201102

Some Political Action At Last!

A strategic political approach to climate change has been something very difficult to achieve in Australia. The case can no longer be sustained for inaction on climate change: the world, the electorate and the environment demand action to reduce emissions. The Gillard Government has been dragged kicking and screaming to the table.

It has been like watching a blind man cross a busy freeway. Leaders have lost their job over climate change (Turnball and Rudd), parties have lost elections (John Howard), and the science has largely been ignored by most in politics.

So far the details of the Gillard government’s plans are sketchy. Initially a price will be put on carbon. Polluters will be obliged from July 2012 to pay a fixed price (yet to be determined) on each tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.

After three to five years there would be a ?clear intent? to evolve to a cap-and-trade system , a market in which polluters could buy permits to produce carbon dioxide and sell them to others if they cut their own emissions.

These costs will undoubtably then be passed onto consumers in the form of higher electricity bills.This will encourage consumers to moderate their electricity consumption.

Three questions need to be resolved. The first is what the carbon will price be? The second is how much compensation will be given to low income households to offset their increased electricity bills, and thirdly, how much compensation will be paid to the major polluters? The answers will need to be worked out by an uneasy coalition between the Greens and the Labor Party, in consultation with big business and voters.

It would seem that the Liberal/National coalition have excluded themselves from the discussion by saying they will fight a price on carbon ?every minute of every hour of every day of every month?. The Right side of politics is looking at a regulatory response to climate change whilst the Left side is looking at a market approach. These are interesting times!

Matthew Nott

Australia’s Population

National medical group, Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA), will this week wade into the population debate with the release of a poster to convey the health risks associated with unfettered population growth. Twenty-four thousand GPs will receive copies of the poster entitled “Advancing Australia Fairly? this week to display in waiting rooms around the country.

DEA asserts Australia’s population size should be based on a scientific understanding of the carrying capacity of our ?fragile continent? and not on the views of those with vested interests. DEA Spokesperson and GP, Dr George Crisp, said Australia’s population growth rate was higher than India, the Philippines and Cambodia”, and described this as ?ill-considered? and ?harming our quest for liveable communities?. ?Doctors have a commitment to protect human health,? Dr Crisp said, ?which is why we feel
compelled to take a position on this issue. Any further pressure on our continent’s ecology will take a heavy toll on human health and wellbeing. We have an important obligation to the world to reduce our greenhouse emissions ? a task that is difficult enough, but near impossible with an expanding population.?

Population advocate and Australian businessman, Dick Smith, has commended the DEA initiative, saying: ?I agree Australia’s population size must be based upon scientific, demographic and health concerns – and not on the opinions of community sectors with deep conflicts of interest.?

?It is overwhelmingly clear that we’re currently living beyond our means in terms of our natural assets,? Mr Smith said. ?It is urgent that we question this approach. We need to adjust our growth and consumption driven economic model which stand at odds with our fragile environment and finite resources.?

DEA’s Position Paper on Population calls for an assessment of the wide ranging impacts and consequences of population growth on our environment, human health and wellbeing, the economy, energy security and infrastructure. All major projects should have a population impact statement in order to move away from the “given? that a new resource project must be developed immediately if economically advantageous.

Dr Crisp said Australia’s rapid population growth had placed considerable strain on existing health infrastructure, services, waiting lists and personnel, as well as negative impacts on the community – with citizens of bigger cities suffering from more pollution, longer commuting times, and more obesity from lack of exercise.

?Future population planning must take into account the capacity and maintenance of health services, and the implications of population growth on human health and wellbeing,? Dr Crisp said.

Matthew Nott

A War Of Words

The records continue to tumble. Floods have swept through China, India, Pakistan, the Philippines and southern Africa, killing thousands. A vast area of South America is in severe drought, although record January rains in Brazil triggered mud slides that killed more than 700 people. Massive and unseasonal snow storms pummelled Europe and North America before Christmas, taking more lives, and last week again the US has been hammered by what the National Weather Service called an ?historic killer blizzard?.

In Australia we have seen record drought, record floods, record cyclones, and record bush fires.

You cannot say that a single adverse weather event is due to human induced climate change. However, you can say with a high degree of confidence that these are exactly the sort of extreme events you would expect with a warming planet. You can say with equal confidence that the planet is warming, and will continue to do so.

The climate deniers continue to say that concern about changing climate is hysterical. They ignore the great body of world scientific opinion, and write off alarming events as alarmist concerns. In Australia the coal industry and its backers in government are bunkering down.

State governments have begun passing draconian legislation aimed specifically at deterring protests against the coal industry. The Labor government in Victoria introduced harsh new laws against climate change protest, with up to one year?s jail merely for standing on the grounds of a coal-fired power station. Queensland and NSW are following suit with similar legislative protection of Big Coals profitability.

I?m not sure that direct action protest against the coal industry is ever going to be successful in shutting down such a powerful industry, but the coal industry is never going to be able to silence its critics.

Human influence on the climate has only just begun; it is going to get a lot worse. If you are worried about climate change, and if you feel that ongoing dependence on fossil fuel is not in humanities best interests, then write about it. Tell someone who cares. Tell someone who doesn?t.
Matthew Nott

The Counter Consensus?

I have started reading a book by Professor Robert M. Carter called ‘Climate:The Counter Consensus’. According to James Delingpole “by the end (of the book), you’re left feeling…that the scientific case against Anthropogenic Global Warming is so overwhelming that you wonder how anyone can still speak up for so discredited a theory without dying of embarrassment”.

Professor Carter is a research professor in the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University in Queensland. His book promises to dispel concerns about rapidly rising levels of greenhouse gases.

In his book, Professor Carter concedes that rising levels of atmospheric CO2 may be due to human dependence on fossil fuels, but he argues that the level of CO2 is inconsequential, resulting in no significant warming of the planet.

Carter’s main argument is that the planet is cooling despite rising levels of atmospheric CO2. He repeatedly talks about a “definite cooling trend” since 1998. In fact he mentions this “post-1998 cooling” 13 times in the first 69 pages of the book.

Carter’s cooling trend flies in the face of all the peer reviewed scientific literature. So how does he explain how the planet is cooling whilst atmospheric CO2 is going up?

Well, he doesn’t really, but he does try and explain why CO2 is an inconsequential greenhouse gas. In fact he spends a full two pages discussing this pivotal point. I would invite anyone interested in the debate to have a look at pages 75-77 of his book. You will see a graph on page 76 which Carter claims is based on the MODTRAN atmospheric model, University of Chicago. This graph essentially forms the basis for his entire argument. It shows how increases in atmospheric CO2 will make very little difference to global temperatures.

Carter does not reference a source for this important graph, but implies that it is from the University of Chicago. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact he seems to have sourced the graph from David Archibald, a scientist who has been a CEO of multiple oil and mineral exploration companies operating in Australia. Archibald has not published any scientific articles on climate change or its impacts in peer-reviewed journals. He has however produced a graph describing the logarithmic relationship between CO2 and warming. That graph was not published, and has been discredited by the University of Chicago. This is the graph Carter choses to use to mount his argument.

Carter makes his most pivotal point using a graph he takes from a non science blog. Why did he not look at the scientific literature to support his position?

Carter’s input into the climate debate has proved disappointing, and is hardly the dispassionate review that he promises.
Matthew Nott