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I speak of biological units because that is what we are, science writers have pointed out our limitations, we realise that we have arrived, by a process known as evolution, to our present condition. We have become adapted to a world as it was during the past 11,000 years but is now changing rapidly due to our own foolishness. Every Humanist, and every person on this earth, should be most concerned that living conditions be maintained.
Our continued progress is dependent on having the same CO2 levels and the temperature ranges as have existed for 11,000 years. We are also dependent on having large land areas covered by trees, on giving more consideration to the needs of animals, and to ensuring that both land and seas are not contaminated with chemicals and oil.
Unfortunately, our industrialized system has encouraged our population to increase to 6.7 billion, has also caused CO2 levels to increase from 280 parts per million to 380 ppm. A greater extermination of species than we thought possible is taking place. The glaciers and arctic ice are reducing, portending future temperature rises. All major rivers have a reduced flow, grain stocks everywhere are down and the world fish catch reached a peak several years ago.

Many scientists, and "green" organizations are working to convince governments to take effective action. There are industrialists building solar cells, wind generators, developing Geo-thermal power, but the CO2 level continues to rise, because we continue to burn fossil fuels, export larger quantities of gas and coal, cut down more trees to build more and larger houses, (leaving less land available for crops,) to print more papers filled with articles that disguise the truth. We build bigger, heavier and faster transports so we can ferry goods across the world, when many such goods are available in our own locality.

Numerous organizations have tried to influence their governments to adopt greener methods, only to be out manoeuvred by Industrialists, Manufacturers, Bankers, Financiers who have the ear of government and claim that in order to ensure full-employment we must continue to use the old "tried" methods. But the old methods have brought us to our present condition.

We have been experiencing a mining boom, now under threat due to the financial crash. But in any case we know that all mines run out and become derelict. It would therefore seem to be prudent policy not to dig it all up at once and use it like there was no tomorrow. But this is what we do.

Oil is pumped out of the ground, we are now past peak production, meaning that oil output will go down and the price must go up. Yet we have built a civilization which is dependent on oil. In consequence the oil industry is using shale oil and bio-fuels to make up for the shortfall in conventional oil. Production of both these require the use of more energy than is in the final product. Both produce more CO2. Our environment suffers.

The car industry, which must have known all about Peak Oil, has only recently recognized the need for change and promised a smaller car and later an electric car.


Our lives also run on money, without it we are ruined. For centuries banks have convinced governments that banks should be responsible for issuing currency. This they supply as a loan and charge interest with the result that the total cost of a project may be three times the original cost or more. The interest charge can become unpayable, so the banking system is subject to crashes. Before 1900 there was a boom and bust about every 8 years, the poor were thrown into the workhouse at these intervals.

In 1929 there was the Great Depression, a world wide crash with many bankruptcies and huge unemployment. There have been many other smaller crashes which have ruined many people and in 2008 we copped another big one which may last many years.

The United Nations in the year 2000 passed the millennium resolution which aimed to do many things but the chief one was: "To halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than one dollar a day...." Only a small amount of progress has been made in achieving this resolution. This crash means there is no hope of achieving the resolution. Conditions have worsened due to the crash and the increased price of food. The fault lies with the banking system, and with greed, The blame lies not only with those directly dealing with sub prime loans but also with all those bankers who did not dare raise their voice against the many poor practices introduced during the Bush regime and even earlier.

We, the people, who should know that the system crashes frequently, we know that it does not provide for millions in third world countries, nor for hundreds of thousands in our own country, yet we are not shouting for the financial system to be reformed and re-regulated. All this is not recognized by the government or by the bankers themselves. There is little discussion, poor press coverage. It is clear that the financial industries main aim is to get the system working again so they can continue fleecing us.

President Obama has promised reforms, if his reforms look good, then the world will follow. But if his legislature waters down his efforts and his administration baulks at the task, then you may be sure the scene will be set for the next depression.


The predictions of scientists are getting more alarming every few months. The ice in the arctic is reducing faster than was predicted last year, The CO2 is still going up at 2 parts per million per annum. The chief scientists in the world including James Hansen, chief of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Harvard physicist John Holden, appointed by President Obama as his chief scientific advisor, our own Humanists of the Year, Ian Lowe (1988) emeritus professor at Brisbane’s Griffith University and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation and Tim Flannery (2005) scientist, explorer, conservationist and author - have all issued warnings about the effects of burning fossil fuels, the need to stop burning coal and oil. Doubters should look up these scientists on the www. and think about what they say.

Unfortunately there is another Australian Humanist of the Year 1995, the Geologist, Ian Plimer who’s recent book, "Heaven and Earth" argues that climate change is driven by the sun, by eccentricities in the earth’s orbit, by geological and astronomical forces so strong, that man’s power is relatively weak. This view will be criticized in the addendum to this paper.

David Archer, University of Chicago, points out that only apart of the CO2 emissions we are producing now will be absorbed by the oceans, so this CO2 will still be in the atmosphere not just 100 years from now but for more than a thousand years.

The New Scientist magazine ran an article (28,2,09) saying that a rise of 4 degrees by 2100 is within the conservative IPCC predictions. If we continue current emissions, then Australia will become a desert, we will all have to emigrate to Tasmania. Similar deserts will develop in Africa, South America, the USA. The Sahara will expand into Europe and most of the worlds population will have to move north to Canada or northern Russia.

No Humanist or indeed any other human, whatever his/her beliefs, can let this happen. We must all work at convincing our community leaders, our Industrialists, Manufacturers, Bankers, Financiers, Church and Trade Union Leaders across the world - to fully support an effort to convert our civilization to solar working, starting now with a target of 50% by 2020 and 95% by 2050.


Let us consider what is involved. It means that all power station owners must build Concentrating solar power plants with storage to supply steam to the turbines. Government must co-operate with Geothermal firms to build large geothermal plants in a similar manner that built the Snowy scheme.

All vehicle manufacturers must be required to build electric plug in vehicles from small cars to buses (The Adelaide City Council has an electric bus built in New Zealand.) Every firm should check out their fuel consumption and work out how to reduce it and convert to solar.

As soon as solar power becomes available coal and oil will be phased out.


The elimination of coal will mean a cleaner atmosphere and less mercury poisoning of the oceans.

Electric vehicles will mean continued transport before the oil runs out and we will be able to save some oil to manufacture fertilizers.

These programs will insure full employment.


Solar and wind power is intermittent: True, but with a good grid system across Australia you may still get power from distant sources. Today there are times when the power fails. Solar power may fail more frequently, this gives you the time to cultivate your kitchen garden. Welcome to a less efficient world!

To build many cars and solar equipment will mean higher steel production, resulting in more CO2: The solution is to convert all smelters to solar operation. This has been done in France (they have no coal). Solar smelters must be a first priority.

CO2 is beneficial, you are throwing away our national wealth: All biological units, humans and animals breath out CO2, It is a part of nature, but too much CO2 is a menace causing temperatures to rise. Excessive temperatures will kill much animal life leading to a reduction in CO2, such a recovery might take a period of over a million years, as has happened five times in the very distant past when CO2 levels rose to 1000 parts per million.

We don’t have the money for these reforms: Not under the present system, which has just proved its inadequacy. Money reform is essential.


The current system has produced our current civilization. It has helped to give us a standard of living better than any previous generation. Many live better than Kings of past ages. But there are millions of starving peoples. The system encourages maximum development and population growth, without realizing that there are limits to growth. Mines and wells do run out. Higher temperatures mean larger deserts incapable of feeding the larger population.

The current money system is based on banks loaning money and charging interest, making money a debt system. All businesses run on it so any financial problem may cause a business crash. Economic Rationalism has worked to the advantage of high profit ventures and to the detriment of infrastructure, it has made the rich richer and the poor destitute. The remedy is for governments to take back the power of creating money at least to the extent of being able to build and maintain infrastructure. Governments can then charge zero interest, enabling more infrastructure to become affordable. Governments need to spend money directly by way of contracts to build roads, schools, hospitals, solar power plants, solar distillation plants, to electrify railways, and then take steps to see that these assets remain in the hands of the public and can not easily be privatised. Banks would have their powers considerably curbed to prevent them loaning too much money to the private sector.

There are many other possible solutions. The American Money Act should be considered. Bankers should be called on to arrange public debates and allow their staff to take all sides without consequences.


At the back of all these problems is the enormous rise in population that has taken place during the last century thanks to the work of our doctors and scientists. It is the basic cause of the massacre in Rwanda, in the Sudan and across the world. More mouths to feed means more building on land that should be used for farming, warming of the planet, less water in the major growing areas. People who argue for increasing population should google Professor Albert Bartlett of Colorado University and listen to his lecture in which he proves using simple mathematics, that population growth is unsustainable.

The remedy is simple in principle but difficult to execute. It depends on the fact that in developed countries where women as well as men have received a good education the fertility rate has gone down, below replacement rate, one of the lowest rates will be found in Italy in spite of the Vatican’s preaching.

We need to work through the United Nation, to improve education everywhere. We should stop tempting doctors, nurses, and trades persons to come to Australia when they are needed in their home country. Our aid to third world countries should be increased up to the UN recommendations. Australia should be in the position to export medical and other services. The restrictions on overseas aid programs, preventing the provision of family planning advice and services, has been withdrawn recently. Australia was the last government to take this action.

Prof Beddington, the British Chief Scientist said last March "global food reserves are so low – at 14 per cent of annual consumption – a long drought or big flood could see prices rapidly escalate again. Most of the food reserve is grain in transit. Our food reserves are at a 50-year low but, by 2030, we need to be producing 50 per cent more food. At the same time, we will need 50 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more fresh water. There are dramatic problems out there, particularly with water and food, but energy also, and they are all intimately connected. You can’t think about dealing with one without considering the others."

Prof. Beddington is correct but the problems of overpopulation and finance are also intimately connected so there is a lot of reforming for us to do.


I have been producing talks and leaflets on these subjects for 8 years now, and I have sent them to my member of parliament and sometimes to many politicians. While there is generally a greater awareness that the world has serious problems there is little urgency in applying the hard solutions. The government appears to be unduly influenced by Industrialists and other community leaders and applies low targets and insufficient direct action.

I believe that ordinary members of the public, including you and me, who are not encumbered by the problems of community leaders, have a clearer idea of the dangers the world is in. So it is up to us to bring pressure to bear on our industrialists, manufacturers, bankers, financiers, church and trade union leaders, by sending them leaflets. I have prepared two leaflets, one is this talk and the other is similar, entitled the Four Horseman of the Modern Apocalypse. The horseman are of course CO2, Peak Oil, Financial Crash and Overpopulation. Please take these leaflets home and distribute them to your leaders, as you think appropriate.

Dick Clifford

As presented at the Council of Australian Humanist Societies Annual Convention Glenelg May 2009.


The media gives much publicity to any one who promotes the contrary view with little attention to where they go wrong. The following is a brief explanation of the main science behind the idea of global warming etc.

The graph below shows the temperature (upper line) compared with the CO2 level as measured from the ice cores drilled at Vostock, in the Antarctic and in Greenland. You will see that the CO2 level follows the temperature very closely, when its hot the CO2 level is high and visa-versa. At 100,000 year intervals the temperature peaks at 3 degrees when the sea levels rose, down to - 8 degrees when the ice age made life impossible on large areas in America and Asia.

But note the last 11.000 years where the variation is very level, only going up 1 degree and down 2 degrees, (see below) 

but this variation is sufficient to include the little ice age, when the Thames froze over and the medieval warming when tropical plants grew in Norway. One must ask what is the cause of this level climate? Nobody can say for certain but some have pointed out that agriculture started about 11,000 years ago and perhaps the size of the forests and the numbers of animals caused a CO2 balance, which suggests that humanity can control the climate provided we can learn not to burn coal and oil so as to reduce CO2 levels. But we continue to put more CO2 into the atmosphere as shown in graph 2, reaching higher levels than those recorded for the last 600,000 years.

It is also claimed that climate change is due to variations in the sun’s energy we receive, caused by elliptical orbits, sunspots etc, all of which do have an effect, but measurements show that these effects are much smaller than a greenhouse gas, It is a fact that the temperature rises first, but the CO2 then causes the bulk of the warming. If there was no CO2 the temperature would be - 25 degrees. If CO2 levels were doubled the temperature would be extreme.

But few people realise there are other problems that are all related in various ways and we need to reform the way we live.

Thus the current financial crash reduces the amount of money available to coal and oil interests preventing them from drilling new wells etc. Oil is said to run out in 40 years time, this means that in 10 years time oil will be 25 % down, the resulting rationing will cause the biggest financial crash the world has ever known.

We should be conserving oil so we can continue to make fertilizers, chemicals etc. and building electric transports and solar power stations.

The resulting work will keep us all employed and give us the hope of achieving a less polluted world. All peoples should join in this endeavour regardless of their beliefs. D.C.



See also:

The Four Horseman of the Modern Apocalypse Same theme, more detail.

Please distribute these papers widely.
*A limited number of free paper copies of these leaflets will be available. Send a stamped addressed envelope (DL or larger) to: 
120 Goodman Road, Elizabeth South, South Australia 5112.

Please Help!
The Author runs a small charity to help up to 250 Liberian Children go to school. They were in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana and were returned to Monrovia, a few months ago. Conditions are as bad in Liberia as they were in Ghana.
  Your donation, however small will be welcome. Please make out your cheque to "Liberian Refugee Scholarship Fund" c/o 120 Goodman Rd Elizabeth South, SA, 5112

Full details available  here   Thank You.