Sinclair Davidson at *Catallaxy* points out an article in *The Australian *claiming that **up to **8 million Australian workers don’t have the literacy and numeracy skills to enter a trade or a professional occupation. I wonder.

Last time I looked the Australian workforce was 11.5 million so this analysis says almost 70% have basic literacy and numeracy problems. I think the analysis is grossly exaggerated though the researchers (and the poor quality newspaper) have wriggle room – they did use the qualifier “up to” and by professional occupation they may claim to have intended “Professor of Mathematics”.

Unhelpful.

“up too”? When blogging about literacy it is best to double check your spelling!

Done.

hc: Actually at least 90% of Australians cannot do percentages, if we are to judge by recent evidence from the highest in the land:

1. Last year Kevin Rudd as PM loyally (?) supported by Gillard and Swan claimed when proposing the new Super Profits Mining Tax that (on the basis of the Ken Henry Report, Vol.1 Chart C1-1) that it was possible for company tax at 30% of taxable profits and royalties at 5% of total sales value to deliver revenue of only 14% of nearly $50 billion of taxable profits in 2008-09 while they delivered around 40% of taxable profits of $4 billion in 2001-02.

2. No fewer than 21 Australian economists, led by J Quiggin, endorsed this new Math, in a well publicised Open Letter, thereby showing that no more than Henry and Swan can they do percentages. The 21 have to be considered representative of all Australian economists, so in fact 100% of Australian academic economists, the Australian Treasury, and the Cabinet as it was in early 2010, have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that they cannot do percentages.

3. Not a single Australian Minister, public servant, or academic economist is capable of referring to the ATO’s Annual Tax Statistics, which show that throughout the first decade of this century Australian mining companies actually paid over 29% of taxable profits to the ATO (not counting royalties paid to the States) (they were allowed to claim some offsets for worthy causes which brought the headline rate down to 29%).

4. Ross Garnaut endorsed (Melbourne Institute 21st May 2010) the 21 economists, Henry and Swan, showing that he too cannot do percentages.

5. Garnaut, now in his role as Australia’s leading Climate Scientist, claims repeatedly in his seminal The Science of Climate Change, that the absorption of CO2 emissions by the globe’s biospheres, is falling, as the CO2 sinks allegedly become “saturated” at both land and sea, citing ad nauseam the works of Le Quere (UEA-CRU), and Raupach and Canadell of CSIRO (7 cites in total), whereas the actual data of those luminaries, who are all three innocent of knowing how to do percentages, show at their website http://www.globalcarbonproject.org) that the actual downtake by the sinks of CO2 emissions from hydrocarbon combustion INCREASED from 43.5% in 2004-05 to 62.9% in 2008-09.

6. Not a single climate “scientist” in the whole world has ever noticed that the formula for the outputs from combustion of hydrocarbon fuels is C3H8 + 5O2 + 18.8N2 → Energy + 3CO2 + 4H2O +18.8N2 – but then there is NO evidence that chemistry is taught anywhere in Australia, least of all at the ANU, or that any flunkey at CSIRO now living it up in Cairns was ever taught any. But that formula implies that such combustion generated radiative forcing (RF) of 0.108 W/sq.m. in 2008-09, of which 0.059 W/sq.m. was due to carbon dioxide emissions, and 0.049 W/sq.m. to water vapour emissions. Which means the “carbon” (sic, really carbon dioxide, is there a single Australian Minister, academic, or CSIRO flunkey who knows the difference between carbon, a black solid, and CO2, a colourless and odourless gas?) tax is also a tax on increased rainfall. That really is a benefice for Central Australia.

Can anybody in this country work out the implied percentages? Sadly, no, as all the CSIRO’s 600 at Cairns today vote to eliminate all such combustion, and thereby 18 GtH2O of annual rainfall.

7. When Australia’s premier economist/climate scientist cannot do percentages, it is no surprise that he also cannot work out growth rates. By far the biggest GHG in the atmosphere is CO2, and it has been growing at all of 0.295% p.a. since 1958, but Garnaut the Scientist claims in his latest effusion that it will grow at 1.014% p.a. from now until 2100, to reach 1565 ppm from today’s 390 ppm. This of course relies on the assumption of the percentages challenged Raupach & Canadell of CSIRO, that anyday now, no crop ever planted worldwide will achieve any photosynthesis (that is what they mean when they say the “sinks are saturated”).

But then suppressio veri is the name of the game when climate scientists and economists get together for a love fest in Cairns.

@Tim Curtin: Your last three points are bullshit and show a serious inadequacy in your ability to understand basic chemistry or systems science.

Point 5: Of course the uptake in these sinks increased, that’s how you saturate them. The point is that if you continue to grow emissions steadily and these sinks can’t take any more of that growth then the CO2 will build up in the atmosphere.

Point 6: Not all combustion occurs with enough oxygen to produce the reaction you specify. Mostly we end up with a lot of carbon monoxide and much less water rather than CO2.

Point 7: Again, sinks are saturated does _not_ mean that they cease to exist (i.e. by plants ceasing to photosynthesise), it just means that they can’t suck up any more of the increased input. Again, continued growth of CO2 output simply means that it will build up in the atmosphere.

If the growth is steady, and the sinks are saturated, then the growth of the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will be geometric, and will thus be _very_ poorly described by the linear extrapolation you are using to obtain your ‘percentages’.

If you’re going to be so snarky about science on a blog post about literacy, I suggest you do a bit more learning of your own.

Sinesurfer:

Not one of your points is valid biologically or chemically.

#5: “[if]…these sinks can’t take any more of that growth” is what has to be proved, and for that you have to show both that the oceans cannot absorb any more [CO2] either directly or through generating more phytoplankton and corals, and that (1) there is not a square inch of land surface left to plant something, and (2) that the rest of the terrestrial biosphere has reached its limits in terms of enhanced yields via uptakes of [CO2]. Go to my website http://www.timcurtin.com and check out the seminar I gave at the ANU almost exactly a year ago, where I go into this in more detail than is possible here.

#6: Please do some chemistry, as your point that “Not all combustion occurs with enough oxygen to produce the reaction you specify. Mostly we end up with a lot of carbon monoxide and much less water rather than CO2” is plainly wrong – most hydrocarbon combustion, including your car’s, uses plain air and still produces more CO2, H2O, and N2 than CO:

C3H8 + 5O2 + 18.8N2 → Energy + 3CO2 + 4H2O +18.8N2

Where’s the CO in that standard formula?

#7: you say “sinks are saturated does _not_ mean that they cease to exist (i.e. by plants ceasing to photosynthesise), it just means that they can’t suck up any more of the increased input”, see my reply at #5, there is NO evidence of that happening, and plenty against, just go to FAOSTAT and work out the carbon embodied in the annual growth of yields of all food crops, livestock, timber, and fisheries (with the only exceptions being where there has been over-harvesting, eg cod).

Finally, you are correct when you say “If the growth is steady, and the sinks are saturated, then the growth of the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will be geometric, and will thus be _very_ poorly described by the linear extrapolation you are using to obtain your ‘percentages’” BUT only if your second IF is valid, and clearly it is not, despite or rather because of its Malthusian origins.

Thanks for your final send-off – but I shall continue to be snarky about climate “scientists” until I can find one who knows anything at all about the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, as manifestly Susan Solomon does not, despite claiming to have a degree in Chemistry, as there is no mention of the formula above anywhere in the 985 pages of the IPCC’s AR4 WG1 of which she was the Chief Editor. Rather amazing, don’t you think, when Solomon et al claim that hydrocarbon combustion is what will destroy us all.

To bring the comments back to the point of the post – the Australian has misrepresented the data and the figure is eight million Australians, which is roughly half of the working age population. About 4.5 million are in the workforce, still a significant amount but much lower than the implied 70%.

@ Tim:

#6: Do your own chemistry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combustion#Incomplete. I learned this in high school chem class. Incomplete combustion generates CO. Furthermore, fuel burning is more complicated than your simple chemical equation lets on.

#7: What does this mean – “rather because of its Malthusian origins”? That’s hardly an argument against what I said, which you’ve agreed is substantively correct. Why should we believe that growth of CO2 in the atmosphere is linear? In fact, analysis of the measured CO2 content shows it is accelerating and hence nonlinear: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/co2-shame/#more-3646

Sinesurfer asked “Why should we believe that growth of CO2 in the atmosphere is linear? In fact, analysis of the measured CO2 content shows it is accelerating and hence nonlinear”

Not so as I have pointed but awaiting moderation of course at your link to Tamino, who said “In the last post I showed that not only is CO2 increasing, its growth rate is also increasing. So, the growth rate of CO2 is faster now than it was just a few decades ago. Significantly so”.

Both you and Tamino seem to have problems with language. I know that in American as used by tamino and CDIAC (in its data on CO2) “growth rate” means absolute amounts. In English “growth RATE” means a rate of speed, eg miles PER hour, or fuel use, miles PER gallon, or interest PER $100.

Tamino’s graph shows a LINEAR upward trend in the absolute annual net addition to the atmospheric concentration, and the amount of the increase in [CO2] p.a. revealed by OLS regression in his data is given in my graph at his Blog, but NEVER in any that he has ever displayed ASAIK, and certainly not there. It is:

y = 0.0254x + 0.7656

R² = 0.4105

So the trend in his graph is a fixed amount of 0.0254 ppm per annum (as x is years). The linear trend is upward but not rising flat as it must be by definition of linear.

Now it is possible that as Tamino and you say “not only is CO2 increasing, its growth rate is also increasing”. So perhaps it is increasing exponentially? Well, I fit that exponential, which produces an upward curving line, NOT linear (=straight line), and here is the LS regression:

y = 0.7736e0.0196x

R² = 0.3879

As the R2 shows the fit is less good than the linear, the exponential hypothesis needs to be dropped.

So how about logarithmic, which of course shows a declining trend?

Here’s the fit

y = 0.4071ln(x) + 0.2133

R² = 0.3665

and it is worse than both the linear and the exponential.

Now the constant linear annual increment in both Tamino’s graph and mine of 0.0254 ppm to the additional ppm is necessarily a falling percentage RATE of increase relative to the annually expanding base, which was 0.95 ppm in 1959 and 2 ppm in 2010.

Extrapolating our graphs’ linear trend, we will reach by 2100 only an atmospheric concentration of 675 ppm, well below what Dutch greenhouse growers consider optimal, and also well below the BAU projections of the IPCC (AR4 WG1 Fig.10.20).

2. Next, Tamino said: “..there was an increase in the rate of growth of atmospheric CO2. I think you need to improve your reading comprehension skills”. I assume that he like you refers here to the absolute level of the atmospheric concentration, currently around 390 ppm. It is true that there was an increase in the LN decadal growth rates from 1959-68 (0.25% pa) to 1999-2008 (0.55% pa), with the average from 1959 to 2010 at 0.42% pa.

That a priori seems to confirm Tamino’s claim – but 1999 was a La Nina year, and 2008 was an El Nino, so the rate from 1999 to 2010 had already begun to drop back (but La Nina began only late in the year), while 1959, 1969 and 1979 were El Nino years, generating thereby lower % growth rates over the ensuing decade (atmospheric CO2 and changes therein are always higher in El Ninos).

But even 0.55% p.a. does not lead to the IPCC’s and Tamino and your more apocalyptic predictions, as with BAU (=that rate) we again only get to 674 ppm in 2100.

Plotting the total concentration from 1959-2010, the linear fit again cannot be beaten, at 1.4703 ppm pa, and R2=.99.

Finally, I do not think Tamino is right when he says “Linearly increasing velocity means constant acceleration”. What OLS linear trends show is a fixed annual increment, and therefore a declining percentage RATE of growth. His “constant acceleration” implies and can occur only if there is an exponential trend, neither you nor Tamino have not shown that and you cannot, because there is not.