All posts by Steve Posselt

2014-01-07 Pre-trip jitters

I feel sick, anxious, apprehensive and at the same time confident  and keen to just get going. There have been some set-backs with extra work required and training is almost non-existent with just six walks up the Lismore hill so far. This has shown some bugs in the old kayak wheel setup but hey, a good engineer should be able to sort that out. This time I will try not to go like a bull at a gate from the start so I’m hoping the extra maturity will compensate for lack of fitness.

Two days ago Klaas’s eldest son, Dirk, ended his life. That is just so sad for the whole family. Even outsiders like me have not been immune from tears so I can only imagine their pain.

Monday is media engagements at Lismore and Ballina and then Klaas and I are off. What is not done by then won’t happen. Only 220km walking and 110km paddling by the end of January so that’s no big deal, surely.

David Hood – Straightforward Science



I am astounded at the responses that I receive from politicians regarding the current repeal of parts of the clean energy package of legislation.  They continually ask for an explanation of the correlation between CO2 and climate change as if there is no relation, and it is all a great big hoax.

So let’s look at the science in straightforward terms that I hope will assist you with a better understanding, and just maybe help us all realise why the repealing of a mechanism that is successfully reducing emissions by pricing them, and scrapping the other parts of the clean energy package of legislation is absurd policy.

The scientific understanding of CO2 as a greenhouse gas (GHG) was first discovered and accepted in the late 19th century.  It is a simple fact of physics.

Energy from the sun arrives as high frequency electromagnetic radiation (mostly in the visible light frequencies and above).  It passes through our atmosphere with almost no interaction with atmospheric molecules.  That radiation which is not reflected back to space by white surfaces (almost entirely clouds and clean ice sheets) is absorbed by the land and ocean surfaces, which consequently increase in temperature.

As you will no doubt recall from high school, all warm bodies radiate energy in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Thus earth (both the land and ocean surfaces) is sending energy back out through the atmosphere as infrared radiation, and it is here where interaction does occur.

GHG molecules (of which CO2, water vapour, and methane are the most significant for this discussion) absorb that infrared radiation.  This causes the atoms of the molecules to “excite” with electrons jumping out to higher orbits around their atomic nuclei.  The molecule thus vibrates more than before, and additional molecular vibration is the measure of heat in any substance.  Thus you can see immediately that additional GHGs in the atmosphere will cause atmospheric warming as infrared radiation is absorbed by these GHG molecules.

Now comes the important part.  All “excited” atoms will return to their natural state, and in doing so the atoms release a pulse of infrared radiation which radiates out equally in all directions – half the radiation goes upwards, and if not interrupted by other GHG molecules, out to space.  The other half goes back down to the earth’s surface and is reabsorbed by land and ocean.

It is this radiative forcing that is warming the planet.  Increasing the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere will force more energy back to earth further warming the planet.  Of course, with a constant/stable percentage of GHGs in the atmosphere, a stable temperature is achieved where energy arriving and leaving the earth is in balance.

The burning of fossil fuels is releasing CO2 (and other GHGs) into the atmosphere increasing the concentration from pre-industrial levels of some 280 parts per million (ppm) to more than 400 ppm, a massive increase.

Now there are additional positive feedbacks exacerbating the problem.  Simple physics state that a warmer atmosphere will hold more water vapour.  More water vapour (a GHG) will increase the radiative forcing as described above, causing further warming.  More water held in the atmosphere will add to the severity of wet weather events.

The next positive feedback is easier to see.  As the land, the oceans, and the atmosphere warm all over the earth, ice melts and we lose reflective surfaces.  With less incoming radiative energy being reflected back to space, more incoming energy is absorbed by the planet, causing even further warming.

The third and potentially more serious feedback relates to how global warming will cause the release of massive amounts of trapped, and thus currently harmless methane, a short lived GHG which is however some 28 times more effective in radiative forcing.  These releases are already coming from warming of tundras and the oceans where methane clathrates exist (methane trapped within an H2O lattice under very cold and/or high pressure situations).  The amount of methane trapped in these clathrates is massive, and if released into the atmosphere, it would greatly increase warming and spell the extinction of life as we know it.

The influence of the warming of the globe on climate relates to the energy level within the whole system.  The greater the amount of energy within the global system, the greater the intensity and frequency of atmospheric activity (ie: weather events).  To appreciate the extent of this energy being added to our global system, it is easy to calculate and draw analogies.  The above radiative forcing and the feedbacks are adding energy to the planet’s systems at the rate of just over four Hiroshima atom bombs every second or, to be more dramatic, 400,000 Hiroshima bombs per day.  That is extremely scary!

The evidence of change in our global climate (the long term average of all weather events) is already well understood and measurable.  Climate modelling, with all its uncertainties and faults, is improving and calibrates well with the measured changes that have already occurred.  The predictions for the future without immediate action to stop GHG emissions are indeed horrific, with the extinction of several species not out of the question.

While this is a very complex area of research, it is thorough, factual, and accepted by every National Academy of Science on the planet.  The falsehoods, cherry picking of data, and out of context quotes, that perpetuate doubt, are only coming from – or as a result of – funding by the fossil fuel industry and related vested interests.  Why should the highly subsidised fossil fuel burning industries be the only industries on the planet allowed to release their wastes for free into our environment?

We had an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that was already law, albeit with a fixed price

(that “great big toxic TAX”).  It worked, and it, and the other measures of the Clean Energy Package (RET, CEFC, ARENA, Climate Authority), are all very necessary to help ensure a future for my grandchildren, and yours.


Professor David Hood AM is a civil and environmental engineer with vast experience across major civil and military projects, professional development in emerging economies, senior management in both the public and private sectors and in education.             

2014-11-12 – Kayak 4 Earth in the Kandanga Museum

Wide Bay ABC Radio interview at Bundaberg, photos and story at the Gympie Times and then over to Kandanga to see the Save the Mary museum and dinner on the pub veranda with lots of the old crew.

It was a bit humbling to see me with my trips in amongst the paraphernalia on the walls. The museum is also a great idea. Next politician who wants to dam the Mary, and there have been three attempts so far, just needs to look in the museum to see what they would be up against. The Mary Valley area is a bit like the Northern Rivers in NSW. Try and tamper with their land at your peril.

Kandanga – Museum is at the old railway stationP1000283


2014-11-13 – Radio, University and home

Sunshine Coast ABC Radio with Annie Gaffney who read out this from the web site:“species loss, habitat loss, sustainable fishery loss, health problems with fisherman, scandalous performance of CSIRO, abysmal engineering practice, destruction of Curtis Island… the list goes on. The big problem is that they got away with it.”

I was able to answer that I had my information from a fish vet who was heavily involved in the biology, a doctor who was embroiled when trying to save a fisherman’s leg along with other disastrous health issues, and as an engineer following the bund wall saga.

At the end of the interview Annie asked what I thought of the  just announced USA/China emissions agreement, and would that make a difference to our leaders. I answered that the agreement was a start, and better than nothing.  Also if you are an unfettered free market capitalist believer, that will be the essence of your being, your core belief. If climate change is real then your core belief system is wrong and it can’t be, therefore climate change cannot be real. So no, our government will not be swayed. They have not been swayed by the unequivocal scientific evidence so nothing will shift them.

Then it was over to Sunshine Coast Uni with the sustainability mob and after my presentation a thought provoking exchange.

To finish off it was back to Lismore via Riverview where I picked up some things. From Bundaberg to the Sunshine Coast I had been treated like royalty. Being well remembered with a bit of ego massaging thrown in wasn’t hard to take at all. The five year anniversary of the Peter Garret announcement that the dam would not proceed was the day before the Bundaberg interview. A fitting note on which to finish a quick trip where both Connor and I  learned a lot ready for the real thing next year.

2014-11-10 – Townsville Bulletin

Drying everything that was in the kayak. All bulkheads filled with water and I hadn’t taken everything out. Met with Townsville Bulletin which did a fine article

Where I met the Bulletin (Castle Hill in the background)P1000276

The evening was spent at the NQCC office, in the back yard actually, where I did a bit of Climate Reality stuff as well as the trip and fellow leader, Sandy McCathie showed some great videos from the 24hrs of hope. This is Sandy, taken from behind the first row of chairs just with my phone.Sandy presenting

2014-11-09 – Hotfoot to Magnetic Island

Paddled over to Magnetic Island. Everyone told me it was 8km. Reckoned I must be just slow after bashing into a 15-18 knot Nor-easter. Even got a bit queasy bouncing up and down. Lunch was scheduled at Wendy Tubman’s place and I think I just managed to get there at a reasonable time.

The bike and trailer in the trailer car park next to the ferry terminalP1000277

The walk was painful because I had forgotten my thongs. It was less than a kilometer and the kayak rolled well with its new wheels, but the road was bloody hot. It took five days for my feet to settle down after it. Probably looked a bit funny I suppose, trying to run, pull the kayak, and use it to launch myself into big astronaut moonwalking type steps so my feet were on the road less. Wendy took me to the IGA supermarket where I spent the best $12.95 ever on a new pair of thongs, plus beer to cool the inside.

Paddling overP1000278

Wendy is a great campaigner and manager for North Qld Conservation Council. She is paid for 15 hours per week but works more than 50 and rarely has time off. I was humbled many times on this trip by the dedication of the people that give their lives to making the world a better place in the face of arrant stupidity by government and industry.

Nearly back to TownsvilleP1000282

Distance 11.8 km, not 8km so I wasn’t as slow as I thought

2014-11-08 – Townsville – Accidental anger

Exhibited at the 150th anniversary celebrations for Townsville Port. A few people were interested but most walked past the kayak with its big banner without even noticing it.

The big day2014-11-08 16.19.52

Thought I did a good interview with 4TO FM but copped flack from Port authority. I was talking about coal and coal ports but failed to specifically say Abbott Point when I mentioned dredging, so they were pissed off. Funny how you can upset some people without even trying.

2014-11-07 – To Townsville – Ironing out the bugs

Bit of a hot trip up to Townsville to set up for the 150th anniversary of the Port. The kayak is right out the front.

At the Townsville Port building2014-11-07 12.20.27

Bowen, near the Abbott Point coal loader was on the way. I am told that there are reef passionate people in Bowen, maybe 10% and there are pro Abbott Point people, again maybe 10% and then there are those in the middle.

What I have found, is that this area is not like the northern rivers of NSW. I thought most people would be passionate about their reef but it seems to me that there is a disconnection in very many places and the saviours are  a small minority.

2014-11-06 – deja vu on dumping

Easy couple of hours to Airlie Beach. The area is a lot different to when I was here about three decades ago. Proserpine looks forgotten. Airlie Beach is modern and the main street area looks great, even if council is heavily in debt. Cannonvale has grown unbelievably and both places join together, so it is sort of like a mini Hervey Bay.

Drying out at the Cannonvale caravan park2014-11-05 11.21.26

I attended a Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping (WRAD) meeting which is trying to stop the Abbott Point Coal terminal ecocide. Most Queenslanders think they had a win when the Newman government said it would pump the dredged spoil to land and not dump it on the reef. What they didn’t say is that it is to go into the wetland adjacent to the port.

Jeff Seeney reckoned their original proposal was to put it into an area that was underwater desert. Ignorance in the extreme! The area is between the reef and the land which is like a marine highway. Fish spawn near the seagrass and mangroves. The resulting baby fish grow up in wetlands and seagrass and gradually move out to the reef using what are called isolates. These are very small patches where they congregate before moving on. The government’s proposal was like taking a link out of a chain and wondering why it won’t still work.

So after the public outcry they are proposing another Gladstone. Trust us they say. With a track record of one gross fail out of one? Sure.

Why did the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority agree to dumping at sea? I have no idea, because scientifically it ain’t smart. Corruption? You decide. What I would say is that GBRMPA has lost any public license to be involved in the wetland dumping debacle with its current chairman. They have painted themselves into a corner that they cannot get out of without a sacrificial lamb.

There were sixteen passionate people at the meeting – high energy and commitment – so I have hope that they will be effective.

In front of the Fat Frog cafe at Cannonvale where Gemma bought me a milkshake2014-11-05 09.32.25

The next meeting was the Whitsunday Local Advisory Committee. There were about a dozen there with four from GBRMPA. One of them gave a presentation on Crown of Thorns, they call ‘em COTs up here. This is what I learned:

  1. They are natural although there is some doubt about the severity of outbreaks. If outbreaks before 1960 were as severe there probably would be no reef.
  2. Need more than 15 per hectare to start an outbreak
  3. They eat 150-250 cm2 of coral per day per COT
  4. They spawn Oct-Feb with millions of eggs that spread on the current so they have enormous reproductive potential
  5. There have been four recorded outbreaks. 1960s, 1979, 1993, 2010
  6. Outbreaks start near Lizard island and move south in waves
  7. There are different types of COTs in many parts of the world

In summary it is likely that they have been increasing but we don’t know. If they have, we don’t know why, despite a plethora of theories. Note that it was not until the 1960s that diving and fast outboards turned up.