from ABC – The World Today
Eleanor Hall interviews Dr Peter Christoff.
ELEANOR HALL: While the Federal Government focuses its climate policy energies on repealing the carbon tax, a report published today paints a terrifying picture of a world that’s four degrees warmer and recommends a dramatic increase in Australia’s carbon reduction target.
The report’s editor is Associate Professor of Environmental Policy at Melbourne University, Dr Peter Christoff.
He says he will meet Australian politicians from all parties to stress the urgency of the problem.
He joined me from Melbourne this morning.
Professor Christoff, what do you say to those who say it’s simply alarmist to be talking about four degrees of global warming, twice the level that world leaders have identified as dangerous, and are working to keep below.
PETER CHRISTOFF: Well, two years ago or four years ago, it would have been regarded as science fiction to think about a world heading in that direction. But frankly, given the pace of negotiations and the projections that are being made on current levels of emissions and also projected changes to those emissions, four degrees is pretty much about the centre figure that is being projected by the IPCC, the scientific body looking at climate change.
So four degrees unfortunately is now a very realistic prospect by the end of this century.
ELEANOR HALL: You say we should use the best available evidence. What does it tell us about the earliest possible date we’d be looking at a four degree warmer world?
PETER CHRISTOFF: Well a great deal depends on the rate at which emissions either increase or decline. If those emissions increase, then we’re looking at four degrees being perhaps as early as 2070. If they decline, but not sufficiently, then we’re looking at around the end of this century.
Of course that doesn’t mean that that’s when the warming stops. Warming would continue to occur for some time, for some centuries after that. But at this stage that’s the projection that we’re looking at.
ELEANOR HALL: The planet has warmed only about 0.8 of a degree since the industrial revolution. The latest IPCC report shows the pace of warming has actually stabilised in recent years. Isn’t this just too extreme an analysis to be taken seriously?
PETER CHRISTOFF: Look, the stabilisation that has occurred at the moment is regarded by most climate scientists as temporary. These sort of projections that we are now looking at the moment are not alarmist at all. I think they’re actually probably conservative under the circumstances. They don’t factor in a number of other feedbacks which may occur as warming continues and as we move past certain tipping points.
ELEANOR HALL: So if this four degrees of warming or worse were to take place, which parts of the globe, which populations, would be most at risk?
PETER CHRISTOFF: You’d probably have to say that most parts of the globe would be at risk. That’s four degrees of average warming, but there would be warming that is in excess of that as you move towards the polar regions in both hemispheres.
You’ve got to say that Australia as a country which has always had a fairly fragile environment, would be one of the continents and one of the countries most at risk. Certainly it’s the most vulnerable of the industrialised countries.
But then you have continents like the Indian subcontinent and also China, which are very vulnerable because of their large populations who are extremely susceptible to changes in drought and therefore in food availability.
ELEANOR HALL: What is the most frightening aspect for you of a four degree warmer world?
PETER CHRISTOFF: Oh look, that’s a terrible question to which one only has to give a terrible answer. There are a set of compounding problems that emerge when you start moving towards four degrees. You start to see a world in which there are substantial extinctions.
The oceans have become warmer, are becoming more acidic. So there’s a very significant chance of the collapse of significant marine ecosystems like coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef, for example, is probably doomed when you get to four degrees. There are very substantial problems with food availability planet-wide and in a country like Australia which used to be capable of producing a surplus of food, by four degrees, would probably be facing food security problems with a larger population, but also a hungrier population.
And then you have the issues of extreme weather events, floods, more intense storms, bushfires, all these things particularly in the Australian context, I think leave us with a shatteringly different sense of what Australian can and would be like.
ELEANOR HALL: The physical effects are one part of this. What could the changes in the resource availability then mean for security? Will it inevitably mean more wars?
PETER CHRISTOFF: The projections are at four degrees that you would have significant displacement of population. If you have mass hunger occurring, populations will move to try and find food. Most of those movements, and the projections go from 65 to 250 million people by the end of this century. Most of those movements are likely to occur with countries, but there would be also the prospect of people moving over their borders and looking for resources elsewhere.
And how the world begins to handle a problem of that magnitude I think is something that we can only begin to contemplate. One doesn’t know whether it would lead to more conflict. It certainly would lead to problems. I don’t think we can understand what a world that looks like the one that’s being projected looks like or how we’re going to react to it. It’s beyond human experience.
ELEANOR HALL: This sounds like a doomsday scenario. Could humans adapt to a four degree warming of the planet?
PETER CHRISTOFF: Well, humans are an extraordinarily adaptable species but if you’re looking at a population of seven billion people trying to adapt to a world in which there’s less water and less food, one would have to say that the prospects for an adaptation that would leave life looking roughly like it does for many people at this point in time is virtually impossible.
So there are already billions of people living in poverty or in water-stressed and food-stressed circumstances. In a four degree world, their situation would only get extremely worse. And even in extremely wealthy countries like Australia, adaptation I think would be very, very difficult to countenance.
There would clearly be some form of adaptation, but it wouldn’t be life as we understand it at this point in time.
ELEANOR HALL: You say that Australia could be one of the most vulnerable continents. Where do you expect to see the worst effects in Australia of a four degree warmer world?
PETER CHRISTOFF: There will be the extinctions of species. There’ll be a very substantial impact on agricultural productivity. So the issues of food availability will change. We probably have the wealth and the resources to begin to deal with some of the issues of water availability and desalinisation plants and so on. Everyday life will be very substantially different. There are projections for example of what would happen to just average temperatures over time. So in Melbourne for example, we have something like nine or ten days over 35 degrees at the moment. By the time you get to 2070, that’s about 26 days.
When you’re looking at Alice Springs, the temperatures are 90 days over 35 degrees now, 180 by 2070. And then you get to places like Darwin, which would move from 11 days to 308. You end up with parts of Australia which are virtually unliveable. And the projections are for example, that while Alice Springs would resemble the Sudan, Darwin will resemble like no place on earth.
ELEANOR HALL: What action would you like to see from policy makers as a result of your report?
PETER CHRISTOFF: The clearest thing that this report suggests is that our current settings, current targets, and our current policies are inadequate. So Australia’s committed to reducing its emissions by five degrees. We need to look at a much more substantial target, around 35-40, even 45 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.
ELEANOR HALL: To go from 5 per cent to 45 though, that’s a massive increase. Do you really expect the current government to take something like that seriously?
PETER CHRISTOFF: Well clearly there’s a huge gap between our current political settings and what the science is suggesting we need to do. But at the end of the day if you look at the economic, the social and environmental outcomes, there has to be a bit of a reality check and I think that nature is going to give us that.
ELEANOR HALL: A 45 per cent reduction, what would be the cost of bringing that about. I mean, British economist Nicholas Stern’s analysis that it would cost 1 per cent of GDP globally is now well out of date, isn’t it?
PETER CHRISTOFF: It is out of date. But it’s not that far off what one could still expect at this point in time. We’re talking about billions of dollars. But in terms of the amount of money that is currently spent within the budget on education or defence and so on, it certainly wouldn’t be a dramatic tension for the budget to be reoriented towards dealing with this problem.
ELEANOR HALL: Peter Christoff, as we’ve been going through this conversation you’re reeling off statistics that really are quite extraordinary. How worried are you that we could actually reach four degrees of warming?
PETER CHRISTOFF: Extremely worried. We haven’t seen the sort of focus and we haven’t seen the sort of effort that’s required to avoid exceeding two degrees in international negotiations, nor in Australia for some time. And I think that under the circumstances, unless there is a change, I think that the likelihood is that we will head towards four degrees, or more precisely that in 10 or 20 years time we’ll start to panic and start to really begin to move very, very quickly to reduce emissions. But under those circumstances it will much more expensive and probably much less effective set of policies that we put in place.
ELEANOR HALL: Professor Christoff, thanks very much for joining us.
PETER CHRISTOFF: Thanks Eleanor.
ELEANOR HALL: That’s Melbourne University’s Dr Peter Christoff. He’s the editor of that report; Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a Hot World.
For audio and full transcript, go here.
“Thank you for the wonderful personal attack in response to a fairly innocuous reply to some one that is equally mentally delusion as what you get up finding yourself faced with every day. Tony Abbot does not know you nor does he care about your kind of people, as most of the sane world does. You are so inconsequential and delusional that the people in white coats should be just around the corner to gather you up when the carbon tax is repealed and Australians can prosper and expand their economy again with out the restrains of idiots like you and what’s her name, (edited). You are fun to poke and that I will do using your Facebook account. You should do like whatshername and cancel your account. Mike.“
Okay…first, I’m going to ignore your personal attack on me complaining about personal attacks. Unlike you, I am not a hypocrite.
Second, your comment wasn’t “innocuous“, it was abusive and creepy.
Third, you say “…some one that is equally mentally delusion as what you get up finding youself faced with every day.” Are you sure English is your first language? I will assume you are actually insinuating that I am “mentally delusion” here although the way it reads it could be referring to anyone…even you.
Fourth, I would certainly hope that Tony Abbot (sic) does care about my “kind of people” as he has been elected to represent all Australians, not just the loony right wingers. That’s his job. In my country, the office of Prime Minister is meant to be above politics and decisions the Prime Minister and his government make are meant to be in the national interest. While people like you bleat on about freedom, the way you act and talk is akin to that of a facist. The irony is immense. But what exactly is my “kind of people“? That would be middle class, hard working, clean living, family oriented, tax paying, law abiding, educated, generous and intelligent people. You are correct, Tony Abbott doesn’t care about my “kind of people” but you are correct when you say “most of the sane world does.“
Fifth you say, “You are so inconsequential and delusional that the people in white coats should be just around the corner to gather you up…“. Gee I hope so! Since I moved to Queensland, I have found it difficult to secure a decent job in my scientific discipline due to the very right-wing, backward and loony Campbell Newman sacking environmental scientists left, right and centre. Some scientists gathering me up will be great.
Sixth, “...when the carbon tax is repealed and Australians can prosper and expand their economy again with out the restrains of idiots like you and what’s her name, (edited).” It pays to do a little bit of research before commenting so you don’t look stupid. Too late in your case. While the rest of the world really struggled over the last 5 years due to the GFC, Australia’s economy was one of the few that continued to grow. Why? Left wing government. After the introduction of the carbon “tax” the Australian economy continued to grow at a rate higher than most of the rest of the world. I guess my “restrains” were fairly innocuous.
I had to pull my secret admirer’s comment out of the spam folder where his crap ends up. Apparently he hasn’t realised that I have blocked him on Facebook and did so a long time ago. I’ve had a couple of stalkers before but they gave up long before this goose.
I know you are reading this, dopey, so go ahead, poke me on Facebook if you can. You have been blocked there. Maybe you’d like to try my email email@example.com although you won’t get much joy there either. Your emails will end up with the penis enlargement, internet dating, Nigeria scams and viagra emails where they belong. That’s quite apt really. Perhaps you will follow me on Twitter @uknowiSS?
So, who is my secret admirer? I guess if you are inclined to bother you could work it out from previous posts and comment history but I wouldn’t. It’s not worth your time. I did however do a short post on angry old white males once. He fits that mould with the exception that, rather than listening to Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt, my secret admirer, being an American, lists the following people in his list of page likes on Facebook:
Fox and Friends: No need for any explanation however, I do recall that there was once a study that showed people who relied only on Fox news knew less about the world than people who didn’t watch any television at all….scary
The Huckabee Show: ““Huckabee” is a weekly #1 rated weekend show on Fox News which airs Saturdays & Sundays at 8PM ET.” The top rated Fox show is hardly an endorsement.
Brigitte Gabriel: President of some mob called ACT for America, a xenophobic, uber right-wing, nationalistic organisation dedicated to painting all Muslims as terrorists.
Allen West for President: A fan page for a loony Tea Party Republican congressman
United States Senator Mike Lee: A Tea Party alligned lunatic.
Ted Cruz: Another Tea Party alligned lunatic.
Conservative Daily: “The page for conservative Americans.”
Glenn Beck: Possibly the looniest (and the loudest) of the uber right wing cable TV hosts.
Anyone seeing a pattern here? Next…
CFACT: With posts like this… “With sea level, extreme weather, temperature, polar ice and evan polar bears all stable…” Say no more.
Laura Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are also in the list of pages that my secret admirer follows. It’s no wonder he is the way he is.
At first, I figured the only thing he had to gain with his idiotic comments was getting his loony message out there but now that I have banned him, he seems to gain some weird satisfaction in being banned and ridiculed, almost as though my kicking him to the curb vindicates his whacky position. Sad, weird and….well….sad.
In the bigger picture, the one thing that those of us who accept the expert consensus on the climate can take heart from, is knowing that in 20 years, the vast majority of the angry old white males, the science denying right wing retards, like my secret admirer, will be dead or infirm. By then, the ever-shrinking voice of dissent, ignorance and scientific illiteracy will be nothing more than a quaint curiosity, like flat Earthers, moon-landing hoaxers, 9-11 truthers and various other conspiracy theorists, and the rest of us will be able to get on and do what needs to be done to fight and adapt to climate change, unimpeded. Hopefully by then it won’t be too late.
Ok, my title is a little blunt. Geoff Kitney reporting for the Financial Review puts it much more politely but delivers a scathing assessment of exactly what Australia voted for…..or did they?
What is going on with the Abbott government?
The alarm bells about the Abbott government are becoming deafening. And they are ringing around the world. What started as a rumble in Jakarta is now echoing through the capitals of every nation which has any dealings with Australia.
And it’s not hard to imagine that the first question being asked about Abbott’s Australia is: “What on earth is going on?”
What is happening is that a dramatic re-positioning of the way Australia relates to the rest of the world is under way.
A new ideology is being applied by Tony Abbott and those with most influence on his thinking. And it is now clear that Joe Hockey is not one of those people.
Hockey’s shamefaced appearance to announce that he had decided to reject the US bid for GrainCorp and saying that one of the reasons was that it was “not popular” was a jaw-dropping political moment, comparable with Christopher Pyne’s po-faced appearance to announce the ditching of the Gonski education reforms and declaring that this was not a broken promise.
If popular support is a new condition for foreign investment Chinese investors need not bother applying.
It took a while, but we are now seeing the true colours of Abbottism. For those who expected an Abbott administration to resume where the Howard government left off, what we are now seeing will be a surprise. This is a completely new brand of conservative politics.
The new “brand Australia” that the Abbott government is presenting to the world is neo-conservative nationalism, with a populist twist.
Hockey should be squirming
For those trying to understand the politics of the GrainCorp decision, there are two reference points which explain it. They were provided by the National Party and the Greens. Both were effusive in their praise of the decision, which they said protected Australia’s “national interests”.
Hockey should be squirming at keeping such company. He knows this decision will raise big questions about his standing in the Abbott government. His reputation as a liberal reformer is now on the line.
This decision raises the stakes on Hockey’s handling of the decision on what to do with Qantas. Hockey says he favours allowing it to become majority foreign owned. The odds on him persuading Abbott to allow this absolutely rational decision have now stretched to prohibitively against.
For foreign investors, the GrainCorp decision will be deeply puzzling.
The first big foreign investment decision of an “open for business” government is to slam the door. Hockey now faces a daunting task to explain what the exceptional circumstances were that forced him to block the sale.
But there is a wider economic national interest conundrum about the Abbott government’s emerging world view.
Australia’s most important regional relationships – Indonesia and with China – have entered dangerous territory since the Abbott government came to power.
In both cases, this has not been because of actions initiated by the government but by its responses to external events which have revealed its basic instincts.
And what this has revealed has been a worryingly narrow vision which seems to take too little heed of the economic dimensions of Australia’s foreign and strategic interests.
The crisis in Australia’s relationship with Indonesia has led to a boringly predictable and myopic domestic slanging match between the Abbott government’s media boosters and its critics which completely missed the main point.
Australia’s economic future is as important in the relationship with Indonesia as its security. A healthy, open relationship with an increasingly prosperous Indonesia will present huge economic opportunities for Australia.
That element of the relationship hardly gets noticed in the domestic political debate. But it is vastly more important than the issue of boat arrivals which has been allowed to poison Australian public attitudes towards Indonesia.
The elevation of the boat arrivals issue to the level of a threat to Australia’s security and the Abbott government’s go-it-alone, populist “sovereign borders” policy for dealing with it have deepened the gulf of misunderstanding in the relationship.
The danger of this gulf was emphasised in Abbott’s initial domestic-audience targeted response to Indonesia’s anger about the spying revelations. The idea of Indonesia as an economic friend rather than a strategic threat is completely missing from the Australian domestic debate.
A wake-up call is desperately needed.
From this point of view, the issue of Australian spying and the attention is has brought to the troubled bilateral relationship might prove to be a good thing in the longer term if both sides take this as a wake-up call.
Abbott’s pre-election rhetoric about shifting Australia’s focus from “Geneva to Jakarta” will be meaningful if both sides can use the aftermath of the current crisis to make a new start on identifying and growing their shared interests.
If Abbott could have nominated the two foreign policy issues which he least wanted to blow up in his first few months in office, they would have been relations with Indonesia and China.
He’s got both. The Jakarta crisis is now in emergency management. China is an emergency still unfolding.
Tit-for-tat diplomatic protests
The soaring tensions between China, Japan and the United States over China’s muscular assertion of its ownership of the disputed islands in the East China Sea have spread to our relationship with China. The tit-for-tat diplomatic protests between Canberra and Beijing in recent days have confirmed that China sees Australia as a US proxy.
Abbott has defended Australia’s protest to Beijing as an assertion of Australia’s “values and interest”. The use of the word “values” will be especially noted in Beijing: It’s a strong echo of the US conservative language about why China is a strategic opponent.
This will have consequences.
At the very least, it will raise the political stakes in efforts to finalise an Australia-China free trade agreement. But if the tensions between China, Japan and the US run out of control – which is now a real danger – the consequences could be far graver.
Running the country is getting tougher, faster for the Abbott government.
Original story here
So how's Abbott's Australia traveling so far? asks Kaye Lee. In a nutshell, judging by her evidence below, very badly.
We have been condemned worldwide for our moves to repeal the 'carbon tax', our abolition of climate change bodies and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) (even though it’s making a substantial profit), our failure to send a politician to the Warsaw climate change talks and our refusal to provide any funding for the Green Climate Fund.
This video is an excellent summation of the IPCC WG1 2013 report. Of course if you are Tony Abbott and you rely on funding from mining companies and billionaires to get elected as Prime Minister, you are going to pretend you know more than thousands of experts, each one infinitely more intelligent than you. I can only hope one day he and his idiotic band of environmental vandals get run over by a mining truck.