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Tag Archives: Bureau of Meteorology

The relevance of Tony Abbott

By Paul G. Dellit

Now That The Lunatic Is No Longer In Charge Of The Asylum . . .

That’s unfair. Tony Abbott neither is nor was a lunatic. In the view of this writer, he was, at least as far as his Prime Ministerial persona was concerned, a brawling, misogynistic, serial-lying, duplicitous, incompetent, inarticulate, graceless buffoon. And he sought to mask all of these character traits with slogans and repetitions of slogans, and repetitions of repetitions of slogans said with animus as if to imbue them with the gravity they lacked . . . but he was not a lunatic.

We could go on, well into the night, reciting the many failings of this man in the role of Prime Minister and in the role of sensitised human being – but it would avail us nothing. It is not often wise to quote Senator Eric Abetz – in fact it is frequently impossible to quote the good Senator accurately, given the number of extra syl-lie-bles he finds for each word – but he said it all, ruby cheeked and trembling of hand, when asked about his prospects of a Ministerial position post Abbott. “The king is dead . . .”, he said. He didn’t add, “bur-i-ed, and cre-may-ted”. He didn’t need to. Former Prime Minister Abbott is now relevant to the current political scene in Australia only insofar as he is the exemplar of how not to do it.

However, it seems that life’s reversals are not learning experiences for Anthony John Abbott. He has already broken a post-Prime Ministerial promise to go gently into the night. He was, as he would have it, the victim of external forces, not personal failings, just as was Peta, she said, victimised because her name wasn’t Peter, even though she was responsible for the LNP winning the 2013 election.

But the purpose if this article is not to indulge in necrocide. Nor is it, in Shakespearean terms, to bury Tony Abbott without praise. And here I must crave your indulgence. The purpose of this article is to praise our most recently deposed Prime Minister.

It is easy to consider that man as little more than political carrion, but he did render a service to us for which we must be eternally grateful. It was for the fact that he was true to himself. From beginning to end, he was a shining beacon for right wing extremists in Australia (and Canadia). He gave them the status of having one of their own occupying the highest political office in the land. He gave the timorous within their ranks the courage to openly express their inner voices. He gave them licence to propose the policies and schemes, hitherto concealed, by which they would seek to transform Australia. And he gave them the belief that he had within his power the means to pursue those ends on their behalf. In short, the praiseworthy service Tony Abbott rendered to Australia was to expose the agenda of our extreme right wing while at the same time unwittingly laying IEDs along the road to their ultimate defeat.

Some of you may remember my article in May of this year, ‘Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point‘ which argued that Prime Minister Abbott was setting about the abolition of the rule of law and, given his way, would replace it, step by step, with rule by unchallengeable Ministerial fiat. The ratio decidendi of Ministerial decisions and the evidence upon which they were based would be kept secret, with any disclosure without Ministerial permission punishable by law. This attempt by the Abbott Government has largely been stymied by the effects upon the Senate of the outcries of respected lawyers and large sections of the public. While the rump of this Abbott initiative remains in play, a preponderance of legal opinion has it that these remnants to the original bill, if passed, would be struck down by the High Court. We seem to be out of danger on this score for now.

However, there are many precedents for democratic governments being overthrown by right wing movements. Their first item of business after gaining power is to restructure government in ways that would fit comfortably alongside the challenges to democracy proposed in the original Abbott bill. Had circumstances been different, had those with ultimate power in Australia decided they wanted that bill passed into law, its passing would have set a precedent for other such laws to follow. A clever strategist could then have set about introducing small changes, none of which would seem so egregious as to warrant a revolution, but by accretion would, like boiling frogs by raising the water temperature slowly so that they become inured to change, kill our Westminster system of government.

Minister Dutton and others attempted to promote the original Abbott bill by assuring the public that the LNP would never abuse the power it gave them. Yet there is evidence that even without the power of that bill passed into law, the extreme right wing abuse what power they do have.

A recent FOI request revealed a case in point: A man of some power and influence within business and politics in Australia, Maurice Newman, used that power and influence to arrange for The Australian newspaper to launch an attack upon the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). The willingly complicit Murdoch press manufactured evidence to claim that that the BoM had manipulated and falsified data to suit a left wing climate change conspiracy. With this campaign of misinformation successfully launched, Maurice Newman had provided the excuse for his close friend, Tony Abbott, to launch a Prime Ministerial foray into the data gathering and analysis functions of the BoM. The nature and tone of his intervention was manifestly designed to intimidate the BoM into toeing the Abbott/Newman climate change denial line – clear evidence of an attempt to smother science with extreme right wing ideology.

More importantly, the attempt to manipulate the work of the BoM demonstrated Prime Minister Abbott’s propensity for using the power of the Executive to covertly exert anti-democratic influence upon role of the Public Service to provide “frank and fearless advice”. How many other attempts, successful or otherwise, might he have made to pervert the fundamental principles upon which our system of democracy is based? We may never know, but, on balance, we don’t have to care. If there are further examples to be unearthed, they will be because, by his own actions, he has ensured that he will not be around to covertly carry them through. His interference with the BoM was undertaken before he had rendered the FOI legislation impotent. And all of his other assaults upon democracy in the prosecution of his extreme right wing agenda were committed before he had shored up his defences against the democratic backlash that was ultimately his undoing:

  • The appointment of his benefactor, Dyson Heydon to run the TURC (This is not to say that a TURC was not justified, whatever Abbott’s motives for creating it, but Dyson Heydon’s appointment ensured that the partiality of the Commissioner and his commitment to causing as much mud as possible to stick to the ALP was never in doubt).
  • The appointment Bronwyn Bishop (nee Setright) as a highly politicised Speaker.
  • Reposing in his unelected Chief of Staff the extraordinary executive power to control the actions of elected representatives, including Ministers, culminating in the directions issued from her Office which resulted in Border Force officers roaming the streets of Melbourne with the stated intention of randomly stopping and questioning members of the public under pain of arrest.
  • And of course, the law, passed with the supine collaboration of the ALP, that threatens whistleblowers with imprisonment for following their own professional standards and obligations – a law that allows the most egregious abuses of the human rights of people under the Government’s control without any legal means of exposure.

So I for one am grateful to Tony Abbott for dragging the extreme right agenda into full public view and epitomising, Pauline Hanson-like, the kind of irrational, ideologically driven, callous people who would prosecute it if they had the chance.

 

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Words are cheap, but Direct Action sure isn’t.

In an interview on Lateline in October last year, Greg Hunt said that the carbon price “doesn’t work”, “doesn’t do the job” and is “a just hopeless means of achieving the outcome.”

In defending his move to disband the Climate Change Commission, the Climate Change Authority, the Energy Security Fund, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA, Hunt said

“At the governmental level, the primary scientific agency is the Bureau of Meteorology. 1,700 staff. I spoke with the director of the Bureau this evening and invited them to provide a scientific briefing, reaffirmed a complete commitment to their independence, to their original research and to the extraordinary capacity that they give to Australia to look at meteorological questions and broader global questions.

The Bureau is the originating scientific agency for meteorological matters in Australia for matters relating to climate and matters relating to climate science. The CSIRO also backs those up. So, they are strong, deep, independent scientific agencies whose independence isn’t just guaranteed under us, but is welcomed.”

He then proceeded to cut $10 million from the BoM, with an anticipated loss of 80 jobs next year, and he cut CSIRO’s funding by $111 million over four years, which will result in 500 job cuts at the nation’s peak scientific organisation.

Hunt went on to say

“we have bipartisan support for the science. We have bipartisan support for the targets. The disagreement is about the carbon tax and the mechanism because emissions go up, not down under the carbon tax and because it does enormous damage to our cost of living and our economy by being an electricity tax. In short, it doesn’t work, but it does do damage.”

Figures released last week revealed that the annual growth of cost of living for all households slowed over the past three months (employee and age pensioner households increased by just 1.9%), largely due to the end of the carbon price in June.

But as Greg Jericho points out, any broadening of the GST base to include food, or an interest rate rise, or fuel indexation, will quickly wipe out any gains made by removing the carbon tax which was only slated to run for another year with a fixed price.

While the cost of living increase may have slowed, two new studies show that brown coal and black coal generation has jumped sharply in the four months since the carbon price was dumped by the Abbott government. The share of coal has gone up from 69.6% of sent out electricity in June to 76.4% in October.

And emissions have also jumped sharply, with one study from the Melbourne Energy Institute saying “emissions intensity’ has already jumped an “unprecedented” 10 per cent, and another saying that Australia’s aggregate emissions could rise more than 10 per cent over the year, after falling nearly that much while the carbon price was in place.

Danny Price, from Frontier Economics who helped the Government develop its direct action plan, was also interviewed on Lateline in November last year.

He insisted that penalties for industries that increase their emissions is a crucial part of the plan.

“The direction action policy has always had a penalty included in it. It’s been a consistent feature of direct action from the very first document, that’s been put out on direct action.

The Government, of course, hasn’t yet put anything out about how the penalties will work or the baselines will work which will be a challenge for the Government and they’re the two, you know, most difficult issues for the Government to deal with. But I guess we’ll get to see what the form of the penalty is going to be.”

But not for a while. Nick Xenophon insisted on a safeguards mechanism that will be negotiated in the next 12 months that will determine how tight emissions limits will be and the penalties for exceeding them. Strangely, the emissions reduction fund auctions will apparently begin before the baselines are determined.

“I can announce this today, that the first auctions under the Emissions Reduction Fund, after having spoken to the Clean Energy Regulator on Friday, will be held in the first quarter of next year,” Mr Hunt said on Sunday.

When asked how much Direct Action would cost to achieve the 5% reduction target by 2020, Mr Price, who is the government’s expert on this, said

“Well, I don’t know yet because it will depend very much on where the Government sets the baselines, the nature of the penalties that are applied, but in the order of between $7 billion to $10 billion but probably on the lower end of that range.

The now Government, but then Opposition, had said initially that they had funds available for up to $10.5 billion till 2020. My understanding is that there are funds beyond the forward estimates. And that would be the extra $4.5 billion plus the 2.55 would be very consistent with what I’ve just said I think the costs are likely to be.”

The budget text states that the government will provide an “initial” $2.55 billion to establish the Emissions Reduction Fund, which is consistent with what the Coalition had promised prior to the election over the first four years of the scheme.

Yet the table which accompanies this text listing the hard dollars provides a contradictory and highly confusing story. It outlines a total funding allocation over the next four years of just under $1.15 billion.

A spokesperson for Greg Hunt said that the Clean Energy Regulator is free to at least commit to abatement purchasing contracts up to $2.55 billion over the next four years. However, they expect that because the regulator will only pay for abatement once it is delivered, the expenditure of the $2.55 billion will be spaced out over a period beyond the forward estimates period to 2017-18.

Market analysts Reputex suggest the $2.5 billion fund may get Australia about a third of the way to our low 5% target, but not much more.

Price stressed that Direct Action requires investors who, in turn, need certainty about legislation and regulation.

“this has to be a policy orientated towards investors and I just can’t see that investors are going to invest in a scheme [carbon pricing] where the Government can and will change the price to suit the politics and it could render their investments completely stranded, redundant.”

I wonder how he feels about the Coalition’s backflip on the Renewable Energy Target leading to the decimation of the renewable energy industry and the loss of billions of dollars investment that would have contributed towards meeting our emission reduction target whilst creating new jobs.

Greg Hunt told Emma Alberici

“I’m the Environment Minister and my job is to make sure that we do two things: that we understand the challenge and we respond to the challenge. And then the third thing which goes beyond that is to make sure that our actions are sensible and prudent and real.”

Hunt said on Monday that cleaning up existing power stations was the “the best thing” thing the government could do to reduce emissions, and pointed to the CSIRO’s direct injection carbon engine (DICE) technology as a way to reduce emissions from brown coal.

But, as pointed out in Crikey, rather than being a “major CSIRO research project”, there is a small team of two to four well-intentioned scientists and engineers working out of the CSIRO’s energy labs in Newcastle, running a 4-litre, single-cylinder diesel engine on coal, on a shoestring budget, struggling to find industry partners. The technology is drastically underfunded, unavailable at scale, and has a colourful history of unsuccessful research sponsored for very many years by miner Travers Duncan who has been part of the ICAC investigation into White Coal and Eddie Obeid. Any significant commercial roll-out is decades away.

Hunt should also know that the recent apparent breakthrough in capture and storage of coal emissions – the Canadian Boundary Dam Project – was hideously expensive. They spent $US1.24 billion to retrofit an existing power station to produce 110 megawatts of power to the grid. Assuming 80 per cent utilisation that’s more than $US14 million per effective megawatt, and you’ve got fuel costs on top of that.

By comparison a wind farm assuming 40 per cent utilisation (what newly constructed wind farms in Australia can achieve) comes in at $US5 million or so per effective megawatt with no fuel cost. Also, it can be built in one year instead of four or five, with that saving in construction time adding up to lot of avoided bank loan interest which weighs on the clean coal project.

In the budget the government cut $459.3m over three years from its carbon capture and storage flagship program, leaving $191.7m to continue existing projects for the next seven years, so one wonders just how serious they are about it.

If the government sticks to its suggested (but not confirmed) budget of $4.95 billion up to 2020, they can only afford to spend an average of $11.75 per tonne of CO2. At that price they may achieve a few million tonnes of abatement, but leading carbon market analysts and brokers including Bloomberg New Energy Finance, SKM-MMA and RepuTex suggest that the government has Buckley’s chance of reaching its target of 421 million tonnes with the allocated budget.

At the start of his prime ministership Tony Abbott said, “We hope to be judged by what we have done rather than by what we have said we would do.”

Rest assured Tony, the whole world is judging these actions.

carbon tax repeal

 

 

 

 

 

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Climate change questions and answers

Anyone who has read Andrew Bolt, The Australian, or listened to any shock jocks such as Alan Jones recently would have been overwhelmed with the number of rabid claims that climate change is a hoax, a left-wing conspiracy theory, or that any change stopped over a decade ago. Sadly, this is the view held by our mainstream media and even more sadly, our new government. Neither seem interested in the facts.

Just over a week ago the the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) published Questions and Answers: climate change where they addressed some of the common questions raised about the changing climate and the science involved in studying it.

The media ignored it. The government ignored it. And as a result, you probably don’t know about it. After all, it was nothing more than a collection of facts: facts that contradicted what the media and government would want us to believe.

Below, I have reproduced a condensed version of the CSIRO’s discussion:

What is climate change? (natural & human-induced)

Human-induced climate change, represents a raft of new challenges for this generation and those to come, through increases in extreme weather events and other changes, such as sea-level rise and ocean acidification.

Climate change will be superimposed on natural climate variability, leading to a change in the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme events.

Climate risk profiles will be altered and adaptation will be necessary to manage these new risks. Adaptation includes new management practices, engineering solutions, improved technologies and behavioural change.

How has climate changed in the past?

In Australia, surface temperatures on the land have been recorded at many sites since the mid to late 19th century.

By 1910, Australia had a reliable network of thermometers and the data they produced have been extensively analysed by the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists at CSIRO, Australian universities and international research institutions.

This reveals that since 1910, Australia’s annual-average daily maximum temperatures have increased by 0.75°C and the overnight minima by more than 1.1°C.

Since the 1950s, each decade has been warmer than the one before. We’ve also experienced an increase in record hot days and a decrease in record cold days across the country.

Why do sea levels change?

Average global sea levels have been rising consistently since 1880 (the earliest available robust estimates) largely in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the consequent changes in the global climate.

There are two main processes behind long-term sea-level rises, which are a direct result of a warming climate.

Firstly, as the ocean has warmed the total volume of the ocean has increased through thermal expansion of water.

Secondly, water has been added to the oceans as a result of melting glaciers and ice sheets.

Sea levels began to rise in the 19th century and the rate of sea-level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the average rate during the previous two millennia.

Global-average sea levels are currently (between 1993 and 2010) rising at around 3.2mm per year, faster than during the 20th century as a whole.

How else are the oceans changing?

The heat content of the world’s oceans has increased during recent decades and accounts for more than 90 per cent of the total heat accumulated by the land, air and ocean since the 1970s.

This warming increases the volume of ocean waters and is a major contribution to sea-level rise. Ocean warming is continuing, especially in the top several hundred metres of the ocean.

Sea surface temperatures in the Australian region were very warm during 2010 and 2011, with temperatures in 2010 being the warmest on record. Sea surface temperatures averaged over the decades since 1900 have increased for every decade.

How is the composition of the atmosphere changing?

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2011 was 391 parts per million (ppm) – much higher than the natural range of 170 to 300 ppm during the past 800 000 years.

Global CO2 emissions are mostly from fossil fuels (more than 85 per cent), land use change, mainly associated with tropical deforestation (less than 10 per cent), and cement production and other industrial processes (about 4 per cent).

Energy generation continues to climb and is dominated by fossil fuels – suggesting emissions will grow for some time yet.

How is climate likely to change in the future?

With greenhouse gas emissions continuing to increase, we expect the warming trend of the past century to accelerate throughout this century. We also expect changes to rainfall patterns and to the frequency of extreme weather events like cyclones and droughts.

Average temperatures across Australia are projected to rise by 0.4 to 1.8°C by 2030, compared with the climate of 1990. By 2070, warming is projected to be 1.0 to 2.5°C for a low emissions scenario, and 2.2 to 5.0°C for a high emissions scenario.

Australians will experience this warming through an increase in the number of hot days and warm nights and a decrease in cool days and cold nights.

Climate models show that there may be less rainfall in southern areas of Australia during winter and in southern and eastern areas during spring. Wet years are likely to become less frequent and dry years and droughts more frequent.

Climate models suggest that rainfall near the equator will increase globally, but it’s not clear how rainfall may change in northern Australia.

Australia will also experience climate-related changes to extreme weather events. In most areas of the country, intense rainfall events will become more extreme.

Fire-weather risk is also likely to increase and fire seasons will be longer. And although it is likely that there will be fewer tropical cyclones in the Australian region, the proportion of intense cyclones may increase.

What is extreme weather and how is it changing?

The natural climate variability that underlies all extreme weather events is now influenced and altered by the effect of human-induced warming of the climate system.

Future climate change impacts will be experienced mostly through extreme events rather than gradual changes in mean temperature or rainfall.

Heatwaves, floods, fires and southern Australian droughts are expected to become more intense and more frequent. Frosts, snow and cyclones are expected to occur less often.

Extreme events and natural disasters place a huge burden on individuals, communities, industry and the government and have an enormous impact on Australia’s economy, social fabric and environment.

What are the impacts of climate change?

Australia is expected to experience an increase in extremely high temperatures, extreme fire weather, extreme rainfall events, tropical cyclone intensity, extreme sea levels, and droughts in southern areas.

A decrease in the frequency of extremely cold temperatures is expected, along with fewer tropical cyclones.

These changes will pose significant challenges for disaster risk management, water and food security, ecosystems, forestry, buildings, transport, energy, health and tourism.

For example, many animal and plant species may decline or become extinct, water resources are expected to decline in southern Australia, agricultural zones are likely to shift, coastal erosion and inundation is expected to occur more often, energy demand is likely to increase, snow cover will decline and heat-related deaths may rise.

Is the science settled?

In climate change science, robust findings include:

  • clear evidence for global warming and sea level rise over the past century
  • changes observed in many physical and biological systems are consistent with warming
  • due to the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 since 1750, ocean acidity has increased
  • most of the global average warming over the past 50 years is very likely due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases
  • global greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades, leading to further climate change
  • due to the time scales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries even if greenhouse gas emissions were to be reduced sufficiently for atmospheric concentrations to stabilise
  • increased frequencies and intensities of some extreme weather events are very likely
  • systems and sectors at greatest risk are ecosystems, low-lying coasts, water resources in some regions, tropical agriculture, and health in areas with low adaptive capacity
  • the regions at greatest risk are the Arctic, Africa, small islands and Asian and African mega-deltas. Within other regions (even regions with high incomes) some people, areas and activities can be particularly at risk
  • unmitigated climate change would, in the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt
  • many impacts can be reduced, delayed or avoided by mitigation (net emission reductions). Mitigation efforts and investments over the next two to three decades will have a large impact on opportunities to achieve lower greenhouse gas stabilisation levels.

It is incredible that this information has been unreported and I would assume, largely ignored. Instead, we will continue to be inundated with claims that rabid claims that “climate change is a hoax, a left-wing conspiracy theory, or that any change stopped over a decade ago”.

It is an act of gross negligence that our media fails to accurately report the reality of climate change. It is also an act of gross negligence that our new government fails to embrace the challenges.

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