The UnAustralian

Friday, February 28, 2003
Iran, Iraq and the US

Thanks to the excellent National Security Archive I have been looking over some declassified US documents on the Iran/Iraq war, and US relations with Iraq. While none of this new, it's always interesting to read the documents.

A document states "In July and August 1983, the Iraqis reportedly used a chemical agent with lethal effects against and Iranian forces invading Iraq at Haj Umran, and more recently against Kurdish insurgents." (21/11/83)

A document (14/12/83) details ambassador Rumsfeld's planned topics of discussion during his visit to Iraq. No mention is made of chemical weapons.

In this cable, it is stated "In his 90-minute meeting with Rumsfeld, Saddam Hussein showed obvious pleasure with President's letter and Rumsfeld's visit and in his remarks. Removed whatever obstacles remained in the way of resuming diplomatic relations, but did not take the decision to do so". (21/12/83)

The whole collection, and accompanying story can be found here, it appears that the US, did oppose the Iraqi's use of chemical weapons for PR reasons. For time period covered, they tried to improve reactions with Iraq.
| 3:19 PM

If anybody knows how to remove all of the whitespace above the tables in the last post, could they please let me know?
| 12:19 AM
Thursday, February 27, 2003
Global Warming Emission Scenarios: Part 2

One test of the development scenarios applicability, is how well do they compare with historical growth rates. Here are some numbers:

Growth Rates of Income Per Capita 1990 - 2050 (%)

Historical A1 A2 B1 B2
Industralised World 2.9 2.0 1.2 1.7 1.4
Developing World 2.7 4.9 2.4 4.2 3.8

The historical period refers to 1950 - 1990.

When we extend the timeline to 2100, the growth rates all significantly drop.

Historical A1 A2 B1 B2
Industralised World 2.9 1.9 1.2 1.5 1.2
Developing World 2.7 4.0 2.2 3.5 2.8

| 11:22 PM
José Ramos-Horta and Iraq

Recently, José Ramos-Horta has written an editorial in the New York Times titled "War for Peace? It Worked in My Country".

In principle, I see agree with Ramos-Horta, Saddam should be persuaded to go into exile, and failing that force should be used to remove him from power. Innocent people will die, but as an end result, a democratic free Iraq will be worth it (I feel like a bastard for rationalising away human life, but on an intellectual level, I can justify it).

However, what worries me, is that we won't get a democratic free Iraq at the other end. If we end up with either a token change, or a Iraq wracked with violent ethnic conflict, then it won't be worth it.

And that gets me onto the next part of my rant, I really don't trust Bush and advisors to do the right thing. While the initial war in Afghanistan went well, the subsequent rebuilding hasn't. The government controls a few major cities, with warlords controlling the provinces. The Taliban is regrouping, and country appears to be dropping out of international view. Funds for rebuilding were initially forgotten in the latest budget. If the war in Iraq does some serious damage to the world's economy (and with the US government already in deficit), how readily will the Whitehouse allocate significant amounts of funds to Iraq for rebuilding. I like to think that they would be willing to take some pain to help out, but I really don't see that happening.

| 11:12 PM
Global Warming Emission Scenarios: Part 1

Recent, the various IPCC reports into global warming have been attacked for having unrealistic emission scenarios. Therefore, I've decided to do a series of posts detailing what they are, and why they are important.

In order to forecast future human induced climate change, you have to know how humanity will alter the world. Obviously, this is impossible, so we have to do the next the best thing, take a guess. However, predicted what will happen in the future is a fools guess, so the best thing that one can really do, is to take several guesses, and hope that reality will fit somewhere in-between them.

The IPCC has taken four possible scenarios (they are further divided up, but will we ignore that for the time being) called A1, A2, B1, and B2. Each scenario describes a possible future. As we hope that reality will fall in-between these scenarios, we must make sure that we are not describing average values, but rather outliers.

The A1 scenario is quite a nice place. There has been lots of international trade, and the third world is rapidly catching up with the first world. The worlds population has risen to 10 billion, and then dropped to 7 billion by 2100, as low birth rates spread all around the global. The service and information economy is huge, and inequality between nations has been considerable reduced. Per capita incomes are very high, but the amount of energy used to generate it is relatively low. The amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases produced varies quite significantly in different versions of this scenario, depending on the degree of replacement of coal and oil as energy sources. Think Japan or South Korea's 20th century development.

The A2 scenario is also high growth, however, in this development really spread to the third world. The world is highly polarised, between the first world (who's economy is roughly similar to the A1's global economy) and the third world (who rely on large amounts of coal and oil to sustain themselves. The worlds population has skyrocketed to 15 billion, with of the extra people living in the third world. Per capita incomes of 1st world people people have increased by a moderate amount, meanwhile the third world has grown quite slowly. Large amounts of energy are generate to create this wealth, and the amounts of hydrocarbons used is very high.

The B1 scenario is similar to A1, but with more of an emphasis on sustainability, and less on high growth rates. The population is the same as the A1 scenario. The growth rates aren't quite as high, and there is a significantly higher gap between the first and third world. However energy usage is quite low.

The last scenario, B2 is similar to B1 but with more of an emphasis on ecology matters. The population isn't as high (10 billion by 2100), growth rates are moderate, but there is a large difference between the developing and industrialised worlds.
| 10:49 PM
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
East Timor and Iraq

Excellent opinion piece in the NY-Times by José Ramos-Horta, by Iraq. Will post more on it tomorrow.

| 3:40 PM

Hopefully the comments are close to being usable now. Sorry about the comment that dropped off into the void.
| 3:02 PM
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

I was quite surprised to see a link to the Australian Skeptics on Aaron Oakley's website. Surprised, because Oakley's site is a giant anti-science propaganda piece, with about as much skepticism in at, as the latest John Pilger book (there is skepticism in it, but it's entirely in one direction).

But I digress. The Aussie skeptics link just reminded me of a review of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" by another skeptical organisation; Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

Lomborg gets totally rubbished. With the review concluding:

In sum, I'd give Lomborg's book a pass. Go to the public library and check out Demon-Haunted World instead.

I couldn't agree more.
| 10:12 PM
Political Compass Results

Political compass results:

Economic Left/Right : -7.12

Pretty much confirms it.
| 8:43 PM
Project Steve II

A interesting new project (and tribute to SJ Gould) is Project Steve, by the National Center for Science Education. Various creationist organizations have circulated lists of PhD who support creationism, so the NCSE has responding by making up their own list of scientists who support evolution. But they have made life harder for themselves, their list only has scientists whose name is Steve (or variants of Steve). They already have 220 names.

For my own amusement, I decided to do a similar thing for global warming.

Because I'm lazy, I'm just going to restrict myself to authors and reviewers of the 2001 major IPCC reports, using the find function on my browser. The total number should be far less than the NCSE list because, the climate sciences are smaller than the biological sciences, some of the reports don't list first names, not all climate scientists are involved with the IPCC (I studied global warming in both chemistry and physics, and neither of the two lecturers had any involvement with the IPCC).

The List

D. S. Stevenson Met Office, UK
P. Stephens National Science Foundation
Steven Crimp Queensland Centre for Climate Applications
Stephen Decanio University of California at Santa Barbara
Stephen Guptill U.S. Geological Survey
Stephen R. Piotrowicz NOAA, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
Stephen Schneider Stanford University
Steven R. Shafer U.S. Department of Agriculture
Steve Lennon Eskom
Steve Gregory Forestry Commission
Steven M. Japar Ford Motor Company

Not a bad little list, I wonder if the climate change skeptics can match it?

| 5:40 PM
A Gun Nutters Dream

One of the justifications for loose (or nonexistent) gun control laws, is that an armed population is the last defense against an evil government. So I was amused yesterday to see, buried within an article on the front page of The Australian, the following statement:

In a country where 18 months of military service is compulsory, each household has been encouraged to keep at least six loaded guns handy.

This freedom loving country is Iraq.

Link to story.

| 4:39 PM
Sunday, February 23, 2003
Earth and Sun and Moon

I've been meaning to write a post about the sun, greenhouse gases and global warming, however, I've come across a webpage by Tom Rees, which covers the topic a whole lot better than what I could ever do.

In a nutshell, basically, changes in the sun correlate reasonable well with changes in the earths temperature. However, this relationship starts to fall apart in the 1970's, as the earth suddenly starts to warm. No change in a solar indicator (sun spots etc) is consistent with this warming. Likewise for signals such as high energy cosmic rays, and fluctuations in the earths magnetic field.

The likely significant causes of climate change in the last century are greenhouse gases, solar variability, volcanos, and small particles in the atmosphere.

| 6:49 PM

Last night, I went to a Mon National Day celebration. It was basically speeches, dinner and dancing, and I had a great time (despite not speaking Mon, and thus missing a good proportion of the speeches).

For those of you who don't know, the Mon are an ethnic group who have traditionally lived in what is now Thailand and Myanmar. A brief history can be found here. Now most Mon live a military dictatorship which persecutes pretty much everyone.

Moving towards the main point of this post, Myanmer is a pretty horrible place. Executions, forced labour and terrible prison conditions are common. The Burmese are treated pretty terribly and the various minorities (who make up approx. 1/3 of the population) are treated even worse. When not as bad as Saddam Hussein, the dictatorship is comparable. Meanwhile, there is a credible opposition (which also has the benefit of having won the last (and only) free election).

What I am wondering is, will those who advocate a war against Iraq on humanitarian grounds follow it up with calls for a subsequent attack on Burma to free it's people?

| 4:29 PM