The Population Bomb

Within the next 15 years the world’s population is expected to increase by a billion people. When that happens, the laws of large numbers start to kick in, with huge pressure on the environment.

What say we gave each of those extra billion people a low energy light bulb. Let’s be tough and say that thes billion people cannot own any electrical appliances apart from their single light bulb, and they can only use that light bulb for four hours per day.

The law of large numbers kicks in. Those 20,000 tonnes of light bulbs, when used for four hours per day will require 10,000 megawatts of energy at any given time. We will need 20 new coal-burning power plants just so the next billion people can turn a light on for four hours a day.

If those next billion people want to live and pollute like Australians, we will need a couple of extra planet’s worth of resources.

Cleary we are going to be forced to change the way we think about energy and pollution, and the population bomb means that we are going to have to do it soon.

Neither the Rudd government or Abbott opposition are in any hurray. Rudd has dropped the Emission Trading Scheme and Abbott will cut $1.5 billion in climate related funding over the next four years. This includes slashing the $653 million renewable energy and energy efficiency fund announced in the Federal Budget. Neither party wants to put a price on carbon, which means we carry on with business as usual.

The official opposition position on climate change, announced last week seems to be that “there is some debate about whether the planet is warming; if it is warming, whether human activity is contributing to that process; if the first two points are true; whether there are negative consequences”. This position flies in the face of advice from the CSIRO, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Australia’s chief scientist, and the peer reviewed science. The Abbott opposition has taken a populist approach to climate change.

Business as usual is short sighted as we wait for the population bomb to explode.
Matthew Nott

Open letter: Climate change and the integrity of science

Full text of an open letter from 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences in defense of climate research

We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.

Scientific conclusions derive from an understanding of basic laws supported by laboratory experiments, observations of nature, and mathematical and computer modelling. Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. This process is inherently adversarial— scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and Einstein did. But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of “well-established theories” and are often spoken of as “facts.”

For instance, there is compelling scientific evidence that our planet is about 4.5bn years old (the theory of the origin of Earth), that our universe was born from a single event about 14bn years ago (the Big Bang theory), and that today’s organisms evolved from ones living in the past (the theory of evolution). Even as these are overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, fame still awaits anyone who could show these theories to be wrong. Climate change now falls into this category: there is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.

Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected.

But there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change:

(i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.

(ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

(iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.

(iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.

(v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.

Much more can be, and has been, said by the world’s scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business- as-usual practices. We urge our policymakers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels.

We also call for an end to McCarthy- like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them. Society has two choices: we can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.

• The signatories are all members of the US National Academy of Sciences but are not speaking on its behalf or on behalf of their institutions.

Act of cowardice

STEVE STREVENS Bega District News

07 May, 2010 08:20 AM

THE Federal Government’s move to delay the introduction of an emissions trading scheme has been branded an “act of cowardice” by local climate change campaigner Dr Matthew Nott.

In a scathing attack on the government and the prime minister, Dr Nott said he felt “betrayed by Rudd’s action”.

“This is a monumental turnaround from his pre-election commitment; it’s a stunning action and I think it is an act of cowardice on his behalf to have done this.”

Dr Nott said what the prime minister had done was to “put the country in a worse position than John Howard”.

“Howard promised an ETS by 2012 and now Rudd won’t even look at it until 2013.”

It was “ridiculous” for the prime minister and Minister for Climate Change Penny Wong to “blame the opposition”, according to Dr Nott.

“It’s their own fault, they have a double dissolution trigger but they won’t pull it,” he said.

“Whatever happened to Rudd saying this was the greatest moral challenge of our time?

“It seems that the moral challenge is not as important as winning the next election.

“It has proved that Rudd is just about politics, that’s all.”

People had lost interest in climate change and the ETS because “politicians have lost interest as well,” Dr Nott said.

“They have done nothing which has given everyone else an excuse to do nothing.

“And while it is hard to notice any change at a local level, on a global level the science is even more damning than it was before that we underestimated how far down the track of global warming we are.”

The sceptics, according to Dr Nott “are having a field day”.

“This certainly has put a dampener on what we do as Clean Energy For Eternity,” he said.

“We want renewable energy businesses to invest in the region but no one will do that now, or at least it is much more difficult.”

Dr Nott said he was also very disappointed in the national media that has “let Rudd off extremely lightly”.

“We try not to be too political but this move deserves the strongest possible condemnation.

“Rudd should be flogged for this monumental about face.”

Dr Nott called on the prime minister to reconsider the move and if that meant “sitting down with Tony Abbott and Bob Brown and the Greens to find a solution then he should do that”.

“This is too important to just leave,” he said.

“But although it has made it more difficult to get our message out there, we will still continue to try and make a difference.”
Monumental Backflip

“What absolute cowardice, what absolute failure of leadership, what absolute failure of logic. The inescapable logic of this approach is that if every nation makes the decision not to act until others have done so then no nation will ever act”.
Kevin Rudd, sometime prior to last week.

Last week Kevin Rudd made the decision not to act. He has dumped the Emission Trading Scheme until at least 2013. Is it possible that winning the next election is more important to Mr Rudd than “the greatest moral, economic and environmental threat of our generation.”? Is the Prime Minister reacting to our complacency about climate change, a problem he’s now downgraded to a “fundamental challenge”.

Fewer people appear concerned about climate change now than three years ago, despite the clearer and grimmer scientific picture of the threat we face. Why is that the case?

At a local level, the climate is changing slowly. Over the last 30 years, our region has warmed by 0.6 degrees, and sea level has risen by almost 9 cm. Individuals cannot detect such changes, but these shifts are massive on a global scale. We need to rely on peer-reviewed science rather than personal observation to tell us what is happening to the planet.

Kevin Rudd was given a mandate at the last election to act on climate change. His decision to wait and see what the rest of the world does before Australia acts is a prescription for lost opportunity. It is a backflip of monumental proportions.

The federal government needs to go back to the drawing board. Climate change is an issue too important to leave on the backburner until 2013. Every delay makes the task harder and more expensive. Mr Rudd needs to talk to Tony Abbott and Bob Brown and he needs to find a way forward. The government needs to consider a carbon tax, so polluting industries pay their fair share rather than being given billions of dollars in compensation. Mr Rudd needs to find a way to turn around Australia’s rising emissions. He needs to encourage investment in clean energy solutions and he needs to ensure that Australia can remain competitive as the rest of the world sets a price on carbon. That is what a leader with courage and conviction would do.