September 7th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: It was right for Australia to be in Vietnam

EDITORIAL: The family: an endangered species

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Self-destructing Democrats: the real winners

COMMENT: Trial by media: the attacks on Archbishop Pell

MIDDLE EAST: Why Bush is unlikely to attack Iraq

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Russian roulette / Thick skins and strong stomachs

FAMILY: Child predators: the untold story

STEM CELL DEBATE: MPs smell a rat over Trounson's stem cell claim

Telstra sale (letter)

An honourable man (letter)

ENVIRONMENT: How now, brown cloud?

POLITICS: Principles and pragmatism: the Democrats' demise

ASIA: Singapore: hard work the key to success

West Papua 40 years on

BOOKS: Cutting Edge Bioethics, edited by John Kilner

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How now, brown cloud?

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, September 7, 2002
The debate on global warming, on which the Kyoto Pact leans so heavily, is still giving out more heat than light. After having been first noticed in the 1980s by pilots operating from Diego Garcia, "it" has now been "discovered" by the world media, talked about for a few days, then dropped. Possibly for reasons I'll shortly be suggesting. And the UN has wrenched its binoculars away from the ice floes of the Antarctic and the atolls of the South West Pacific, to look at "it".

"It" is a 26 million square kilometre, three kilometre thick fluctuating haze of man made pollutants called the Asian Brown Cloud, and it is spreading across the whole Asian continent and blocking out up to 15 per cent of sunlight.

Asian sourced

It is a "dynamic soup" of vehicular and industrial pollutants, carbon monoxide and minute soot particles or fly ash from the regular burning of forests, and wood used for cooking in millions of rural homes. All this is home-made - Asian-sourced.

And, by travelling half way round the world in the upper atmosphere in less than a week, it possibly makes the weather in Europe even more severe and unpredictable. So ... not from George Bush and America, not from Howard, Mr Downer and Australia with its one per cent of the world's pollution.

Anyone who visits cities like Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore, Tokyo or big Chinese cities have known about the heavy pollution there for ages. And the burning of forests in many places.

Pilots coming from Singapore or Hong Kong may only strike blue sky when they get to the Timor Sea. As the Guardian Weekly (August 15, 2002) said, scientists acknowledge that the Asian pollution is unprecedented and will worsen as population increases and countries such as China rapidly industrialise.

But other "unprecedented" pollution clouds are also hanging over parts of Africa, Latin America and the Med. After all they have been burning forests like crazy in Amazonia, as they are in Indonesia, et al. These are locally-sourced - not due to New York bankers' cigars or Mr Downer's running shoes.

What is being done about this? Next to nothing. In fact, many of the miscreants are being excluded from Kyoto obligations because they are still developing, although, the people organising and profiting from much of this ecological worst practice are often filthy rich, and at least as developed as the board of HIH.

If our Left and Greens targeted developing economies and their open slather philosophies as they target the US - or Australia! - they would run into opposition and obstruction from the local exploiters and compradors; but also from our own Western corporations who invest there. So there is a strange silence about brown clouds, and subsequent flooding, deforestation, and salination - over there.

I've been told that we should sign Kyoto to set "them" an example - or, to shame them. Given the hard men in charge in developing countries and their hard backers in the West, such responses are most unlikely.

But we have a precedent; it is said, if we keep lowering our tariffs, making it even harder for our workers and farmers, then we will set an example to "the rest of the world" to follow. We might even shame them - i.e., Europe, Japan, George Bush.

Does anyone still believe this? And is the Kyoto humbug any different from this?

Global warming?

The global warming reasoning is taking on new convoluted characteristics. Professor Ramanathan of the US Scripps Institute of Oceanography, says the brown cloud is not just an Asian problem. No? But of Asian production? ... Never mind.

"Scientists believe," says the Guardian Weekly, "that there are many inter-connections between global warming and the haze cloud. [But what are they?] But more research is needed. 'Some places will see more drying, others more rainfall. Greenhouse gases and aerosols may be acting in the same direction or may be opposing each other,' Professor Ramanathan said".

These pronouncements have the same logical structure as, "Either it will rain .... or it won't rain"

You know - I couldn't agree more. Me and Peter Sellers.

  • Max Teichmann

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