Thursday, December 24, 2009

Running a lightweight OS on my Netbook

I investigated running a lightweight operating system on my Netbook to get off Windows XP. I looked at Ubuntu Net Remix and Moblin but consider their simplified interfaces too restrictive.

I will be interested to see how the Google Chrome OS compares when it is available.

In the end I installed Kubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) from a USB drive as a dual boot option. Details on the installation and configuration are available in this article on Greenlivinpedia. Being a wiki, you can edit the article and add more information if you wish too.

My overall impressions are that Kubuntu Karmic Koala 9.10 is polished, easy to use, stable and quite slick. For those thinking of moving from Windows XP or Vista, this is a compelling option.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The failure of Copenhagen

I was not optimistic that a strong and binding global agreement would be reached at Copenhagen in December, but the so called "Copenhagen Accord" still came as a bitter disappointment.

It is apparent that most of the so called "developed nations" are not willing to curb their indulgent and excessive use of fossil fuels. These nations, including the United States, Europe, Australia and Canada, have produced most of the carbon emissions to date and still have very high per capita carbon emissions, yet they are unwilling to take substantive action to reduce their emissions.

For example, Kevin Rudd was only prepared to commit to a 5% emission reduction target, and he capped the "negotiating range" prior to Copenhagen first at 15% then at 25%. Yet in Bali in 2008, it was agreed based on scientific advice that developed nations should make cuts in the 25% to 40% range.

Australia negotiated at Copenhagen in bad faith. A 5% target is ludicrous and the 25% target was an absolute minimum rather than a maximum.

Many small and developing nations - such as Tuvalu in the Pacific - are feeling severe impacts of climate change through sea levels rises that are engulfing them. Little wonder they were not impressed by rich developed nations ignoring their plight and refusing to put significant emission reduction cuts of 40% or greater on the table.

I believe that the only fair and equitable target is to restrict carbon emissions to 2 tonnes per person per year. This would create a level playing field for all humanity.

The Copenhagen accord is a political agreement that specifies a voluntary target of restricting global temperature increase to 2C. However, current emissions by the world's nations put us on track for a 3.5C rise which scientists tell us would be catastrophic.

It is clear that global and national political and economic systems are failing to address climate change and associated ecosystem collapse, even though we have the technology and opportunity to move to low carbon economies and lifestyles.

It is time for the blame game to end. We must set and achieve goals to ensure a safe climate future such as limiting per capita carbon emissions to 2 tonnes per person, limiting global temperature increases to 1.5C, and reducing atmospheric CO2 to between 300-350ppm.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Will Copenhagen yield a safe climate outcome?

The international negotiations at Copenhagen to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions have some significant hurdles to overcome.

The governments of first world countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia wish to continue their high energy use and/or export of fossil fuels and do not seem willing or capable of undertaking structural and economic reforms to move to low carbon economies.

These countries also want the ability to "offset"some of their emissions by "purchasing credits" from developing nations. This is an exercise of smoke and mirrors, as offsets in reality mean no a country can avoid emission reductions.

Developing nations such as China and India wish to continue their growth in use of carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels as their economies and lifestyles grow and change towards the levels of first world countries.

Small and poor nations, many of which are bearing the immediate brunt of climate change - such as many Pacific Island nations and African nations - want immediate significant emission reductions by first world counties and also money from them to improve their economies and living standards.

Given these tensions, it seems unlikely that the Copenhagen negotiations will yield a binding treaty that will move us collectively towards a safe climate future - one where global temperature increases are kept below 1.5C and atmospheric CO2 is below 350ppm.

I think it is likely that the outcome will be:
  • a voluntary "non-binding" political agreement
  • offsets will be allowed
  • emissions trading will be endorsed - even though in most cases it will not reduce emissions
  • greenhouse gas measurements and reporting will not be subject to independent reviews
If this is the case we will need to rethink our approach and mechanisms for addressing and tacking climate change - as "politics as usual" will have failed to give us the best chance of a safe climate future.

I have described the commercial, social and political pressures that were are facing in this wiki article: The end of the world as we know it.

I am documenting progress and outcomes at Copenhagen in this wiki article: Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009

I think the only fair and equitable policy to adopt is to decide on an appropriate carbon emissions per capita amount that all countries should commit to reduce their emissions too.

This figure would be lower than what China is currently emitting, and much lower than most other developed nations. Perhaps Costa Rica is at the best level already?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Will Clive Hamilton win Higgins for the Greens?

Clive Hamilton is running as the Greens candidate for the "blue ribbon" Liberal seat of Higgins in inner suburban Melbourne. Clive is the author of several books, including Affluenza and Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change.

Labor decided to not run a candidate. Their motives for this are not clear but it seems they think the seat will be held by the Liberals so it is a waste of their effort.

But Tony Abbott's recent ascendency to opposition leader, thanks have changed.

The residents of Higgins would be justified in feeling abandoned by Peter Costello, and many would be greatly concerned by the Liberal Party's lurch to the right under Tony Abbott, and several recent statements for prominent liberals denying that climate change is happening.

The Liberal candidate is a political animal whose CV includes a stint in right wing student politics at Melbourne University - where she attempted unsuccessfully to shut down the Environment Office - then time in Peter Costello's office as a staffer. She fits the mode of "born to rule and done my party political time".

She is presenting as a "local candidate interested in local issues" and refuses to comment in any detail on climate change and what she will do about it.

In reality, if elected she will become just another muppet on the backbench, silent for most of the time and voting for the Liberal party line. So much for democratic representation.

The question is how many "rusted on" Liberal voters will vote for her? It seems likely that there will be swing against the Liberals based on public concerns about climate and change and the lack of any coherent Liberal/Coalition policy on this topic, and the recently vocal "denialists" such as Nick Minchin and his gang who recently "took out" Malcolm Turnbull.

It is interesting to note that while Turnbull did take a principled stand on climate change he backed a loser with the CPRS - which has been so heavily corrupted by industry handouts and exclusions (such as petrol and agriculture) - that it will not reduce Australia's emissions.

Getting back to Higgins, voters have a clear choice between a candidate that stands for real action on climate change and one who is really only interested in her political career in the Liberal Party.

I predict:
  • a 3% swing against the Liberals, but they will retain the seat 54/46 two party preferred
  • the Liberal primary vote will fall to 48% - which will be a significant outcome in itself
Let us hope that the good voters of Higgins send a clear message on climate change to our politicians. If Clive Hamilton is elected (I will be happy to be proven wrong on this) it will send schockwaves through both Labor and Liberal parties.

It will also help us avoid the end of the world as we know it.

It will also bode well for the Greens prospects in other seats in the 2010 Australian federal and Victorian state elections.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

We need funding and improved infrastructure for public transport

After several decades of neglect, Melbourne's public transport system is now running at capacity and old infrastructure is failing. Some examples of this are:
  • Wooden sleepers still abound - many over 60 years old
  • Trains fail when it is "too wet" and "too hot"
  • The old Hitachi trains are clapped out and have very high failure rates
  • No new suburban railway lines have been built since the Glen Waverley line in 1930
  • The signal system is ancient - and apparently so arcane hardly anyone knows how to maintain or replace it
  • No double decker trains are in use - despite one being trialled for a couple of years on the Belgrave line - apparently successfully. I caught it and it worked fine.
  • Trains don't have enough route information in them. The tiny maps are hard to locate, difficult to read, and only coloured according to zones (not lines).
  • The maps of tram routes are almost impossible to decipher. They are all in yellow and the numbers that designate routes are very small and hard to find.
So what have successive governments done?

Both Labor and Liberal governments have taken a "spend as little as possible" approach, regarding public transport as a burden to provide and adminster.

Jeff Kennett privatised it, with glowing promises of improvements and greater efficiency. None resulted, and the various operators morphed into single operators for train, tram and bus.

The Bracks (then Brumby) government did not reverse the privatisation, despite its obvious failure to deliver benefits. The Brumby government renewed the licences of operators, then this year change the companies that "operate" both the tram and train networks.

This is just changing the lipstick on the pig. Now millions will be spent on rebranding and new uniforms. This money would be better spent in improving and renewing infrastructure.

The train operator is even called "Metro", so now apparently we have a "metro" in name only - when the city really needs a decent new metro and more outer suburban lines.

We have a new behemoth Southern Cross Station, which also does nothing to improve train services.

The 8 billion dollar tunnel project to connect Footscray with Caulfield has gone very quiet; presumably it will have a slow and quiet death. Its benefits are dubious in any case, and it is not a metro project, despite government spin suggesting that it is. Heavy underground rail is not a metro.

The Liberal opposition criticises the Brumby government but refuses to commit to any increased expenditure as well. If the Brumby government gets turfed out - as they may - the Liberals would continue on in the same vein.

Please consider writing to your local MP on this issue. It seems they really don't care. It is up to us to make them care, and the city of Melbourne and its inhabitants (including car drivers) will all benefit if they do improve public transport.

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