Archive for the ‘Climate Science’ Category

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Liberals Part 1: Climate denial and deregulation

11 January 2013

Almost all of my posts to date have focused on criticizing Australia’s incumbent Labor government. I have written very little about the alternate Liberal/National Coalition government. But as we enter an election year, it is time to examine the Liberals’ policies.

Can the Liberals be trusted?

To begin with, it is worth noting that the Liberals have given us every reason to distrust them on climate change.

According to a 2010 survey, only 38% of Coalition politicians accept that humans are warming the planet (compared to 98% of Greens, in line with the scientific consensus, and 89% of Labor politicians). Liberal and National politicians regularly spout denialist talking points, up to and including their leader Tony Abbott. Most notoriously, Abbott reportedly said in 2009 that the science of climate change is “complete crap” but “the politics of this are tough for us”. In 2010 Abbott met with Christopher Monckton, a man who claims climate scientists are conspiring to fake their results in a plot to create a socialist world government. In a speech to the Mining Council of Australia in 2011, Abbott said “the authors of the carbon tax do not see coal, oil and gas as the most important parts of our economy” but “as a threat to the very survival of our planet”, the obvious implication being that his party disagrees. In 2011 former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard launched a book instructing schoolchildren to raise denialist arguments in the classroom. Queensland’s Liberal National government wants to remove climate from the school curriculum, and its Premier and Environment Minister openly deny human-caused global warming.

I could list many more examples. Indeed, it would probably be quicker to list Coalition politicians who have never publically made denialist claims.

Almost all of the Liberals’ actions mark them as an anti-climate party. The Liberals did not take any significant climate action during the eleven years of the Howard government. They consistently prioritize short-term economic considerations like mining industry competitiveness and electricity prices ahead of climate change. Today they are putting way more effort into opposing Labor’s climate policy than in designing and promoting their own (the former is the subject of this post; the latter will be covered in Part 2). Thus it is questionable whether they would even implement their climate policy, let alone whether it would work. Read the rest of this entry ?

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2012: The year the world snoozed

31 December 2012

The Guardian described 2006 as “The year the world woke up” to climate change. If that’s the case then I guess 2007 was the year we rolled over and went back to sleep. Our alarm clock has continued to ring ever more loudly and clearly, but we just keep on hitting the snooze button – if we even hear the alarm at all. The events of 2012 have continued the pattern, both in Australia and around the world.

January

A diverse group of organizations warned there is a “carbon bubble” in global financial markets. Yawn… oh look, Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open!

February

Mining magnate and climate change denier Gina Rinehart tried to take over an Australian newspaper chain. Business news is so dreary… wow, congratulations to Queen Elizabeth II for reaching her Diamond Jubilee!

Australian ex-PM Kevin Rudd attempted to regain the top job and lock in a meaningless greenhouse gas emissions target. Hey, someone leaked a video of him saying the F-word!

March

Greenpeace exposed Australia’s plans to multiply its already-world-beating coal exports on a scale dwarfing its emissions at home, to which the government responded by passionately defending the industry. Soporific stuff… look, Clive Palmer is fighting with his soccer team!

Australia introduced a tax on coal mining profits that failed to raise any revenue. How dull… whoa, Sachin Tendulkar scored his 100th international century in cricket! Read the rest of this entry ?

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Doha climate talks: Island states stand up for ambition

5 December 2012

“We have not seen concrete progress on the issues that are important to ensuring the survival of all our members. How many conferences do we have to endure where we go back to our countries and say, ‘next year we will increase ambition to reduce emissions, next year we will see finance, next year we will save the climate’? No more next years.”

Sai Navoti, lead negotiator for Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

The elephant in the room at the Doha climate talks (COP18) is the cavernous “ambition gap” between the pathetically weak pledges on the table and the rapid emissions cuts urgently required to keep global warming below the 2°C limit agreed by the world’s governments, let alone a truly safe global target.

Last year’s conference in Durban established a process to close the ambition gap, Durban Platform workstream 2, yet in Doha it is being sidelined in favor of competing negotiating streams. The state of those other streams has reached a new low: the Kyoto Protocol is set to lock in meaningless targets for its few remaining participants diluted by endless loopholes, Long-term Cooperative Action has devolved into a system of inadequate voluntary pledges, and Durban Platform workstream 1 will not be implemented until 2020 when it will be far too late. An informal note from the Durban Platform chair suggests Doha’s outcome on ambition could consist entirely of planning future negotiations. Indeed the talks may even be going backwards on ambition, with Russia backing away from its pledge to cut emissions 25% by 2020.

Only the Earth’s most vulnerable countries, the small island states, are exposing the emperor’s lack of clothes. “The science is absolutely clear,” AOSIS said in a recent statement. “If emissions are not lowered immediately, the opportunity to avert the worst impacts of climate change may be irrevocably lost.” AOSIS is calling for Kyoto 2 to end in five, not eight years; for there to be no legal gap between commitment periods; for surplus permits to be severely limited; for access to Kyoto offsets to be restricted to those bound by Kyoto targets; and for more ambitious targets from all parties, especially rich countries. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Good Arctic sea ice pic and vid

28 September 2012

I’ve already blogged about the record Arctic sea ice melt. The following picture and video further illustrate the point. This graphic from the Australian Conservation Foundation shows what the Arctic melt would look like if Australia was melting:

Note that Arctic sea ice volume has declined even more dramatically, with four-fifths disappearing in the 34-year record.

This video from The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media also explains it well:

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Arctic sea ice minimum: A planetary emergency

21 September 2012

The news that Arctic sea ice is in meltdown is being treated as merely one news item among many, even though it threatens to set off a chain of tipping points affecting all of humanity and life on Earth. I’m reminded of how the iceberg warnings sent to the Titanic by other ships were interspersed with passenger messages, and the final and most urgent warning was not considered important enough to deliver to the captain. In 1912 it was the presence of Arctic ice that failed to sink in; in 2012 it is the absence thereof; but the lack of needed attention is the same.

After a spectacular melt season, the Arctic sea ice finally appears to have reached its annual minimum on 16 September. In a horrible milestone, the ice extent shrank to just 3.4 million square km, which is three-quarters of a million square km (or 18%) below the 2007 record low broken in late August, and less than half of the 1980s average. (Note that sea ice extent includes areas with only partial ice cover; actual sea ice area got as low as 2.2 million square km.)

Source: International Arctic Research Center

The ice has retreated so far as to make the Arctic Ocean circumnavigable:

Source: National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) Read the rest of this entry ?

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Arctic sea ice in a death spiral

29 August 2012

Source: International Arctic Research Center

As Australian politicians fiddle with the details of an extremely insufficient climate change policy, I’ve been watching Arctic sea ice news with increasing dismay. Summer sea ice in the Arctic is fast melting away, accelerated by amplifying feedbacks in what has been called a “death spiral”. The disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice is a key tipping point.

Sea ice floats on the ocean surface and is not to be confused with ice sheets on land. Arctic sea ice grows and shrinks seasonally, with an annual minimum in September. This year, eight independent datasets show we’ve already reached record low sea ice cover in the last week or so, with still weeks to go before the annual minimum.

In the IJIS Arctic sea ice extent dataset (pictured above), the previous record was 4.3 million square km on 24 September 2007 (with the 2011 minimum not far behind). This year we’re only up to 29 August, yet extent has already plummeted to 3.9 million square km. As if that’s not astonishing enough, the ice continues to shrink by 100,000 square km per day. Normally at this time of year, melting slows down as the melt season draws to a close – but this time it seems to be still accelerating, which is unprecedented in decades of observations. Nobody can predict what will happen next. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Is Tony Abbott a liar, or just plain stupid?

25 August 2012

It’s taken them two-and-a-half years, but it looks like the Australian media is finally beginning to cotton on to the blatant dishonesty of Tony Abbott, leader of the Liberal Party and Opposition. His latest mistruths are debunked here. What better time than to recall some highlights from his ever-growing litany of false, misleading, and contradictory statements?

“Liar” is an inflammatory term which I used to get your attention. Of course, I have no way of knowing the motivations of Abbott or his party; they may believe themselves to be sincere. But if “liar” means “one who makes false statements”, then Abbott is a habitual liar. In fact, I can logically prove to you that Abbott is a liar. This is possible because if a politician promises one thing to one audience and a contradictory thing to another audience, it logically follows that one of those promises must be untrue.

Abbott claimed in July 2011 he had been consistent: “I once used some colorful language describing the so-called settled science of climate change but look, climate change is real, humanity does make a contribution to it and we’ve got to take effective action against it. I mean, that’s my position and that’s always been my position but I’ve never been in favor of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.” But in October 2009, he had said: “We don’t want to play games with the planet so we are taking this issue seriously and we would like to see an ETS.” And he is on video advocating a form of carbon tax immediately after denying climate change:

Read the rest of this entry ?