Gun legislation turned down by Florida legislature; Dinesh D’Souza mocks students lobbying to get it passed

Why Evolution Is True

Over the past two days, the evening news has featured distraught, angry, and determined Florida students marching on the state legislature, stunned about the 17 students shot by Nikolas Cruz, but bent on ensuring that it won’t happen again. Many of the lobbyists were classmates of the slain students.  I thought to myself, “If anybody can change this country’s attitudes towards guns, it’ll be the young people who were the targets of those guns.” I hoped mightily that Florida, and then the country, would at last begin to respond. Dare I hope that this might be the turning point in the struggle against America’s senseless proliferation of weapons—especially assault weapons?

No chance. As I predicted, we’ll have a brief flurry of anger and calls for new gun laws, and then it’ll be business as usual. Far too many Americans see student lives as collateral damage to the necessary production and…

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Why it’s so hard to make sense of Trump’s foreign policy

The Conversation

Scott Lucas, University of Birmingham

Under Donald Trump, trying to predict, dissect and understand the US’s attitude to the world has become almost impossible – not that plenty of observers aren’t giving it a go. Tellingly, they’re all coming to different conclusions.

Some see a spiral into outright chaos, citing the strain on crucial alliances, Trump’s strange embrace of Vladimir Putin, and his reckless rhetoric, which sometimes gets to the point of implicitly threatening nuclear war.

Other analysts claim to identify some semblance of order, but they disagree profoundly on what that order is. To some, Trump’s “America First” theme is an isolationist rallying cry, with its implications of economic protectionism and rejection of international agreements; others see an administration even more committed to military intervention than its predecessors. And still others say that for all Trump’s sound and fury, not much has changed – that US foreign policy, for better or worse, is hewing to the same methods and objectives pursued in the Obama era.

So how can we cut through all this noise and really make sense of it all? In the interests of clarity (and perhaps sanity) the first thing is to recognise that there isn’t just one Trump foreign policy. There are several. They frustrate each other with various irreconcilable differences. And collectively, they add up not to a coherent US strategy, nor even an incoherent one, but instead a gaping hole where a strategy should be.

The family-and-friends foreign policy

One key difference from his predecessors is Trump’s promotion in certain areas of a foreign policy set and pursued on an ad hoc basis by his family and their business allies. That approach has radically altered, even dismantled, the longstanding US approach to the Middle East – and in particular to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Instead of assigning someone with relevant experience to handle what may be the world’s single most intractable dispute, Trump instead tapped his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kushner has no grounding in Middle Eastern affairs, nor even in diplomatic negotiations more generally. Having failed to disclose his meetings with foreign officials before Trump became president, he doesn’t even have a full security clearance. And yet Trump reportedly told him, with not a hint of irony: “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.”

The reckless cronyism doesn’t stop there. To assist Kushner, Trump chose Jason Greenblatt, the executive vice-president and chief legal officer to Donald Trump and The Trump Organisation. The administration’s chosen US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was previously a member of the law firm Kasowitz, Hoff, Benson and Torres – which represents Donald Trump. Along with Kushner, both have helped support (individually or through foundations) Jewish settlements in the West Bank, while the Kushner Company continues to do business in Israel.

With Trump’s family and friends running the show, it seems that American influence in the Middle East writ large is no longer a sure thing. More than a year later, as Saudi Arabia still goes about its deadly business in Yemen, and the Syrian conflict remains intractable, this triad’s chief accomplishment has been to antagonise most of the world and endanger the peace process by having the US recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Twitter foreign policy

Then there are Trump’s tweets, which too often drive the global news cycle at the US’s reputational expense. His 280-character missives can recalibrate America’s foreign policy posture in an instant – whether contradicting his own secretary of state on North Korea, denouncing fellow NATO members, blowing hot and cold over China, or souring the “special relationship” with the UK by deriding the mayor of London and blithely retweeting videos from the far right Islamophobic group Britain First.

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What matters here isn’t just the content, but that Trump actually revels in the chaos it creates. As he said in his first speech on foreign policy during the campaign: “We must as a nation be more unpredictable.”

Trump probably did not think of his statement as a reworking of the Nixon-Kissinger “madman” ploy of the 1970s. Nor is he likely to have thought through its effects. What matters, in the end, is capturing the world’s attention and settling petty scores.

The alt-right foreign policy

Before Trump’s ascendancy, the “alt-right” had little direct influence on policy of any kind. But with Trump elected, its leaders suddenly had their foot in the door. Led by hard right White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, they pushed for confrontation with China and detachment from NATO as well as protectionism and departure from international agreements such as the Paris climate agreement. Bannon put himself on a key committee of the National Security Council, along with Fox News commentator-turned-Deputy National Security Adviser K T McFarland.

As 2017 unwound, the the “firebreathers” were eventually checked by pragmatists. General H R McMaster, brought in as National Security Adviser in March, removed Bannon from the National Security Council (he was later fired by Trump altogether). Senior staff Derek Harvey and Ezra Cohen-Watnick were dismissed, as was McFarland.

But one of the alt-right’s polyps is still at the heart of the Trump operation. Stephen Miller, who within two years went from e-mail spammer of Washington journalists to senior White House adviser, is not only the main architect of the crackdown on immigration but also the speechwriter behind Trump’s provocative UN General Assembly debut in September 2017 – an address that railed against “a small group of rogue regimes”, threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, and called its leader Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man”.

As far as Miller is concerned, it seems, the more incendiary and derisory the US government’s tone, the better – whatever the diplomatic and strategic consequences.

The institutional foreign policy

These competing tendencies are a brutal test for the structures of US foreign policy, and the stewards of those institutions are clearly on high alert.

McMaster, Defence Secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are all trying to contain Trump and his inner circle. They have championed the US’s traditional alliances, taken charge of operations in areas such as Afghanistan and Syria, toned down Trump’s fire-and-fury threats to North Korea by discreetly encouraging a diplomatic path, and tried to curb some of the family’s inclinations – especially a Saudi-first approach that threatens the security of a key American military base in Qatar.

But it’s hard to win a fight against true chaos. Kushner and his allies can brief the media against the pragmatists. Trump’s profound impulsiveness can unsettle any plan, especially given his widely reported lack of knowledge. And those who do know what they’re doing are jumping ship: Tillerson has overseen a dramatic depletion of expertise at the State Department, with 12% of foreign service officers departing in just eight months.

America on the sidelines

Amid all the competing philosophies and factions, the only thing that’s certain is unpredictability. The administration has issued a National Security Strategy, but with all the chaos and policy clash the inexpert Trump constantly introduces, any “strategy” is doomed to the paper shredder.

And just as Trump’s agencies try to contain him, other countries try to contain the US by sidelining it. Russia has seized the initiative in Syria; Iran wants it in Iraq; Saudi Arabia pursues it from Yemen to Lebanon; Turkey warns that it may walk away from the Americans altogether, and China increasingly calls the shots in East Asia, from the North Korean problem to the South China Sea and economic development. Even European partners are thinking twice about their reliance on what no longer looks like a dependable superpower.

Meanwhile, US-based analysts scramble to find a framework that can express what’s going on while still conveying some sense of American primacy. “Soft power”, which under Obama became “smart power”, is now proclaimed as “sharp power”. And all the while, US power – if measured in the respect for America at the centre of global affairs – plummets in the opinion polling of peoples across the planet.

In his UN speech in September, Trump declared, “As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else.” It remains to be seen, for all his “American First” front, how his multiple foreign policies are defending those interests.


The ConversationOn February 21, Scott Lucas will be joining the panel for The Conversation’s joint event with the British Academy, Trump: How to understand an unconventional President. You can watch the discussion live on our Facebook page.

Scott Lucas, Professor of International Politics, University of Birmingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Here’s what you need to know about the new flu vaccines for over-65s

The Conversation

File 20180219 75964 fij0f6.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Older people’s immune systems don’t respond to flu vaccines as well as younger people’s. Shutterstock

Allen Cheng, Monash University

In an attempt to avoid a repeat of last year’s horror flu season, Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday announced the government would fund two new flu vaccines in 2018 to try to better protect the elderly.

While influenza affects people of all ages, infections among the elderly are more likely to require hospitalisation or cause serious complications such as pneumonia and heart attacks. Of the 1,100 Australians who died last year from flu-related causes, 90% were aged 65 and over.

The two free vaccines for over-65s work in different ways: FluZone High Dose is a high-dose version; Fluad adds an additional ingredient to boost its effectiveness. Both are recommended for use only in people aged 65 and over. But neither is perfect. And it’s important to remember flu vaccines are, at best, only partially protective.

Why do we need new vaccines for flu?

Australia’s National Immunisation Program provides free influenza vaccine for the elderly, as well as other high-risk groups including pregnant women, those with chronic diseases and Indigenous Australians.


Read more:
Flu vaccine won’t definitely stop you from getting the flu, but it’s more important than you think


Older people’s immune systems don’t respond to flu vaccines as well as younger people’s. Recent studies have also shown that flu vaccines don’t appear to be as effective in the elderly at protecting against flu and its complications.

Compounding this problem is that the flu subtype that tends to affect older people (A/H3N2) is different to that which affects younger people (A/H1N1).

Although the seasonal flu vaccine now contains four strains to cover all the relevant subtypes present, the protection against H3N2 infection appears to be poorer than against other strains.

Two strategies are attempting to improve the effectiveness of flu vaccines. One is to increase the dose of the flu strains in the vaccine. This is the basis for Sanofi’s High Dose FluZone vaccine, which contains four times the amount of flu antigen than the standard dose.

Another way is to add a substance that improves the immune response, known as an adjuvant, in combination with the flu strains. This is the basis for Seqirus’ (CSL) Fluad vaccine, which contains the adjuvant MF59. This vaccine has been used overseas for many years, but has only been become available in Australia this year.

How much better are these vaccines than the current vaccine?

Compared to the standard flu vaccine, the high-dose version has been shown to better stimulate the immune system of older users to make protective antibodies.

It has been shown to better reduce rates of flu infection in over-65s than the standard vaccine. And, interestingly, it also seems to protect against pneumonia.

One common criticism of clinical trials is that they don’t include the types of people who are found in the “real world”. But population based observational studies suggest that the high-dose vaccine is more protective than the standard-dose vaccine where H3N2 is the predominant circulating strain – as it was last year.


Read more:
Here’s why the 2017 flu season was so bad


What about the Fluad (adjuvanated) vaccine?

Compared to the standard vaccine, adjuvanted flu vaccine has been shown to better stimulate the immune system of older users to make protective antibodies.

Unlike the high-dose vaccine, there have not been clinical trials that show a difference in infection rates compared with the standard vaccine. But observational data suggests the adjuvanted vaccine is more protective against hospitalisation with influenza or pneumonia – to a similar degree as the high-dose vaccine.

One problem with both these vaccines is that they only contain three strains, rather than the four strains in the current vaccine. The strain missing from the new vaccines is an influenza B type.

But the benefits of better protection against the most common three strains in the new vaccine appear to outweigh the potential loss of protection against the missing B strain.

The newly available vaccines provide addition protection for over-65s. Sladic/Shutterstock

Are the new vaccines safe?

Both vaccines are safe, but commonly cause mild side effects, and very rarely can cause serious side effects. However, these risks from the vaccine are less than from getting influenza infection.

The main side effect of vaccines relates to their effect in stimulating the immune system. In many people they cause a sore arm and, less commonly, a fever. The side effects of these new flu vaccines are slightly more common than with standard vaccines. Generally, these side effects are mild and don’t last long.

None of the flu vaccines used in Australia contains live virus and therefore can’t cause flu infection. However, the vaccination season (April to June) usually occurs around the same time as when another respiratory virus (RSV) circulates, so this respiratory infection is commonly misattributed to vaccination.


Read more:
Health Check: when is ‘the flu’ really a cold?


Rare but serious side effects, such as Guillain Barre Syndrome (where the immune system attacks nerves), have been described after flu vaccination. Studies suggest that the risk of these side effects are less common after the flu vaccine than after flu infection.

People with allergies should discuss flu vaccines with their doctor. In the past, there has been concern that the flu vaccines, which are manufactured in eggs, may elicit allergic reactions in people with egg allergy. However, it is now thought that people with egg allergies can receive flu vaccines safely under appropriate supervision.

In 2009, an adjuvanted vaccine (Pandemrix) was thought to be implicated in cases of narcolepsy (a disease associated with excessive sleepiness) in Europe. However, this primarily occurred in children (rather than the elderly), and with a different adjuvant (ASO3) than is being used in Fluad (MF59)

Which vaccine should I get?

The two vaccines have not been compared head to head, so it isn’t known which one is better. The available data suggest they are similar to each other.

In practice, what vaccine you’ll receive will depend on what’s available at your GP or pharmacy.

It is important to note that these vaccines are only recommended for use in people 65 years of age or older, and are not recommended for use in people under this age.

The standard vaccine will still be available for younger people. There are no data to support the use of multiple doses of vaccines of the same or different types.


Read more:
Flu is a tragic illness. How can we get more people to vaccinate?


Neither of the new vaccines is perfect – they simply reduce your risk of getting flu to a slightly greater effect than the standard vaccine. Like other flu vaccines, there is still the chance that the vaccine strains don’t match what’s circulating.

The ConversationDespite the common perception that the flu is mild illness, it causes a significant number of deaths worldwide. To make an impact on this, we need better vaccines, better access to vaccines worldwide and new strategies, such as increasing the rate of vaccination in childhood.

Allen Cheng, Professor in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Steven Pinker on anarchism

“As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike… This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist).” 

Reference:
Pinker, Steven (2002), The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Penguin Putnam, ISBN 0-670-03151-8.

Note:
There have also been other police strikes with severe consequences for law and order. One that resulted in immediate anarchy and violence was in Melbourne, Australia in 1923.

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Steven Pinker on free markets

“We know that markets make countries freer, richer, and happier compared to totalitarian central planning, but we also know that the habit among both the hard left and hard right to equate capitalism with anarcho-capitalism (no regulation, no social spending) is wrong. You can be in favor of free markets with regulations, just as you can be in favor of free societies with criminal laws. Even the freest of free marketeers has to acknowledge that markets don’t provide a decent living to those with nothing to offer in exchange, such as the young, old, sick, and unlucky, and they also have to acknowledge that markets alone fail to protect public goods that no one owns, such as the atmosphere. Not surprisingly, all wealthy capitalist countries have extensive social spending and regulation. And as a Canadian I can confirm that free-market societies with greater social spending and regulation than the United States are not grim dystopias sliding down a slippery slope to Venezuela, but are rather pleasant places to live, with greater happiness and longevity, and less violent crime, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and educational mediocrity.” – Steven Pinker, The Weekly Standard, 15 February 2018.

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Steven Pinker on identity politics

Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. Pinker has been named as one of the world’s most influential intellectuals by various magazines. He has won awards from the American Psychological Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society and the American Humanist Association. He delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 2013. He has served on the editorial boards of a variety of journals, and on the advisory boards of several institutions. He has frequently participated in public debates on science and society.

Identity politics is the syndrome in which people’s beliefs and interests are assumed to be determined by their membership in groups, particularly their sex, race, sexual orientation, and disability status. Its signature is the tic of preceding a statement with “As a,” as if that bore on the cogency of what was to follow. Identity politics originated with the fact that members of certain groups really were disadvantaged by their group membership, which forged them into a coalition with common interests: Jews really did have a reason to form the Anti-Defamation League.

But when it spreads beyond the target of combatting discrimination and oppression, it is an enemy of reason and Enlightenment values, including, ironically, the pursuit of justice for oppressed groups. For one thing, reason depends on there being an objective reality and universal standards of logic. As Chekhov said, there is no national multiplication table, and there is no racial or LGBT one either.

This isn’t just a matter of keeping our science and politics in touch with reality; it gives force to the very movements for moral improvement that originally inspired identity politics. The slave trade and the Holocaust are not group-bonding myths; they objectively happened, and their evil is something that all people, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation, must acknowledge and work to prevent in the future.

Even the aspect of identity politics with a grain of justification—that a man cannot truly experience what it is like to be a woman, or a white person an African American—can subvert the cause of equality and harmony if it is taken too far, because it undermines one of the greatest epiphanies of the Enlightenment: that people are equipped with a capacity for sympathetic imagination, which allows them to appreciate the suffering of sentient beings unlike them. In this regard nothing could be more asinine than outrage against “cultural appropriation”—as if it’s a bad thing, rather than a good thing, for a white writer to try to convey the experiences of a black person, or vice versa.

To be sure, empathy is not enough. But another Enlightenment principle is that people can appreciate principles of universal rights that can bridge even the gaps that empathy cannot span. Any hopes for human improvement are better served by encouraging a recognition of universal human interests than by pitting group against group in zero-sum competition.” – Steven Pinker, The Weekly Standard, February 2018.

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Another school shooting in Florida: At least 17 dead

I think the problem is automatic and semi-automatic rifles rather than simply the number of guns. Australia bought all these weapons back 20 years ago and we haven’t had a single mass shooting since.

Why Evolution Is True

I’ve just heard on the news that at least 17 people (CNN says 16, but another has died) have been killed in a school in Parkland, Florida: the shooter was a former student who has apparently been taken into custody.

What can one say when school shootings like this become an everyday affair in America? (This is the 18th school shooting this year, and it’s only mid-February.) I can’t wish for the dead to come back. All I can do is hope for fewer guns in America, and express deep sorrow to the families, friends, and loved ones of those who were taken too soon.

UPDATE: CNN adds this:

The suspect, 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, is in custody, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. The sheriff said he was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

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The “normalization” of North Korea

Why Evolution Is True

I’m not the only one who’s noticed that American animus towards the world’s most repressive and tyrannical country—North Korea—has waned during the Winter Olympics. To represent his country, dictator Kim Jong-un sent his 30 year old sister Kim Yo-jong, who is now being seen as more appealing than Mike Pence. Well, she may be more attractive, but remember that Trump and his regime, though odious, is infinitely preferable to the DPRK. Further the North Korean cheerleaders are getting favorable attention, and everyone seems to think that the North Korean presence is some kind of harbinger of peace. It’s all beer and skittles over there.

Well, I do favor us trying to talk to North Korea, but as I’ve said before, I think it’s futile. If we know anything, it’s that Kim Jong-un will give up neither his nuclear program nor his relentless propaganda campaign against the U.S.—much less…

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More on the deplatforming of Ken Ham: Let the bigoted creationist speak!

Free speech is a two-way street.

Why Evolution Is True

Yesterday I discussed how creationist and evangelical Christian Ken Ham (creator of the Ark Park and Creation Museum) had been disinvited from the University of Central Oklahoma (OCO), where he was supposed to talk on March 5 about “Genesis and the State of the Culture.” It should come as no surprise that I’m vehemently opposed to his creationism, to his lying to children (and everyone else) at his two attractions, and to his odious, anti-gay, anti-abortion politics.  Nevertheless, once he was invited, and had agreed to speak, it amounts to censorship to rescind his invitation. (UCO is also a public university, which brings in First Amendment considerations.)

A lot of the readers’ problems with my stand had to do with whether Ham was invited to UCO through proper channels. My efforts to find out—and I’ve tried—haven’t clarified that. What we do know is that the invitation was extended by the president…

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Fixing cities’ water crises could send our climate targets down the gurgler

The Conversation

File 20180207 74501 hkvy6c.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Water treatment plants can’t afford not to think about electricity too. CSIRO/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Peter Fisher, RMIT University

Two cities on opposing continents, Santiago and Cape Town, have been brought to their knees by events at opposing ends of the climate spectrum: flood and drought.

The taps ran dry for Santiago’s 5 million inhabitants in early 2017, due to contamination of supplies by a massive rainfall event. And now Cape Town is heading towards “day zero” on May 11, after which residents will have to collect their drinking water from distribution points.


Read more:
Cape Town is almost out of water. Could Australian cities suffer the same fate?


It’s probably little comfort that Santiago and Cape Town aren’t alone. Many other cities around the world are grappling with impending water crises, including in Australia, where Perth and Melbourne both risk running short.

In many of these places governments have tried to hedge their bets by turning to increasingly expensive and energy-ravenous ways to ensure supply, such as desalination plants and bulk water transfers. These two elements have come together in Victoria with the pumping of desalinated water 150km from a treatment plant at Wonthaggi, on the coast, to the Cardinia Reservoir, which is 167m above sea level.

But while providing clean water is a non-negotiable necessity, these strategies also risk delivering a blowout in greenhouse emissions.

Water pressure

Climate change puts many new pressures on water quality. Besides the effects of floods and droughts, temperature increases can boost evaporation and promote the growth of toxic algae, while catchments can be contaminated by bushfires.

Canberra experienced a situation similar to Santiago in 2003, when a bushfire burned through 98% of the Cotter catchment, and then heavy rain a few months later washed huge amounts of contamination into the Bendora Dam. The ACT government had to commission a A$40 million membrane bioreactor treatment plant to restore water quality.

At the height of the Millennium Drought, household water savings and restrictions lowered volumes in sewers (by up to 40% in Brisbane, for example). The resulting increase in salt concentrations put extra pressure on wastewater treatment and reclamation..

The energy needed to pump, treat, distribute and heat water – and then to convey, pump, reclaim or discharge it as effluent, and to move biosolids – is often overlooked. Many blueprints for zero-carbon cities underplay or neglect entirely the carbon footprint of water supply and sewage treatment.

Some analyses only consider the energy footprint of domestic water heating, rather than the water sector as a whole – which is rather like trying to calculate the carbon footprint of the livestock industry by only looking at cooking.

Yet the growing challenge of delivering a reliable and safe water supply means that energy use is growing. The United States, for example, experienced a 39% increase in electricity usage for drinking water supply and treatment, and a 74% increase for wastewater treatment over the period 1996-2013, in spite of improvements in energy efficiency.

As climate change puts yet more pressure on water infrastructure, responses such as desalination plants and long-distance piping threaten to add even more to this energy burden. The water industry will increasingly be both a contributor to and a casualty of climate change.

How much energy individual utilities are actually using, either in Australia or worldwide, will vary widely according to the source of supply – such as rivers, groundwater or mountain dams – and whether gravity feeds are possible for freshwater and sewage (Melbourne shapes up well here, for example, whereas the Gold Coast doesn’t), as well as factors such as the level of treatment, and whether or not measures such as desalination or bulk transfers are in place.

All of this increases the water sector’s reliance on the electricity sector, which as we know has a pressing need to reduce its greenhouse emissions.

Desalination plants: great for providing water, not so great for saving electricity. Moondyne/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

One option would be for water facilities to take themselves at least partly “off-grid”, by installing large amounts of solar panels, onsite wind turbines, or Tesla-style batteries (a few plants also harness biogas). Treatment plants are not exactly bereft of flat surfaces – such as roofs, grounds or even ponds – an opportunity seized upon by South Australian Water.

But this is a large undertaking, and the alternative – waiting for the grid itself to become largely based on renewables – will take a long time.

A 2012 study found large variations in pump efficiency between water facilities in different local authorities across Australia. Clearly there is untapped scope for collaboration and knowledge-sharing in our water sector, as is done in Spain and Germany, where water utilities have integrated with municipal waste services, and in the United States, where the water and power sectors have gone into partnership in many places.

The developing world

Climate change and population growth are seriously affecting cities in middle-band and developing countries, and the overall outlook is grim. Many places, such as Mexico City, already have serious water contamination problems. Indeed, in developing nations these problems are worsened by existing water quality issues. Only one-third of wastewater is treated to secondary standard in Asia, less than half of that in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a minute amount in Africa.

The transfer of know-how to these places is critical to reaching clean energy transitions. Nations making the energy transition – especially China, the world’s largest greenhouse emitter – need to take just as much care to ensure they avoid a carbon blowout as they transition to clean water too.

Just as in the electricity sector, carbon pricing can potentially provide a valuable incentive for utilities to improve their environmental performance. If utilities were monitored on the amount of electricity used per kilolitre of water processed, and then rewarded (or penalised) accordingly, it would encourage the entire sector to up its game, from water supply all the way through to sewage treatment.


Read more:
This is what Australia’s growing cities need to do to avoid running dry


Water is a must for city-dwellers – a fact that Cape Town’s officials are now nervously contemplating. It would be helpful for the industry to participate in the strategic planning and land-use debates that affect its energy budgets, and for its emissions (and emissions reductions) to be measured accurately.

In this way the water industry can become an influential participant in decarbonising our cities, rather than just a passive player.


The ConversationThis article is based on a journal article (in press) co-authored by David Smith, former water quality manager for South East Water, Melbourne.

Peter Fisher, Adjunct Professor, Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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