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Category Archives: Environment

Our uncertain future

By Stephen Fitzgerald  

From the New York Times, the most dire of predictions:

WASHINGTON — A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.

The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth?

In terms of the consequences of climate change, lets have a look at what’s on the cards:

  1. Communities: – Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.
  2. Economy: – Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.
  3. Interconnected Impacts: – Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.
  4. Actions to Reduce Risks: – Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.
  5. Water: – The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by climate change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment.
  6. Health: – Impacts from climate change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable.
  7. Indigenous Peoples: – Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems.
  8. Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services: – Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being altered by climate change, and these impacts are projected to continue. Without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur; some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing such transformational changes.
  9. Agriculture: – Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.
  10. Infrastructure: – Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.
  11. Oceans & Coasts: – Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values.
  12. Tourism and Recreation: – Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out that the same scenario applies to every western capitalist country including Australia. In fact, the impact is global. For capitalism to flourish you need economic growth so, are our short sighted leaders, in climate change denial, about to inadvertently or otherwise, destroy capitalism?

Donald Trumps “Mini-me” Australian PM Scott Morrison has the same short/sighted approach to climate change. Taking no action to address the impact of global warming for short term corporate profit will lead to catastrophic economic and environmental loss in the medium to long/term. Actually it’s happening right now!

Here’s the conundrum – Right wing conservatives by definition don’t like change so, why are they embracing climate change and risking the future of humanity and the natural world? The Morrisons and the Trumps are happy to change their spots when driven by greed and the result is, screw the consequences, screw the rest of us and screw the planet. Or is there more to it than that? What’s in their heads?

Since, by embracing climate change, they appear to be hell bent on destroying capitalism, what’s the alternative they have in mind? Well, like any good right-winger, if my obsession was money, power and total control, I would be thinking democratic dictatorship so that no-one could stand in my way. That’s how Putin and Xi Jinping keep the civilian population and the financial elite in their place and totally under control.

To go down that path, as a start, you need to give the military call out powers to respond to riots with shoot to kill authorization, you need to control the media, you denigrate and drag down your opponents, you constantly instil trumped-up fear into the community, you increase the fire power and size of the police force and you buy the military with hundreds of billions of dollars in defence spending. $200 billion on defence is more that half our national debt. And, that my friend, is precisely what the Morrison government are doing right now, today?

So, we have a choice, ladies and gentlemen – Address global warming and continue with capitalism where the elite feed off society with the blessing of right-wing governments or, turn the page and go for destruction of the planet and a full blown dictatorship? It appears to me that conservatives aren’t so conservative after all and, they have an agenda to put themselves in total control and keep the rest of us, including the financial elite, firmly under foot. Wouldn’t Morrison and his cronies love that, no one to answer to. Not even those rich bastards at the top and, no more sucking up to Murdoch.

If I were part of the global financial elite, the rich and the powerful, I would be having a serious look at where extreme right-wing governments are pushing societies and why? There are those among us who see catastrophic climate change and the demise of capitalism as a huge opportunity and, a grab for total power.

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#30 Year Challenge

By 2353NM 

There is a social media meme at the moment where two photos are posted side by side, one from 2009 the other from 2019. ‘Bonus points’ are apparently gained by ‘featuring’ a similar pose in both photos. As everything is apparently better with a hashtag, this latest fad is tagged as the #10yearchallenge.

While social media has only been ‘a thing’ for about 10 years, why stop there? If we look back 30 years ago to 1 January 1989, all 197 countries of the world implemented the Montreal Protocol which effectively bans the use of chemicals that adversely affect the ozone layer above the earth. The agreement was signed in 1987. Australia’s Department of Environment and Energy has a detailed description of what the ozone layer is and why it is important here, but for the purposes of a political blogsite, the effects of a reduction in the ozone layer around the world would allow significant additional levels of UV light to reach the earth affecting plant crops, food production, our climate and our ability to survive outdoors. As The Guardian recently reported

Governments temporarily put aside cold-war hostilities and united rapidly around a solution to the ozone problem. From the first research in 1973, it took just 16 years for the world to discuss, agree and put in place a solution that reversed the trend.

The Guardian goes on to compare the relatively quick action on the elimination of ozone layer damaging chemicals to the world’s lack of action on climate change.

By comparison, scientific warnings that carbon dioxide emissions could disrupt the climate date back to at least 1962 (and the risks were speculated on much earlier). Yet despite numerous international agreements on the subject since then (Rio 1992, Kyoto 1998, Copenhagen 2009, Paris 2015), emissions are still climbing.

While there was clear scientific evidence that the ozone layer was diminishing there is also clear evidence in the increase in high temperatures, inconsistent rainfall, changes to native fauna and increasingly more powerful cyclones, that climate change is a reality in Australia and elsewhere. Increasing droughts and even more frigid winters around the world demonstrate on a daily basis that the climate is changing to a far greater extent than can be supported by natural variation.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has released its review of the climatic conditions in 2018 and frankly, it isn’t ‘a good read’. The UK’s Met Office is already calling 2019 a record breaking year for all the wrong reasons.

The Guardian claims:

In the 80s, the environment was not yet the polarising issue it has become, but the dominant figures – including the US president, George HW Bush, the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher – still had to overcome business interests, treasury doubts and political short-termism to protect the future health of the planet. They refused to accept the delaying tactics of chemical companies, some of which argued action should wait until the science was clearer. Today, Trump, Bolsonaro and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, represent fossil fuel interests, deny science and undermine international cooperation.

And they’re probably correct. Governments around the world that have traditional links to business, such as the Liberal (in name only) Party in Australia and the Republican Party in the USA, seem to be beholden to self-interests that are clearly arguing delay to any environmental action to mitigate climate change so corporate investments are not negatively affected. When a company does break ranks, such as AGL announcing the uneconomic Liddell Power Station would close in 2022 to be replaced with renewable energy, the Liberal Party Prime Minister of the day (in this case Turnbull) applied pressure to keep the plant open. Even in 2019. The Liberal Party is also apparently considering additional coal fired power stations as a part of its ‘energy guarantee’. And the National Party who is supposed to represent the interests of regional Australia (where climate change is acknowledged as a real and ever-present danger to livelihoods) goes along with this madness.

Ten years ago, then PM Rudd squibbed action on climate change when he wouldn’t negotiate with the Greens to get an emissions trading scheme through the Senate, after calling climate change ‘the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time’. In 2019 we have PM Morrison claiming Australia will meet its Paris Agreement ‘in a canter’ when the reality is we don’t have a snowballs’ chance in hell.

Some of the #10yearchallenge photos are quite clever, such as the one with the eye chart getting progressively more out of focus. The best we can do is two PMs that have failed to protect current and future generations. The Australian political system should be better than that.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Pie in the sky

By Stephen Fitzgerald 

Greenhouse gasses trap energy from the sun and drive global warming. A one degree increase in global temperature equates to a 7% increase in atmospheric water vapour. Increased temperature and water vapour drives extremes in weather. Floods, wild-fires, droughts, hurricanes, ice melt and sea level rises as we are experiencing right now. The only way out is to stop burning fossil fuels but, we have a major fight on our hands.

As part of the climate-change picture, I have previously mentioned the oil wars ravaging entire nations in the battle for control of fossil fuels worth 10’s of trillions of dollars. This is driven by greed and the selective ignorance of a few oil and war barons plus the governments who pander to them. Companies generating electricity by burning fossil fuel are driven purely by profit and they have a total disregard for the future of civilisation, the natural world, and us. The big question is: “How do we stop them?”

Let’s look at the main offenders in relation to burning the fossil fuels that drives global warming. Check the pie chart below. At 2% of total green house gas emissions, Germany have just now surpassed their 50% renewable energy target and aim to phase out all coal powered electricity stations by 2028. They are well underway to a sustainable energy future and, if they can do it, what’s wrong with the rest of us? I’m suggesting it’s miss-information by government and big business plus our own ignorance.

Here’s another shock. The top five fossil fuel burning countries create a staggering 60% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s have a look at where they stand with action on climate change:

China: Are in the process of setting up a national power grid so every capable citizen can generate and contribute renewable solar and wind energy to a national grid. On the “Climate Action Tracker”, at the moment, they are still considered highly insufficient.

America: A war economy whose government fully supports the fossil fuel industry and not climate action. On the “Climate Action Tracker” is considered critically insufficient. The pinnacle of capitalism. It’s all about money and screw everything and, everyone else.

India: Aims to develop solar energy for power generation with the ultimate objective of making solar competitive with fossil-based energy options. On the “Climate Action Tracker” is considered 2°C compatible and on the right track.

Russia: Wants to protect itself from climate change with better weather forecasting and not by reducing carbon emissions? On the “Climate Action Tracker” is considered critically insufficient. Clearly obsessed with self-interest and not self-preservation.

Japan: Action on climate change on the “Climate Action Tracker” is considered highly insufficient. Well, they eat whales and apparently don’t care much about the natural world so, what else can we expect.

That then brings us to dear old backward Australia. On the “Climate Action Tracker” is considered insufficient. We are shamefully worse than India! What is our LNP government doing to play their part and help save the world? The answer is a resounding nothing! They are doing quite the opposite by promoting fossil fuel to exacerbate global warming and, I am personally disgusted with all of them.

So, in exasperation, what do we do? What can we do? We can’t trust the government, we can’t trust the fossil fuel and power industry and, we can’t trust those other mongrel dogs fighting over fossil fuels. That would be Russia and America. The only solution we have, is to trust ourselves.

Collectively, every conscious human on the planet needs to generate renewable energy and then, feed the surplus into their national power grids and, eventually a global power grid. We did it with communication and the internet and it can be done with electricity supply.

You see, there is hope but, we can’t leave it to governments or big business. We must do it ourselves and only we can save us. At the moment Australia runs on 15% renewable energy. Start generating your own power and sell the surplus to the national grid. If every capable Australian does this, we can force out the fossil fuel giants and save us but, we need to act together and quickly.

Individually, we can’t change the governments, we can’t stop the murderous war machine and we can’t shut the door on fossil fuel conglomerates but, collectively and with a collective consciousness, we can work around them and shut them down. It’s people power! Put up those solar panels, feed electricity into the grid and fight for the future.

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Some Myths Presented by Climate Change Deniers, Part 2

By Keith Antonysen 

Comments such as … “Indeed, the AGW theory posing as ‘settled science’ in in fact the greatest science fraud in human history.” It is just a meaningless comment that offers no evidence, and is quite infuriating. It is a form of comment often provided by anthropogenic climate change deniers.

Each point made has lots of further details, but I’m trying to be brief.

Deniers argue climate science is just modelling

Tell that to divers in Antarctica, or scientists tramping up and down glaciers, or scientists working in other inhospitable places gathering data. Modelling has been used in the past to provide an idea of what is happening. The grids used were quite large two hundred kilometres square, now they can be as small as ten square kilometres. A few years ago quite a number of glaciologists were complaining about modelling not keeping up with the pace of decline in snow and ice regions. Erosion of coastlines, river banks or valleys requires observation and measurement, nothing to do with modelling. Noting how fish species are moving North or South from their habits depending on which hemisphere they are in, requires observation.

Deniers like to promote problems with temperature measurement; but, when the artefacts of temperature are pointed out, they claim that is out of order. Examples of artefacts … thawing of permafrost; where greening of tundra areas is taking place, lakes and ponds forming, marshes are forming, infra-structure is breaking down, and glaciers disappearing.

Anthropogenic climate change is not happening

Often the response is just, it is not happening without any kind of evidence provided. It’s a case of knowing better than the millions of scientists over the years who have come to the conclusion that humans do have an effect on climate. Sometimes it is expressed as humans do have a little effect on climate, though not enough to do much damage. The point particularly came to mind after watching a BBC interview with Myron Ebell, a strong Trump supporter. He had no better response than in his view climate scientists are wrong.

Science is not based on opinion, it is based on hypotheses being shown to be correct through observations and data collected.

Satellite data shows that temperatures are not increasing to any large extent

New data in relation to warming of Oceans almost makes temperature readings from land-based weather stations and satellites superfluous. Oceans comprise 70% of the Earth’s surface, and they act as a sink for CO2 and temperature. Satellites do not actually measure temperature; they provide inferred data which then needs to go through a modelling process. Remember, denialists do not like modelling. There is controversy in relation to the accuracy of satellite inferred temperature relating to the process the data needs to be processed by. There has been controversy for many years in relation to the processing of inferred temperature. The other factor is that as satellites age they move out of their orbits causing difficulty in accurately interpreting their inferred temperature.

There is no consensus between climate scientists in relation to anthropogenic climate change

The comment seems mainly directed at John Cook, he began the successful Skeptical Science web site years ago which provides a thorn in denier arguments. The consensus view was first spoken about by Naomi Orestes, it was an observation she made without any objective proof. The consensus view created much attention and several studies were completed to verify the opinion including one by Naomi Orestes. The studies varied from 91% to greater than 97%; the studies assessed were from recognised peer reviewed climate science journals. Consensus studies: Orestes 2004, 100%; Doran 2009, 97%; Andregg 2010, 97%; Cook 2013, 97%; Verheggan 2014, 91%; Stenhouse 2014, 93% and Carlton 2015, 97%. (From Skeptical Science).

Water vapour is the main greenhouse gas.

As with the claim that the climate has always changed it is a true observation.

But, water vapour doesn’t just happen without a particular processes occurring. There is the normal water cycle operating with the add-on of warm marine waters and warm atmosphere. The warm atmosphere is created by extra greenhouse gas emissions which then allow for extra water vapour to be carried. Warming waters allow for more evaporation to take place. Water vapour once created is a powerful greenhouse gas, and a positive feedback system is developed. Wet micro bursts, jargon for “rain bombs” in the past were quite rare, and occurred for a short time frame; now, they are very common and  can last for long periods; for example, Hurricane Harvey 2017.

Some Myths Presented by Climate Change Deniers, Part 1

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Some Myths Presented by Climate Change Deniers, Part 1

By Keith Antonysen

We all want to believe that Earth will remain a safe place to live, it has in the main provided a stable climate since man has inhabited Earth. Yet, now, deniers do agree that the climate is changing, ten years ago that was not the case. They now pick reasons for the change in climate that scientists have already considered and found not to be the case. They deny the impact of greenhouse gases on climate. There has been talk of setting up a colony on Mars, could human exist there without any technological ways of creating an atmosphere in shelters? Clearly, the answer is a resounding no. We are able to survive on Earth as greenhouse gases allow for temperature to be moderated to allow for human, and flora and fauna survival.

Greenhouse gases do not have an impact on climate

Climate science began through Fourier in the 1820s. Later, Foote and Tyndall experimented with various gases and found that CO2 retains warmth. Much more sophisticated experiments have upheld their findings since. A 1912 short article in a New Zealand paper discussed what impact coal would have on climate.

Scientists working for ExxonMobil in the 1970s, found that fossil fuels do impact on climate, as have scientists contracted by the American Petroleum Institute prior to denial becoming a thriving Industry from the late 1980s.

The Climate has always changed

Here we have a statement that we all know is true. The fact is that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere change over, time as a percentage of the atmosphere. CO2 takes a huge number of decades to break down. The “great dying” 252 million years ago is an example of greenhouse gases being created through coal seams being ignited. Unsurprisingly, artefacts are created through such a process. Dr Benjamin Burger acknowledges prior studies, and through breaking down samples shows chemical and mineral artefacts consistent with coal burning and the creation of greenhouse gases. Dr Burger suggests that his study provides an analog for what is beginning to happen currently.

Information provided by deniers is often distorted

Dr James Hansen has been fraudulently misquoted in relation to paradigms  he set out in the 1980s where two of his paradigms were very close to the mark, and the other two are the ones deniers use. Deniers often do not understand nuances climate scientists state, they cherry pick statements from Reports they believe fit their pseudo science. For example, a study might clearly establish that anthropogenic climate change is happening, yet comments from deniers use the Reports anyway. Astro-Physics being an example where this has happened.

Climate scientists distort temperature

Deniers complain that temperature readings are homogenised, they would apparently prefer inaccurate records to be made. Weather stations are influenced by what is around them, if trees, asphalt, or buildings are placed; or taken away from the vicinity of a weather station, then readings change. Environments do change after more than one hundred years. The US has placed weather stations in areas where change is extremely unlikely to happen as datum points so menaces such as Anthony Watts from WUWT are silenced. They have found their homogenisation of temperature readings have been accurate. No longer do deniers use 1997 as a datum point for their arguments, they would be laughed at if they did. Temperature has increased since the El Nino year of 1997, even in years since when El Nino was not a factor.

Climate scientists make a fortune

Climate scientists do seek funds to allow for research; as do other scientists in a myriad of other disciplines. However, their salaries are what can be expected in any Professional position. The message is put out to shift the focus off the Fossil Fuel Corporations making huge profits at the expense of a liveable environment.

Any commentary provided by deniers needs to be checked against what science says. I would hope that anybody reading these comments checks what I have written against science, not blogs.

Some Myths Presented by Climate Change Deniers, Part 2

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Our best future

By Stephen Fitzgerald  

April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in the world’s first manned space flight. “I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”

Scientists calculated a ‘point of no return’ for dealing with climate change – and time is running out

The goal of the Paris Agreement was to ensure global temperatures didn’t rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If temperatures hit that point, we’ll be more likely to see the worst projected effects of climate change, including rising seas, severe storms, extreme heat, drought, and fires. In fact, we are experiencing the beginnings of those extremes right now.

The world needs to transition to renewable energy fast if we don’t want temperatures to rise that much, according to a new study. In that study, the authors calculated a “point of no return” for acting on climate – and it’s soon. There’s nothing mysterious about what it will take to limit climate change: The world needs to transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. But the timing of that transition is extremely important.

According to a new study published in the journal Earth System Dynamics, we could soon cross a point of no return. After that, it will be almost impossible to keep Earth’s temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius. The new study calculates that if the world’s governments don’t initiate a transition to clean energy sources by 2035 – meaning that the share of renewables starts to grow by at least 2% each year – we’ll almost certainly pass that point of no return.

The world could hit a tipping point that causes warming to spiral out of control — a scenario scientists call ‘Hothouse Earth’

We need to take action to restore Earth’s systems back to their natural states as much as possible. That means doing more than cutting emissions. It requires planting and improving forests, managing biodiversity, and potentially creating technologies that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or, amplify Earth’s natural carbon propagation processes to capture and store atmospheric CO2.

Avoiding a Hothouse Earth scenario requires a redirection of human actions from “Exploitation” to “Stewardship” of the Earth system.

We are at a crossroad

As pointed out in the article “Creating Conflict”, do we continue down the path of exploitation of the planet and destroy ourselves or do we make stewardship of the Earth system our priority?

In the new 21st century democratic dictatorships, that are emerging around the world today, it’s difficult to push for action to contain global warming. Right-wing governments, like dictators, feign denial because there is no immediate benefit to them or those they represent. Ask a billion Chinese and the response is the same: “In China the government controls billionaires but, in the West, billionaires control the government.”

People need to wrestle control of the planet from those who would wilfully destroy Earth for profit and short-term gain. In a manipulated democracy it’s difficult, but not impossible, if good people work together. Governments who push for global conflict and arms build-up, to fight over oil and natural gas, are easy to spot. They are the ones feigning climate change denial.

Global conflict equates to hundreds of billions of dollars profit to arms manufactures and arms dealers. With $200 billion earmarked for arms build-up, the LNP Morrison government is pushing for Australia to become a war economy and one of the world’s top ten arms dealers. To be a successful war economy, just like America, you need global conflict and perpetual war. You also need something to fight over?

As pointed out, that something is oil and natural gas. The driving force behind the conflicts in the Middle East. By embracing alternate energy captured from the sun and wind, we no longer need oil and gas. We take away the need for war in that arena. Those in climate change denial are all about massive profit to arms manufacturers and arms dealers. To name a few, Morrison, Trump and Macron don’t care about you or society, they don’t care about starving children or refugees in war zones. They only care about themselves.

Besides inflicting conflict and perpetual war on the world, these megalomaniacs have lost sight on an even greater threat to humanity. If we burn all the oil, coal and gas they are fighting over, that will lead to catastrophic climate change and possibly the end of civilisation as we know it. These pathetic excuses for human beings need to be ejected into outer space so they can ponder our world from afar.

Our best future

Our best future is a belief founded on the very best of human nature. It is a goal for us to strive towards. For the betterment of mankind and our civilisation. For the betterment of our planet and life itself. We must change from a world ravaged by greed and exploitation of people and the planet. We need to become stewards and caretakers to protect our home planet and the future for our grand-children and beyond.

For the first time in recorded history we have something solid we can use to stop the wars and fight against exploitation by the power brokers and cohort governments. Action on climate change and a move towards renewable energy, gives us the voting numbers to change governments, it gives us people power and, is the vehicle to drive us towards a better future.

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Agreed Rules, COP24 and Climate Change Protest

The world, if it goes off in a burn, will do so courtesy of the rules – or their elastic interpretation. It was a fine show of contradiction at Katowice, and the Polish hospitality did not deter the 14,000 delegates drawn from 195 countries from bringing forth a beast of regulation to delight climate change bureaucrats for years. Everyone clapped themselves in way emetic to any bystander suspicious about what had actually been achieved. The question to ask, of course, is whether this fluffy, self-congratulatory exercise makes it past the canapés and becomes a genuine policy document.

Little progress was actually made on the issue of commitments to cut emissions, even if there was, in principle, an agreement on a set of rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement. As things stand, the planet is set to reach 3°C, while the Paris Agreement stresses the need to keep matters manageable to an increase of 1.5°C, which would lead to more modest environmental destruction. Considerable troubling silences persist on the issue of technicalities. What, for instance, constitutes a suitable, measurable reduction in emissions or who monitors a country’s progress.

There were certain concessions. Poorer states received more solid reassurances of assistance from wealthier states to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions and attendant environmental challenges. China was pressed into accepting certain uniform guidelines to measure those emissions. States who cannot follow the “rules” to reduce emissions must explain why and show a pathway to redress that failure, more a case of nudging than punishment.

Coal advocates would not, however, have left COP24 dispirited. Poland’s own president, Andrzej Duda, gave a rumbustious display of refusal: his country, with 80 percent of its energy derived from coal, could not be asked to abandon 200 years’ worth of reserves before the idealistic abstinence of any green lobby. Poland, not the planet, came first.

Michal Kurtyka, COP24’s chair and secretary of state in the Ministry of Environment, saw little by way of contradiction in a performance run by the Polish Coal Miners Band during the talks, nor coal displays in the foyer greeting guests. It would have been silly, surmised Kurtyka, to dismiss the coal industry. “There are also energy companies of course engaging in a path of sustainable development.”

But a certain smell lingered at COP24, the sense that the conference had been sponsored by the very same entities whose behaviour was to be controlled and, in the future, abolished altogether. Kurtyka did little to dispel the aroma. “I don’t sense that there is a problem with anybody’s participation, provided that we have the same goal.”

The climate change talks were also being held, as it were, in the den of fossil fuel symbolism. Katowice was made by the legacy of coal rich reserves discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. Such delightful irony, as well, that the city could play host both to such a conference and the largest coal company in the European Union.

This did not deter Joanna Flisowska, a Katowice native and policy coordinator on coal for Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe. “We can be such a bright example for the transition away from coal if only we could put effort into using these opportunities.”

On other fronts, the climate change lobby has taken something of a battering. France’s Emmanuel Macron granted some concession to massive protests against fuel-tax rises supposedly designed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. Living standards have squared off against environmental policies.

The result of the foot dragging has been to illustrate a growing divide between citizen and government official. “Hope,” claimed a despondent May Boeve, executive director of the climate change campaign group 350.org, “now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in school to support a fossil-free [sic] future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development.”

Australia is particularly illustrative of this point, something emphasised by Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter. “The divide between the Government and the young people of Australia is probably the greatest it’s been since those huge protests of the Vietnam War era, and I think it’s for a similar reason.”

Students of varying ages certainly add to Ritter’s suggestions, with thousands of Australian school children taking to the streets in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour and Bendigo, to name but a spread of Australian cities, insisting that Prime Minister Scott Morrison heed their calls. “The politicians aren’t listening to us when we try to ask nicely for what we want and for what we need,” suggested an irate Castlemaine student Harriet O’Shea Carre. “So now we have to go to extreme lengths and miss out on school.”

Greta Thunberg pictured during her climate strike. Photo: Catherine Edwards/The Local

It was, however, a 15-year-old Swede by the name of Greta Thunberg, whose single person vigil outside Sweden’s parliament building featured the sign “school strike for climate change.” Three weeks were spent sitting in front of the Parliament during school hours, though she did return to classes for four days, using Friday as her weekly day of protest.

At Katowice, she made her own mark, a scolding aunt in the body of a disturbed teenager. “You are not mature enough to tell it like is,” she told delegates in her capacity as a representative of Climate Justice Now. “Even that burden you leave us children.”

Thunberg is right about one fundamental point. “You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again.” But to ignore the future in favour of the present, to cobble together an ineffectual regime that privileges current living standards in the hope that devastation can be postponed, is an inherent condition of the species. Fiddling as the planet burns will continue.

A Climate of Opinion

By John Haly 

The battle for climate change mitigation is euphemistically referred to as a “debate” amidst ideologically restrained political advocates that still think there are legitimate oppositional interpretations about it, to respect.

When opinions replace facts in a “post-truth” world, the result may be that confusion and ideology reign inappropriately in society. The increasing occurrence amidst western nations of the populist right, fascism and the rejection of science have manifest to generate a new dark age. Climate change denialists champions include Donald Trump (USA), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Recep Erdoğan (Turkey), – and further down the list – Scott Morrison (Australia).

The sea of opinions

Like fish swimming in the water, human social exchange swims in a sea of opinions. Facebook, Twitter and online commentary in the news media are awash with a flood of emotionally charged views fought with passionate debates, justifying links, populist rhetoric and ad hominems. The truth may emerge but catching glimmers of it, is as elusive as panning for gold.

The other day after some back and forwards over the subject of immigration my temporary antagonist finally resorted to “I think we have to agree to disagree on this one.” At which point I replied, “We do indeed” and more or less left the conversation with him. (Aside from an amusing sideline with a close friend of my antagonist who made some wry observations of him.) It fell into a case of a civil agreement, to disagree. Isn’t it all just a matter of opinion?

The Olive Curse

Well no. For example, my wife loves olives, and I hate them. It’s my opinion that olives are a curse rendered on humanity by unkind gods sent to torture one’s palate.  My belief about olives is a matter of opinion. The only consequence is when I get a salad with olives, I pass them to my wife’s plate.  She thinks they are a blessing that I am prepared to fork over, whenever I encounter them. Apart from our culinary differences, there are many other times opinions matter and have more serious consequences.

Schools Strike

I spent the afternoon of Friday the 30th of November with my son at the #StrikeForClimate protest in the city. My son – after canvassing his schoolmates who were unaware of the rally – was worried that hardly anyone would turn up. When we turned the corner from George St into Martin place, I pointed up at the massive crowds of thousands of kids and said, “Have a look, you think no one is turning up now?”. He muttered something incomprehensible, but I noted the smile emerging on his face.

The sheer crowds of children at the climate protest that my son was delighted to discover.
Sequence of Events

There are opinions that climate change is a natural cycle of events for which humans bear no responsibility. Other opinions blame humankind’s waste and dirty extractive industries. Unfortunately, the opinions have vastly significant consequences, not the least of which may be the end of civilisation as we know it. Dramatic, yes, but the sequences of the events have already begun.

As temperatures rocket and “hottest on record” becomes a catchphrase,

  • coastal regions are swamped,
  • agricultural crops fail,
  • food shortages escalate,
  • numbers of climate refugees swell,
  • plant, insect and animal life permanently migrate,
  • consequential diseases emerge in areas never encountered before,
  • and the health and welfare of the planet’s human inhabitants are endangered.

Another opinion such as Scott Morrison’s idea that climate change is “nonsense”  fly in the face of concerns by other nations.  If Morrison’s scepticism were true, would mean there is nothing we can do about stopping climate change. If Morrison’s opinions are false, then there is everything that we can do to stop it.

So these sorts of opinions matter enormously. In these cases, you don’t have a right to your personal opinion divorced from truth, if the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. Especially if your erroneous view affects what actions we take. As indeed it does in the case of the conservative government who are beholden to wealthy extractive industry leaders who financially support their opinions to profit in the short-term. When my late (small-l liberal) father argued against anthropomorphic climate change with me, I asked him, “On what planet is it a good thing to pollute your environment?” While he conceded the point, there is always the sense of condescension that the older folk have to the previous generation. None so apparent as the criticism of young people skipping school.  They were castigated by politicians before their protest over the lack of climate change mitigation had even begun.

Follow the History and Money

Despite this, our children took to the streets around the nation in protest of the destruction of their future. They have no ties to corporate ideology nor are they being paid off by extractive industry donations.

It is a truth that the extractive industries knew about the problems with CO2 and overheating the planet for decades. The extractive industries were predicting the effects of industrial pollutions effects on heating our climate in the 1980s. Despite years of research and technology advances and scrutiny over 40 years, our scientific research has done nothing else but confirm what Shell and Exxon knew and then actively falsely denied.

So it is way past time we had our kids still shouting about it in the streets. There is nothing temporary or theoretical about the findings: these have been confirmed! We should have legislated against polluting industries decades ago. Our failure to commit to climate change mitigation should be a criminal offence!

Exxon’s own scientific research from 40 years ago has only confirmed what we still know today.
Remember Tobacco?

This resistance is hardly the first or last battle the scientific community will have with uneducated or compromised opinions. Who recalls a very similar “debate” over whether or not, smoking causes cancer? US tobacco companies were well aware of tobacco’s effects on health, in the same manner, Exxon was about climate change but denied it publically for years. These companies fought every attempt to speak the truth. It is only in the last few years that these companies have been dragged kicking and screaming into public self-confession. As the truth has diminished their market,  Tobacco companies are moving into new smoking markets as Altria is in talks to buy the Cronos group.  Therein lies new issues for another discussion.

Vaccinations have saved lives and eradicated entire diseases from the spectrum of deadly and disabling ailments on this planet.  Yet, the anti-science brigade of anti-vaxxers that have a long history of obstinate rejection is expressing opinions which threaten the safety of the greater community and again, our children.

Your Right to an Opinion

If your opinion doesn’t align with the reality, then you need to get the hell out of the way.  I would argue that you don’t have a right to hold that opinion and prevent necessary risk mitigation that is going to save lives. Unfortunately, this is what our errant government is doing, and which our kids stood up to be counted, in opposition on Friday. When it is the children (not the adults) in the US, who are the ones standing up to archaic gun laws because they are averse to being killed, what does this say of the older generation? Similarly, it is children in Australia, that dare to stand up and protest because they too want a future beyond the lifetime of greedy, corrupt old men who want to die rich. Who are the Adults now?

So no, there are times when you don’t have a right to your opinion and the current race to save humanity from climate change is one of those times. It is – on the other hand – way past time, to stand up and be counted.

And my son was afraid noone might turn up at the protest.
This article was originally published on John’s blog Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches, and has been reproduced with permission.

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Denials Down Under: Climate Change and Health

Richard Horton’s note in an October 2015 issue of The Lancet was cautiously optimistic. It described the launch of Doctors for Climate Change Action, led by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference COP21. The initiative had arisen from a statement endorsed by a range of medical and international health organisations (some 69 in all), specifically emphasising that ancient obligation for a doctor to protect the health of patients and their communities. But, as if to add a more cautionary tale of improvement, the 2015 Lancet Commission also concluded that the response to climate change would, in all likelihood, be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.

A more sombre note tends to prevail in such assessments. The RACP has itself made the observation that, “Unchecked, climate change threatens to worsen food and water shortages, change the risk of climate-sensitive diseases, and increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. This is likely to have serious consequences for public health and wellbeing.”

In recent years, the link to a rise in temperatures has been associated with specific medical events, such as the transmission of infectious diseases. The Lancet notes one example specific to mosquitoes and their increasingly energised role: “Vectorial capacity of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus has increased since 1990, with tangible effects – notably the doubling of cases of dengue fever every decade since 1990.”

Mona Sarfarty, director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, could only be gloomy at this month’s International Panel on Climate Change report, releasing a statement rich with claims. “As a physician, I know that climate change is already harming the health of Americans. Doctors and medical professionals see it daily in our offices, including the effects of extreme weather events like Hurricane Florence to droughts, smoke from large wildfires, spreading Lyme disease, and worsened asthma.”

What, then, to be done? The RACP’s November 2016 position statement outlines a set of canonical objectives still deemed profane by climate change sceptics, notably those coal deep: a decrease in fossil fuel combustion in the generating of energy and transport; a reduction of fossil fuel extraction; decreasing emissions from food production and agriculture; and the improvement of emergency efficiency in homes and buildings. Not exactly scurrilous stuff, but highly offensive to fossil fuel fiends.

The Morrison Government, hived off from such concerns, is more focused on immediate, existential goals. Its own electoral survival, shakily built on the reduction of energy costs to pacify a disgruntled electorate, has featured a degree of bullying on the part of the prime minister towards energy companies. Energy retailers, Morrison warns, must drastically reduce prices from January 1 or face the intrusive burdens of regulation. The considerations of the planet, and the health of its inhabitants, have been put aside, a point made clear in the Australian government’s response to the IPCC findings.

The note of the report is one of manageable mitigation, shot through with a measured fatalism: “Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. While admitting that, “Some impacts may be long-lasting and irreversible, such as the loss of some ecosystems (high confidence)” stabilising temperatures at 1.5ºC would at least draw a ring around the catastrophe. “The avoided climate change impacts on sustainable development, eradication of poverty and reducing inequalities would be greater if global warming were limited to 1.5ºC rather than 2ºC, if mitigation and adaptation synergies were maximised while trade-offs are minimised (high confidence).”

For the Morrison government, these words, admittedly technical and dry, are the stuff another galaxy, pressed to the outer reaches of the cosmos. The IPCC report did not, according to the prime minister, “provide recommendations to Australia”, leaving his government to pursue policies to “ensure electricity prices are lower”.

Fossil fuel lobbyists and advocates were comforted by this retreat from environmental reality. “There is a role,” insisted former Coalition energy minister and Queensland Resources Council chief Ian Macfarlane, “for high-quality Australian coal and it’s compatible with meeting Paris emissions reduction targets.” An interesting omission on emissions here is that the richer the quality of coal, the more concentrated the carbon. Poorer quality brown coal, curiously enough, is less of a culprit. But Macfarlane wants it both ways, if not all ways. “Our economy depends on the coal industry, and we can have both a strong coal industry and reduce carbon emissions.”

Such dismissive, a deluding behaviour, has been seen to be nothing short of “contemptuous” by a group of Australian health experts, whose Thursday letter in The Lancet suggests a disregard for “any duty of care regarding the future wellbeing of Australians and our immediate neighbours”.

The signatories, including Nobel Laureates Peter Doherty and Tilman Ruff, suggested that, like “other established historical harms to human health [such as tobacco], narrow vested interests must be countered to bring about fundamental change in the consumption of coal and other fossil fuels.” They urge the adoption of a “call to action”, including the phasing out of existing coal-fired power stations, a “commitment to no new or expanded coal mines and no new coal-fired power stations” and the removal of “all subsidies to fossil fuel industries”.

A damp lettuce response came from the near invisible federal environment minister, Melissa Price, who insists that the Morrison government remains aware of the IPCC findings. This same minister, when asked about what she is doing in her portfolio, persists in praising the blessings of the good divinity that is coal, a spectacle as curious as a wolf at a sheep convention. “We have consistently stated that the IPCC is a trusted source of scientific advice that we will continue to take into account on climate policy.” To account, it would seem, is to ignore; to acknowledge is to dismiss.

Image from ecowatch.com

Climate recalcitrance

By John Haly 

“Recalcitrant” is what Prime minister Keating once described Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir over economic considerations with APEC. In this century, “recalcitrance” has become a term more readily applied to the current persistently pro-coal conservative Government over issues of ecology.

On the 8th of October 2018, as I was leaving Korea, I noted the first Green Climate Fund’s Global NDA Conference at the Hyatt Conference Halls had commenced next door to where I had been staying.

Having addressed climate and economic policy failures by the Australian Government recently, I became interested in how these representatives of the global community were discussing climate investment opportunities to facilitate the reduction efforts against greenhouse gas emissions.

Later the next day, I learned that during the opening sessions it was reported that Thelma Krug, the Vice Chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saidThe IPCC report is a bridge between the science and policymakers – limiting the temperature increase to 1.5℃ is not impossible.

At the same conference, Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group noted, “Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.

Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group

There was an evident emergence of urgency arising within this conference that repeatedly referenced the IPCC Special Report of Global Warming. It is only with immediate and focused effort can we prevent global temperatures rising above 1.5°C. (The report is available at http://ipcc.ch/report/sr15/ which includes its summary for policymakers.)

The question on everyone’s mind is, of course, are we up to that challenge and can we do it in time? It is well observed in literature and public commentary that the greatest obstacle to adoption of climate change mitigation is not the science, but the political policymakers and their conservative media support. Notable is their reluctance to take scientific advice over significant business lobbying and financial donations. Hence the desire to either shift the climate change discussions away from the political arena or build a “bridge” the economic policymakers of the world have to cross. The later is what the IPCC report attempts to address.

Back in Australia, the IPCC report bridge to our policymakers seems to have suffered the same fate as that of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen in 1945 at the end of World War 2. It similarly, has been captured by allied forces (western political democracies such as Australia and America), and they are hell-bent on no one crossing it. Hopefully destroying that metaphysical bridge will be as difficult as was the physical one. Although that analogy is troublesome because when they eventually destroyed the Ludendorff Bridge, it was never rebuilt.

Regarding climate change mitigation policies, legislation, measures and institutions the CLIM index (for measuring these factors comparatively for 95 countries) places Australian 55th in the world somewhere after Mongolia and Egypt but doing marginally better than Belarus and Uzbekistan both of whom have economies that are heavily based on fossil fuels. Just as a point of comparative interest, the United States is 45th in the world.

Meanwhile back in South Korea (18th on the CLIM index), the participants at the Global NDA Conference know that the South Pacific and Asian regions have the most to lose if climate change is not mitigated.  Across the continent from the Korean NDA conference, the South China Morning Post had previously reported. “Australia’s new prime minister will not revive plans to embed carbon emissions targets in law, a thorny issue that triggered the ousting of his predecessor in a party coup.” It is not merely a matter of “revival” of policy plans but hostility to even considering implementing any. Pressure by the Institute of Public Affairs (the policy lobbying arm of the Liberal conservatives) to exit the Paris Climate agreement is exemplified by their policy propaganda piece, “Why Australia must exit the Paris Climate Agreement”.

In the early history of that “party coup”, it was evident the conservatives held out hope that Dutton’s potential rise to power meant an end to the Paris Climate accords. While the emerging choice of Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has ruled out exiting the Paris Climate accord, he has decided to deny any further funding to the global climate fund. Claiming in an interview; “I’m not going to spend money on global climate conferences and all that nonsense.” So I can assume it is safe to imagine that the Australia government was not contributing to the NDA conference in Korea, despite Australians having contributed to the IPCC report.

Australia’s recalcitrance in following the leadership of European and British nations in preference for American policy adherence is disheartening and irresponsible. The failure of leadership on climate change by Australian Politics is well recognised even abroad in other countries. Ironically, the delays on mitigating climate change risks instituted by one Australian Prime Minister had previously been considered a luxury we could not afford.

Strong opinions held by Malcolm Turnbull

While the political ideology denies the science in preference for economic overtures and lobbying of financially significant fossil fuel interests, the future of the planet and our collective ability to survive climate change is at stake.

Back on October 9th the Deputy prime minister and leader of the National Party, Michael McCormack stated:

I’m very much supportive of the coal industry. I understand the IPCC report, and I’ll certainly consider what it has to say, but the fact is coal mining does play an important part of our energy mix in Australia and will do so going forward. [The government is not about to change policy] just because somebody might suggest that some sort of report is the way we need to follow and everything that we should do.”

Since the report has emerged, the government has not backed down from this position and confirmed their rejection of the IPCC report to back away from coal power over the next 30 years.

For a country replete in land and sunlight for setting up solar power generation, the excuses against transitioning our energy supply are feeble. Options include intermittent power supplies provided by solar panels, to the 24-hour power supply of solar reflectors heating molten saltsWind and geothermal, although intermittent, backed by the hugely successful battery storage exemplified by the much faster supply response by the South Australian Tesla batteries set up by Elon Musk, is also potentially plentiful.  Scotland expects to harvest all its electricity via renewable means by 2020 and California expects to be complete by 2045. While this nation and state had both different starting points, what has made the difference is not technology, but a political imperative to pursue the goal to not continue to heat the planet.

We have untapped employable resources in Australia, with already 2.383 million people under and unemployed and not enough job vacancies to absorb even 8% of that number. We have the educational resources with 42 universities and 59 TAFE institutions dispersed across metropolitan and regional areas of Australia. This is, despite a concerted effort by conservatives, to restrict access to education. Spending money on innovation, employment and educational resources to boost climate change mitigation infrastructure is a clear growth strategy for our economy, according to the Treasury. Other Nations have demonstrated evidence that climate mitigation has been economically prosperous. What we don’t have, is the political will to act to survive anthropomorphic climate change.

Fear mongering about climate change mitigation by the Liberals, the IPA and mining/coal lobbyists is not based on evidence or the examples of nation-states on this planet. Climate change disharmony (evidenced by increasing global heatwaves, and abnormal climate events) on the other hand, are increasingly apparent. Scientists and experts at these conferences have for decades repeatedly warned us, time is running out, and we need to act soon and fervently. If big business lobbying and political ideology are all that stands in the way of averting a climatic breakdown, then we as Australians need to vote out of office anyone who even remotely risks the future of our planet, in preference for greed and power.

This article was originally published on:

Australia Awaken - ignite your torches

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Safety Cannot Be Guaranteed

By Keith Antonysen 

Already when the Paris COP21 was being negotiated some scientists were stating that reaching a 1.5C increase in temperature past pre-Industrial times was not viable, Professor Kevin Anderson begins talking 31/2 minutes into the film.

Prior to becoming a climate scientist, he worked as an engineer on oil rigs. He has also done some studies in economics which he describes as being akin to astrology. Professor Anderson argues that energy use in areas other than from power stations has largely been ignored. Without mitigating against the release of greenhouse gases, temperatures of 2C or 3C increase can be expected.

Rather than being focused on temperature, Professor Anderson states we need to be concerned about the emissions budget, CO2 can take hundreds of years to be dissipated. The longer that it takes to mitigate against emissions the greater the effort will be needed to mitigate against greenhouse gases already emitted.

Professor Anderson states very clearly that while there is much discussion in relation to mitigation, there is no mechanism operating at present.

The IPCC has been meeting in South Korea to produce a Report on the current state of the global climate to be published shortlyor.

The first sentence in this article in The Washington Post states

“A much-awaited report from the U.N.’s top climate science panel will show an enormous gap between where we are and where we need to be to prevent dangerous levels of warming.”

The article agrees with the summation provided by Professor Anderson that technologies are not available to mitigate emissions being voided…

 “An early draft (leaked and published by the website Climate Home News) suggests that future scenarios of a 1.5 C warming limit would require the massive deployment of technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the air and bury it below the ground. Such technologies do not exist at anything close to the scale that would be required.”

As stated very recently by the Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres; we have till 2020 to make an extremely concerted effort to stop a runaway climate.

Scott Morrison needs to get his act together in relation to climate change, and Labor needs to improve theirs. There is no room for coal mines such as in the Carmichael Basin or extensions of coal mines or fracking generally.

Revealing the Naked Emperor: Prof Kevin Anderson (November 2017)

Just a (new normal) drought

Recently there has been a lot of commentary about the Big Dry. From news.com.au to the 7:30 report  to your nearest Facebook page and a dozen appeals for corporations and individuals to contribute to “drought relief” efforts, the winter of 2018 is full of stories of struggling farmers and dying animals. Farmers in NSW and Queensland are calling it “the worst drought in living memory“.

So how bad is it really? Much of what we hear is anecdotal, and that’s bad enough. We hear that some regions have had no rain for more than a year. In other areas, farmers describe having had “almost no rain since 2010”. It’s bad enough that Scott Morrison calls it the highest priority for his new government, and State governments are falling over themselves to throw money at the problem (the NSW government has increased its drought relief package by another half a billion dollars).

The current drought has been going for up to a decade now; Tony Abbott’s government called it a “once-in-a-century” drought when they announced a federal support package in 2014. And there’s no end in sight.

There’s no question about it: Australian farmers, particularly in the food bowl to the continent’s south and east, are doing it tough. We are in the middle of a drought possibly more severe and more protracted than the Millenium Drought.

But calling it a drought obscures our understanding of the true situation. Throwing more and more money – Federal and State relief packages, public “Save a Farmer” appeals, statewide Bunnings BBQs – however well-intentioned, might just be making things worse.

This drought was already well-established when we were talking about it back in 2014. When Tony Abbott was doing the tour of drought-affected regions and declaiming ““If you look at the records of Australian agriculture going back 150 years, there have always been good times and bad times. There have always been tough times and lush times and farmers ought to be able to deal with the sorts of things that are expected every few years,” the drought had been ongoing for four years. Four years later and there is no indication of the weather changing soon.

And when it does change? When the rains come, will farmers be able to pick up their shovels and go back to business as usual? Will we wipe our brows with relief and thank providence that the bad times are over?

Perhaps. But not for long.

The current dry in Queensland and NSW is not a short-term anomaly. It’s not a once-in-a-century drought event. Certainly, it’s not the kind of conditions you would have expected to see a century ago, but the world now is not as it was then.

Our climate has changed. That’s a past-tense statement, and while it is also true that our climate continues to change, it would be foolish of us to think that things can ever go back to business as usual. For decades scientists warned us what would happen if our carbon-driven course was not changed. We largely missed our opportunity to avoid the consequences we are now seeing.

These consequences were predicted and should surprise nobody.

(Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-01/what-you-need-to-know-about-droughts/10051956

This chart is from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s State of the Climate report in 2016 and represents measured rainfall figures. (The full report is available at http://www.bom.gov.au/state-of-the-climate/State-of-the-Climate-2016.pdf)

Source: http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/rain/index.jsp?colour=colour&time=latest&step=0&map=drought&period=daily&area=nat

This is the Bureau of Meteorology’s drought map for the past three months (May-June-July 2018).

Looking at recent data is just one part of the equation. The real test is identifying trends, extrapolating those trends into the future, and seeing how they match up with the predictions of climate science.

Fortunately we have access to trend data.

The chart on the left shows the trend in annual mean temperature (°C/decade) from
1950–2015, showing warming over most of the continent. The chart on the right is of trends in annual-average rainfall (mm/decade) from 1950–2015,
showing an increase in rainfall in much of the north and a decrease in
many southern areas.

These charts are from the report Australia’s Changing Climate (available at https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/media/ccia/2.1.6/cms_page_media/176/AUSTRALIAS_CHANGING_CLIMATE_1.pdf).

There is strong congruence between what we are seeing in current climate trends and what has been consistently predicted. And what has been predicted, is that droughts will be more common and more severe in the years ahead.

This drought will break. At some point in the future, whether it be one year from now or five or ten, the rains will come and Australia will once again bloom to life. In some places, we will still have farmers, doing it tough, waiting for the Dry to end. For a while, there will be celebrations.

But this drought will have permanent, irreversible consequences. When trees that are 100 years old die, they don’t grow back. The land is permanently changed. It is less able to absorb and hold the water when the rains do come, leading to erosion and land degradation and a further reduction in the water table.

And how long will it be until the next drought arrives? Everything we know and everything we learn tells us that droughts will become more frequent and more severe. This current drought is not the worst we will have.

Australia is a land where the cycles of drought and flood are etched into the landscape. But trees that are 100 years old survived the last drought, and the one before that. In some respects, this drought is no different to the ones that came before. Yet the straw that broke the camel’s back is for all intents and purposes identical to all the others.

This is just a drought. But it is also an inevitable outcome of the new normal climate that we have created, that we are still creating. This is the natural outcome of a changed climate and the sooner we get used to the idea, the better. Only then can we start to think about longer-term solutions – which probably do not include farmers and graziers staying on the land as they have done in past decades.

NEG – guarantees nothing

By Stephen Fitz

All the debate, all the policy, all the smoke screens and diversion, all the pain and all the suffering inflicted on energy consumers, and for what? What it boils down to is reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuel, the key components driving elevated global temperature and subsequent climate change. And, this has been going on for how long?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in New York on 9 May 1992. Back then atmospheric CO2 was 356ppm. In 2018 we have recorded a staggering 412.6ppm and rising exponentially. To get a grip on “parts per million” – A headache pill goes to every cell in your body to relieve pain. 500mg (1/2gm) of paracetamol = 5ppm of 100kg of body mass. You would need to take 80 headache pills for your body to reach 400ppm.

Reducing CO2 emissions by 20% or even 45%, as targeted, still adds to the problem of ever increasing atmospheric CO2, the key component driving global temperature, extremes in weather and rising sea levels. We can reduce CO2 emissions but, we still have a splitting headache when it comes to climate change and, it’s not going away.

It doesn’t matter how much politicians argue about climate change and it doesn’t matter how much they debate % reductions in CO2 emissions and, it doesn’t matter how much financial pain they inflict to reduce our electricity consumption. CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise! Reducing CO2 emissions by 50% or even 75% defers the problem but not the inevitable catastrophic climate change staring us in the face.

The negative response, taken by Government, to penalise and tax C02 emissions has met with wide ranging opposition and I refer to the failure to agree on emission reduction targets in Paris and the Australian Federal Governments deferred implementation of an Emissions Trading Scheme and subsequent abolition of that CO2 taxing scheme. The tax now is hidden from us, only to be felt in our pocket.

The solution then for Government and mechanism to gain across the board public support would be a positive response. This aims at atmospheric CO2 management including, in particular, removing CO2 from the atmosphere, reforestation, incentive-based emission reduction guidelines, support for alternative energy and a bipartisan approach to climate change policy.

Time for a rethink … Along with CO2 emission targets we also need to take the bull by the horns and manage atmospheric CO2 levels. We need to reduce atmospheric CO2 to pre-industrial levels or at least, the original “92 Convention” safe target of 400ppm. Going hysterical about what we pump into the atmosphere won’t save us – reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration is the only real solution and none of our politicians seem to get it. If they stick with the band-aid solutions we all burn – literally.

We changed it, so we need to fix it: Irrespective of the compelling arguments for and against the reasons for climate change there remains one fact that can’t be dismissed and that is the ever-increasing level of atmospheric CO2. Regardless of our opinions, the very least we can do, for future generations, is to address this issue and reduce or stabilise atmospheric CO2 to below critical levels. We have an obligation.

O.K. What we need is a concerted effort by global governments, the scientific community and big business to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. It doesn’t matter what it costs, we are talking survival of the species. Instead of adding 2ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere every year, lets strip 2ppm of CO2 from the atmosphere every year and, that guarantees the future of humanity. What governments and fossil fuel conglomerates are doing, at the moment, guarantees nothing.

A National Energy Guarantee without provision for extracting CO2 from the atmosphere is worthless. To even suggest that we can restrict global temperature increase to 1.5°C without capping atmospheric CO2 levels is moronic and yet, that’s what global governments have given us. We are rapidly running out of time and our sorry governments need to get involved in finding solutions rather than pissing in the wind:

In a nut shell, it doesn’t matter what our CO2 emissions are – they need to be extracted from the atmosphere and contained or re-cycled.

Carbon Engineering and Harvard find way to convert CO2 to gasoline

Converting CO2 to carbon fibre for use as building material

CO2 Conversion and Utilization

To save a planet think as big as a planet – do what nature does

You see, there are solutions and there are ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but our politicians do not listen. With sea levels rising and when the saltwater crocs are snapping at our arses … it will be way too late to drain the swamps.

The Lasting Condition: Drought in Australia

Humans are a funny species. They create settlements along fault lines that, on moving, can create catastrophe, killing thousands. They construct homes facing rivers that will, at some point, break their banks, carrying of their precious property. Importantly, they return in the aftermath. Existence continues.

The same follows certain settlements of parts of the planet where hostile, environmental conditions discourage rather than endorse a certain form of living. Changes in weather have been vicious catalysts for the collapse of civilisations; extreme climactic variations prevent and retard stable and sustainable agriculture.

“The flourishing of human civilisation from about 10,000 years ago, and in particular from 7,000 years ago,” notes earth and paleo-climate scientist Andrew Glikson, “critically depended on stabilisation of climate conditions”. This had its due results: planting and harvesting of seed; cultivation of crops; the growth of villages and towns.

Australia, the second driest continent on the planet, has never been exempt from such patterns of disruption, and those stubborn, pluckily foolish farmers who persist in the notion that they can make a living in parts of it risk going the same way.

Australia’s agrarian purveyors have certainly been persistent, hopeful as pilgrims in search of holy land. Disasters have not discouraged. A sense of a certain attendant fatalism can be found in the scribbles of Nancy Fotheringham Cato’s “Mallee Farmer”:

You cleared the mallee and the sand blew over

Fence and road to the slow green river;

You prayed for rain but the sky breathed dust

Of long dead farmers and soil’s red rust.

You ploughed up the paddocks with a stump jump plough

But the gates were open and the drought walked through. 

The Settlement Drought (1790-1793) threatened but did not overwhelm early European settlers. The Goyder Line Drought (1861-5) savaged but did not kill farming in parts of South Australia. The recent Millennium drought (1997-2009) was spectacularly ruinous, but Australian agriculture moaned and stuttered along.

Farming in Australia remains precarious, an occupation of permanent contingency. Droughts ravage, kill and annihilate. Crops and livestock perish with gruesome ease. But the Australian farmer, rather than being portrayed as a dinosaur awaiting extinction, is seen as resilient, durable and innovative. Yet each drought brings a certain narrative.

One aspect of that narrative is the sense of singularity. Droughts are often seen as unprecedented. This alleviates the need to consider stark realities and inefficiencies that characterise the problem of farming in naturally dry environs with inappropriate crops or livestock, to up stakes, as it were, and finally admit to the brutalities.  Such determination often flies in the face of the work conducted by climate science researchers, who tend to occupy a certain high terrain of gloom. Recent publications float the suggestion that the droughts this year may be some of the worst in 800 years.

The response from the prime minister has been an urging against the predations of nature: to fortify “resilience” in light of more unpredictable rainfall. The fear from such figures as former Nationals leader John Anderson is that matters of climate change will be co-opted in an act of politicisation. This would suggest inevitability, doom and acceptance.

Climate change watchers Andrew King, Anna Ukkola and Ben Henley do not shed much light on these matters, logically pointing out that drought, being a “complex beast” can be “measured in a variety of ways. Some aspects of drought are linked to climate change; others are not.” The entire field of drought studies reads like a sophisticated, taxonomical manual of expertise and foreboding, noting variations in their spatial effects, duration, seasonality and intensity.

Such studies are intriguing, and tend to ignore the withering human consequences that invariably follow. Figures like Edwina Robertson of Trangie, west of Dubbo supply the viewer with a pathos and desperation, her tears the only moisture in an arid setting. The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was there to capitalise. “It’s worse,” he was told, “than anything you are seeing in the media, it’s far worse.”

Drought brings with it a whole platoon of agents and variables. Cash relief payments are provided through the Farm Household Allowance (additional payments of up to $12,000 have been promised); mental health services are boosted (the Rural Financial Counsellors feature in this scheme). Australian farmers are being encouraged to come forth with their anxieties and strains.

These are salutary reminders that some parts of Australian farming can only be kept on life support for so long. As Richard Eckard, director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre at the University of Melbourne explained in 2015, the limits to adaptation are unavoidable. The odds for the more fortunate wheat farmer in a hotter, drier climate will be better than those cultivating chickpeas, walnuts and peaches. No matter, argues Eckard; Australia’s farming adaptation technologies will ensure that the country never has a food security problem. “We’re heading for quality, rather than quantity.”

Perversely, as the federal government and a host or bodies tend to the drought, and as is in the manner of the Australian environment, northern stretches of the country have been and are being drenched. More flooding and cyclones are being promised in the future. Australia, that most untamed environmental miracle of all; but Australia’s agrarian inhabitants, permanently subject to trials they are often poorly prepared for, buttressed by an obstinate faith that sustains them.

A business as usual approach to climate change

By Keith Antonysen

Previously, whenever climate scientists have talked about the ills created by climate change they have spoken about the end of the century as being a time when bigger tribulations can be expected such as sea level rise, acidification of Oceans, and higher temperatures. Unfortunately, the time scale has moved towards contemporary times.

What has happened in past epochs gives clues as to what can be expected in the future.

Towards the end of the referenced video, Michael Benton Palaeontologist, speaks about the mass extinction at the end of the Permian Epoch 252 million years ago. It had been greenhouse gases that had been created through volcanic activity that created an almost uninhabited world.

A study of rock samples taken by Dr Benjamin Berger, a Geologist, from an area in Utah that he identified as an area that might be associated with the Permian mass extinction provided some remarkable insights. The chemical analysis of the rock samples showed that he had identified correctly an area where greenhouse gases created from coal seams being ignited had almost completely wiped out all life forms. In comments made introducing his pre-published research, he suggests that humans are creating similar circumstances to those happening during the end Permian period.

Dr Burger states: “In Payne and Clapham’s 2012 review of the Permian-Triassic boundary they suggested “the end-Permian extinction may serve as an important ancient analog for the twenty-first century …” The results of this study amplify that statement, as evidence gathered in this study suggest that large emissions of burning coal and other hydrocarbons during the Siberian Trap volcanic event was largely responsible for Earth’s largest mass extinction 252 million years ago.”

Professor Michael Mann has stated: “Extreme weather has struck across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to Greece, and across the world, from North America to Japan. “This is the face of climate change,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University, and one the world’s most eminent climate scientists. “We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change.””

The issue with increased greenhouse gases and warm Oceans is that they do not rapidly change when mitigating strategies are employed. Greenhouse gases can take centuries to dissipate. Through a business as usual approach there is a continuing to increase in the release of greenhouse gases creating warmth in Oceans and Atmosphere. According to Frydenberg, Canavan, Joyce, Abbott, Kelly et al, these views are held by people holding an extreme left-wing ideology. But, a more rational view is that climate science is underpinned by Physics and Chemistry and other science disciplines. Climate science is independent of political ideology.

Already millions of people have been killed by fossil fuel emissions, we are now observing numerous people being killed by extreme events in Western countries caused through climate change.

The choice is continue with fossil fuels … or continue on the path to the 6th extinction.

Bibliography

Heatwaves from the Arctic to Japan: a sign of things to come?

Japan evacuates 36,000 as powerful Typhoon Jongdari takes aim after more than 300 dead and 40,000 hospitalised from floods and landslides

Scientists draw new connections between climate change and warming oceans

State of the Climate in 2017

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