Australian news, and some related international items

David Suzuki on nuclear power as a climate change solution ”I want to puke.”

I want to puke. Because politicians love to say, “Oh, yeah, we care about this and boy, there’s [nuclear] technology just around the corner.”

Yeah, it’s taken a child [environmental activist Greta Thunberg] to finally have an impact that is more than all of us environmentalists put together over the past years. 

The power of that child is that she’s got no vested interest in anything. She’s just saying: “Listen to the science because the scientists are telling us I have no future if we don’t take some drastic action.”

I want to puke’: David Suzuki reacts to O’Regan’s nuclear power endorsement

The Nature of Things host also addressed the climate crisis and youth’s role in climate change

CBC Radio Sep 21, 2020   David Suzuki spoke to Checkup host Ian Hanomansing about how to tackle climate change while in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and took questions from callers, in Sunday’s Ask Me Anything segment.

With the COVID-19 pandemic at the forefront of the news cycle, it might be easy to forget about the ongoing climate change crisis.

While managing the pandemic has become the first priority of the Canadian government and other governments around the world, climate change was a major talking point in the 2019 federal election campaign.

This summer, the last intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic collapsed. South of the border, dry, hot weather conditions in states such as Oregon and Washington have led to historic wildfires.

David Suzuki is a scientist and environmental activist. He’s also the host of The Nature of Things on CBC television. Continue reading

September 22, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Small Nuclear Reactors look good – on paper!

Lockdown alternatives look good on paper: So do nuclear reactors, Independent Australia, By John Quiggin | 22 September 2020,  Amid mounting pressure for a “hands-off” approach to pandemic controls, Professor John Quiggin explains the real costs of the “let her rip” strategy.

BACK IN 1953, the founder of the U.S. naval nuclear program, Admiral Hyman Rickover, drew a striking contrast between “paper reactors” and “real reactors”:

An academic [paper] reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose (“omnibus reactor”). (7) Very little development is required. It will use mostly “off-the-shelf” components. (8) The reactor is in the study phases. It is not being built now.

On the other hand, a practical [real] reactor plant can be distinguished by the following characteristics: (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It is requiring an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. Corrosion, in particular, is a problem. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to build because of the engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.

The tools of the academic-reactor designer are a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser. If a mistake is made, it can always be erased and changed. If the practical-reactor designer errs, he wears the mistake around his neck; it cannot be erased. Everyone can see it.

Rickover’s insight has been borne out many times, as a long series of new reactor designs, promising power “too cheap to meter”, have come in over time and over budget. The latest such paper reactor, the Small Modular Reactor being developed by NuScale Power recently received design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Quietly tucked away in the announcement was the prediction that the first 12-module plant being developed for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems would be operational by 2030. Until last week, the announced target was 2027. And when the project was first funded, commercial operation was projected for 2023

The contrast drawn by Rickover applies equally well to the policies proposed by critics of the elimination and suppression policies adopted around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic………..

Unlike Rickover’s paper reactors, these theoretical policies are typically not spelt out in much detail. Rather, the adverse effects of real policies, such as the hardship associated with travel restrictions and the economic cost of lockdowns are pointed out, and it is claimed that it would have been far better to accept a few deaths, mostly of old people who were going to die soon anyway.  ….

Broadly speaking, the earlier and more comprehensive the control policy, the better the outcomes in terms of both (market) economic activity and health outcomes. (With a proper understanding of economics, health outcomes are economic outcomes, whether or not they affect market activity). ……..


September 22, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Womankind arise! — Beyond Nuclear International

Still no equal protection under radiation law

Womankind arise! — Beyond Nuclear International

Nuclear exposure standards discriminate on the basis of sex

By Linda Pentz Gunter, 20 Sept 20,

As we mourn the passing of Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we look back at her landmark victories against discrimination “on the basis of sex” and wonder how nuclear regulations might have stood up to her legal scrutiny. As things currently stand, the nuclear power industry gets away with “allowable” radiation exposure levels that discriminate against women……….

And despite RBG’s immense contribution to our greater wellbeing, as women, we still face discrimination in so many walks of life. That could be about to get worse.

That discrimination remains most infuriatingly true when it comes to the nuclear power industry which is not, it turns out, an equal opportunity poisoner, as we have shown in our earlier articles about Native American and African American communities.

Women and children, and especially pregnant women, are more vulnerable — meaning they suffer more harm from a given dose of radiation than the harm a man suffers from that same dose.

One should quickly add here that scientists still agree that there is no completely safe dose of radiation. In fact, when a dose is described as safe, it doesn’t mean harmless. It means something called “As low as reasonably achievable”, which means as safe as we are prepared to protect for — or, really, as safe as the nuclear industry is willing to pay for.


So not really safe then, and when they say “safe”, the question women must ask is: safe for whom?

In the US, that means safe for someone called Standard Man or sometimes Reference Man. That is on whom the “allowable” radiation exposure standards are based.

Who is Standard Man? ….

Discrimination strikes again here, on the basis of race and age, because the amount of radiation exposure that is considered “safe” for an individual in the US is based on what would be safe for a healthy, robust, 20-30-something white male…….. more

September 21, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Global heating is disrupting the ground in Siberia

September 21, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

David Attenborough now wants us to face up to the state of the planet

Don’t look away now: are viewers finally ready for the truth about nature?
For decades David Attenborough delighted millions with tales of life on Earth. But now the broadcaster wants us to face up to the state of the planet,   
PatrickGreenfield @pgreenfielduk

Fri 18 Sep 2020 Sir David Attenborough’s soothing, matter-of-fact narrations have brought the natural world to our living rooms for nearly seven decades and counting. From Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to the jungles of central Africa, the 94-year-old broadcaster has dazzled and delighted millions with tales of life on Earth – mostly pristine and untouched, according to the images on our screens. But this autumn Attenborough has returned with a different message: nature is collapsing around us.

“We are facing a crisis. One that has consequences for us all. It threatens our ability to feed ourselves, to control our climate. It even puts us at greater risk of pandemic diseases such as Covid-19,” he warned in Extinction: The Facts on BBC One primetime, receiving five-star reviews.

Clips and graphs showing the spiralling extinction rate were shared widely on social media. Some even pledged to change their diets and live their lives in a different way. “We have to listen to him. And act,” said broadcaster Matthew Stadlen.

Wildlife storytellers have long wrestled with how to tell this uncomfortable tale while keeping audiences engaged. Less than two years ago, Attenborough himself said that repeated warnings on the subject could be a “turn-off” for viewers. The thought of a million species at risk of extinction due to human activity was deemed too much
for many to bear. But last Sunday night, viewers did not reach for the off button. Continue reading

September 21, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

53 million tons of plastic could end up in rivers, lakes and oceans every year by 2030

September 21, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Young Australians call for COVID-19 recovery plan with climate jobs Australians protest outside Government offices demanding the Morrison Government implement a Climate Jobs Guarantee as part of the COVID-19 recovery.

September 19, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

What Frogs Can Teach Us about the State of the World

We currently find ourselves on the other side of a stark but intangible line created by the climate tipping points we’ve blown past for and at our leisure, the virulent diseases we’ve helped spread, and the habitats we’ve destroyed in the name of peace and quiet. Being on this side of the line is a lot like grieving: we are in an “after” time.

And, as with other forms of grieving, in times defined by disease and mass extinction, we need to bear witness. We can be quiet and press record to capture what is still there. We can cup our hands around our ears and listen.

What Frogs Can Teach Us about the State of the World, By tracking amphibian songs, citizen scientists are helping us understand what’s happening to our environment, The Walrus , BY CAITLIN STALL-PAQUET 18 Sept 20, 

T’S AN HOUR after sunset, one night in early April, and I’m standing on the side of a dirt road in my hometown of Frelighsburg, Quebec, with my hands cupped around my ears. I’m listening for the calls of anurans—amphibians without a tail, so frogs and toads. I am here, more specifically, to hear the croaks of wood frogs, which are one of the first species to peek their little brown heads out after a long winter of hibernation.

This isn’t just recreational listening, mind you—this is also for science. I am a volunteer observer, one of several who are gathering data about dwindling amphibian populations in this region. Continue reading

September 19, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Don’t make light of the climate apocalypse

September 15, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Compelling new documentary ‘I am Greta Thunberg’

Greta Thunberg warns of fallouts from climate change in powerful documentary trailer that gives goosebumps

Sweden’s teen climate change activist, Greta Thunberg’s documentary trailer grabs over 1.3 million views, makes hair stand on the ends with climate emergency warnings ahead of cinematic release worldwide starting October 16

Sep 13, 2020, Zarafshan Shiraz, Hindustan Times, Delhi  An unprecedented global climate emergency is no secret but many choose to ignore it amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Sweden’s teen activist Greta Thunberg will be shining a light on the same in her upcoming documentary ‘I am Greta Thunberg’. Featuring how the 17-year-old from Stockholm became a global figurehead for climate action, the documentary is set for a cinematic release worldwide starting October 16 but its recent trailer was enough to give viewers goosebumps.

Taking to her Instagram handle, Greta shared the powerful trailer that warned of fallouts from climate change and grabbed over 1.3 million views while still going strong. The compelling, never-before-seen footage in the intimate documentary, from Swedish director Nathan Grossman, follows Greta from her one-person school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament to her extraordinary wind-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.

Grossman also tracks Greta as a shy student with Asperger’s Syndrome, her rise to prominence, meeting some of the most powerful politicians in the world and her galvanizing global impact as she sparks school strikes around the world. The trailer is sure to leave one not only emotional but also fired-up with hair standing on the end.

It premiered at the Venice Film Festival and debunks some of the criticisms on her by showing her writing her own speeches and other facts that establish her to be the sole driving force in the campaign and not her parents or other environmental interests. Grossman also documents the real the pressures that accumulated on her as the campaign grew.

September 14, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Climate change causing major changes in Arctic insect communities

Climate change recasts the insect communities of the Arctic, EurekAlert, UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI Research News  12 Sept 20,  Through a unique research collaboration, researchers at the University of Helsinki have exposed major changes taking place in the insect communities of the Arctic. Their study reveals how climate change is affecting small but important predators of other insects, i.e. parasitoids.”Predators at the top of the food web give us a clue to what is happening to their prey species, too. These results increase our understanding of how global warming is changing nature. At the same time, they suggest new inroads for finding answers to big questions in the field of ecology,” says Professor Tomas Roslin from the University of Helsinki and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

The researchers’ main discovery was that clear traces of climate change can already be seen in arctic insect communities.

“In areas where summers are rapidly warming, we find a higher proportion of cold-sensitive predators than we might expect based on the previous climate,” Roslin notes.

The study joined research teams working in Greenland, Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland and Iceland, which together compared regions where the climate has changed at different rates and in different ways in recent decades.

Parasitoids are fierce predators but sensitive to changes in climatic conditions

“The climate of the Arctic is currently changing about twice as fast as the global average. Therefore, the Arctic region provides an important laboratory when we try to understand the effects of climate change on nature,” says Tuomas Kankaanpää, lead author of the study and active at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki.

“To distinguish the key consequences of climate change, we have focused on some of the most important predators in the Arctic, parasitoid wasps and flies. These parasitoids are predators whose larvae develop on or within a single host individual and usually kill it in the process. And now we have found that climate change is dramatically affecting the relative dominance of different types of parasitoids.”………..

September 14, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Global population slowdown – good news for the planet’s ecology

September 12, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

These commercials carried a distinct message: Plastic is special, and the consumer should recycle it.

It may have sounded like an environmentalist’s message, but the ads were paid for by the plastics industry, made up of companies like Exxon, Chevron, Dow, DuPont and their lobbying and trade organizations in Washington.

The oil industry makes more than $400 billion a year making plastic, and as demand for oil for cars and trucks declines, the industry is telling shareholders that future profits will increasinglycome from plastic.

an industry that didn’t want recycling to work. Because if the job is to sell as much oil as you possibly can, any amount of recycled plastic is competition.

Analysts now expect plastic production to triple by 2050.

How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled, NPR, LAURA SULLIVAN,– 11 Sept 20 Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups.

None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.

“To me that felt like it was a betrayal of the public trust,” she said. “I had been lying to people … unwittingly.”

Rogue, like most recycling companies, had been sending plastic trash to China, but when China shut its doors two years ago, Leebrick scoured the U.S. for buyers. She could find only someone who wanted white milk jugs. She sends the soda bottles to the state.

But when Leebrick tried to tell people the truth about burying all the other plastic, she says people didn’t want to hear it.

“I remember the first meeting where I actually told a city council that it was costing more to recycle than it was to dispose of the same material as garbage,” she says, “and it was like heresy had been spoken in the room: You’re lying. This is gold. We take the time to clean it, take the labels off, separate it and put it here. It’s gold. This is valuable.”

But it’s not valuable, and it never has been. And what’s more, the makers of plastic — the nation’s largest oil and gas companies — have known this all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite.

“If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they are not going to be as concerned about the environment,” Larry Thomas, former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry, known today as the Plastics Industry Association and one of the industry’s most powerful trade groups in Washington, D.C., told NPR………. Continue reading

September 12, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

The United Nations weather agency on the impact of climate change on the cryosphere

Climate change: UN agency laments northern summer’s ‘deep wound’ to Earth’s ice cover, By Associated Press-Sep 1, 2020   The United Nations weather agency says this summer will go down for leaving a “deep wound” in the cryosphere — the planet’s frozen parts — amid a heat wave in the Arctic, shrinking sea ice and the collapse of a leading Canadian ice shelf.


The World Meteorological Organisation said today that temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the global average, provoking what spokeswoman Clare Nullis called a “vicious circle.”
“The rapid decline of sea ice in turn contributes to more warming, and so the circle goes on and the consequences do not stay in the Arctic,” Ms Nullis said during a regular UN briefing in Geneva.
The weather agency said in a statement that many new temperature records have been set in recent months, including in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk. The town, located in Siberia above the Arctic Circle line, reached 38 degrees Celsius on June 20.
“What we saw in Siberia this year was exceptionally bad, was exceptionally severe,” Ms Nullis said.
She noted a heat wave across the Arctic, record-breaking wildfires in Siberia, nearly record-low sea ice extent, and the collapse of one of the last fully intact Canadian ice shelves.
“The summer of 2020 will leave a deep wound on the cryosphere,” the World Meteorological Organisation statement said, pointing to a “worrisome trend” of floods resulting from the outburst of glacier lakes that are becoming “an increased factor of high-risk in many parts of the world.”
In late July, an 81-square-kilometre section of Canada’s Milne ice shelf broke off, reducing the total area of the ice shelf by 43 per cent, the weather agency said.
The consequences include the loss of a rare ecosystem, possible acceleration of glaciers sliding into the ocean and contributing to sea level rise, and creation of new “drifting ice islands,” it said.
The WMO is preparing to release on September 9 a report on the impact of climate change on the cryosphere.

September 7, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Arctic melting permafrost a serious problem (and they want to put Small Modular Nuclear Reactors there!)

Destabilising of infrastructure in Arctic regions , as permafrost melts, is a compelling reason why it is madness to plan for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in Northern Canada 

Whatever Happened To … The Melting Permafrost?   0893 KPCCC, Nadia Whitehead | NPR | September 6, 2020 “…………… It’s not just warmer temperatures that pose a problem for the permafrost. Scientists are now investigating whether rainfall could be causing serious issues in the Arctic’s permafrost – with repercussions for humans.

Since 2013, Fairbanks, Alaska, has had two of the wettest years in recorded history. A total ofo 14.6 inches of rain fell in the summer of 2014; it was the wettest summer yet. And that’s not a good thing for permafrost, says Thomas Douglas, a geochemist in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Permafrost — completely frozen ground composed of materials like soil, rocks and even bones and plants — makes up a nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere. Much of it has been frozen for thousands of years.

Warming temperatures have begun to thaw permafrost, and now, increased rainfall seems to be intensifying the problem, according to Douglas’ latest study in Climate and Atmospheric Science, published in July.

“In general, across the arctic, the thought is that things are getting wetter,” Douglas says, but particularly in Fairbanks. “2014 and 2016 were the #1 and #3 summer precipitation years in what was then a 90-year record. Shattering records like this is just really unique.”……….

The thaw was worse in some locations more than others, depending on the terrain where measurements were taken. Forests and mossy landscapes seemed to protect the permafrost. There, for every additional inch of rain, the permafrost thawed by an additional quarter of an inch.

But in locations where human activity – such as trails and clearings — had altered the land, the thaw was worse. For every additional inch of rain, the researchers saw an additional inch of thaw. At one particular site, permafrost thaw depth grew from 47 inches in 2013 to nearly 75 inches in 2017.

Douglas explains, “When you remove vegetation, that’s like leaving the lid open on your cooler on a summer day. It allows heat and water to get down in the permafrost pretty rapidly.”

Out of all the team’s research, Douglas says their most important finding was that thinner layers of thawed permafrost seem to be vanishing — literally thawing away……….

Dmitry Streletskiy, a professor at George Washington University who specializes in permafrost, says that Douglas’s study is a great contribution to permafrost research. However, he emphasizes that the study was conducted in a boreal ecosystem, a sub-arctic region with warmer temperatures and relatively warm permafrost. ……..

Streletskiy agrees that permafrost is degrading on a global scale due to climate change. Its impacts are starting to show — and zombie pathogens shouldn’t be our only concern.

He and Douglas both point to the Norilsk oil spill in Russia, where an oil tank spewed more than 150,000 barrels of diesel into the arctic, and officials have been racing to clean it up. Many experts believe thawing permafrost is to blame; the oil tank, which sat on permafrost, collapsed in May.

What’s more, permafrost thaw can lead to deterioration in infrastructure, such as pipelines, railroads and homes, Streletskiy explains. “Small changes in temperature can affect how much weight a foundation built on permafrost can support. Say for example at -10 degrees, the foundation can support 100 tons, but at -8 degrees, it can only support 50 tons.”

For people who don’t live near the oil spill or in arctic regions, it’s easy to forget about permafrost. “Out of sight, out of mind,” Douglas says. But the thaw could one day affect everyone.

An estimated 1,400 to 1,600 billion metric tons of carbon are currently frozen in the permafrost. “There are a lot of questions about what’s going to happen when that [carbon]starts to thaw,” Douglas says………..

September 7, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment