are well documented, so isn't it right, for example, that we should now be questioning the environmental impact of feeding domestic animals too?

The New Scientist article, largely agreed with the book's findings that some pets, due to the food they eat, have a surprisingly high "ecological footprint" (a way of quantifying human demand on the planet's ecosystems using a measure called "global hectares"). "According to the authors . . . it takes 0.84 hectares [2.07 acres] of land to keep a medium-sized dog fed. In contrast, running a 4.6-litre Toyota Land Cruiser, including the energy required to construct the thing and drive it 10,000km a year, requires 0.41 hectares. Dogs are not the only environmental sinners. The eco-footprint of a cat equates to that of a Volkswagen Golf. If that's troubling, there is an even more shocking comparison. In 2004, the average citizen of Vietnam had an ecological footprint of 0.76 hectares. For an Ethiopian, it was just 0.67 hectares. In a world where scarce resources are already hogged by the rich, can we really justify keeping pets that take more than some people?

When feeding a pet, however, the advice is to favour pet foods made from chicken and rabbit meat and avoid those containing red meat and fish which, by comparison, have a much higher environmental impact. Last and, perhaps, most obvious: the smaller the pet, the better.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Truth about Peak Oil

According to the Guardian Newspaper today, the world is much closer to running out of oil than than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation's latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

'There's suspicion the IEA has been influenced by the US' Link to this audio
In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production.

Now the "peak oil" theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. "The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year," said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. "The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today's number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.

"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources," he added.

A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. "We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad," he added.

The IEA acknowledges the importance of its own figures, boasting on its website: "The IEA governments and industry from all across the globe have come to rely on the World Energy Outlook to provide a consistent basis on which they can formulate policies and design business plans."

The British government, among others, always uses the IEA statistics rather than any of its own to argue that there is little threat to long-term oil supplies. The IEA said tonight that peak oil critics had often wrongly questioned the accuracy of its figures. A spokesman said it was unable to comment ahead of the 2009 report being released tomorrow.
John Hemming, the MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on peak oil and gas, said the revelations confirmed his suspicions that the IEA underplayed how quickly the world was running out and this had profound implications for British government energy policy.

He said he had also been contacted by some IEA officials unhappy with its lack of independent scepticism over predictions. "Reliance on IEA reports has been used to justify claims that oil and gas supplies will not peak before 2030. It is clear now that this will not be the case and the IEA figures cannot be relied on," said Hemming.

"This all gives an importance to the Copenhagen [climate change] talks and an urgent need for the UK to move faster towards a more sustainable [lower carbon] economy if it is to avoid severe economic dislocation," he added.

The IEA was established in 1974 after the oil crisis in an attempt to try to safeguard energy supplies to the west. The World Energy Outlook is produced annually under the control of the IEA's chief economist, Fatih Birol, who has defended the projections from earlier outside attack. Peak oil critics have often questioned the IEA figures.
But now IEA sources who have contacted the Guardian say that Birol has increasingly been facing questions about the figures inside the organisation.

Matt Simmons, a respected oil industry expert, has long questioned the decline rates and oil statistics provided by Saudi Arabia on its own fields. He has raised questions about whether peak oil is much closer than many have accepted.
A report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) last month said worldwide production of conventionally extracted oil could "peak" and go into terminal decline before 2020 – but that the government was not facing up to the risk. Steve Sorrell, chief author of the report, said forecasts suggesting oil production will not peak before 2030 were "at best optimistic and at worst implausible".

But as far back as 2004 there have been people making similar warnings. Colin Campbell, a former executive with Total of France told a conference: "If the real [oil reserve] figures were to come out there would be panic on the stock markets … in the end that would suit no one."

Read more on the future of oil and
Terry Macalister

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Political Tipping Point, can we prevent runaway collapse of the Green Party?

No doubt there will be members of the Green Party that will not have welcomed my comments as reported in the Sunday Tribune today. Some will say the Party have never had so many members nationally. The reality in West Cork is that the number of members in the local constituency group have dropped from over 80 paid up members to less than 50 in the past year alone. Facts do not lie.

On average over the past 14 months the local group now get perhaps 3-6 members attending monthly meetings. The local group could only get a handful of members, and I mean a handful, to canvas the public in the recent local elections. Paid up members simply refused to participate as they did not support what was happening in Government or at parliamentary party level.

My comments in the Sunday Tribune do not just reflect my own personal attitude; I was asked by the reporter what was the view of the local party members?

While I cannot speak for all of them from my communications with members I know many are totally disillusioned with what happened within the party in the past year and in particular more recently at the NAMA convention.

They feel the convention was manipulated, they believe that the parliamentary party (PP) has by passed select committees within the organization such as the energy group, the sustainability group and the social and economic policy group who have been largely totally ignored by the NEC and PP. This week Tony McDermott, co-convenor of the Economic policy group resigned from his position for this very reason.

Many of the local members have said they believe the local branch has no role to play any more in the current political climate as the PP do not communicate with local organizations, consult with local organizations and seem to largely ignore party procedures to suit their purposes.

The parliamentary party has always said that it has a bottom up approach to management and policy development, however recent experiences do not support this view.

While it may be claimed by some that membership numbers reflect support for the GP in government, in reality you need to take a closer look at the membership statistics to test this claim. While a lot of new members joined the GP in the past two years, this has plateaued out dramatically or is scued on the basis of recent attempts at political lobbying which probably saw, for example, more student members join to lobby on education cuts at the recent convention.

Yet at the same time the party has lost some of the longest serving and most loyal members including former councilors and many active green members. How many more will they lose in the next year?

One also needs to look at the geographic spread of membership. The numbers may show a rise in membership in Dublin for instance yet not one recent candidate got elected in the capital or in any other major city. This is a travesty for the party. If the GP cannot get one green candidate elected in Cork city (15% city population are third level students) or indeed Dublin, Galway or Limerick when green global issues are to the fore, the party, as a political movement, has a problem of enormous magnitude.

The morale of the local branch is without doubt very low, they could not get a candidate to stand for the county council in local elections for my area and I at a late stage accepted the challenge to offer the electorate an alternative political candidate.

The party had an excellent candidate and community activist in the town council elections for Clonakilty, but through no fault of her own only managed to get 54 votes; and this in Clonakilty! the heart of West Cork, a self-proclaimed model green town with an active sustainable community group, numerous national tidy towns awards and the first fare trade town in Ireland to boot.

In Kinsale, the founding location of the transition town movement, the party had a standing green councilor who only managed to get elected on the eighth count. Moreover this was achieved by the candidate not promoting herself as a Green Party member to begin with.

I took up the challenge for the county county elections and canvassed a huge constituency with a few friends who were not Green Party members. Members were either too afraid or too disillusioned to canvas given the national mood of the electorate. I did manage to increase the Green Party vote by 20% from the last election receiving a respectable 3,500 votes which included 1-5 preference votes in a seven seater with 13 candidates standing that included two strong independents.

Some Green Party members may feel that my comments may influence morale negatively in the local group further. I would answer, you don't need to tell me about morale; I took a month off work to canvass, largely paid for the entire campaign myself and erected every single one of my posters and most of those for Senator Dan Boyle in West Cork, an area the size of most other counties. To boost my morale further when the counting was finished I had to take them all down again. How’s that for morale busting!

I'm a realist, a pragmatist, a real life environmental professional who has worked in the environmental field for many of the largest and most successful companies in Ireland. I have been active in climate change and environmental initiatives all my professional life. I know the challenges we face as a society and it scares the hell out of me.

I want people to embrace green politics, but the public right now have largely closed down the shutters on the Green Party; they just aren't listening.

What worries me more than current morale is that we could be left with no Green parliamentarians after the next election based on current public sentiments and surveys.

What are we as a political party and green movement supposed to do if this occurs?

There is no doubt the Green Party have shown themselves to be ahead of the game on environmental and sustainability issues, climate change, energy security, peak oil etc, the very reasons I joined the party in the first place. Notwithstanding this, right now they are totally failing to manage their public relations and what is most important, the sustainable development of the party.

What have the Parliamentary Party achieved that makes this worth while? A ban on stag hunting and light bulbs is what the public now associate with the Green Party and a Programme for Government (PFG) that is neither radical enough nor has enough concrete deliverables. The PFG had 200 pledges of which only 9 have any timeframes for commencement, the rest can be largely seen as aspirational.

And then we have NAMA, a delusional NAMA business plan, a newly conceived Special Purchase Vehicle (SPV) and a mountain of private financial sector debt that some believe we can manage with access to cheap credit. Have we not learnt already that credit is not cheap? I am worried that NAMA and its ramifications will bankrupt the nation, we do not have the means to protect all institutions and attempting to do so will ruin any possibility of us addressing the issues that are so critical right now.

Martin Wolf, former senior economist with the World Bank and former fellow of the World Economic Forum, stated clearly yesterday that Ireland does not have the national balance sheet to bail out all the institutions in trouble, yet we plough ahead regardless.

So, is support for NAMA REALLY worth the Green Party committing political hari kari, the clock is ticking not just on Copenhagen but on the current government and we may well have passed the tipping point to prevent runaway collapse of the party.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Part of the professional work I undertake in due diligence, at the Lisbon convention there was an economic workshop that Minister Eamon Ryan chaired where I raised the subject of due diligence or lack of, undertaken by financial institutions on development and business loans that will now form a large part of the NAMA or SPV assets.

Financial controllers and business executives undertook ENRON economics in submitting business plans and financial auditing reports to support the widely unrealistic and bloated long term economic value of property. These assumptions were supported by auditing, risk assessment, financial accountancy and private equity advisory firms. In many respects the very same consultancies that are now still employed by the Government in drafting the NAMA legislation.

As with the fable of “the King has no Clothes” when reality finally hit home ENRON was exposed for what it was, it revealed that the business plan was sustained by institutionalized, systematic, and creatively planned accounting fraud, known as the "Enron scandal". That scandal caused the dissolution of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, yet in Ireland nobody has been held accountable.

In the USA within months senior executives of corporations, financial and auditing companies were in jail, in Ireland it’s a get out of jail pass, golden handshakes, fat pensions and compensation by the taxpayer for deceit, dishonesty and professional incompetence.

More recently the collapse of Bear Stearns in Wall Street, a bank like Anglo Irish that existed for private wealth creation, occurred once again because their internal risk management systems failed.

All these institutions including Anglo Irish, NIB, AIB, BOI employed auditors, risk managers, insurance advisors, asset management professionals and legal advisors to protect their investments. What we have since witnessed is that the entire financial system was based on falsification and deceit, excessive risk taking and shocking standards of risk management.

During the boom years of the Celtic Tiger we witnessed what could be called criminal behavior by evaluators, bankers, land surveyors, financial advisors, risk assessors, all addicted to institutionalized greed. Nobody has been held accountable for the failure of the financial regulator, the central bank or the Government to control our economy. Yet with NAMA one thing is certain the taxpayer is now accountable.

The unsustainable business model of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and total lack of supervision by the financial sector created the conditions for the catastrophic collapse of the economy we now see. We have learnt in the meantime how the banks were interconnected, did business, and still do, with the same advisory firms, we know they were sustained with plastid Government support attempting to store up confidence in the banking sector and Government Policy. Anyone who spoke out about financial mismanagement was labeled a loony and encouraged even by our last Taoiseach to commit suicide.

The consequence of this mismanagement we are now lead to believe is that the banks have become to big to fail. Why this was allowed to occur is unclear. After all, both the financial regulator and the Central Bank had or should have had ample information on the stability of the banks as well as the legal ability and obligation to prevent destabilising banking.

In the financial crisis we face, the strength of a bank’s balance sheet is of little consequence. What matters is the explicit or implicit guarantee provided by the state to the banks to back up their assets and provide liquidity. Therefore, the size of the state relative to the size of the banks becomes a crucial factor.

Can the state now afford to save all the banking institutions, today Bank of Ireland posted a pre-tax loss of €979 million for the six months to September 30 compared with profit of 647 million euros during the equivalent period in 2008.

Bank of Ireland said loan impairment charges in the six months were 1.8 billion euros, up from 267 million euros a year ago. The bank has forecast loan impairments of 6.9 billion euros in the three years to March 2011.

Least we forget just last February Bank of Ireland’s estimates for loan impairment charges were calculated at €3.8 billion to circa €4.5 billion for the same period up to March 2011. In the six months since loan impairment has increased by an astonishing €3billion. In the same period both Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank received €7 billion in state aid from the Irish taxpayer.

What we are seeing is the taxpayer through the state investing money in a financial black hole, a black hole that Anglo Irish Bank’s transfer of €28 billion in loans to NAMA will suck us all in.

It is clear that the state is not in any position to attempt to save Anglo Irish Bank. Still the Government pursues this agenda. They have not addressed the failure of the banking system and are gambling for a resurrection on the backs of a NAMA business plan that would not pass the most basic risk management test. A business plan, that must be pointed out is based on continued economic growth over the next ten years.

What is most shocking of all about this is the acceptance and willingness of the Green Party to go along with this fiasco. A fitting satire to peak everything and runaway credit.

What bothers me even more is that the Green Party credits itself as the most transparent and democratic political party in the state. Yet just days after the NAMA convention the Government releases the now discredited NAMA business plan, which would have been in existence well before the convention, followed a week later with revisions to the NAMA legislation with the inclusion of a SPV that will be controlled by private interests but paid for by public monies, which also must surely have been discussed at cabinet by the government.

I find it unbelievable that the Green Party Ministers were not aware of either nor that they wouldn’t have discussed them at Cabinet table with their colleagues. After all isn’t this what collective cabinet responsibility is all about! A bit like how the green parliamentary party is supposed to work as well. If they were not informed or consulted this surely must be the last straw for the current Government.

Of course none of this would have happened if the last Government had acted prudently in the first place, the economy regardless of the global financial crisis would be in a much better shape.

Looking back I cannot escape the feeling that the board and directors of the Central Bank and the financial regulator, along with senior officials there knew what was happening. Similarly, all government ministers, along with senior bureaucrats in the ministries of finance, revenue commissioners and office of the Taoiseach had to have known.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The future of Green Politics is dead and buried under a monument to failure called NAMA

After a weekend of reflection with a large group of my friends I am left in no doubt that the consequence of the Green Party supporting the NAMA legislation has resulted in the party destroying any opportunity for not just the current generation to embrace green politics but it will prevent the next generation from being given an opportunity to join what I had hoped until recently was a Party of the future in this country.

I joined the Green Party as an environmental scientist who believed in what the party stood for back in 2007. I actively encouraged friends and colleagues to think differently about the Green Party and made some serious inroads into bringing about behavioural change within the community I live to support green politics. I was asked to stand in the local elections and did so in west cork, standing up for the Green Party when many others were not willing to engage with the public. This cost be significantly in time and personal finances.

I can categorically say right now I now do not have one personal friend or acquaintance who believes that the Green Party are making the right decision in government in regard to NAMA.

The universal belief of people I meet is that they will NEVER vote green again, even regardless of their friendship to me or their support for me in the past in my career or in my public endeavours.

Without fail they are of the opinion that whatever principals or integrity the party had amount to nothing in the debacle we now find ourselves in with NAMA.

As a committed environmentalist this has shaken my own belief in the party, I find that the willingness of the party to support the NAMA legislation is a step too far and I fear that I may have no choice but to resign from the party.

As a environmental scientist if I wish to continue to build support in the community for sustainable development and green ideologies I find all of my work in attempting to build a low carbon future is now in jeopardy as a consequence of my association with the Green Party.

A party that has lost the support not just of a large percentage of its own members but of the public at large.

I am even more enraged and saddened at this because this should be at a time when Green politics should be on the rise with the threat of climate change and sustainability, instead the parties continued support for NAMA is extinguishing and possibility of the party offering a realistic alternative to the public in the difficult years ahead.

I fear the Green Party will be remembered for NAMA; for not being willing to take the principled stand, but for supporting a vehicle that goes against the very core of green philosophy or matters of sustainability, legislation that supports greed, unsustainable development and the concept of profit from a failed financial system that has bankrupt the state.

Right now it brings to mind Jim Morrison of the Doors with the words,

“This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again..”

As someone who has always felt that I have an ability to feel the pulse of the people and have many times rode ahead of the posse in current or political opinions I believe that NAMA will be the tombstone of green politics in Ireland for a generation.

What a sorry waste,
What a terrible tragedy.