Australia’s climate stance savagely condemned at New York summit SMH September 27, 2014 Nick O’Malley US correspondent for Fairfax Media “…….in his address to the General Assembly, Leonardo DiCaprio sought to buttress his call for drastic and immediate action to reduce carbon emissions with a voice harder to challenge than his own.
The speech was well given and well received, but it turned out that his prediction was not entirely correct. Australia did not have to wait for history, it was vilified for its stance on climate change on the spot…….”I’m disappointed but not surprised with Australia,” Pa Ousman Jarju, Gambia’s Climate Change Minister who represents the 54 least developed nations at UN climate talks, told the Responding to Climate Change analysis website later. “What the Foreign Minister [Julie Bishop] said was as good as not coming. It’s nothing… as good as not attending.”Indeed Tony Abbott did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, though many attendees detected a reference to Australia – among a handful of other notable recalcitrants – in Barack Obama’s keynote speech……..
it was Australia and to an extent Canada that were subject to most of the opprobrium, in part because they have already enjoyed the economic benefits of carbon emissions, in part because China is perceived to be on the brink of significant action.
One of the successes of Tuesday’s meeting was China’s announcement for the first time ever that it would set an emissions target, aiming to reduce its emissions of carbon per unit of GDP by 45 per cent by 2020, compared with levels in 2005.
“As a responsible major country, a major developing country, China will make even greater effort to address climate change,” Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli said.
“All countries need to follow the path of green and low carbon development that suits their national conditions, [and] set forth post-2020 actions in light of actual circumstances.”
An adviser who attended a meeting of small island states that excoriated Australia’s inaction on climate said the group now viewed China’s commitments optimistically.
The reaction to Australia’s presence could not have been more different. Tony de Brum, the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, told Fairfax that small islands states were frustrated and baffled by Australia’s stance, especially as they had regarded the nation as a “big brother down south” and advocated for its seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Asked if “betrayal” was too strong a word, he paused and said, “Now it is, maybe not soon.”
On Tuesday the Pulitzer Prize-winning climate change news website Inside Climate News published a story about the “Canada-Australia axis of carbon”. It suggested that not only were the two nations not willing to pull their weight, but that they were seeking to derail the binding agreement on emissions reductions at next year’s talks in Paris that many view as the world’s last best hope to prevent catastrophic climate change.
“Neither the prime ministers of Canada nor Australia will speak at the summit, and the subordinates they have sent will not be offering the kind of “bold” new steps that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is seeking on the way to a treaty in Paris late next year,” it reported.
“Instead, these two governments, with their energy-rich domains sprawling across opposite ends of the earth, will present strikingly similar defences against what much of the rest of the world is offering. And their stance is earning them opprobrium among advocates of strong and immediate action.”
The online magazine Slate published a story headlined, “The Saudi Arabia of the Pacific, How Australia became the dirtiest polluter in the developed world.”
It charted Australian climate politics since the last election – noting for an international audience Australia’s history as a leader in solar technology, the creation and then scrapping of a carbon trading scheme, the promotion of climate change sceptics to key advisory roles, the attacks on the solar industry, the scrapping of the mining tax, the failed bid to expand logging in Tasmanian wilderness.
“Let’s hope that the rapacious policies of the current government represent only a temporary bout of insanity,” Slate concluded. “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.” http://www.smh.com.au/world/australias-climate-stance-savagely-condemned-at-new-york-summit-20140926-10mc0x.html#ixzz3Eac7HHfN
Australia out in the cold as world turns up the heat on climate change, SMH September 24, 2014 – Tom Arup Environment editor, The Age As world leaders sit down in New York to discuss climate change, it is unlikely Australia will be trying to scupper the talks.
But nor is it going out of its way to be very helpful either.
The New York summit is critical. Over the past five years, getting world leaders to engage in climate change negotiations has been nigh on impossible.
This time it took a personal plea from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to get 125 heads of state to go to New York. And even then the top leaders of China and India are not among the attendees, though US President Barack Obama will be there……..
Now, as in Copenhagen, Australia risks finding itself out of step. But this time it is shaping up to be a laggard.
The global discussions on climate change are in a more positive place than they have been for many years, the result of recent stronger, though imperfect, efforts by China and the US to reign in their greenhouse gas emissions.
It would be foolish to believe this guarantees the elusive new global climate deal will be signed off at a meeting in Paris next year, where it is due to be finalised.
But China and the US have re-engaged.
Meanwhile, Australia is swimming against the tide. For example, the World Bank on Tuesday released a statement signed by 73 countries and about 1000 businesses and investors, in support of pricing carbon. China, Indonesia and Britain were among the signatories.
However, the Abbott government has made Australia the first country to repeal a national carbon price. And its replacement policy to cut emissions, the ill-formed Direct Action, languishes in the Senate with little political support.
It leaves Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is representing Australia in New York, coming to the talks with no comprehensive plan to cut Australia’s emissions under her belt. Nor does she bear any increased ambition to slash Australia’s emissions deeper than the meagre targets presently promised………
All this points to a government that sees climate change as an annoying diplomatic distraction, akin to a minor trade dispute, rather than a central tenet of foreign and environment policy.
It is a position that belies the seriousness of the problem http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/australia-out-in-the-cold-as-world-turns-up-the-heat-on-climate-change-20140923-10kynu.html#ixzz3EGq5HWVk
Sea level rises due to climate change could cost Australia $200b, Climate Council report finds ABC Lateline By Hamish Fitzsimmons 17 Sep 2014 Future sea level rises could put more than $200 billion of Australian infrastructure at risk, a report by the Climate Council has found.
The report, Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding, showed sea levels were likely to rise by between 40 centimetres and one metre over the next century.
The report’s lead author, Professor Will Steffen, warned national income would suffer huge losses if action was not taken to protect against rising sea levels and extreme weather events……..
The Victorian coast, the south-east corner of Queensland and Sydney would be the hardest hit by rising sea levels, the report found.
With more than 75 per cent of Australians living near the coast, Professor Steffen said large swathes of infrastructure were at risk.
“Much of our road, rail, port facilities, airports and so on are on the coast,” he said.
“If you look at a 1.1 metre sea level rise – which is the high-end scenario for 2100 but that’s what we’re tracking towards – you’re looking at more than $200 billion worth of infrastructure that’s at risk.”
Professor Steffen said so-called once-in-a-lifetime natural events could become regular occurrences.
“If you look at some of our most vulnerable areas, and the Sydney region is one of those, you would say toward the end of this century that a one-in-100-year flood is going to be happening every few days,” he said.
“That’s an impossible situation to cope with.”……..
Climate change impacting insurance premiums
The Climate Council warned sea level rises would put pressure on home insurance premiums, as rising sea levels fed coastal erosion.
Australian Local Government Association president Felicity-Ann Lewis said erosion was already causing problems for home owners.
National infrastructure within 200 metres of the coastline:
- 120 ports
- five power stations/substations
- three water treatment plants
- 258 police, fire and ambulance stations
- 75 hospitals and health services
- 11 emergency services facilities
- 41 waste disposal facilities
“The insurance industry is very interested in this because some of the insurance premiums are becoming such that people can’t afford to take out insurance on their properties,” Dr Lewis said.
“This is a very big issue.”………http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-17/sea-level-rises-will-cost-australia-billions-report/5748676
‘We are burning our trust’: Abbott’s climate denials winning Australia no friends CRIKEY, PADDY MANNING | SEP 17, 2014 WE ARE WELL PAST THE POINT WHERE MORE EVIDENCE WILL PERSUADE CLIMATE SCEPTICS OR THOSE VESTED INTERESTS OPPOSING CLIMATE ACTION TO CHANGE THEIR TUNE.
Particularly in Australia. Abbott just doesn’t want to talk about climate change at all. He wants climate off the G20 agenda. He won’t be going to the climate talks starting in New York next Tuesday, which will be attended by over 100 heads of state, including US President Barack Obama and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as momentum builds for agreement on a new post-Kyoto climate deal in Paris next year. Continue reading
Climate activism’s new frontier is targeting fossil fuel investors, The Age September 15, 2014 Michael Green In mid-July, the peak body of the Uniting Church in Australia voted to sell its investments in fossil fuels. The decision was available online for anyone who cared to peruse the church’s minutes, but it didn’t issue a media release until a month and a half later, on the last Friday afternoon in August.
“We didn’t think it was the most earth-shattering news, because it’s a pretty mainstream issue in the Uniting Church now,” explains the church’s president, Reverend Professor Andrew Dutney. Yet its resolution included a moral claim that may be confronting for most Australians, who, by way of their superannuation funds – at the very least – own a stake in coal, oil or gas projects.
“Further investment in the extraction of fossil fuels contributes to, and makes it more difficult to address climate change,” the church states. Given the harm climate change will cause, “further investment and extraction is unethical”. “A number of people have found that to be a strong statement,” Dutney says. “But it’s very hard to argue against.”……
There are dozens of campaigns targeting universities, churches, councils, superannuation funds and banks.
In Australia, there are campaigns at 19 universities, including Melbourne, Monash, Latrobe and RMIT, calling for the institutions to sell whatever investments they have in fossil fuel companies……..
In July, the World Council of Churches, an umbrella group representing over half a billion Christians, announced its plans to fully divest from fossil fuels. The same month, the Anglican Church of Australia passed a motion encouraging its diocese to divest. A global campaign for the Vatican to divest has just been launched…….
Nearly 30 city councils have pledged to divest, including San Francisco and Portland in the US and Dunedin in New Zealand, as well as 13 US universities and colleges. In May, Stanford University, in California, committed to divest from companies that mine coal for energy generation. Its endowment fund is worth about $US19 billion ($21 billion).
A fortnight ago, the University of Sydney announced it would suspend further investment in coal companies while it reviews its ethical investment policy. It is also assessing what to do with its existing $900,000 holding in Whitehaven Coal Limited, owner of the controversial Maules Creek mine in NSW. …..
One of the key divestment advocates is Market Forces, which is affiliated with Friends of the Earth. Its founder, Julien Vincent, argues that as well as an environmental imperative, there’s also a financial case for divestment, especially for long-term investors such as banks and superannuation funds……
Market Forces has just launched a website called Super Switch, which helps people compare various funds’ investments in fossil fuels………
Reverend Professor Dutney says the church’s decision was strongly influenced by the worries of its sister churches in the Pacific. “We’re already seeing the results of climate change across the globe and it affects the poorest people disproportionately badly,” he says.
“For us, the idea was simply to do the right thing, regardless of what anybody thought about it.” http://www.smh.com.au/national/climate-activisms-new-frontier-is-targeting-fossil-fuel-investors-20140912-10fxoc.html#ixzz3DRXmzQls
Can Australia prosper in a 2°C finance world? REneweconmy, By Giles Parkinson on 11 September 2014 “……HSBC: The path to a low-carbon economy means increasing energy efficiency, scaling up low-carbon energy provision and embedding resilience to the consequences of warmer temperatures. The idea is to lower the chances of the most catastrophic climate system effects (through reducing emissions) as well as prepare for some of the impacts.
RE: Australia lags the world on energy efficiency measures, particularly in relation to vehicles and transport. Coalition governments have dismantled basic housing requirements, and the federal government is yet to act on the national energy efficiency plan. Despite all this, consumption per household has fallen more than 10 per cent in the last few years, mostly because people have installed rooftop solar and have bought more efficient appliances.
HSBC: In a 2°C world, the development of energy would take into consideration both the benefits of energy access (e.g. education, economy, time saved and spent doing other things etc.) as well as the associated costs with certain types of energy (e.g. health, climate change, pollution).
RE: Australia is not doing too well on that. It has deliberately ignored climate change and health impacts in its consideration of the renewable energy target, and sought to dismantle the Climate Change Authority (which thinks about these things) and has already abolished the Climate Commission and cut funding to the CSIRO, the leading scientific body. The only criteria for the RET Review was the cost to coal generators.
HSBC: The concept of co-benefits has gained momentum in recent years. For example, tackling the sources of pollution in China helps tackle climate change at the same time. Alternatively, tackling climate change through policy and innovation could bring other co-benefits such as reduced health costs (since the sources of pollution and climate change are similar).
A recent study by MIT, published in Nature Climate Change, finds that the “co-benefits…. May offset some or all of the near-term costs of GHG mitigation.” For instance, the study finds that a cap-and-trade system might cost $US14 billion, but the associated air pollution health benefits from implementing this system could be of the order of $US139 billion. For reference, $US6.5 trillion was spent globally on health in 2010 (WHO).
RE: Co-benefits have not entered the vocabulary of the Coalition government, with climate change deniers advising it in four key industry areas – banking and finance, renewable energy, business, and budget measures.
HSBC: The three main reasons why capital has not been channeled in the right direction for a low-carbon economy, historically, are: unfavourable economics for low-carbon, weak policy signals and the uncertain timing of high CO22 impacts.
RE: Australia exemplifies this. Having attracted billions of dollars in low-carbon investments in recent years, thanks to the short-lived carbon price and the renewables target, that capital is now drying up, with major international companies leaving, or warning they will direct capital elsewhere. Only households, keen to offset rising electricity bills, are keeping up momentum, although this is largely confined to rooftop solar and LED lighting. http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/can-australia-prosper-2c-finance-world-35343
The Asset Owners Disclosure Project is an independent global not-for-profit organisation whose objective is to protect members’ retirement savings from the risks posed by climate change. We aim to do this by helping funds to redress the huge imbalance in their investments between high-carbon assets (50-60% of a portfolio) and low-carbon assets (typically less than 2%) and realigning the investment chain to adopt long-term investment practices. Key elements of the initiative are:
- Conducting an annual survey and assessment of the world’s 1000 largest asset owners pertaining to their management of climate change risks and opportunities.
- Publishing rankings of the world’s 1000 largest asset owners to allow members, stakeholders and industry to see which funds are better than others at managing climate risk.
- Providing and promoting climate change best practice to drive and improve climate change management and capability of asset owners.
- Developing consumer-facing programs to educate asset owner’s members or stakeholders of the financial risks associated with climate change.
- Researching trends in climate risk, member behaviour and institutional investment.
- Creating frameworks to encourage active ownership………..http://aodproject.net/about/about-us.html
Marshall Islands calls on Australia to rethink climate change stance Marshall Islands has joined other Pacific nations in calling on Australia to reconsider its position on climate change. ABC News
The issue has dominated a UN conference on small islands developing states (SIDS) in Samoa which wrapped up on Thursday.
The four-day meeting comes ahead of the UN secretary general’s climate summit later this month, aimed at mobilising global action on climate change.
Marshall Islands’ foreign minister Tony de Brum said Australia and other polluting nations like China, India and the United States need to “deal with the problem now”.
“In our countries we have immediate need for urgent action,” he told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat. “And for the biggest emitters to keep pushing us back as if it’s a problem for the future and not a current problem is very frustrating………Mr de Brum urged the Australian Government to reconsider its stance on climate change for the sake of the atoll nations of the Pacific……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-04/marshall-islands-calls-on-australia-to-rethink-climate-change-s/5720990
CSIRO almost 100% sure humans causing temperatures to rise http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/csiro-almost-100-sure-humans-causing-temperatures-to-rise-20140904-10c7y4.html September 4, 2014 Peter Hannam Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald What are the chances the world could clock up 353 consecutive months with average temperatures higher than the norm of the 20th century without humans being responsible?
CSIRO’s now-defunct climate adaptation flagship crunched the numbers and found the chances were less than one in 100,000.
In other words, there’s a 99.999 per cent certainty that human activities – from burning fossil fuels to land-clearing – are responsible for the warming conditions.
“Everyone since February 1985 has lived in a warm world,” said Mark Howden, a CSIRO chief research scientist and author of the peer-reviewed report published on Thursday in the Climate Risk Management journal. “In my view, that’s pretty extraordinary.” Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise in most countries. Figures out this week show Australia’s largest contributor – the power sector – had its fastest growth of emissions in the two months since the end of the carbon price in almost eight years.
The researchers’ model included other potential causes of unusual temperatures – solar radiation, volcanic activity, El Nino Southern Oscillation weather patterns in the Pacific – to tease out the human contribution.
The paper said periods of slowing growth or even drops in temperatures had been taken up by climate sceptics to raise doubts about the link between rising concentrations of greenhouse gases and warming.
In fact, the model found “one would expect a far greater number of short periods of falling temperatures (as observed since 1998) if climate change was not occurring”. Continue reading
Australian opposition ‘unlikely’ to keep climate off G20 agenda RTCC 20 August 2014, Australia lacks gravitas to cast off climate talk, with US and China likely to put pressure on Tony Abbott By Sophie Yeo
Climate change is likely to be discussed at the G20 summit in Brisbane, despite Australia’s decision to leave it off the agenda. This is the finding of a new report, released this week by the centre-right think-tank Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA).
Australia lacks the diplomatic weight to dismiss the issue while heavyweights such as China and the US are ramping up their own efforts to combat carbon pollution, say the authors.
“As a middle-power economy, Australia’s leadership and influence may be limited,” writes Sarah-Jane Derby, senior economist at CEDA, in the report.
“For example, members may be receptive to Australia introducing new ideas and changing the agenda, but without the support of players who are more powerful, these ideas may not be taken seriously.”
Australia prime minister Tony Abbott has faced heavy criticism from environmentalists over his decision to axe many of the country’s flagship climate policies, such as the tax on carbon.
Reports from Australia suggest he knocked climate change off the G20 agenda as it did not fit with the summit’s focus on economic growth……. This year’s G20 takes place two weeks before a major UN summit on climate change takes place in the Peruvian capital, Lima.
The UN meets annually to work towards a solution on climate change, but the G20 provides opportunities for “open discussions” between the world’s major economic players that are not possible during international meetings, says the report.
It adds that the tight economic focus of the Brisbane summit could add value to climate change discussions, by considering the financial risks and consequences of heating the planet……
In June, the US ambassador to Australia said that Obama planned on raising climate change during the leaders’ summit and at “every international forum”, as it was a critical issue “not only to Americans but to the world”. – See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2014/08/20/australian-opposition-unlikely-to-keep-climate-off-g20-agenda/#sthash.Gl6EU0Jf.dpuf
What I learned from debating science with trolls, Business Spectator MICHAEL BROWN 20 AUG “………I have received an education in the tactics many trolls use. These tactics are common not just to trolls but to bloggers, journalists and politicians who attack science, from climate to cancer research.
Some techniques are comically simple. Emotionally charged, yet evidence-free, accusations of scams, fraud and cover-ups are common. While they mostly lack credibility, such accusations may be effective at polarising debate and reducing understanding.
And I wish I had a dollar each time a scientifically incompetent ideologue claimed science is a religion. The chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman, trotted out that old chestnut in The Australian last week. Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, was less than impressed by Newman’s use of that tactic.
Unfortunately there are too many tactics to discuss in just one article (sorry Gish Gallop andStrawman), so I will focus on just a few that I’ve encountered online and in the media recently. Continue reading
Corporate Australia in denial over climate change, former coal exec Ian Dunlop says, ABC News, By Nonee Walsh 15 Aug 2014, Corporate Australia is in complete denial about climate change, according to former fossil fuels executive and energy commentator Ian Dunlop.
Mr Dunlop, a former chairman of the Coal Association, said business should be condemning the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council (BAC), Maurice Newman, for claiming the Earth is cooling…….
Mr Dunlop said not a single voice had been raised by peak business about the appointment of so-called climate change deniers to advise government.
“The Government is in complete denial on this and unfortunately I believe that most of corporate Australia is in the same position.
“I would have expected that corporate leaders would be coming out and really making their voices heard, because this is the big issue that is going to affect the corporate world.”
Mr Dunlop said the scientists Mr Newman quoted had been debunked………
Mr Dunlop does not expect to see political leadership on the issue, “because it is too hard under the adversarial system”.
“We have never had in this country a serious discussion on what climate change really means, it been dumbed down by both sides of politics,” he said.
“Here it is going to have to be business that leads … it requires people at the top of the corporations to get off their backsides and start to take account of the risks that we face and the opportunities, in a genuinely objective way.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-15/corporate-australia-in-denial-over-climate-change-dunlop-says/5674122
Push for climate change on G20 list, The Age August 11, 2014 Dan Harrison Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent Three former Australians of the Year, including Nobel laureate Peter Doherty, have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott calling for climate change to be included on the agenda for the G20 leaders summit to be held in Brisbane in November.
Epidemiologist Fiona Stanley and immunologist Sir Gustav Nossal are among a dozen health experts supporting the call, published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
The letter states that the risks climate change posed to human health included more intense heatwaves, floods and fires, and the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes………
‘This issue warrants urgent consideration at the G20 meeting. The health of present and future generations is at risk from ongoing human-induced climate change.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott confirmed that as the host nation, Australia set the agenda for the meeting in consultation with other G20 member nations…….
In an interview also published in the journal, United States economist Jeffrey Sachs, a special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on development, said it was not possible to end global poverty without tackling climate change.
”The G20 countries are the world’s most important economies … If the G20 gets its house in order, the world can be saved. If not, the G20 will wreck the world, pure and simple … Brisbane is therefore crucial.': http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/push-for-climate-change-on-g20-list-20140810-3dgne.html#ixzz3AEzcHzfz
‘Considerable concern’: Oz in hot water over climate denial errors, Crikey, by Myriam Robin, 24 July 14 The Press Council has handed down an adverse ruling against The Australian for a front-page article published in September last year that relied on a rapidly debunked Daily Mail story claiming the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had revised down the rate of global warming since 1951.
In highly unusual language for the Press Council, it says it is a matter of “considerable concern” that The Australian delayed in acknowledging its errors. Asked to explain the strong language, Press Council executive director John Pender told Crikey ”the initial error was very serious and prominent, was repeated unequivocally in a later editorial, and was not corrected with sufficient speed, clarity and prominence”.
In a September 16 article, since changed online but archived here on the Media Watch website, The Australian environment editor Graham Lloyd rehashed a British story published a week before the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC was released that claimed the report update would say the true figure of warming since 1951 had been 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade, and not the 0.2 degrees Celsius claimed in previous reports.
The Oz’s piece continued:
“Last week, the IPCC was forced to deny it was locked in crisis talks as reports intensified that scientists were preparing to revise down the speed at which climate change is happening and its likely impact.
“It is believed the IPCC draft report will still conclude there is now greater confidence that climate change is real, humans are having a major impact and that the world will continue to warm catastrophically unless drastic action is taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The impacts would include big rises in the sea level, floods, droughts and the disappearance of the Arctic icecap.
“But claimed contradictions in the report have led to calls for the IPCC report process to be scrapped.”
These reports were wrong. The Daily Mail got its numbers wrong, and The Australian repeated the error, as Media Watch and The Guardian pointed out last year. The long-term trend in the IPCC report is 0.13 degrees of global warming a decade, and has been for some time — there was no retreat from higher figures……..http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/07/24/considerable-concern-oz-in-hot-water-over-climate-denial-errors/
Australia’s drought – yes, it’s climate change http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2483139/australias_drought_yes_its_climate_change.html Tim Radford 18th July 2014 Australia’s prime minister thinks climate change is ‘crap’ and has just abolished his country’s carbon-pricing system. But scientists say that it’s rising levels of CO2 that are leaving the south of the country parched and sweltering – and it’s only going to get worse.
American scientists have just confirmed that parts of Australia are being slowly parched because of greenhouse gas emissions.
A report in Nature Geoscience shows that the long-term decline in rainfall over south and south-west Australia is a consequence of fossil fuel burning and depletion of the ozone layer by human activity. Such a finding is significant for two reasons. One remains contentious: it is one thing to make generalised predictions about the consequences overall of greenhouse gas levels, but it is quite another to pin a measured regional climatic shift directly on human causes, rather than some possible as-yet-unidentified natural cycle of climatic change.
The other is contentiously political.
Bush fires and catastrophic flooding
Tom Delworth, a research scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reports in Nature Geoscience that he and a colleague conducted a series of long-term climate simulations to study changes in rainfall across the globe.
One striking pattern of change emerged in Australia, where winter and autumn rainfall patterns are increasingly a cause of distress for farmers and growers in two states.
The simulation showed that the decline in rainfall was primarily a response to man-made increases in greenhouse gases, as well as to a thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer in response to emissions of destructive gases by human sources.
The computer simulations tested a series of possible causes for this decline, such as volcanic eruptions and changes in solar radiation. But the only cause that made sense of the observed data was the greenhouse explanation.
It began in 1970, and it hasn’t stopped yet
South Australia has never been conspicuously lush and wet, but decline in precipitation set in around 1970, and this decline has increased in the last four decades.
The simulations predict that the decline will go on, and that average rainfall will drop by 40% over south-west Australia later this century.
Dr Delworth described his model as “a major step forward in our effort to improve the prediction of regional climate change”.
In May, scientists proposed that greenhouse gas emissions were responsible for a change in Southern Ocean wind patterns, which in turn resets the thermostat for the world’s largest island.
Australian scientists report in Geophysical Research Letters that they, too, have been using climate models to examine Antarctic wind patterns and their possible consequences for the rest of the planet.
Another consequence: accelerated ice sheet melt
“When we included projected Antarctic wind shifts in a detailed global ocean model, we found water up to 4°C warmer than current temperatures rose up to meet the base of the Antarctic ice shelves”, said Paul Spence, a researcher at Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. This temperature rise is twice previous estimates.
“This relatively warm water provides a huge reservoir of melt potential right near the grounding lines of ice shelves around Antarctica. It could lead to a massive increase in the rate of ice sheet melt, with direct consequences for global sea level rise.”
Since the West Antarctic ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea levels by 3.3 metres, the consequences would indeed be considerable.
“When we first saw the results it was quite a shock”, said Dr Spence. “It was one of the few cases where I hoped the science was wrong.”