An Australian perspective. Personally, I’m not looking forward to this Summer. I suspect more records will tumble as the previous 12 months have been the hottest on record globally and ENSO conditions looking favourable for above average temperatures.
Tag Archives: climate change
Derek Muller is a science communication expert. He has a well known YouTube channel called Veritasium. His videos are always informative and entertaining. He has a real knack at taking complex science and making it accessible to many. He is also very good at dispelling common scientific misconceptions. Many of his early videos highlighted just how poor average people’s understanding of basic everyday physics, chemistry and biology is and I urge you to go and check them out.
In this video, Derek dispels 13 of the most common denier canards that we all come across. Enjoy.
Originally posted on Climate, People & Organizations:
The declining diversity of our biological systems has been an on-going feature of human history. As we have developed ever more ingenious and efficient technologies to harness and exploit the natural world, so our impact on nature’s bounty has been crushing. One of the most emblematic examples of this process for me was reading Mark Kurlansky’s marvellous history Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. Once a bountiful species (so great in number that John Cabot famously proclaimed in the 1490s that men could walk across the backs of cod on the Grand Banks), Atlantic cod were by the 1990s decimated through the introduction of industrial fishing techniques. Indeed, recent human history is littered with similar examples of species decline and extinction as a result of our industry. Reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent book The Sixth Extinction, one of the most tragic is the story of…
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Authors: Ariel Bogle and Will Oremus
Australians like to think of themselves as green. Their island country boasts some 3 million square miles of breathtaking landscape. They were an early global leader in solar power. They’ve had environmental regulations on the books since colonial times. And in 2007 they elected a party and a prime minister running on a “pro-climate” platform, with promises to sign the Kyoto Protocol and pass sweeping environmental reforms. All of which makes sense for a country that is already suffering the early effects of global warming.
And yet, seven years later, Australia has thrown its environmentalism out the window—and into the landfill.
The climate-conscious Labor Party is out, felled by infighting and a bloodthirsty, Rupert Murdoch–dominated press that sows conspiracy theories about climate science. In its place, Australians elected the conservative Liberal Party, led by a prime minister who once declared that “the climate argument is absolute crap.”
In the year since they took office, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Liberal-led coalition have already dismantled the country’s key environmental policies. Now they’ve begun systematically ransacking its natural resources. In the process, they’ve transformed Australia from an international innovator on environmental issues into quite possibly the dirtiest country in the developed world. And in a masterful whirl of the spin machine, they’ve managed to upend public debate by painting climate science as superstition and superstition as climate science. (We should note here that one of us grew up in Australia.)
The country’s landmark carbon tax has been repealed. The position of science minister has been eliminated. A man who warns of “global cooling” is now the country’s top business adviser. In November, Australia will host the G-20 economic summit; it plans to use its power as host to keep climate change off the official agenda.
If the environment has become Australia’s enemy, fossil fuels are its best friend once again. Two months after it struck down the carbon tax, the government forged a deal with a fringe party led by a mining tycoon to repeal a tax on mining profits. It appointed a noted climate-change skeptic—yes, another one—to review its renewable energy targets. Surprise: He’s expected to slash them. Independent modeling in a study commissioned by the Climate Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation, and WWF-Australia finds that the cuts to renewable energy won’t reduce Australians’ energy bills. They will, however, gift the country’s coal and gas industry another $8.8 billion U.S.
At a time when solar power is booming worldwide, sunny Australia is rolling back its state-level subsidies (despite domestic success) and canceling major solar projects. Meanwhile, the government has given the go-ahead to build the nation’s largest coal mine, with an eye toward boosting coal exports to India.
Did we mention that Australians’ per-capita carbon emissions are the highest of any major developed country in the world? Welcome to the Saudi Arabia of the South Pacific. No, Australia isn’t a theocracy, and oil isn’t the source of its fossil-fuel riches. But it is the world’s second-largest exporter of coal and third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, and minerals and fuels account for nearly 50 percent of its export revenues. Its per-capita carbon emissions actually exceed those of Saudi Arabia. And its behavior of late is beginning to bear an ugly resemblance to those petro-states whose governments seem to exist chiefly to guarantee the spectacular profits of the fossil-fuel industry.
The skies aren’t the only realm that Australia is rapidly polluting. After all, the waste that the country is dredging up in new mines and coal port expansions has to go somewhere. Why not dump it on the Great Barrier Reef? (This month, facing a PR disaster, the mining consortium in charge of that particular project reversed its decision and will likely request permission to dump the dredge inland instead.)
“Let’s see,” Australian leaders must wake up wondering every morning: “What natural wonder could we trash today?” At the top of that list is the pristine Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, nearly two-thirds of which the new government pledged to open to commercial logging. Environmentalists argued the logging would harm threatened species such as the swift parrot, the wedge-tailed eagle, and the iconic Tasmanian devil. Those concerns were waved aside by the state government, which, like the federal government, is controlled by the Liberals. Fortunately, their plans were thwarted when UNESCO rebuffed their attempt to repeal the forest’s World Heritage protections.
How the Liberals and their coalition partners have undone so many environmental policies in such a short time is a study in the power of biased media and irrational thinking.
From the moment the pro-climate Labor Party took power in 2007, opposition leaders and pundits made its environmental policies the focal point of their political attacks. Even environmental policies established under previous Liberal regimes became politically polarized as conservatives recast environmental policies as “job-destroyers.” The carbon tax turned into Australia’s equivalent of Obamacare as the opposition sought a wedge with which to pry apart the Labor Party’s coalition with the environmentally focused political party, the Greens. In some ways, environmental policies are even more vulnerable to being cast as job-killers than health care policies are, because the benefits are less tangible to the individual.
But Abbott and his allies haven’t just turned the public against environmental regulations with threats of economic doom. They’ve also worked hard to shake the public’s trust in climate science. And they’ve done it in a way that would surprise most Americans: by comparing environmentalists to religious kooks.
Green politicians, climate change activists, and even scientists have been painted as modern incarnations of a hated early-20th-century Australian archetype: the holier-than-thou, anti-gambling, anti-alcohol religious wowser. Someone who, according to professor Ken Inglis, “prayed on his knees on Sunday and preyed on his neighbours the rest of the week.”
This line of attack began as early as 2010, when Abbott was in the parliamentary opposition. In a television interview, he said of then–Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s climate change policies, “I am not as evangelical about this as Prime Minister Rudd is. I am not theological about this the way Prime Minister Rudd is.”
In a 2012 op-ed titled “Losing their religion as evidence cools off,” in Rupert Murdoch’s national newspaper, the Australian, Abbott’s top business adviser wrote: “When Mother Nature decided in 1980 to change gears from cooler to warmer, a new global warming religion was born, replete with its own church (the UN), a papacy, (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and a global warming priesthood masquerading as climate scientists.”
Embracing the analogy, the former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard gave a speech at a U.K. fracking conference in 2013 titled “One religion is enough,” in which he called action on climate change “a substitute religion.” Interestingly, while the global-warming-as-religion line probably wouldn’t play as well stateside, it seems that the U.S.-based think tank the Heartland Institute has played a key role in funding Australia’s denial movement.
Also instrumental in sowing doubt and apathy has been Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns about two-thirds of Australia’s metropolitan press and the dominant dailies in most state capitals. According to a study by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, coverage of the former Labor government’s climate-change policies by News Corp. papers was 82 percent negative.
Even so, belief in climate change remains relatively high among Australian voters. According to a 2014 Lowy Institute poll, 45 percent of Australians now see global warming as a “serious and pressing problem,” up 5 points since 2013. (Forty percent of Americans believe it to be a major threat, a 2013 Pew Research poll found.) But belief is not the same as action.
The conservatives’ cultivated agnosticism about climate issues is abetted by the nation’s general indifference about what happens in the “Outback.” Australians have long turned a blind eye toward the 70 percent of the country that is arid bushland and the small number of people who live there. Global mining companies like Rio Tinto run desert fiefdoms in the Northern Territory that are larger than Washington, D.C. The miners themselves—largely fly-in, fly-out workers—barely live in the remote, often indigenous, communities of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, or Queensland whose land they’re gutting and whose small towns they’re destroying. Many commute from Sydney and Melbourne, or even New Zealand and Bali.
Historically, this apathy extends beyond mining. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the government allowed the British to conduct nuclear tests and blast Western Australia’s Monte Bello Islands and parts of South Australia. And just this August, the conservative minister for defense told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the American military was “welcome to use the ‘open spaces’ of the Northern Territory” for their bases and military exercises. (There’s been a U.S. Marine base in Darwin for years.) Imagine the United States gifting Alaska to the Canadian army for war games.
There are some who would like to estrange this swath of the country even further from Australia’s coastal population centers. Mining magnate Gina Rinehart, one of the richest women in the world, has lobbied for the continent’s northern third to be declared a “special economic zone” with reduced taxes, a lower minimum wage, and scant regulation.
If Australians have grown apathetic toward the use of their country, it is fair to point out that it seems equally apathetic toward them. Beautiful as it is, it’s a harsh land in which to make a home. It’s often on fire, usually in drought, and when the streams aren’t bone dry, they’re flooding—all natural disasters that are already being exacerbated by global warming.
Let’s hope that the rapacious policies of the current government represent only a temporary bout of insanity. If the Australian people cannot recover some of their earlier regard for their environment, they may find in time that their great land is no longer merely apathetic toward their residence there, but openly hostile.
This article is part of Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, visit the Future Tense blog and the Future Tense home page. You can also follow us on Twitter.
Original Slate article here
This post could end up anywhere. Where to start? ……………. I know….
I have a stalker. Almost from Day 1 of my blog, I have had a serial
idiot pest commentator whom I have had to block due to his complete disregard for the blog rules, let alone his pure idiocy. Despite the fact this moron commentator knows his comments will be heavily moderated at best, he persists with inanity. Every time he imparts his wisdom, to dodge the spam filter he has a new email and IP address and he alters his name. Now, as every other WordPress blogger knows, first time commentators end up in moderation, and I suspect my stalker is aware of this too. I now suspect that this clown commentator knows full well he won’t be published but wants to ensure I see his comment when it ends up in my moderation queue, hence his going to all the trouble of changing his email and moving around all the time when he comments. I suppose I should be flattered that this loon person has taken such an interest in me and wants to save me from delusional acceptance of established science. I should add too that he also occasionally tries out the same tactic to comment on my Facebook page. When that isn’t successful he resorts to talking about me on his Facebook page so his handful of “friends”, most of whom probably have him muted, can appreciate his idiocy insights.
Okay okay, I know that writing about this
wanker commentator may only embolden him because he will know I am talking about him now, but I just feel compelled to admit that this time he’s gone all out. We’ve all come across some truly idiotic climate change deniers in our time, but now, my stalker has really shone. My last blog entry, was a reblog from Greenman discussing the fact that Google has withdrawn its support for a large loony right wing American think-tank called ALEC and that this was perhaps the start of such actions by other large institutions. The post was wrapped up in a metaphor of a dyke bursting. I am 100% certain that I don’t need to explain it any further for all but one of my subscribers. So what did my climate change denying stalker have to say about this post? He referred me to this from the “Johnstown Pennsylvania Information Source Online”….
A ROAR LIKE THUNDER
On June 1,1889, Americans woke to the news that Johnstown, Pennsylvania had been devastated by the worst flood in the Nation’s history. Over 2,200 were dead, with many more homeless. When the full story of the flood came to light, many believed that if this was a “natural” disaster, then surely man was an accomplice.
Johnstown in 1889 was a steel company town of Germans and Welsh. With a population of 30,000, it was a growing and industrious community known for the quality of its steel. Founded in 1794, Johnstown began to prosper with the building of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal in 1834 and the arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Cambria Iron Company in the 1850’s.
There was one small drawback to living in the city. Johnstown had been built on a flood plain at the fork of the Little Conemaugh and Stony Creek rivers. Because the growing city had narrowed the river banks to gain building space, the heavy annual rains had caused increased flooding in recent years.
There was another thing. Fourteen miles up the Little Conemaugh, 3-mile long Lake Conemaugh was held on the side of a mountain – 450 feet higher than Johnstown – by the old South Fork Dam. The dam had been poorly maintained, and every spring there was talk that the dam might not hold. But it always had, and the supposed threat became something of a standing joke around town.
But at 4:07 p.m. on the chilly, wet afternoon of May 31, 1889 the inhabitants heard a low rumble that grew to a “roar like thunder.” Some knew immediately what had happened: after a night of heavy rains, the South Fork Dam had finally broken, sending 20 million tons of water crashing down the narrow valley. Boiling with huge chunks of debris, the wall of flood water grew at times to 60 feet high, tearing downhill at 40 miles per hour, leveling everything in its path.
Thousands of people desperately tried to escape the wave. Those caught by the wave found themselves swept up in a torrent of oily, muddy water, surrounded by tons of grinding debris, which crushed some, provided rafts for others. Many became helplessly entangled in miles of barbed wire from the destroyed wire works.
It was over in 10 minutes, but for some the worst was still yet to come. Darkness fell, thousands were huddled in attics, others were floating on the debris, while many more had been swept downstream to the old Stone Bridge at the junction of the rivers. Piled up against the arches, much of the debris caught fire, entrapping forever 80 people who had survived the initial flood wave.
Many bodies were never identified, hundreds of the missing never found. Emergency morgues and hospitals were set up, and commissaries distributed food and clothing. The Nation responded to the disaster with a spontaneous outpouring of time, money, food, clothing, and medical assistance.
The cleanup operation took years, with bodies being found months later in a few cases, years after the flood. The city regained its population and rebuilt its manufacturing centers, but it was 5 years before Johnstown was fully recovered.
In the aftermath, most survivors laid the blame for the dam’s failure squarely at the feet of the members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. They had bought the abandoned reservoir, then repaired the old dam, raised the lake level, and built cottages and a clubhouse in their secretive retreat in the mountains. Members were wealthy Pittsburgh steel and coal industrialists, including Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon, who had hired B. Ruff to oversee the repairs to the dam. There is no question about the shoddy condition of the dam, but no successful lawsuits were ever brought against club members for its failure and the resulting deaths downstream.
Source: National Park Service – US Dept. of the Interior
John…. I don’t know what to say. Either you don’t know what a metaphor is, or you do and have finally come to acknowledge that climate change, like the South Fork Dam, is man-made. Congratulations! Welcome to the team and please keep those comments coming from different names, email addresses and IP addresses. They are pure gold. You constantly reinforce my desire to educate people about anthropogenic climate change, remind me that I am more intelligent than some people, and genuinely flatter me with your obsessive behaviour. Please don’t take my rejection of you as homophobia though. It isn’t. I’m just not into angry old white men. You’re just not my type.
Finally this from his latest comment….
I now get your stupid updates and am sick of seeing the stupidity that you post in the name of science.
John, we both know you want my updates. You have always wanted my updates. Why else would you persist? You can unsubscribe if you like. You won’t though, because deep down you know you are wrong and that science is right. You deal with this internal conflict by constantly
trolling stalking messaging me and numerous others in a lame attempt at maintaining willful ignorance. This desire you have to constantly reinforce your ignorance is unhealthy. It’s okay, John. I understand. I used to be a heavy smoker for 18 years. I loved those things and I would make all sorts of silly excuses to not give up. Afraid of admitting my addiction, I suppressed everything I knew that science was saying about the negative effects of smoking. Eventually though, common sense and courage prevailed and I kicked the addiction and you know what? It was easier than I thought it would be. Climate change denial and right-wing nutjobbery is also an addiction. You just need a dose of common sense, science and courage to kick it.
Finally, thanks John for giving me yet another IP address, name and email to put in the spam filter. You now occupy more than half of it.
I really struggled with what to use as a title for this post. I went through about 5 possible titles. In the end it was a choice between what we have now and “Troll-baiting 101″. I decided not to use the alternative because troll-baiting was not my original intent even though that’s how it now appears. Actually that’s not true. It came down to a best-of-three coin toss.
Necessity is the mother of invention as the saying goes. Throughout man’s history, need and necessity has driven advances in all aspects of life. This has seen us evolve physically, spiritually, intellectually, technologically and philosophically into what we are today. Some say we are the smartest life forms on the planet. I disagree, but I certainly believe we are the most destructive. No other species has been more able to manipulate and exploit its environment as successfully as we humans. The evidence that we have altered the climate through the burning of fossil fuels is unequivocal but to what end?
Some say it will be “catastrophic”. I dislike the use of words like that because without knowing from which perspective that view is offered, it is meaningless. I tend to think a lot of people use it from a a point of pure anthropocentrism. Personally, I would be more inclined to think the massive loss of biodiversity brought about by anthropogenic climate change is the worst aspect. All those species with no say in the matter, that are being snuffed out by our collective human greed. The thing that IS truly catastrophic in all this…catastrophically sad that is… is that future generations will miss out on experiencing the full potential this planet has to offer, and the worst of it could all have been prevented.
That said, there is still time to minimise the future losses. There is always time to minimise future losses but the longer we wait, the larger those losses become.
This powerful video, narrated by Morgan Freeman, touches on this. I particularly like this line…
“We have never had a crisis this big but we have never had a better opportunity to solve it.”
A new study of three ice cores from Greenland documents the warming of the large ice sheet at the end of the last ice age — resolving a long-standing paradox over when that warming occurred.
Yet past analysis of ice cores from Greenland did not show any warming response as would be expected from an increase in CO2 and solar energy flux, the researchers note.
In this new study, funded by the National Science Foundation and published this week in the journal Science, scientists reconstructed air temperatures by examining ratios of nitrogen isotopes in air trapped within the ice instead of isotopes in the ice itself, which had been used in past studies.
Not only did the new analysis detect significant warming in response to increasing atmospheric CO2, it documents a warming trend at a rate closely matching what climate change models predict should have happened as Earth shifted out of its ice age, according to lead author Christo Buizert, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the Science article.
“The Greenland isotope records from the ice itself suggest that temperatures 12,000 years ago during the so-called Younger Dryas period near the end of the ice age were virtually the same in Greenland as they were 18,000 years ago when much of the northern hemisphere was still covered in ice,” Buizert said. “That never made much sense because between 18,000 and 12,000 years ago atmospheric CO2 levels rose quite a bit.”
“But when you reconstruct the temperature history using nitrogen isotope ratios as a proxy for temperature, you get a much different picture,” Buizert pointed out. “The nitrogen-based temperature record shows that by 12,000 years ago, Greenland temperatures had already warmed by about five degrees (Celsius), very close to what climate models predict should have happened, given the conditions.”
Reconstructing temperatures by using water isotopes provides useful information about when temperatures shift but can be difficult to calibrate because of changes in the water cycle, according to Edward Brook, an Oregon State paleoclimatologist and co-author on the Science study.
“The water isotopes are delivered in Greenland through snowfall and during an ice age, snowfall patterns change,” Brook noted. “It may be that the presence of the giant ice sheet made snow more likely to fall in the summer instead of winter, which can account for the warmer-than-expected temperatures because the snow records the temperature at the time it fell.”
In addition to the gradual warming of five degrees (C) over a 6,000-year period beginning 18,000 years ago the study investigated two periods of abrupt warming and one period of abrupt cooling documented in the new ice cores. The researchers say their leading hypothesis is that all three episodes are tied to changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), which brings warm water from the tropics into the high northern latitudes.
The first episode caused a jump in Greenland’s air temperatures of 10-15 degrees (C) in just a few decades beginning about 14,700 years ago. An apparent shutdown of the AMOC about 12,800 years ago caused an abrupt cooling of some 5-9 degrees (C), also over a matter of decades.
When the AMOC was reinvigorated again about 11,600 years ago, it caused a jump in temperatures of 8-, 11 degrees (C), which heralded the end of the ice age and the beginning of the climatically warm and stable Holocene period, which allowed human civilization to develop.
“For these extremely abrupt transitions, our data show a clear fingerprint of AMOC variations, which had not yet been established in the ice core studies,” noted Buizert, who is in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Other evidence for AMOC changes exists in the marine sediment record and our work confirms those findings.”
In their study, the scientists examined three ice cores from Greenland and looked at the gases trapped inside the ice for changes in the isotopic ration of nitrogen, which is very sensitive to temperature change. They found that temperatures in northwest Greenland did not change nearly as much as those in southeastern Greenland — closest to the North Atlantic — clearly suggesting the influence of the AMOC.
“The last deglaciation is a natural example of global warming and climate change,” Buizert said. “It is very important to study this period because it can help us better understand the climate system and how sensitive the surface temperature is to atmospheric CO2.”
“The warming that we observed in Greenland at the end of the ice age had already been predicted correctly by climate models several years ago,” Buizert added. “This gives us more confidence that these models also predict future temperatures correctly.”
Greenland deglaciation puzzles
Louise Claire Sime, British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Cambridge, CB23 7PP, UK.
About 23,000 years ago, the southern margins of the great Northern Hemisphere ice sheets across Europe and North America began to melt. The melt rate accelerated ∼20,000 years ago, and global sea level eventually rose by ∼130 m as meltwater flowed into the oceans. Ice cores from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets show the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations that accompanied this shift in global ice volume and climate. However, discrepancies in the temperature reconstructions from these cores have raised questions about the long-term relationship between atmospheric CO2 concentrations and Arctic temperature. On page 1177 of this issue, Buizert et al. (1) report temperature reconstructions from three locations on the Greenland ice sheet that directly address these problems.
Greenland ice core water isotopic composition (δ18O) provides detailed evidence for abrupt climate changes but is by itself insufficient for quantitative reconstruction of past temperatures and their spatial patterns. We investigate Greenland temperature evolution during the last deglaciation using independent reconstructions from three ice cores and simulations with a coupled ocean-atmosphere climate model. Contrary to the traditional δ18O interpretation, the Younger Dryas period was 4.5° ± 2°C warmer than the Oldest Dryas, due to increased carbon dioxide forcing and summer insolation. The magnitude of abrupt temperature changes is larger in central Greenland (9° to 14°C) than in the northwest (5° to 9°C), fingerprinting a North Atlantic origin. Simulated changes in temperature seasonality closely track changes in the Atlantic overturning strength and support the hypothesis that abrupt climate change is mostly a winter phenomenon.
Original Science Daily article here
Science paper here