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While Rome burns

 

While Rome burns: The war against science
Andrew Glikson
Earth and paleo-climate scientist
Australian National University

 

With carbon cap-and-trade legislation now on Washington’s agenda, companies and interest groups have been hiring lobbyists at a feverish pace. For every member of Congress, there are now four climate lobbyists, many of them hoping to derail or water down the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In doing so, such climate lobbyists ignore statements by the UK Hadley Met that the consequences of 5.5°C warming by 2100, which are "likely" on our current emissions path, are “all but unimaginable – mass extinction, devastating ocean acidification, brutal summer-long heat waves, rapidly rising sea levels, widespread desertification"

According to the UN Environmental Program's newly released 2009 Year Book and a separate World Bank report presented throughout Latin America (23 February, 2009), the planet is quickly approaching the tipping point for abrupt climate changes, perhaps within a few years. The UN agency warns that urgent action is needed to avoid catastrophic climate events, including major food and water shortages, shifts in weather patterns, and destabilization of "major ice sheets that could introduce unanticipated rates of sea level rise within the 21st century."

The biological consequences of runaway climate change are only beginning to be understood (see here for more on “global weirding”).

In the wake of decades of an ever-diminishing window of opportunity to mitigate the worse effects of global warming, the western world’s top science advisors, including John Holdren and Penny Sackett, Australia’s chief science adviser, are not mincing words regarding the global climate disruption. On her return from the Copenhagen climate congress, Penny Sackett stated:

"The newest science is crucial because some elements of the global climate are now changing at a rate considerably faster than previously thought." and “If they do not act, if we do not act, and act quickly and decisively, the effects will be devastating"

Which hardly discourage a well financed shadowy army of denialists from continuing to try and saw doubts: (“ Doubt is our product”) through the media and intensive lobbying. A plethora of websites disseminates untruths, misconceptions, conspiracy theories AND ad-hominem, repeating accusations of scientists as “alarmists” ad-infinitum and comparing environmentalists to “ Nazis”.

Denialists use spurious arguments which betray ignorance of basic physics and chemistry. They misunderstand the difference between weather and the climate, and focus on individual cooling phases or annual climate variations rather than decade-scale climate changes.

Some claim climate change does not exist, or is caused by the sun (precise measurements of solar radiation disprove this theory), or by cosmic rays (which enhance clouding). Some invoke water vapor (a feedback effect). Some point to the lag of CO2 rises behind temperatures during glacial age terminations (which arises from the dominant warming role of ice melt to open water, absorbing solar radiation).Others claim warming occurs on other planets and is thus of extraterrestrial origin (no inter-planetary connection is known), or due to geothermal rise (the main connection with climate is through volcanic eruptions). Lately, based on the La Nina cooling phase since 2007, some claim global cooling (would have been nice). There are those who say climate has always changed, so why worry now (there were no humans then to generate, nor suffer from, the consequences).

Attempts have been made to penetrate and change on-line encyclopedias. As in the film The Great Global Climate Swindle, in some cases the critical data are simply deleted. It would appear the only ideology “climate skeptics” share is the promotion of the open ended use of the atmosphere as sewage for carbon gases.

Backed by powerful vested interests, publishing in politically friendly media, provides a golden opportunity to gain public exposure and air grudges against science and scientists. A hallmark of “climate change skeptics” is a reluctance to engage in direct public discussions with climate scientists.

There is little evidence the “climate change skeptics” worry too much their misunderstanding of climate science may lead to the death of billions and the likely demise of civilization . The legal status of disinformation campaigns aimed at the promotion of substances of proven fatal global consequences, such as ozone-destroying CFCs, or greenhouse gas levels pushed up to near-40% above their natural level, is unclear. The lack of suitable laws to prevent ecocide may yet prove to be the Achilles heel of global civilization.

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$100 million to burn

The Government is opening a $100 million Carbon Capture and Storage Institute to promote research into the technology.

Simon Roz of Greenpeace says carbon capture will not be commercially viable for 40 years, and the Government needs climate change solutions now.

Mr Roz says carbon capture technology can not be retro-fitted to existing coal fired power stations such as those in Victoria's Latrobe Valley.

"But then we've got this big legacy of 'where are we going to put hundreds of millions of tonnes of compressed liquefied gas year upon year?'" he said.

"There's a whole lot of issues to be sorted out with CCS and that's why we're saying coal is the fuel of the past, we need to get on with 21st century fuels and we need to get on with it quickly."

The Rudd government seems to have money to burn. Why are taxpayers funding the coal industry? If we have a spare $100 million we should be spending it on renewables, not on black death.

In five years or so we will look back on this use of money as a complete waste. When we begin to close our coal mines we will be wondering why we pissed the money up the wall.

We are in the middle of a global financial crisis. We can't afford to waste money on unproven technology. If the coal industry really thought the technology was feasible why aren't they funding it out of the enormous profits of the last 15 years or so?

This is yet another example of the black heart of Labor.

Another reason to vote Green.

Tax whatever you like, just remember who's first in line

Andrew Glikson: "There is little evidence the “climate change skeptics” worry too much their misunderstanding of climate science may lead to the death of billions and the likely demise of civilization."

And how a tax on stuff is meant to prevent any of this has still never been answered.

Most probably production will just shift to somewhere cheaper. Like, a place without a tax on stuff. That's already been happening for some time.

Probably in Australia the tax on stuff, will simply go toward paying the interest on the daily expanding debt.

Having just this last week become a proud Australian Treasury Bond owner (blame it on the yield), I'm certainly not complaining.

The facts of life you missed

John Pratt: "That is why continuous growth is impossible". "That is why capitalism is a joke".

Of course those bastions of capitalism China, India and Africa are all the proof you need?

The wealthiest nations are of course capitalist. Wealth is a proved indicator for having fewer children. Capitalism (wealth creation) isn't a joke. It's probably the last best hope you have.

Emotive ideological claptrap

Pat Donnelly: "Emotive claptrap! Resist conditioning on the net by using your own thinking apparatus. We probably can support 100Bn on earth, but it would be pretty urbanized and too crowded for most Aussies! Australia can support 300Mn or so. Lots of solar energy means we can shade what passes for desert! All this is unlikely for generations and is not solely to enable growth aka inflation."

Naturally they would all have to eat, drink and pass waste other than just hot air. Where does it all come from and go, in a country with the climate and ecology of Australia to support 300Mn.

Probably ("probably support 100 Bn"), probably is not really, how and where do you put these people. Sounds to me like blind ideological emotive claptrap from the conditioned.

"All this is unlikely for generations and is not solely to enable growth aka inflation."

Then what else does it enable, which could be classed as rational?

In praise of skepticism

The invitation to use my own thinking apparatus appealed to me, Alga, so I did some elementary finger work. Australia's population density is one 10th the US, 100th the UK and 2000th Singapore's. Therefore, the idea that Australia's population could expand by 10 appears a more reasonable proposition than the converse.

Whether the world could support a population of 100 billion is a more complex matter. My guess is that if one considered only nutrition as a limiting factor, in theory, present agri and aqua culture technology (rather than practice) could support that population (how tasty the food was is another matter).

If someone said that the world could cannot support 100 billion people with current consumption patterns and current industrial practices then I would agree wholeheartedly.

Rome

Emotive claptrap! Resist conditioning on the net by using your own thinking apparatus. We probably can support 100Bn on earth, but it would be pretty urbanized and too crowded for most Aussies! Australia can support 300Mn or so. Lots of solar energy means we can shade what passes for desert! All this is unlikely for generations and is not solely to enable growth aka inflation.

Ask yourself why all this is said to be a crisis? Who gains by softening us up in this way? Have a good think and dismiss most of this as hot air and do not support whatever they propose. Keep asking others if they really believe it to be more than rubbish unsupported by science.

Climate change? I know! Massively increase population.

Andrew Glikson: "There is little evidence the “climate change skeptics” worry too much their misunderstanding of climate science may lead to the death of billions and the likely demise of civilization."

Really? The deaths of billions? And the end of civilization?

And yet, we're okay with this:

"Australia's population will reach between 30 and 42 million by 2056, according to modelling in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Social Trends report."

- and God help anyone who dares question it.

 Can you see why people a just a tad skeptical?

How do we reduce GHG with a growing population?

Eliot, who is OK with Australia's population reaching 30 or 40 million?

Over population globally and at home is the main cause of all our problems.

I have argued in other threads that we should do away with the baby bonus and refuse welfare to families with over two children.

Our current policies make no sense at all. How are we going to reduce our GHG emissions and have continued growth?

How are we going to fed and extra 6 million people every month?

That is why continuous growth is impossible.

That is why capitalism is a joke.

It's not just polar bears who should be worrying

Most worrying of all is the risk of a runaway greenhouse effect. The carbon stored in the far north has the potential to raise global temperatures by 10 °C or more. If global warming leads to the release of more greenhouse gases, these releases will cause yet more warming and still more carbon will escape to the atmosphere. Eventually the feedback process would continue even if we cut our greenhouse emissions to zero. At that point climate change would be out of control.

.........the latest findings suggest we cannot afford to ignore these possibilities, especially given that everything to do with global climate is linked. The loss of Arctic sea ice could lead to the release of ever more methane from permafrost and methane hydrates. That in turn would make a dramatic reduction in the strength of the ocean conveyor sometime this century increasingly likely, which could lead to abrupt changes in the Asian monsoon.

With the summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean already shrinking much faster than the IPCC models predicted, one thing is for sure. It is not just the polar bears who should be worrying about the warming Arctic.

I find it hard to understand how people can ignore this science, that is now very hard to dispute. We continue to worry about jobs and the economy, using this as an excuse to do nothing but what is really at risk is life. If we refuse to change then we risk all.

Perfect storm by 2030

Some key questions. Can nine billion people be fed? Can we cope with the demands in the future on water? Can we provide enough energy? Can we do it, all that, while mitigating and adapting to climate change? And can we do all that in 21 years time? That's when these things are going to start hitting in a really big way. We need to act now. We need investment in science and technology, and all the other ways of treating very seriously these major problems. 2030 is not very far away.

Professor Sir John Beddington, chief scientific adviser to HM government, speaking at the GovNet SDUK09 event.

Another leading scientist calls for immediate action as he predicts a perfect storm. We face horrendous problems of over population, shortage of water, ocean acidification and the lack of alternative energies. At the same time we add six million people to the population every month. If we see the current economic problem as bad, just imagine what it's going to look like 20 years from now.

The only political party that understands the magnitude of the problem is the Greens, and as we have seen only about ten percent of the population are aware of the situation we are facing and are ready to act.

I hope democracy is up to the task that we are confronted with.

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