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Is it too late to prevent catastrophic climate change?

Clive Hamilton is an Australian author and public intellectual. In June 2008 he was appointed Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, a joint centre of the Australian National University, Charles Sturt University and the University of Melbourne. For 14 years, until February 2008, he was the executive director of The Australia Institute, a progressive think tank he founded. Professor Hamilton has recently been preselected to stand as the Greens candidate for the byelection in the federal seat of Higgins, formerly held, of course, by Peter Costello.

Webdiary thanks Professor Hamilton for permission to publish the abstract to his recent lecture to the Royal Society of the Arts.

Is it too late to prevent catastrophic climate change?
Lecture to a Meeting of the Royal Society of the Arts
Sydney, 21 October 2009
Clive Hamilton


Recent analysis of carbon budgets shows that the timing and scale of emission reductions needed to avert dangerous climate change are well beyond any national policy proposals or anticipated international agreement.

There have been two alarming developments in recent years. First, climate scientists are reporting that the scale of damages associated with warming of 2°C is much worse than previously believed, suggesting that more stringent emission cuts are essential.

Secondly, global growth in greenhouse gas emissions is much higher than anticipated a few years ago and the world is now on a warming path that is worse than the IPCC’s worst-case scenario. Rather than decarbonising, the world is carbonising at an unprecedented rate.

Under the most optimistic assumptions about the timing and extent of global greenhouse gas emission reductions, cumulative emissions over the next few decades will result in atmospheric concentrations reaching 650 ppm of CO2-e, associated with warming of 4°C or more before the end of the century, a temperature not seen on Earth for 15 million years.

It now seems almost certain that, if it has not occurred already, within the next several years enough warming will be locked into the system to set in train positive feedback processes that will overwhelm any attempts to cut back on carbon emissions. Humans will be powerless to stop the shift to a new climate on Earth, one much less sympathetic to life.

The full paper can be found here.


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Do the planet a favour. Put Hamilton last.

Once-mild sceptics on the centre-right are being pushed further right, recoiling from the righteousness and the moral posturing of the zealots on the left. : Noel Pearson

Noel Pearson then specifically names Clive Hamilton as one of these revolting zealots.

Recently Clive Hamilton had this to say:

Even critics of the sceptics are careful to distance themselves from the implication that they are comparing climate denialism with Holocaust denialism for fear of being seen to trivialise the Holocaust by suggesting some sort of moral equivalence.

He then goes on to do precisely that. He hesitantly concludes:

... climate deniers are less immoral than Holocaust deniers, although they are undoubtedly more dangerous;

...but then only because of his particular "ethical standpoint", you understand. Those with a "consequentialist" ethical standpoint would conclude "climate deniers" are more immoral. Much more.

Clive Hamilton is a moral midget with the intellectual outlook of a pin prick facing south in a snow storm.

Another gut turning comment from Hamilton:

We think of Holocaust deniers as being immoral because we suspect them of being motivated by anti-Semitism or a desire for political advancement through stirring up racial hatred.

Do "we"? Well in fact that's not why I think of Holocaust deniers as being immoral. I have far more compelling and much harsher reasons for that and Hamilton's foul stab at moral equivalence is nauseating.  

Hamilton is on record as saying there was no way he could pretend to have a comprehensive grasp of climate change. Therefore he had to decide not what to believe but whom to believe.

I agree. I choose not to believe Clive Hamilton. In fact Hamilton and his ugly kind are more dangerous than climate change. If you are voting in Higgins today put Hamilton and his party stone cold motherless last. It's important.


Good grief.  Climate change, Marilyn Shepherd, Geoff Pahoff and David Roffey. How many years have passed and how little has changed?  Let the glaciers melt and prepare the sunbeds.  Canada will become a much better bread basket in future. Sweden will have fine wines and ships will navigate where in the past pesky ice got in the way. When I am drinking a fine Swedish pinot noir at the North Pole in 2030 and Marilyn has one foot in the grave, I think we will know who will be smiling at that point.

While we're at nostalgia, whatever happened to Iraq and anti-gravity? I lost track of that story in the first year of the war.  Seems it's not as durable as the climate change hobby horse. Riding the climate change hobby horse high on the soap box. What a fitting re-launch!

Quintuple or nothing

Climate change, Marilyn Shepherd, Geoff Pahoff and David Roffey.

That's one awesome Quadrella we've got going here.

In fact now that David's arrived I guess we can claim we've got a full-on  Super Yankee on the boil.

Candy from babies

On one thread you have the English Government making a full assault on pot for "health reasons". Somebody forgot to tell them that their Prime Idiot gives the world fifty days and counting before doomsday. Something isn't adding up.

On this thread catastrophe is upon us, and the messenger is doing what? finding himself a political career naturally, as of course we all would, couldn't think of any priority higher. Along with getting stoned and doing my health in.

Nothing better than a televangelist when you're watching the flock getting fleeced - those boys (and some girls) have got that style thing in the bucket loads - sure Armageddon is upon us, however that doesn't mean one shouldn't depart in style, with say that classical Rolex.

A catastophic fire every five years

"As we battle blazes here in Victoria, fire-fighters are busy rescuing people from floods in Queensland. Even the "low global warming" scenario will cause a 25 per cent increase in extreme fire days - and catastrophic fire events every five years - in major Victorian country locations in just under 12 years' time. The science suggests we are well on the way to guaranteeing that somewhere in the country there will be an almost annual repeat of the recent disaster and more frequent extreme weather events. Without a massive turnaround in policies, aside from the tragic loss of life and property, we will be asking fire-fighters to put themselves at an unacceptable risk." - Peter Marshall, National Secretary of the United Firefighters Union of Australia, 12 February 2009.

I attended a Melbourne Cup lunch at the Cairns RSL. I couldn't pick a winner but I was surprised when about 35 athletic young men in shorts and singlets walked into the bar. Ladies came from everywhere to admire the view.

A fire truck pulled up outside and the local press gathered for the photo shot.

After the great race a spokesman for this group of police and firemen explained that they had all been involved with the tragic bushfires in Victoria earlier this year. Many of them had taken part in the body identification process. They decided it was time to take action on climate change. He said we can no longer wait for our political leaders to act – we must all act now.

They are running from Cairns to the bushfire areas in Victoria to demand change. Holding town hall meetings with scientists to bring attention to the immediate danger we all face.

I was encouraged that at last climate change was mainstream and ordinary people are making a stand and demanding action.

Congratulations to all that are taking part in this run and may you help bring about the dramatic change in behaviour that this threat demands.

Fun run

John Pratt, the 35 athletic young men in shorts and singlets should be talking to the people in China and India if they want something to happen.

Only when China and India take it seriously will anything happen. Till then we will be conned by Rudd and Wong.

Non violent demonstrations

Our leaders are about to descend on Copenhagen with most pundits predicting that the climate talks will fail. It is time we took up Gandhi's lead to stop major polluters such as the coal industry and factory farming. We must act now and stand up for our children and their children.

I am surprised that we are not seeing protesters closing the mines that export black death to the world.

Where are the young activists?

shakes head in disbelief

Clive Hamilton?

Wasn't he involved with the ALP connected Australia Institute?

Labor is pro development at any costs, and I recall how obstructive he was when folk tried to take on Gunns over rainforest carbon sinks.

What next, Greens... Trish Caswell?

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