It seems that the annual melt season for the arctic is beginning. The ice growth has sputtered and spurted in the last few weeks and is now essentially flatlining.
Of course, there is always the chance that another bout of cold will cause some more growth in the ice cap and it will become apparent over the next week or so. The biggest concern is that if the melt is starting from this point, there is a good chance we could be on track for a new record low come September. This is because ice volume and average age is at an all time low.
Malaria is one of the most common—and deadly—infectious diseases in the world,
more than 300 million people a year and
killing over 600,000 people
. But because it’s a mosquito-borne disease—the parasite that causes malaria is passed to human beings by mosquito bites—its range has been limited to warmer tropical areas, the so-called “malaria belt.” And even within tropical countries, altitude matters: the disease is much less common in tropical highlands, where colder temperatures slow down both the mosquito and the development of the parasite within it. It’s not for nothing that 19th century British colonists would build hill stations in malaria-prone countries like India, to escape both heat and disease.
So it’s not surprising either that scientists have been trying to find out for years whether climate change might expand the range of malaria, putting millions of people who live in tropical highlands at risk. Warmer temperatures should mean more malaria, but in recent years the number of cases has actually fallen dramatically, largely because of renewed efforts to fight the disease. But now a new study in Science makes a strong case that as the climate warms, malaria will indeed be on the march, expanding its range to previously safe high-altitude territory, putting even more pressure on prevention campaigns—and if those fail, leading to more deaths.
I have been avoiding doing these because it really is a bit of a waste of time in that it doesn’t really educate anybody other than to reinforce our perception that a number of climate change deniers really do lack some critical thinking skills. That said, sometimes I feel compelled to do this… for reasons that I hope become obvious.
I tend to scroll through my WordPress reader a couple of times a day looking for important news on many issues including climate change, markets, politics and a few specialised blogs related to my two areas of scientific endeavour. I also have a couple of oddball denier blogs that I follow because they give me a good laugh at times. Yes, just as my favourite part of the circus is the clown act, I like to laugh at deniers too… the really silly ones of no consequence anyway. So I checked in on “Watching Those Who Watch the Deniers”. This site was set up allegedly to refute the hugely successful Watching the Deniers blog. They are both cracker blogs for completely opposite reasons.
Well it seems the author at the former site wants to be educated about global warming…or so she claims… but then sets up some conditions on the information she wants to receive. If it isn’t to her liking she plans to not publish the responses to her questions. Some of the conditions are pretty funny and designed to confirm her bias but that’s not what I plan to write about. I was having a good chuckle at what she was writing when I came across this absolute cracker.
If the oceans rose, people would move inland (they would not be refugees–sorry.)
There is no context for this comment so she wasn’t referring to any particular country or region. It was a blanket statement. Ok…..definition time. Refugees by UNHCR definitions are people outside of their own country unable to return to their country due to fear of persecution, conflict etc and it’s pretty clear on that point, so she is correct that people leaving their homes due to rising sea levels are not technically refugees, but I have to wonder if playing semantics with words for the sake of making some inane ideological point about people who are genuinely in serious need is morally acceptable? The fact is, there are plenty of people who are internally displaced in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh due to climate change induced extremes in seasonal flooding and random weather events who are effectively homeless. They have lost everything and don’t have the means to simply “move inland”. To ignore these people by hiding behind vocabulary semantics is immoral.
But let’s get to the main point of this idiotic statement, that people will simply move inland to avoid rising sea levels…if they rise. First, to question if the oceans are going to rise is to ignore the fact that they are rising currently and just through inertia in the system constrained by the laws of physics will continue to rise through thermal expansion and ice melt from projected temperature rises we have already locked in, based on our current levels of atmospheric CO2….and that’s if we were to stop increasing GHG tomorrow. So, oceans will continue to expand. That is undeniable. What are the projections?
Anywhere from half a metre to a metre by 2100 depending on various scenarios. So, let’s go to Tuvalu. There’s not much to say here other than the inhabitants of Tuvalu can’t simply move inland as the sea level rises. It is well established in the scientific literature that a sea level rise of 40cm by 2100 will make the atolls of Tuvalu “uninhabitable”. At least there won’t be an refugees as defined by the UNHCR.
And then there are the islands of the Maldives. The population of the Maldives currently live in the 11th highest density in the world and while a sea level rise of 1m won’t make the entire country uninhabitable, the ~300000 inhabitants will be forced to live in the 15% or so of land still inhabitable…..though I’m not sure what they will eat or do for a living? At least they won’t be refugees.
Finally, there’s Bangladesh. The 8th most populous nation and the 12th densest losing more than 10% of its habitable land….but at least they won’t be refugees, although if wars start being fought over food and water they could well become that….as defined by the UNHCR, but they could still travel inland I guess.
Many low-lying countries, particularly island nations, are at threat from rising sea levels associated with anthropogenic climate change. Many of these are 2nd and 3rd world countries, the least able to adapt technologically as they just cannot afford it. Many people from those countries will become climate refugees…not in the UNHCR mould, but just as desperate and just as homeless nonetheless. Hopefully, they will encounter people who care enough about them to take them in. That is the moral and humane thing to do. I’m not sure the people who play word games will.
Anyway, to read the whole silly blog entry, go here. Have a go at answering the questions too and let me know if you get published. The author wants to learn apparently.
I bang my head on the desk. Here is an excerpt from a speech given by Tony Abbott in Canberra last night…
“Man and the environment are meant for each other. The last thing we do – the last thing we should want – if we want to genuinely improve our environment is to want to ban men and women from enjoying it, is to ban men and women from making the most of it and that’s what you do. You intelligently make the most of the good things that God has given us.”
Allow me to translate…
Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
I think the key here is the final sentence, “You intelligently make the most of the good things that God has given us.” The problem is, Tony Abbott is not an intelligent man. Relying on the Bible to inform you about decisions that should be soundly informed by science is not intelligent. Presumably, if Tony Abbott was intelligent, he would recognise the contradiction between what he says and what he does and he would certainly understand the inference in the first sentence of this excerpt. He basically states that man and the environment depend on each other for survival and he absolutely correct…but not in the way that he probably thinks.
While we exist, we do indeed need the environment for our survival, and while we exist, the environment needs us for its survival in that it needs us to look after it and not over-exploit it for resources or damage it. I am 100% confident that if humans disappeared tomorrow, the environment and every living thing in it would breathe a collective sigh of relief and just get on with living and under a lot less pressure. What Tony Abbott doesn’t seem to understand is that it we are more than capable of damaging the environment to the point that it can no longer sustain human life on it. As most of my readers are intelligent, there is no need for me to go beyond referring to the end-Permian extinction that resulted in no land animal bigger than about 10kg surviving and 90% of living things disappearing. Tony Abbott doesn’t get it. It is beyond his abilities and highlights the lies in his speech.
More and more I am convinced that Tony Abbott is cut from exactly the same cloth as a large number of the loony far right Republicans in the USA, the hypocritical Bible literalists, who use their faith to justify pretty much any decisions they make no matter how wrong or stupid.
So, what does Tony Abbott view as intelligently making “the most of the good things that God has given us”? In the case of Tasmanian forests where he wants to liberate the trees, it is less of this…
and more of this…
Less of these…
and more of these…
To read all of Tony Abbott’s speech, put on your headgear, keep a bucket handy and go here.
One of my favourite Youtubers is Derek with his channel Veritasium. He has a PhD in science communication and all of his videos exploit his expertise in this area. He likes to present a problem to random people and see how they solve it, usually demonstrating the weaknesses in human nature when it comes to laypeople understanding science. This next video is one of his good ones…
and that is the difference between scientists and climate change deniers. The latter tend to suffer from confirmation bias and lack the objectivity, intellect and courage to challenge their predetermined beliefs and also unlike the people in this video who eventually found the solution, refuse to accept any possibility that they are wrong.
Australia’s most effective pseudoscience: climate change denial
The motivated rejection of science permeates the most powerful office in our country. No other pseudoscientific venture can lay claim to such a gleaming trophy
A survey for the American National Science Foundation conducted in 2001 found that 60% of respondents agree that “some people possess psychic powers or extrasensory perception”. 30% agreed that “some of the unidentified flying objects that have been reported are really space vehicles from other civilisations”.
I’ve heard these stats and felt a rush of pride, knowing that we’re spared such grandiose nonsense in Australia – but it’s misplaced. The power of systematic denial of science in Australia has been badly underestimated.
The world of pseudoscience has blurred edges, ranging from homeopathy to intelligent design. It’s characterised by the presentation of non-scientific claims as scientific. A classic example of pseudoscience I’ve encountered in my time in the clean energy industry is a phenomenon known as “wind turbine syndrome” – a collection of non-scientific claims reliant on anecdotal evidence and discredited, non-peer-reviewed research (the latest study finding no evidence that turbines can make people sick was just published).
Climate denial is different, in that it relies more on cherry-picked data than anecdotal evidence. Additionally, many pseudosciences exist solely as a marketing tool for improbable claims, whereas climate denial exists to negate a probable claim. In recent years, climate denial has become the most effective pseudoscience in Australia.
When it comes to the alignment between public and scientific views on climate science, we’re badly behind the curve. The most recent survey of public views on anthropogenic global warming, the CSIRO’s fourth annual survey of Australian attitudes to climate change, show 39% of Australians reject a human role in global warming, a further 8% think the climate isn’t changing at all, and 6% can’t say either way.
When asked to rank 16 social issues in terms of importance, climate change came third last. You’d be hard pressed to find any other form of scientific denialism with such a significant impact on the priorities of Australians. A recent poll by Essential Vision confirms the findings of the CSIRO, and delineates how our views have changed over the past four years.
In addition to our own views on the causes of climate change, there is a big gap between what climate scientists agree on, and what we think they agree on. Preliminary data gathered by climate science communication expert John Cook shows this pattern at play in the US:
Cook terms this the “consensus gap”. It’s precisely the outcome we’d expect from a systematic effort to distance public opinion from the outcomes of science. It’s likely this gap has been forced open by the efforts of conservative media commentators producing a relentless output of doubt. By amplifying the voices of a small number of dissenting scientists, the public is faced with a manufactured controversy, far removed from reality.
Climate change denial is a pseudoscience like no other, and it’s Australia’s most effective and pervasive pseudoscience because it has support from powerful figures. Faced with the option of accepting scientific views on climate change, or aligning with Australians who reject human influence in the climate system, it’s unsurprising to see many politicians side with the latter.
Senator John Madigan stated in a radio interview, that “the degree to which man can influence the change of climate, well I don’t believe the jury is in on that yet. For all the people of the world, scientists who say it is, there’s probably an equal body who says it isn’t”. Senator Cory Bernardi openlyrejects climate science. Abbott’s business advisor Maurice Newman described climate change as a “scientific delusion”. Guardian climate blogger Graham Readfearn writes that at least six members of Abbott’s 18-member cabinet have been sceptical of the role of fossil fuels in climate change. Abbott himself rejects the possibility that it will have any influence on the frequency of bushfires or drought.
The motivated rejection of science permeates the most powerful office in our country. No other pseudoscientific venture can lay claim to a gleaming trophy like that.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this brand of scientific denialism weighs heavily on the clean energy industry, in which I’m currently employed. Self described “climate sceptic” Dick Warburton has been chosen to head the review of the Renewable Energy Target. Research demonstrates the rejection of climate science is strongly linked to opposition to climate policies.
There’s no escaping the fact that the mechanics of climate change denial will be a deciding factor in the future of my industry. It’s something I now keep in mind when wallowing in the prevalence of pseudoscience in other countries.
With thanks to the Guardian and Ketan Joshi. Original article here
Is the Arctic Really Drunk, or Does It Just Act Like This Sometimes?
The biggest debate in climate science may be over whether global warming will create more winters like this one. If you care about weather, you’d better care about the outcome.
Just when weather weary Americans thought they’d found a reprieve, the latest forecasts suggest that the polar vortex will, again, descend into the heart of the country next week, bringing with it staggering cold. If so, it will be just the latest weather extreme in a winter that has seen so many of them. California has been extremely dry, while the flood-soaked UK has been extremely wet. Alaska has been extremely hot (as has Sochi), while the snow-pummeled US East Coast has been extremely cold. They’re all different, and yet on a deeper level, perhaps, they’re all the same.
This weather now serves as the backdrop—and perhaps, as the inspiration—for an increasingly epic debate within the field of climate research. You see, one climate researcher, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, has advanced an influential theory suggesting that winters like this one may be growing more likely to occur.
The amount of heat absorbed by the dark ocean exposed by the melting Arctic ice-cap could be as much as one quarter of all the heat trapped by man-made carbon dioxide.
FOR 50 YEARS or so, scientists have warned that if Arctic ice melts then the planet will be less able to reflect the sun’s energy and further fuel global warming.
Now, a new study using more than 30 years of satellite measurements has confirmed this hypothesis, warning that melting Arctic ice is having a greater impact on the world’s energy balance than previously thought.
I’m not going to go into all the garbage deniers spit out about the “pause” in global surface temperatures. For a start, there is no pause and even if there was, the global surface temperature record is only a small part of the picture. Regardless, I am yet to see a single credible explanation from any deniers for why natural systems continue to act as though there is no pause. Take the Arctic. The following pictures and video say more than anything I can write.
What strikes me the most about this graph isn’t the September trend but the April trend. Every year the melt season is starting from a lower start point. Every year there is less and less volume. I wonder if global warming were to suddenly stop and level out if we haven’t already crossed a tipping point that would see ice continue to decline regardless? This continual loss in volume is demonstrated to dramatic effect in this video looking at the dramatic loss of multiyear ice.