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Evan's Walk against Warming

A brief report on Sydney's Walk against Warming

According to the media 28,000.  A surprisingly good turn out because it seemed to be poorly publicised this year.  I heard about it through Facebook.

The crowd was full of people from groups concerned about the issue.  They seemed to dominate the 'average person'.  This was also perhaps due to the poor publicity.

Speakers.  Why do they have speakers at these things?  (The people who turn up already know what is going to be said.  My theory: these people love to preach.)

Political Speakers

Malcolm Turnbull was invited to come or send up a representative.  He did neither.  Hardly surprising.  I wouldn't have either in his shoes - he was hardly going to change any minds or gain any votes.

Bob Brown, got the biggest applause easily.  Bob Brown it seems to me is living proof that politics isn't all about packaging.  His speaking voice is bad and he certainly has no talent for stirring rhetoric.  He spoke clearly about the issue and its importance for the future.

Peter Garrett, got about half the applause of Bob Brown.  He spoke about how bad the Liberal Party was on this issue.  (How long will it be before he is generally known as Peter I'm-a-dirty-sellout-bastard Garrett?)

Crowd Watching

Talent Rating: Female high, Male average.

Much younger than the general population.  At a guess from what I saw; a good half would have been under thirty.

Fun part

Someone had set up a lovely piece of street theatre.  It was of people wearing a John Howard and Kevin Rudd mask in a bed with the coal industry.  Lots of people had their photo taken in bed with them.


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time to start running

See  the report to the Climate Institute by former CSIRO CC guru Dr Graeme Pearman.

From the press statement:

The global temperature warming trend is accelerating faster than expected.1If continued such a trend will lead to a temperature rise of approximately 3oC by the end of this century (relative to pre-industrial temperatures) tipping us into dangerous climate change - defined as over 2oC.

Carbon dioxide emissions growth is accelerating. The growth rate is increasing from 1.1% per year for 1990-1999 to over 3% per year for 2000-2004. This recent high growth rate exceeds that in the most fossil fuel intensive emissions scenarios used by the IPCC.

The recent rapid decreases in Arctic sea ice extent are occurring much faster than any of the climate model projections suggest would happen. The current summer minima are approximately 30 years ahead of a range of simulation model forecasts. On the basis of current trends, an ice free Arctic Ocean might occur much earlier than 2050 – 2100 as previously thought.

A recent review of climate observations compared to projections suggests that the IPCC projections may have underestimated sea-level rise. The observed sea-level rise for 1993 to 2006 shows a linear trend of 3.3 +/- 0.4 mm/year - higher than the IPCC projected best estimate of 2mm/year.2 Rahmstorf estimates a sea level rise of 0.5 to 1.4 meters by 2100,3 which is much higher than the range of projections in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

Recent scientific work suggests that the capacity for the land and oceans to absorb carbon dioxide emissions is declining. As terrestrial ecosystems respond to anthropogenic climate change, including warming everywhere and drying in some regions, it is likely that some regions that have been sinks of atmospheric carbon will change to sources, through decreases in net primary production, increased occurrence of wild fires, and changes in ecosystem composition.

“Data on the economic impact of reducing greenhouse pollution shows that the greatest risk to jobs and the Australian economy lies in not acting now. All available economic research shows economic growth continues even with significant cuts to greenhouse pollution.” Said Climate Institute Chief Executive John Connor.

“This science report shows that it is even more critical than previously thought that we act quickly to reduce greenhouse pollution and make the transition to a clean energy economy.”


Pearman was muzzled by the CSIRO under Howard. An extract of a post CSIRO interview:


Q. Were you ever pressured not to go public on climate change?

A. Yes I have been in the latter part of my time with CSIRO. I was engaged in a group of people who believe, they, there was a range of scientists and people from the industrial community and so on who felt that there was a need to try to provide documentation to the wider community that pronounced the ah perceived urgency of this problem and gave some indication of the sorts of things that we might do as a national community and I was put under enormous pressure not to engage with that group and in the publication of those results.

Q. What was that group?

A. That was the Australian Climate Group.

Q. Was that group offering you know political comment or political outcomes?

A. No it wasn’t. I mean it was consistent with my own position over nearly thirty years of trying to engage in public communication of science about a number of things but also in policy interface and that is that scientists are not here to make policy, whether it be private sector policy or governments. Governments are elected, that’s their role - boards are elected, that’s their role, but science has a role to play in providing and underpinning those policy developments by providing good advice. My view was that what we were doing within the Australian Climate Group was a) non-partisan, it did not refer to any particular government in Australia and it was only that, it was providing information to ah underpin this.

Q. How were you pressured not to talk about climate change?

A. Well I was actually told that I couldn’t engage in the group but at that stage it was pretty late and in fact publications had already been prepared and so I was told what I could and couldn’t say publicly.

Q. And what were you told?

A. I was told that I couldn’t ah say anything that indicated that I disagreed with current government policy and I presume that meant Federal Government policy and as I say, I tried to reiterate that in fact the document that we had prepared, any public statement that I made, was a partisan statement and that it did not refer to any particular government.

Q. So in terms of just general public debate away from that document, were you pressured not to talk about things about climate change that could potentially impact on the Government’s ideology?

A. That’s the way I interpret it. As far as I can see, it was CSIRO being enormously frightened of the idea that ah anyone in Government might interpret a piece of information that I was communicating from the basis of a scientific knowledge as being critical of government policy as I say, it was never my intent to do that and I think this is a very much a backward step in terms of the role of a scientific agency. There needs to be a closeness between the scientists and the scientific agency and government that ensures communication takes place but there also needs to be a sufficient ah distance. It’s a balance that ensures that the organisation can be fearless and can provide advice whether it be to government or to the private sector or to the community that represents the current best knowledge that we can provide from scientific and technological knowledge.

Q. Did you feel compromised?

A. I was definitely compromised and it was probably only because I was in the latter stages of my career that I could handle, I could see that a young scientist placed in this position in the earlier stage of their career would probably have to roll over.

Q. Has that happened do you think to other scientists?

A. I think it has. I think there are a few examples where’s that happened.

Q. What types of things were you told not to say publicly?

A. Well I was told not to, for example, be involved in a statement that says that Australia should have, in the view of this group, ah a carbon trading scheme. I was told I could not be involved in setting a target because both target setting - and this is for future levels of carbon dioxide emissions - both target setting and the concept of their being carbon trading were not current government policy even though both of those things have been considered quite significantly by State Governments in Australia.

Q. And both of those things are bedded in good scientific rigour.

A. Yes they are but they are at the interface of natural science and as well as economics and social science but that’s where we’re at now I think in the 21st century ah that the best advice is advice that really does bring to bear the interactions or the integration of ah social issues and economic issues as well as what the natural world is telling us.

Q. Were you restricted from talking publicly about emission reductions in general?

A. Yes I was. I think it’s an organisat, it’s a CSIRO that is very afraid um that there may be consequences to their bottom line if they in fact are seen to be interfering with um government policy.

Q. But talking about the need for a reduction in emissions and how much would be a safe level, is that really about government policy? Is that about good science?

A. Well I believe it is and ah as I say I think that for thirty years all I’ve tried to do is to convey to the community and to sectors of the community what good science suggests is the way forward, recognising at the end of the day ah boards and governments actually have the responsibility to make the policy - not me, not scientists.

Q. How many times were you censored?

A. Oh that’s difficult to answer. I mean I think that at least a half a dozen times over the last year that I was with CSIRO I had pressure ah this is a trend that has taken place. I mean in the earlier part of my career with CSIRO I think the community at large will remember CSIRO as being strongly engaged in providing information about issues of the past, whether we go right back to rabbits and the removal of rabbits from the environment right, through to things more currently like water and water issues and climate change. I think traditionally that’s been where we’re at but there’s no doubt in my mind that in the last decade we’ve seen quite a significant shift towards ah CSIRO science being expected to be very quiet.

Q. To reflect government ideology?

A. One can only conclude that that’s what it’s about and the only way you could be sure of that is to ask the individuals who are actually influencing or were influencing people like me.

Q. Do you think the censorship that you were placed under was the result of management doing what they perceived the government wanted done?

A. I’d have to say to that absolutely we have a senior management within the organisation. It is highly sensitive to ah the stakeholder perceptions of their needs and it’s clear in some of their recent documents in particular, their draft new strategic document that it’s highly influenced by a very narrow perception of what the community needs.

Q. Are there other scientists that have been censored in the same way that you have been?

A. A lot. I guess that the classic example would be the people who were involved in the so-called ‘Wentworth Group’, a group again of highly qualified people ah doing what they thought was in the national interest in providing both information about the status of water within the country but also some recommendations that were based on science and technology as to how these problems might be ah overcome, doing it in a non-partisan way, doing it in a constructive way and then finding at the end of the day that they were really ah given a lot of trouble over the fact that they had engaged in this. It was seen as interfering with the policy on public communication and so on.

Q. Are CSIRO scientists muzzled?

A. I think they are yes. I think that ah now more than any time in thirty years I’ve been in CSIRO ah and particularly as I said before a young scientist would find it very difficult to go out and make a pronouncement about a new piece of science if he felt that that might be relevant to an existing or current piece of policy development.

Questions to ask our politicians

Global action is needed and this must be coordinated through international agreements negotiated under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Kyoto Protocol is one such agreement designed to make a start.

Whoever forms the next Australian government should ratify this agreement as its carbon reduction targets are modest and can be easily met. So, the first question to ask a politician is whether their party will ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

However, a more important issue is what a post-Kyoto agreement will look like, as Kyoto expires in 2012. Negotiations for this new agreement begin in earnest at the December Bali conference, and it is critical that the world's national governments quickly reach agreement on three vital questions:

1. What is a safe level of atmospheric greenhouse gases?

2. When will this global reduction target be reached?

3. How will the permissible greenhouse gas entitlements be distributed among the world's nations?

The current level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (~370ppm) is already about 30 per cent higher than at any time in at least the last 450,000 years. It is also now clear that increasing carbon levels causes positive feedbacks to the Earth system (for example ice melt), accelerating global warming. Lags in the Earth system mean the full effect of global warming will not be felt for decades and centuries to come -our children will bear the full cost.

The higher the level we decide is safe, and the longer we wait to solve the problem, the greater the costs and the harm caused to humans and nature.

The following five questions will help you judge the effectiveness of each party's climate change policies:

1. Will they ratify the Kyoto Protocol?

2. Are they prepared to promote a new international agreement at the Bali climate change conference in December that answers the three vital questions about what is a safe level, when it will be reached and how will entitlements be distributed.

3. In what ways will their national policies build upon the commitments made under Kyoto and new international agreements?

4. How will their policies lead to substantial reductions in carbon emissions in the transportation, industrial and built environment sectors?

5. Can they guarantee their policies will not cause perverse outcomes for, among other things, water and biodiversity?

Brendan Mackey is a professor of environmental science at The Australian National University

This is the most crucial part of the decision making process when we go into the polling booth. If we are going to have a planet we must act to protect it. The science is in, now it is up to the people to protect the planet. This is the most important vote you will ever have. Don't waste it.

PS - I'd say 12-15,000 in Sydney

given how un-full the Domain was just before the march started - but still a goodly number, given no peace march has managed 3,000 since 2003.


For the Sydney Walk Against Warming,

Last night on the ABC 28,000

This morning in the SMH 15,000

Does anyone know how these things are counted and how such a huge diversity could come about? 

David R: because the ABC quoted the organiser's estimate, and the Herald made their own.



BB was short and to the point ...

... which is a pleasant relief for serial demo attenders like me. Usually you have to listen to someone like Keyser Trad rabbiting on for ten minutes saying the same thing over and over and still not managing to find a version that can play as a soundbite in the unlikely event that the news covered it.

Bob also resisted the temptation to make it about the election, which proves he's too nice to be a pollie, really, whereas Mr G isn't ...

a hot day?

This got media coverage the length and breadth of the nation. Was it as warm in Sydney as Adelaide (no, didn't go personally, have a skin hassle from burns a while back )?

I couldn't help thinking this was a day's load of free publicity for everyone but the coalition and exactly when they desperately needed respite. Even Labor moved out of the way of that particular oncoming bus a while back. But some people can't be told anything, eg the climate change flat-earther denialists.

Translated: Howard: "what bus, there is no climate-change bus coming, I said so myself",  I'm not moving for no-one...".


As for Garrett, we can ultimately write him off only after he and his party have had the same chance to change things as the current lot and been proven as tardy and perverse in availing themselves of that opportunity. In fact it will be worse if they fail, because they will not be able to claim ignorance, which must surely be Howard's excuse for anything beyond the nineteenth century.

And I agree, Labor will have to be camped on and watched like  hawks to ensure relevant action, also. 

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