Strong Climate Consensus

Having doubts over climate change and the role of humans? You’re unlikely to find many scientists who share your uncertainty.

That is the finding of a University of Queensland led study that surveyed the abstracts of almost 12,000 scientific papers from 1991-2011 and claims to be the largest peer-reviewed study of its kind.

Of those who a stated a position on the evidence for global warming, 97.1 per cent endorsed the view that humans are to blame. Just 1.9 per cent rejected the view.

The report’s lead author, John Cook, a fellow at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, said the scientific consensus was overwhelming, growing and had been around since the early 1990s.

He said that while the number of papers rejecting the consensus was “vanishingly small”, his research suggested the public was under the impression the debate was split 50-50.

“When people think scientists agree, they are more likely to support a carbon tax or general climate action,” he said.

“But if they think scientists are still arguing about it, they don’t want to do anything about it.” Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are about 400 parts per million and rising ? the highest in more than 3 million years.

The survey is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The strength of the scientific consensus could be likened to the theory of plate tectonics, or continental drift, that took 50 years to gain acceptance. In that case, he said the media found little reason to stoke controversy because there was “no political or ideological issue with plate tectonics”, he said.

Opinion polls in some countries show widespread belief that scientists disagree about whether climate change is caused by human activities or is part of natural swings such as in the sun’s output.

A survey by the US Pew Research Center published in October last year found 45 per cent of Americans said “Yes” when asked: “Do scientists agree Earth is getting warmer because of human activity?” About 43 per cent said “No”.
Matthew Nott

Media Release: Damning evidence on health impacts of coal & CSG

A new doctors report reveals worrying evidence of likely health impacts from Australian coal and coal seam gas projects.

Doctors have released a damning report today about the potential health effects on communities across Australia from coal and coal seam gas projects. The Health Factor by Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) reveals the costly legacy unfolding for Australia from under-regulation of the pollution caused by many resource projects.

The Health Factor describes cases where coal projects have been allowed to pollute at levels known to compromise human health and where inadequate monitoring of air quality disguises the dangers.
The report describes how cardio-respiratory and other diseases in nearby communities are likely to be caused or exacerbated by pollution from coal mining and transport. The report also points out that the research and regulation on coal seam gas lags well behind these developments, and the degree to which they harm human health is not yet understood.

“It is clear that State government approvals of coal and coal seam gas projects are often influenced by potential economic gain without thorough assessment of potential harms”, said DEA spokesperson, Dr David Shearman.”Permitting dangerous pollution is creating a costly legacy for Australia that is being picked up in the healthcare and other sectors.The social and financial costs of this pollution are not being measured or factored in when projects are given the go ahead. Those who believe Australian resource projects are operating with ‘world’s best practice’ are simply mistaken. What we are seeing is a trend to “cutting green tape” without consideration of the consequences. There is room for assessment to become much more efficient by using the same standards in all States.”

The Health Factor describes the failure of governments and resource companies to protect human health and it advocates for health impact assessments to be a mandatory part of the approval processes for any polluting industrial project.

“Assessment of the health impacts of resource projects need to be much more robust and consistent across all States.” Dr Shearman said. “Governments need to conduct proper health impact assessments before projects are approved to better protect the health of communities. Rules for monitoring pollution during the life of the project and beyond must be introduced.

“The Health Factor analysis shows the need for urgent national reforms.” Dr Shearman said.

The report is available online:
Matthew Nott

CEFE wins another grant

The Northern Beaches (Sydney) chapter of CEFE has just been awarded a $58,000 Community Renewable Energy grant by the NSW Offfice of Environment and Heritage. The grant is one of six made to community groups across the NSW striving to make community owned local renewable energy generation a reality.

The grant comes at a good time. Although there is no longer a feed-in tarriff for new solar installations, the price of solar PV has dropped low enough for it to be competive with grid power. So provided you can consume all the power generated by your panels, the pay back for a system is less than 5 years. Every year for the next 20 after that you will be getting for free, power that you would otherwise have had to pay 40c/kWh for. Any power you don’t need will be exported to the grid for 8c/kW hour so for maximum benefit you need to choose a system matched to your consumption needs

The economics works best right now for facilities that operate seven days a week and can consume the power generated by a 100kW solar PV array. Council libraries and swimming pools, clubs, supermarkets and factories are perfect candidates, but despite the long term benefits, few can afford the up front cost.

This is where the community comes in. CEFE Northern Beaches is aiming to set up a trustee company that will manage unit trusts, one for each building equipped. Community investors will provide the necessary funds for the installation. A power purchase agreement will be negotiated with the facility owner that will given them cheaper power than they could get from the grid, but also give the community investors a good return for the seven year life of the contract. After seven years the panels will become the property of the facility owner.

CEFE Norther Beaches will use its grant to set up the trustee company as a viable operaiton ready to negotiiate power purchase agreements with facility owners and accept funds from community investors.
Warren Yates

A new record for atmospheric CO2.

20,000 year old Kakadu Lightning Man
20,000 year old Kakadu Lightning Man

Carbon dioxide levels are about to rise to the highest they have been in five million years, triggering warnings a move towards low carbon economies is not happening quick enough.

The atmospheric concentration of CO2 is expected to rise to 400 parts per million in the next few days, according to readings at the American government’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Hawaii. There is a growing amount of peer reviewed literature that suggests that 400ppm has not been exceeded for over 20 million years and has not been above 280ppm for at least the last 800,000 years.

To put that timeframeinto perspective, some of the oldest examples of aboriginal rock art in Australia are about 20,000 years old. The human species is launching into unchartered territory.

University of Queensland Global Change Institute Director, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, said there have been few, if any, examples in the earth’s history of CO2 rates increasing at the current rates.

“This is a really serious problem that demands immediate action,” he said.

“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that we should stay well clear of the 450ppm or 2 degrees celcius guardrail set by the IPCC and other scientific organisations.

“But we are really underestimating the rate of change.”

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said extreme weather events which were predicted to happen at higher levels of carbon dioxide were happening now.

He said man-made greenhouse gases were driving the rapid changes.

“This week’s milestone serves as an important wake-up call for policy-makers and industry to re-double their effort to deal with the planet-threatening problem of climate change,” he said. Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said the changes in marine ecosystems because of rising CO2 levels were less abundant coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves; fewer, smaller fish; a breakdown in food chains; changes in the distribution of marine life; and more frequent diseases and pests among marine organisms.

“Rising sea surface temperatures, caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, including CO2, in the atmosphere, increase the likelihood of mass bleaching events, which kill coral reefs,” he said.

“If the current trends of increasing atmospheric CO2 levels continue the Great Barrier Reef will not exist.”
Matthew Nott

A Big Thanks

Last weekend’s Tathra Enduro mountain bike race was a wonderful success, but tin ever would have happened without the help of a huge number of people.

Thanks to our major sponsors, The Bega Valley Shire Council, and Clean Energy For Eternity. The Tathra Beach Family Park, Tathra Seabreeze Caravan Park, Tathra Beach Apartments and the Tathra Beach Motor Lodge all made significant contributions, as did the Tathra Chamber of Commerce. The NZ based outdoor clothing company Ground Effect was also an important supporter. The Enduro team would like to express their gratitude to all those sponsors.

the event would not have been possible without the help of hundreds of volunteers.

The Tathra Rural Fire service, the Tathra surf club, the Bega VRA and the Tathra pre-school all put in a massive effort to help with marshalling and traffic control. Drink stations were manned for hours by the surf club, the Tathra Uniting church, and CEFE.

Mark from The Nook donated his Sunday to make coffee with a machine donated by the Tathra Cafe. The Lions Club put on a BBQ for us and Rudy make biscuits for the riders.

Thanks to the drummers, bagpipers, cow-bell percussionists and ukulele player who helped give our event a local flavour. Thanks to the photographers who donated their expertise, in particular Katrina Walsh and Dave Gallen. Thanks to Warren Parnel from OverU for aerial photography with his radio controlled quad-copter, and David and Justine Forrest for bouncing round in a low flying Cessna to photograph the event from the air.

Thanks to Gabe Khouri for providing his services as event doctor, and to the many first aid offices on the course.

Many thanks to the Enduro team and the Tathra MTB club who have been working all year to make this event happen, and to Andrew Johnson, who has devoted a decade to ensuring that Tathra has some of the best single track mountain biking in Australia.
Matthew Nott