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How warm will Warming be?

by David Roffey

I came across Mark Lynas' "Six Degrees: our future on a hotter planet" by way of his handy summary in the Guardian. The book itself will be published in Australia at the beginning of June. It is surprising the task hasn't been undertaken before: what Lynas has done is to read through all of the thousands of scientific papers published over the last few years in the run-up to the IPCC 2007 publication, and provide a summary of the predicted impacts as the world warms by one degree, two degrees, up to the six degrees of the upper end of the range of predictions for this century. This is our doom: almost all climate scientists believe there is essentially no chance of our getting out of this century with less than two degrees of warming, and many think we may be lucky to get away with as little as six degrees if nothing is done (or action is delayed more than a little).

Lynas has provided a detailed summary of his work, so I will concentrate on a few specifics, and highlight some conclusions for Australia. It is interesting that much of the work is sourced from paleoclimatology rather than from climate modelling, which is to say that many conclusions are drawn from looking back rather than forward: for example, at the last interglacial (100,000 years ago) for the two-degree impacts, and the Pliocene (three million years ago) for the three-degree impacts.

Lynas notes that people can be fooled into thinking that 3 to 5 degrees of warming isn't that bad - after all, the days in Sydney are currently ten degrees warmer than the nights (and generally a preferable temperature, at that). But variability is not the same as a higher global average, and the extremes at the higher averages will be much more extreme: for example, the four-degree rise has top summer temperatures increasing by 7 to 9  degrees in many places, bringing a Sydney New Year's Day of 50°C into reach.

We can skip past the one and two degree steps fairly quickly since these outcomes are essentially inevitable: this is what happens even if governments everywhere start concerted action as soon as possible.

A few highlights from the inevitable are worth noting:

  • sub-tropical rain-bearing wind and weather systems will move further from the equator, meaning that drought events like those of the last few years will become more frequent and more prolonged: agricultural yields in the Murray-Darling (and Nebraska) will drop dramatically;
  • about half of Queensland's Wet Tropics will die, along with a large proportion of the species in them; the Great Barrier Reef will bleach, bleach again, die and then dissolve as the oceans absorb carbon dioxide and become more acidic;
  • cyclones will range further south and the combination of higher sea levels and consequent storm surges will wash away many coastal areas built on sand; coal miners who have had their jobs saved by John Howard will have to holiday outside Queensland;
  • at two degrees or above, the Greenland ice shelf will melt: it may take centuries, but a 5-metre or so sea-level rise is coming sooner or later.

The Three-Degree World

Lynas rightly concentrates the longest chapter of his book on Three Degrees. This is the stuff that can still be avoided if we do everything possible in mitigation: wind, solar, geosequestration, high carbon trading prices, lifestyle changes - the whole shooting match (with the possible exception of nuclear, which adds very little for appalling cost). More importantly, this almost certainly becomes inevitable if we waste too many years arguing about the impact on jobs or the relative economics of some of the measures. Without significant and concerted effort, we could be in the three-degree world by 2050.

Many of the key impacts here are driven by the loss of snow cover from all but the highest mountains. Snowcaps store water for the spring, and the replacement of snow with rain will make many rivers alternate between drought and flood, devastating agriculture in many of the world's important regions. The impact may be more than climatic: for example, the loss of the upper Indus would destroy agriculture in the Punjab, leaving nuclear-armed Pakistan without adequate food, and looking across its borders at a northern India that still has irrigation capability ...

Perhaps the most dangerous impact from the snow cover loss is on the Amazon. Its upper tributaries have already gone dry for a time in 2005: regular repeats risk a cycle of drying and fire that could permanently remove the Amazon rainforest from our world. The Amazon rainforest is not like Australia: major fires will leave no viable seeds and starters to regenerate, and the sheer scale of such a fire could release enough carbon to take us on to the next degree of warming.

The Three Degree chapter quotes CSIRO predictions for Australia:

  • days above 35°C in NSW could increase 2- to 7-fold by 2070, while rainfall drops by 25%
  • in northern Victoria, rainfall will drop by up to 40%
  • the Murray-Darling basin will lose between a quarter and half its flow.

There is also the possibility of El Nino events that go on for decades or even the whole century. It's worth quoting verbatim from the bottom of p.134 and the top of p.135:

"The combination of fire, heat and drought will make life in Australia increasingly untenable as the world warms. Farming and food production will tip into irreversible decline. Salt water will creep up the stricken river systems, poisoning groundwater supplies. Higher temperatures mean greater evaporation, further drying out vegetation and soils, and leading to huge losses from dwindling reservoirs stored behind dams.

At the very least, these changes mean big disruptions in everyday life for the average Australian, major economic losses and strict rationing of water. At worst, they may lead to population movements out of areas with too little water, and towards Tasmania and the northern tropical region whose rainfall remains more reliable. Life may simply not be possible in much of the interior as temperatures reach scorching new highs."

But we can all rest easy knowing that it is our PM's considered judgment that it is better to risk all this than it is to risk losing jobs.

Four and Up

The Four Degree world is mostly more of the same: more storms, more drought.However, another direct quote (p.186) is probably worth adding here for Australian readers:

"In addition, none of the continent of Australia - except perhaps the extreme north and Tasmania - will be able to support significant crop production in the four-degree world because of heatwaves and declining rainfall."

I think I might just repeat the core of that, since it is a potential answer to the question "what if we do nothing because of the risk to jobs?":

"none of the continent of Australia ... will be able to support significant crop production in the four-degree world"

The most significant four-degree impact is the potential melting of tundra permafrost, and the consequent release of 500 billion tons of stored carbon as CO2 or methane: potentially making inevitable the move to the Five-Degree world, which we can illustrate by quotes from each end of Lynas' chapter:

"With five degrees of global warming, an entirely new planet comes into being - one largely unrecognisable from the earth we know today. The remaining ice sheets are eventually eliminated from both poles. Rainforests have already burned up and disappeared. Rising sea levels have already inundated coastal cities and are beginning to penetrate far inland into continental interiors. Humans are herded into shrinking zones of habitability by the twin crises of drought and flood. Inland areas see temperatures ten or more degrees higher than now." (p.207)

"I find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that millions, and later billions, of people will die in such a scenario." (p.230)

But this isn't the worst-case scenario: there is one more degree to go before we reach the top of the range of forecasts for this century. Lynas notes that almost no climate scenarios have gone to this level, despite this being within the range of the IPCC standard scenarios. To find analogies, we have to go back to the Cretaceous, between 144 and 65 million years ago. Sea levels were 200 metres above current levels, making some homes in the Blue Mountains deep waterfront. Or, more worryingly (in case you were feeling comfortable at this point), we could go back 250 million years to the end-Permian wipeout. Deserts reached to between 45 and 60 degrees north and south, sea temperatures reached into the high 30s, killing off almost all ocean life. But human releases of carbon dioxide are happening faster than at any of these times - this is good news in terms of the time it will take for the seas to rise and warm, but not good news for any of the other species on the planet.

"Many people, when confronted by such awful possibilities, take refuge in a sort of geological fatalism: the oft-heard refrain that life will go on, with us or without us, and that at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. ...[But] it is far from clear that life will always go on." (p.258)

What Is To Be Done?

This book describes the current best guesses of what the world will be like if it warms as predicted. The last section talks about likelihood and what can be done to change the outcome.

We had all better hope that the current scientific consensus on warming, its causes, and what can be done, is right. If the skeptics are correct, and the warming path is determined by natural forces beyond our control, then the world of four, five or six degrees may indeed be inevitable. However, since there can be no serious doubt that climate change for at least the last half-million years has been closely associated with changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, we can  hope that action is still possible.

The other main skeptical claim, that the climate models are unproven and may be unreliable is more worrying, not least because this view is increasingly being held by climate scientists themselves. But the conclusions they draw from this are very different. Since the connection between greenhouse gas concentrations and climate has been established science for hundreds of years, and is one of the keys to explaining the planet's history for the last half-billion years, there is a missing link here, which is that greenhouse gas concentrations for the last few decades are much higher than they were in those past ages. This means that the climate may be much more sensitive to this than the models conservatively assume, and therefore the time we have left to alter the outcome is much shorter.

Some of this is examined in more detail in other recent books, for example Fred Pearce's "With Speed and Violence: why scientists fear tipping points in climate change". Lynas himself simply states his own informed view that current targets of 550ppm for CO2 and a two-degree warming are incompatible. Since the rest of his book suggests that any warming target above two degrees is indeed "dangerous climate change", he believes that we have to try for lower greenhouse gas targets.

The current Labor and Green targets of 60% and 80% reductions by 2050 in first world countries like Australia are dangerously conservative. George Monbiot in "Heat" suggests a program for a 90% reduction by 2030 without damaging economic growth. Lynas commends this, while suggesting that this is the minimum effort we need.

The balance we have to contemplate is this: is it worth putting some Australian jobs at risk to avoid the risk of having to abandon Australia as a habitable continent by the end of the century? The Prime Minister believes that the jobs mustn't be risked until the outcome is certain, how about you?


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We have come to the end of the road.

"We have come to the end of the road of sustainable development as we know it today. Science alone cannot deal with this. The risk of environmental refugees, the risk of societal collapse is imminent," Mr Rockstroem said.

"We need to make massive changes in the equity and stewardship of the planet which goes way beyond climate change," he said.

As we push the planet to its limits, we continue to ask our leaders to keep our economies in growth. It is a danger to us all, continuous growth is a cancer, as we demand more and more the costs build, we need to focus on equity for all and care of the planet. That will mean the rich will have to share. The rich will have to reduce their demands for goods and reduce their global footprint. So others may live.

Under water Kathy

Kathy Farrelly: Tonight my sister tells me the old family pad at Goulburn is going under water for the first time in 15 years. I suppose the fences will finish up in Warragamba somewhere but no one is complaining. There's been five inches or more this past week so I think I can stop praying for awhile and ask Hughie to go see what you folk need over there. Did you get any out of the last cloudband?

The poor old Murray is still in dire straights but I reckon the depressions off the coast might start sending a bit into that catchment this winter so I hope so for the sake of the whole country.

Sorry editors, I better shut down for the night, think I'm over the limit and would not want to be charged but I just had to tell Kathy the good news.

Richard:  "Charged?"  This one's on the House. 




I am so very happy that you guys have had so much rain, Jen. We still need much more over here in the west. But we have had a small start. Need follow up rains. So don't stop praying my girl!

Hey Jen. My little 6 year old bloke (who is just learning to swim) competed in the "Dolphin Olympics" on Sunday. Every child participating wins a medal. They step onto a dais after the event and they are congratulated as a medal is placed around their necks. They also get a can of soft drink and potato chips.

It was wonderful and heartening to see so many children (mostly with disabilities such as Downs, cerebral palsy and autism) enthusiastically participating. Their excitement was palpable. One little Downs girl punched the air as she stepped onto the number one, dais beaming from ear to ear!

I have to tell you much of the time my eyes were filled with tears. It was just SUCH a joyous and deeply touching sight to behold! How such children with varying disabilities can be so happy with so little, really, is certainly a lesson for us all. We who have so much, and are still never satisfied.

Truly a profoundly humbling experience.

One's troubles certainly pale into insignificance.

Dolphin olympics

Kathy: You are so right. It never ceases to amaze me how children, and adults with sometimes severe disabilities can seem to find so much joy in life despite that disability. I grew up with a cousin my own age who was Downs Syndrome and back then, such children were often just shut away out of sight. But my aunt raised the boy on her farm and he was always laughing and learned so many skills, such as playing the organ for church, under her care. He and I used to play a lot together and while I knew he had a problem, it never got in the way of our fun. Our mother had taught us to treat him as we would any other person. Mind you I was a bit cross the day we fell out and he pushed me into a rose bush and I got a thorn in my little head, but my mother just told me, he didn't mean to hurt me. So we were friends again instantly.

My aunt was much older than my mother, her sister, and had nursed her when she was a baby, as the older child often had to do. I have her diaries in which she even described my mother's first steps. She looked after her disabled son till she died and then my mother took him in. Ultimately he took charge of his own life and lived with a disabled friend for many years so I think it was often underestimated back then the extent to which such children can take charge of their own lives. He was 50 when he died.

I can really relate to what you wrote in another comment about how you loved your little fellow just as he is, that he is special. That is exactly how we used to feel about my cousin. Everyone loved him, just as he was. I still have his hand written music which I often play. I am currently writing a book about that side of the family and he and my aunt have a whole chapter in it. When it is finished I will send you a copy if you would like.  

My best friend down in Canberra, we go back 40 years now, has a Phd in Clinical Psychology and she has worked for over twenty years with autistic children, and children with similar disabilities. She is probably one of the leading people in that field over here. And Ian and I have had to deal with the mental health system a lot in the past 15 years over two close relatives. It is a real battle to make the system work but you would know that. I feel for those people who are less assertive than ourselves.

The rain seems to have gone, and the water was not deep enough to do any damage so we are so grateful for this break at last even though we no longer farm at the old place. But the old homestead elm trees that were dying will now hopefully revive. We did lose about 90 trees there but have replanted with bore water but they just stood still. It is was good soaking rain they need and now they have it. Out west where we do still farm there has also been good rain. I hope WA gets some soon.

Better go. Day is getting away.  All the best my dear.


Thanks Jenny!

Thanks Jenny, I certainly would love a copy of your book when it is finished. My email is rorkat@bigpond.net.au Drop me a line then, and I will send some money to cover the cost of the book and postage..

Yes, Downs Syndrome people are very happy and loving people Jen.

 My husband's younger sister has Downs' and she is a hoot. The life of the party. Got a memory like an elephant too!

There is only one criticism I can make of her. She's a damn Hawthorn supporter!!

 Cassie sits in front of the television whenever the Hawks are playing wearing the club scarf and cheering them on...The only time I ever see her grumpy is when her team loses ....But even then, it's not for long.

 She is good naturedly ribbed about her team by her four brothers too, and gives as good as she gets!

When she was born 40 years ago the doctor told  my mother-in-law that she would not live long. My in- laws were devastated.. But look.. here she is, still going strong and as sharp as a tack.

My father-in-law died two years ago,so Cassie(she has always lived at home) has been a great comfort to her mother.It's hard not to be happy around Cassie. She has a great sense of humour and is always smiling.

Cassie is a great fan of "Abba,"who have long since disbanded, so as a birthday suprise I bought tickets to see "Bjorn Again"an Australian group who imitate "Abba "and sing their songs.

Well, I'll never forget that look on her face when she saw those tickets.. You'd have thought that I'd given her a million dollars.She danced around the room singing and laughing for joy..

 The memory of that moment is idelibly etched in   my mind!

Oh.. and Cassie makes a wicked Banana cake too!

We all get a banana cake baked for us on birthdays

Cassie and all that

Kathy: Well Cassie could have been our Bobbie. He was much the same and really had a mind of his own. He too loved music and spent much of his pension on records and going to the football with his mate. Yes, my aunt was also told her son would not have a long life, but he did. I am sure the care he had at home played a large part in that.

Thanks for the email.  I will email mine to you and the book will come out sometime next year if I get my act together and stay off WD a bit more! And no need to pay. We self publishers are only too happy to have one less in a box to store. Though I confess to a little triumph that my first book is now a rare book. The second is selling fast through the old home. Might send you that as a foretaste but is is not such a serious book as my first, and this later one which is the first I actually have to do all the writing of myself. The others were basically compilations of my fathers' writings. One historical, one verse and creative prose.

Have some rellies over there (in Nedlands)I hope to visit next year so maybe we might get to meet up. Always wanted to travel the Nullabor but have been putting it off due to farm pressures these past years.

Looks like the Snowy area is getting good rains today so maybe the Murray dams will get a boost to allow some irrigation water next summer and there is good snow I believe. But it will take a few years of good rains and snow melts to replenish those big storages I imagine. But at least we know now it can rain again.

Cheers for now.

What makes wars start?

Earlier this year Britain used its presidency of the UN Security Council to lead its first debate on climate change and conflict. "What makes wars start?" asked the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett. "Fights over water. Changing patterns of rainfall. Fights over food production, land use. There are few greater potential threats... to peace and security itself."

The two major areas of potential conflict, Mr Steiner said, are the Sahel region and east Asia. "In the next 35 years most of the glaciers in the Himalayas will... disappear. You are talking of 500 million people being affected directly and another 250 million people affected downstream." Rising sea levels off the coast of Bangladesh are another potential area for conflict, he said. "India has already started building a wall to stop Bangladeshis coming across. The predicted half-a-metre sea level rise means 34 million people not being able to stay where they are now. Where will they go? They will break through the boundaries."

But Africa is likely to suffer most. Rising sea levels could destroy up to 30 per cent of the continent's coastline, while between 25 and 40 per cent of Africa's natural habitats could be lost by 2085. Conflicts caused by a scarcity of resources are already brewing across Africa. In Ghana clashes between farmers and Fulani herders have become more widespread as resources have become increasingly scarce. In the Mount Elgon region of Kenya more than 40,000 people have been displaced as different tribes fought over access to land.

Climate change will also cause problems post-conflict. According to the UNEP report on Darfur, the majority of those displaced by the conflict will never be able to return to their homes. "We have moved beyond a point of return," Mr Steiner said.

Global warming is leading us into a very uncertain future. Millions of people will become refugees. Until we accept climate change as a reality we will never be able to agree to the actions necessary to alleviate the problems we will face. We have been warned of the crisis that we face, but still there is very little forward planning. The longer we delay taking action, the greater the suffering will be.

Forget global warming, it's no longer a problem.

Ian, speaking of GW deniers, how's this for a member of the flat earth society?

In fact, there is every doubt whether any global warming at all is occurring at the moment, let alone human-caused warming.

For leading politicians to be asserting to the contrary indicates something is very wrong with their chain of scientific advice, for they are clearly being deceived. That this should be the case is an international political scandal of high order which, in turn, raises the question of where their advice is coming from.

In Australia, the advice trail leads from government agencies such as the CSIRO and the Australian Greenhouse Office through to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations. says Prof Bob Carter JCU.

We pay this blokes wages, has he not looked out the window?

See here:Glacial Retreat

Marine biologists are seeing signs of climate change in Tasmania.

Scientists believe they have discovered proof that global warming has altered Tasmania's marine environment.

There is clear evidence of changes in the composition of the greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere. Ice core samples show that both carbon dioxide and methane levels are higher than at any time in the past 160,000 years.

Among the findings were:

  • Eleven of the last twelve years (1995-2006) rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850).
  • Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely (90%+ probability) due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.
  • The average temperature of the global ocean has increased to depths of at least 3000 m and that the ocean has been absorbing more than 80% of the heat added to the climate system. Such warming causes seawater to expand, contributing to sea level rise.
  • Mountain glaciers and snow cover have declined on average in both hemispheres. Widespread decreases in glaciers and ice caps have contributed to sea level rise
  • Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 mm per year over 1961 to 2003. The rate was faster over 1993 to 2003, about 3.1 mm per year.
  • Average Arctic temperatures increased at almost twice the global average rate in the past 100 years.
  • More intense and longer droughts have been observed over wider areas since the 1970s, particularly in the tropics and subtropics.
  • Widespread changes in extreme temperatures have been observed over the last 50 years. Cold days, cold nights and frost have become less frequent, while hot days, hot nights, and heat waves have become more frequent
  • The global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from a pre-industrial value of about 280 ppm to 379 ppm in 2005. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years (180 to 300 ppm) as determined from ice cores.
  • The primary source of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial period results from fossil fuel use, with land use change providing another significant but smaller contribution. Annual fossil carbon dioxide emissions increased from an average of 23.5 Gt CO2 per year in the 1990s, to 26.4 Gt CO2 per year in 2000-2005.
  • The global atmospheric concentration of methane has increased from a pre-industrial value of about 715 ppb to 1732 ppb in the early 1990s, and is 1774 ppb in 2005.
  • The combined radiative forcing due to increases in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide is +2.30 W/m2, and its rate of increase during the industrial era is very likely to have been unprecedented in more than 10,000 years.

This blokes think that there is every doubt that global warming is  occurring. Where is his proof? This is science and we demand proof.

What will you tell your children?

There's no stopping global warming,says Ziggy Switkowski.

We are living through a significant warming period largely driven by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from our use of fossil fuels such as coal, gas and petrol.The vivid depictions of the consequences of a warmer environment (droughts, water shortages, bleached corals, receding glaciers, melting icebergs, species destruction, rising sea levels, more intense cyclones) are consistent with the scientific analyses.To limit temperature increases to below 3 degrees (beyond which climate models suggest dangerously unstable global conditions occur) by the end of the century requires changing the trajectory of global emissions, from a possible doubling by 2050 to a level 60 per cent below the 1990 level.

Ziggy, Howard's appointed expert says we must limit global temperature increases to below 3 degrees or face dangerous unstable global conditions.To do this we have to get to  GHG emissions to a level  60 percent below the 1990 level by 2050. Australia is currently making 23 billion dollars per annum from the sale of coal, which is poisoning the planet. If we were to stop our export of coal, the price of coal would go up world wide, this would make alternative energy more viable. The truth is that Australia can make a difference world wide we just have to get serious. I don't want to leave my kids a dangerous unstable globe, do you?

Ziggy and his critics

John: Ziggy will get attacked by this smug demagogue because he is not a fellow GW denier. Note, denier rather than skeptic, because a skeptic on a matter this serious would still favour erring on the side of caution.

At the same time, Ziggy's understandable commitment to nuclear power (he is, after all, a nuclear physicist) will expose him to the charge laid by many other physicists that nuclear power is a phantom solution to the GW crisis. As peak oil bites ever deeper and affects the price of everything, nuclear power if invested in heavily can only yield an energy outcome that is too little, too late, and too off target.

One need only read Clive Hamilton's latest book Scorcher, the Dirty Politics of Climate Change to lose down any doubts that the federal government is playing a wild, dangerous and manipulative game on this; pushing two of the most dodgy 'solutions' in the unproven technology of geosequestration and a nuclear power program.

The literature on GW is burgeoning, and it is a full time job keeping up with it. I am at present reading Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers (2005) and The Greenhouse Challenge (1989) by Jim Falk and Andrew Brownlow. Both highly recommendable.

Pray for rain

Hey Jenny, so very happy that you are finally getting some rain. Will keep praying that Hughie keeps sending her down for you guys!.

My boots may be muddy, but I truly believe in the power of prayer. It has certainly made a difference in my (not so perfect!) life.

Now I hope you will reciprocate and pray for our farmers here in the West.. They are desperately in need of rain.

One I know is so demoralised and disheartened, that he is about throw it all in and just walk away...

Very sad...

I will Kathy

Kathy: Thanks and that I will. I did not realise WA was so very dry as well. We still have some very dry parts and we did not get as much as we are going to need, but we are so grateful for the prospect of a decent season at last. Our neighbours too were in despair and ready to quit, and it will be a long road back given the levels of debt and for many the rains have sadly come too late.

But I spare also a thought for those people around Maitland. What a disaster after long years of drought. The big Maitland floods of the 40s/50s were always as bad if not worse than those that drove our family, and many others as well, off the Macleay in the late 1940s.   And now another generation of farmers are facing ruin. 

Then there is the trauma to communities of those who are lost. I can to this day still see the empty seat in our classroom even though I was only 8 at the time of the really big one.  No one ever said anything, there was just this strange silence between a classroom full of kids, with a shared knowledge of something about which we could not speak. At least these days children are encouraged to talk about death and loss and with that train disaster and now this it will be so important, otherwise bad memories will follow them all their days.

Yes I will pray for rain for the west, and mud on all our boots my dear.

Hybrid cars the go, Jenny

 See Hybrid cars the go.

Jenny, you're right, maybe those who work and live in rural areas should be allowed to keep their existing SUV's. I am suggesting that one of the ways to help us to move into more fuel efficient cars  would be for the government  to  legislate in favour of  Hybrid cars.  I am sure a Hybrid SUV will be on the market before too long.

We have to become more efficient in our use of fossil fuels. One way we can hasten the process is for the government to set the standards on new vehicles and to give financial encouragement  for motorists to change. I see that Rudd has recently swapped his Ford Territory  for a  Toyota Prius.

Margo: Well done with the link, John. Did you write in the comments box on this one, and if so, did all go well? While I'm on the subject of Webdiary style, I like the first mention of a fellow contributor to be in bold.

Ban SUV's and we all win.

Paul Morrella, some of us may enjoy SUV’s. I am pointing out that when we purchase these vehicles and fill the tanks, somewhere else on the planet the price of food goes up and people starve. It is how the market works. The market’s care factor is zero. Now that in its self may not motivate anyone to change, but combine that with the climate change and its threat to the entire human race. Then I think we should legislate to reduce the fuel consumption of our vehicles. I am not saying that ethanol should be subsidised.

Most of the GHG pollution has come from developed nations such as the US and Australia.  Fossil fuels have made us rich and we should use that money to develop alternative energy and efficiency.  The countries who have made the mess should bare the brunt of the clean up. Regarding the use of the remaining oil reserves, I am sure we will not wean ourselves off oil for a few decades, we have already used up at least half of the known reserves. If any of our kids survive the next hundred years maybe they would like some oil to serve the needs of future generations.

I do not agree that it is a no win situation. If we drive more fuel efficient vehicles we save money (a win). We reduce our GHG emissions (a win). Food prices in the developing world fall (a win).

Now just a minute John

John: Now just a minute my friend. While I can't see why all those folks in the city really need an SUV, spare a thought for those of us who have to navigate the western plains after a few points of rain. Before the big dry set in I was a nervous wreck as I was told all too often to shut up and just let me just concentrate on driving as we spun, slid and fishtailed our way, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards, but mostly sideways into the property in slimy black mud. Many was the time when the old pinty wagon came to rest in the middle of the night and we had to trudge the rest of the way in the pitch dark, and pouring rain.

Since we got the SUV life has been a lot less scary, and it is amazing what it can pull and carry when it has to.

And now rain has returned to the plains, (hopefully to stay awhile), we are going to depend on that mean machine again to get us in, and to get us out. With the nearest doctor 80ks away there is nothing worse than wondering if you will make it to the bitumen or not. Now we know we probably can thanks to the SUV.

Cheers and yes, the rains are here at last. Things are definitely looking up on the western plains.

Business And Energy

Any person of the belief that climate and alternative energy is treated as a joke by business. See http://english.people.com.cn/200512/02/eng20051202_225287.html

The new division, BP Alternative Energy, will invest 8 billion US dollars in solar, wind, hydrogen and combined-cycle-gas-turbine (CCGT) power generation in next 10 years.

This is just one major energy supplier. Tobacco companies did not go out of business because smoking became anti-social. IMB did not go out of business with the invention of the computer. Boeing because of the jet engine etc.

Climate change has been called a religion of the wealthy. If this is so, it is a very profitable one. And one that will mean mega bucks, for those that own and control the technology, to solve the problem. Nobody in positions of power is thinking about slowing world growth. On the contrary, those in the know are thinking of guilt free, and very profitable ways to supply the continuation of it. And no doubt with amounts of money being poured in, a solution will be found.

Some Questions John

Who is "we", John? I would suggest that if the "we", did not like SUV's there would not be a problem to begin with. And given the "we" seems to enjoy them, why would they push for them to be banned?

Have you considered the problem is not that rich people drive SUV's, it is rather non-rich people drive them? For one there would not be a need for a ethanol subsidy, if people could easily afford gas prices. There would also not be a need, if farmers were making huge profits from their products. Personally, I would rather see a ban on ethanol subsidies, and I think it would be much more effective. In this case the market would really decide that the SUV trend would change. It would simply not be affordable for many to drive them in current form.

Your link is interesting because it is a no win situation. If oil is up, poor people apparently miss out on food. If the oil price is down, farmers miss out on a living. And I thought ethanol was meant to be helpful for the environment? So I am not really sure what solution this article is proposing? Would you be in favour of banning the ethanol subsidy?

John Pratt:

Capitalist greed is causing the cost of food to rise dramatically. Every time we fill our tanks we should remember the effect we have on global poverty and food security.

So would you suggest greedy capitalists, not invest in alternative energy, in case they make a profit? Having dealt with the SUV problem, what would you suggest the developing world does to improve their pollution levels? Also, what would you suggest happens to large parts of the Middle East when oil is made redundant?

Biofuel Market to Starve Millions

Paul, here is an example of the market at work. The rich putting fuel in there SUV’s are killing the children of the poor. Capitalism fails to protect the weak. Legislation is what is needed.

The push for ethanol and other biofuels has spawned an industry that depends on billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies, and not only in the United States. In 2005, global ethanol production was 9.66 billion gallons, of which Brazil produced 45.2 percent (from sugar cane) and the United States 44.5 percent (from corn). Global production of biodiesel (most of it in Europe), made from oilseeds, was almost one billion gallons.

The industry's growth has meant that a larger and larger share of corn production is being used to feed the huge mills that produce ethanol. According to some estimates, ethanol plants will burn up to half of U.S. domestic corn supplies within a few years. Ethanol demand will bring 2007 inventories of corn to their lowest levels since 1995 (a drought year), even though 2006 yielded the third-largest corn crop on record. Iowa may soon become a net corn importer.

The enormous volume of corn required by the ethanol industry is sending shock waves through the food system. (The United States accounts for some 40 percent of the world's total corn production and over half of all corn exports.) In March 2007, corn futures rose to over $4.38 a bushel, the highest level in ten years. Wheat and rice prices have also surged to decade highs, because even as those grains are increasingly being used as substitutes for corn, farmers are planting more acres with corn and fewer acres with other crops.

Filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires over 450 pounds of corn - which contains enough calories to feed one person for a year. By putting pressure on global supplies of edible crops, the surge in ethanol production will translate into higher prices for both processed and staple foods around the world. Biofuels have tied oil and food prices together in ways that could profoundly upset the relationships between food producers, consumers, and nations in the years ahead, with potentially devastating implications for both global poverty and food security.

Capitalist greed is causing the cost of food to rise dramatically. Every time we fill our tanks we should remember the effect we have on global poverty and food security.

We should immediately force our politicians to ban vehicles that have fuel consumption less than 40 miles per gallon. Every day we delay, kids will starve.

Global Investment The Answer

Ian MacDougall, the thing is doing something about it for an individual nation is not that hard. Depending of course, on who that nation is. One merely has to ship the problem elsewhere. And in fact that is what is happening, with places such as China and India helping the process. This same process works in a smaller degree within nations. Take for example California. It merely buys its energy needs out of state, shipping the problem and bad figures onto someone else. That is why, without the help of China and India, whatever your Prime Minister chooses to do is rather pointless in the larger scheme of things.

The Hamilton figures seem rather hard to accept on face value. The reason: If every country decides to do something (excluding India, China etc) the problem is merely shuffled around, not removed. That, Ian, is the major problem. It would be an incredible act of futility, destroying your entire energy sector, for absolutely no world gain. Europe of course does not have this concern, being as they are not an energy product supplier. The lack of accountability for nations such as India and China in the Kyoto agreement, made it the most meaningless piece of paper I have ever come across. It was also this lack of accountability, that gave rise to suspicion that this thing was more economic based than enviromental. Giving, as you hint, the Prime Minister an excuse not to do something about it.

John Pratt:

I think we need leadership to bring us back from the brink. I don’t want to gamble with the market for my grandkids future.

Sorry John, you are gambling with market based outcomes. Raising taxes is a direct market gamble. What you are hoping is that price rises will curtail output, slowing enviromental degradation. Neither of these things will happen with tax rises. The costs will merely be passed on, and the consumer will be reimbursed through either direct (indirect) subisidy or spending cuts made elsewhere.

The biggest problem with alternative energy is making itequally or more profitible than current products. Once this is the case, it will replace all fossil fuels. The market is the only thing that can supply the massive capital needed to make this happen. This in fact, is already happening through indexes such as the nasdaq. That is why large corporations and their investors will still control energy into the future. In fact, because of rampant capitalism and a supplied business friendly enviroment (compared to say Europe), North American companies are getting a head start, against the rest of the pack.

Globalisation and global investment will solve these problems, not governments. Business and the direct benefits, good business supplies, is the only thing that possibly can.

La Niña on our doorstep

Well, the rains are here and the predicted La Niña appears to be on our doorstep at long last. Seven weary years seem to be coming to a close. But there will probably be only about three years at most to try and get some liquidity back into rural properties before the next dry hits, and many farmers who were in their fifties when it all went belly up are now in their sixties and rather tired of it all. The exodus from rural properties, I suspect, is about to accelerate as those just waiting for the drought to break in order to sell will now not waste any time.

There is a saying in the bush that if you stay in during the good seasons, then you will have to be sure you want to stay through the next and inevitable drought. If you cannot face that prospect, then get out while you can. A lot will be thinking right now about getting out, of that I am sure.

How nice though to know the crop is in and to hear that rain on the old tin roof. May it continue to fall well into the spring, and then fine up for a bumper harvest. Ironically the last big rains were 10 inches in November 2000, slap bang in the middle of harvesting a bumper crop. And much of it finished up being shot and sprung and devalued on delivery. Let us hope that does not happen this year. Farmers everywhere desperately need this crop.

But right now, we are all smiling. We'll not worry about tomorrow till we have to.

But what is the bet the global warming sceptics will see this as evidence that the big dry then wet was just a normal cycle of events. Howard is no doubt smiling right now too, but for all the wrong reasons.

Not Globalisation?

John Pratt, I cannot vote in Australia, so any political spin is wasted on me - would not listen anyway.

Forgive me if I am wrong; however Australia causes about 1% of greenhouse gases? I would be most interested in knowing how you think John Howard, or any Australian is making a difference? What is it you think governments could do better than the market? How would this work in practice?

From your writing, it would be a fair assumption that John Howard's opponent has a solution: So what is it?

Australia's Greenhouse Emissions

Paul Morella, as far as I am aware every country in the world makes a less than 50% contribution to the total of global greenhouse gas emissions. Australia contributes from memory about 1.4% of the total, and our Prime Minister likes to use this as an excuse for not doing anything - an inactivity at which he is something of a Grand Master.

As Clive Hamilton has recently pointed out in his new book Scorcher, if the world had 72 countries each contributing 1.4% of the total CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, that would be the full 100%. Yet they could all join Howard in claiming that their contributions were so insignificant as to hardly make any difference, and therefore business should be as usual.

This would be yet another politicians' finger pointing circus were the stakes not so high and the need for decisive action so urgent. A 90% reduction in CO2 emission by 2050 is what a number of authorities are advocating to avoid runaway greenhouse. On the other side of the ledger, if we take this year as a base year, that means a reduction CO2 tonnage equal to 2% of this year's output, per year, till 2050. A challenge, but by no means impossible.

Chuck the slackers to the sharks!

Paul Morella: “The Hamilton figures seem rather hard to accept on face value. The reason: If every country decides to do something (excluding India, China etc) the problem is merely shuffled around, not removed. That, Ian, is the major problem.”

I disagree. If every country save India and China were to embark on serious CO2 emission constraints, and China and India refused to join, the answer would be simple: serious trade sanctions on both those countries until they came to the party. This I believe goes some way towards explaining John Howard’s recent about face on the climate change issue: he and Bush have up to now been the lone dissenters on Kyoto. Now Howard is no longer in open denial on climate change, is making accommodating noises, but at the same time is continuing to do nothing. (See here.) That is Howard in top gear.

If the issue were theoretical only, most people would be able to go about their normal business and leave the climatologists to argue it out in journals and conferences. But here in Australia, towns have been drying up and progressively tightening water restrictions, the Murray-Darling basin, which is the nation’s food bowl, has a river system fast reducing to a chain of waterholes: climate change has well and truly entered mass consciousness. Politicians now ignore it at their peril.

Australia’s disdainful attitude towards Kyoto has already raised the ire of the signatories to Kyoto, and on present trends, Australia probably faces sanctions if it stays out.

It is possible that some time around 20-30 years ago, the Earth passed quietly through a climate tipping point, whose effects are now amplified enough to create alarm. Each year has an above average chance of being the hottest and/or driest ever in recorded history.

Perceptions are important. Thanks to the atmosphere, which has been globalised since its very beginning, we are all in the same boat, whether we like it or not. The Earth is a longboat with 6 billion oars, and each human being on the planet is sitting on the end of one. All rowers within the ship are organised into teams called nations.

It soon becomes obvious who is rowing forwards, who is resting on their oar, and who is rowing backwards. With each passing year, it will become less easy for the disharmoniously inclined.

What Howard should do.

Paul Morrella, you’re not sure what the Prime Minister can do. How about this for a start?

Sign Kyoto, so we can work with the rest of the world, towards reducing GHG emissions globally.

Bring in legislation to make our cars, houses, factories, and appliances more efficient. 

Reduce our GHG emissions per capita to below the world average instead of in the top five of the world’s worst polluters.

Bring in a tax on GHG emissions and use the money raised to develop new technologies such as Geo thermal, wave power to replace all coal burning power stations.     

The market and greed has led us to a situation where survival of the human race is at risk.

I think we need leadership to bring us back from the brink. I don’t want to gamble with the market for my grandkids future.


John Pratt, signing Kyoto will do nothing, and any normal thinking person knows this. Labor is saying it will sign Kyoto just so it can get some of the Green preferences. Why, I wonder, hasn't Rudd come out and complained about NSW Labor giving the go-ahead for another coal mine on the Central Coast? The reason is they are a bunch of hypocrites. If you want to secure a future for your grandchildren, don't vote Labor – it’s the best thing you can do for them.

Yes, Global Capitalism Will Solve This Problem Too

John Pratt: “Howard and Bush can use all the delaying tactics they like but the planet continues to warm faster than predicated. Many scientists are finding the rate of warming scary. What if the science has been too conservative and the planet increases to temperatures above the 6 degrees that is currently predicated? We are gambling with the future of the human race, if ever there was a need to act it is now. Who will care about the economy when the planet is uninhabitable?”

Firstly, I am not sure what the Australian Prime Minister is meant to do. I am led to believe Australia causes about 1% of the world greenhouse problems. George Bush, it could be argued, is in a different situation.

My point would be: Why look at government to solve the problems? One look at an index like the NASDAQ tells one that money is pouring into renewable energy from all over the globe. This thing is becoming a right little capitalists’ dream. There is no reason to think in years to come that large oil companies, amongst others, cannot switch to control this industry. Oil is sought at the moment, because it makes profit. If and probably when (the market will demand it) renewable energy gets to this stage, it will be the preferred instrument of capitalism. The amounts being poured into it bode well for the future.

There is nothing with renewable energy that any government can take care of any better than a globalised capitalist system. Capitalism caused the need for renewable energy, and it will be global capitalism that supplies and profits from that need. More is solved on the NASDAQ in one day, than all the government talk fests rolled into one.

Panic stations

John Pratt, thanks for the Age cross post. The whole article is here if anyone wants to read it.

"The rush of new water leaves scientists with crucial questions about how much sea levels could rise and whether the system of ocean currents that ensures Western Europe's mild winters could shut down."

That is indeed the crucial question. So, if you have the answer?

David R: current best estimates are between 5 and 12 metres on the sea-level rise side, and "probably not" on the shut-down of the NATHC aka Gulf Stream (or at least not soon enough for Europe to cool much before the warming heads on up)

Ice caps melting faster than predicted

As politicians squabble over how to act on climate change, Greenland's icecap is melting faster than scientists had thought possible. A new island in East Greenland is a clear sign of how the place is changing. It was dubbed Warming Island by US explorer Dennis Schmitt when he found in 2005 that it had emerged from beneath the ice. If the icecap melts entirely, oceans would rise by seven metres. A total meltdown would take centuries, but global warming — which climate experts blame mainly on human use of fossil fuels — is heating the Arctic faster than anywhere else on Earth. Greenland, the world's largest island, is mostly covered by an icecap of about 2.6 million cubic kilometres which accounts for a 10th of all the fresh water in the world.

Over the past 30 years, its melt zone has expanded by 30 per cent. Now the cap loses 100 to 150 cubic kilometres of ice every year — more than all the ice in the Alps.

"Some people are scared to discover the process is running faster than the models," said Konrad Steffen, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Greenland expert who serves on a US Government advisory committee on abrupt climate change.

In the past 15 years, winter temperatures have risen about five degrees on the cap, while spring and autumn temperatures increased about three degrees.

Swiss-born Dr Steffen is one of dozens of scientists who have peppered the Greenland icecap with instruments to measure temperature, snowfall and the movement, thickness and melting of the ice.

The more the surface melts, the faster the ice sheet moves towards the ocean. The glacier that Swiss Camp rests on has doubled its speed to about 15 kilometres a year in the past 12 years, while its tongue retreated 10 kilometres into the fjord.

"It is scary," Dr Steffen said. "This is only Greenland. But Antarctica and glaciers around the world are responding as well."

The rush of new water leaves scientists with crucial questions about how much sea levels could rise and whether the system of ocean currents that ensures Western Europe's mild winters could shut down.


Howard and Bush can use all the delaying tactics they like but the planet continues to warm faster than predicated. Many scientists are finding the rate of warming scary. What if the science has been too conservative and the planet increases to temperatures above the 6 degrees that is currently predicated? We are gambling with the future of the human race, if ever there was a need to act it is now. Who will care about the economy when the planet is uninhabitable?

Its the environment not the economy.

Mr Howard said Labor's climate change policies posed a major threat to the economy. Climate change may have been framed as an environmental issue, but it is really overwhelmingly an economic issue because if we get the targets wrong, if we get the pace of change wrong, if we get these decisions wrong and we burden the Australian community with higher electricity prices than ought otherwise be the case, we will do enormous damage to Australian industry and inflict great pain on Australian households, because that is the essence.

"Do you really want to hand this over to a group of people who've flirted with, via their environment spokesman, Peter Garrett, the ludicrous proposition that you would cut emissions by 20 per cent by the year 2020?" he asked.


No Mr. Howard it is an environmental problem. If we get the targets wrong we could destroy the planet. It would be better to be cautious and have higher targets than risk the catastrophic results predicted if we get it wrong.  Peter Garrett is right we could reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, just by becoming more efficient in our use of energy.

told y'so!

Subtitle: history teaches...


I invite you to check this story out:

«Tropical storms 'distribute ocean's heat'
4.54am (AEST) HURRICANES and typhoons play a significant role in distributing the ocean's heat, said US researchers, who believe they have uncovered a major, but hitherto-ignored aspect of global warming.»

[theAus/Breaking News]

My comment: Haw! (Hitherto-ignored, indeed.)

I allow myself to quote myself:

Greenhouse - not "if", but "how bad"?

«Dear Sir,
  Your article "Self-interest key to greenhouse" (page 9 CT 7 Mar) misses the point entirely. Trading in carbon credits is not just a furphy; it is exactly equivalent to "fiddling while Rome burns". The only possible way to reverse the effects of too much CO2 in the atmosphere is to reduce emissions to such an extent that the CO2 content begins to fall, and continues falling until a level is reached which would allow the biosphere to recover. The ultimate consequences of failure to do so are really too dreadful to consider: run-away greenhouse, not just making us a bit uncomfortable but reducing agricultural yields; warming on such a scale that the ice-caps melt causing seas to rise, altogether massive disruption to (human) life.

Some commentators claim that there is no proof that increasing CO2 levels will cause a calamity, but CO2 in the atmosphere is known to affect solar heat retention; the more CO2 the more heat retained. Our weather is a vast machine basically driven by the heat difference between equatorial regions and the poles; you don't have to be a rocket-scientist to see that if you add more heat to the system you will get more weather.

My self-interest in the matter is to continue "life as we know it" by clever integration with our biosphere - but not "business as usual" with its implied continued burning of (fossil) fuels at a rate which could lead to the destruction of our habitat.»

[eml to CT/HYS, Wednesday, March 07, 2001 09:22]

Carefully note the date.

Howard&Co have suddenly 'woken up' to climate change. As a part of their 'normal' cynical (and filthy) lying, they say "We're meeting our (reduction?) targets!"

My comment: Haw again!

The targets they talk about are, of course, no reduction - but an increase, this 'increase' having been the 'price' for Aus participation in the Kyoto accord - which Aus then refused to ratify.

All the talk now is of 'carbon trading,' whereby they will hand yet another rip-off mechanism to the commercial sector.

A tax is needed; no 'market' will act against itself. But we won't get a tax - that's too hard; what we'll get is a situation where the greedastrophe® becomes unavoidable.

Then it's gunna be "Goodbye, cruel world." But no, not "to join a circus," but straight down the tor-let® tubes.

Howard needs to call an election today!

An alarming new report on the impact of climate change in Victoria has warned of risks to some of our most basic services and necessities — including water, electricity, transport, telecommunications and buildings.”

First reports are now coming in with what our future holds. Howard needs to move out of the way now. Call and election today and lets get on with tackling the effects of Climate Change!

Real threats ignored!

“AT least one billion people risk fleeing their homes over the next four decades because of conflicts and natural disasters that will worsen with global warming, a relief agency warned today.

In a report, British-based Christian Aid said countries worldwide, especially the poorest, are now facing the greatest forced migration ever - one that will dwarf those displaced by World War II.”

See here: Oz

Where is the strategic planning to cope with this likely outcome of global warming?

While Howard and Bush focus on “Terror” the real threat to the future of our kids is ignored.

Billions wasted on terrror, Howard ignores the real threat

General manager of Central Darling Shire Council Bill O'Brien said Wilcannia, once the third largest inland port in Australia, would have no water left in its weir in about a month and would have to switch to using salty bore water.

"The alternative was to try to buy water from Menindee, if any was available, and truck it in tankers over 165 kilometres of dirt roads at a cost of about $25,000 a week," Mr O'Brien said.”

Howard does nothing while our outback dies!

This is what one degree of global warming does. What will happen if these areas never see a decent rain again? Where is the planning? Unless we act now many more cities will go. The cost will be enormous.

Fighting the war on terror has cost Australian taxpayers more than $20 billion since September 2001.

The Federal Government alone has spent or committed more than $11.5 billion on domestic and international counter-terrorism measures, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Forget chasing shadows all over the world: we have a real and present danger at home!

“Australian Government mental health and suicide-prevention programs would provide timely support for people in rural Australia who are under increased stress at a time of severe drought, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne, said today.

"The Government is concerned that hardships increase for farm families when they have to face the extremes of flood and drought," Mr Pyne said today.

"These place high demands on all family members - particularly when these people are in relative isolation from support services."

"More than $8 million in funding will be spent over the next three years on 17 projects that target suicide prevention in rural and remote communities," Mr Pyne said.”

More Australians will die as a result of drought than any terrorist threat, yet we spend billions on terror and just 8 million on suicide prevention.

John : Something to cheer you up !

Hi John, Cheer up ! ... All is not lost .... (yet ... ?)

(Our "resident" "terror threat")...Prime Minister John Howard would lose his seat in federal parliament to Labor candidate Maxine McKew if the election was held today, a new poll shows.


Unicorn repellant

Jenny Hume,  Wagga had regular, disruptive  floods, so that the council, in desperation, built its own flood-free bridge in the 1980s.

The money might have been as well spent on unicorn repellants.  There has been no flooding since 1974.

1974 and a thin blue line

F Kendall, yes I remember the Wagga floods of that time. 1974 seems to have been a turning point as that was Goulburn's last big flood year too. It's been all downhill since then.

Local councils are stabbing in the dark but they are at least trying to get a fix on the whole issue. So on the basis that weather events were predicted to be less frequent but more dramatic ours had a comprehensive flood study done to estimate future flood levels under global warming around four years ago. That puts them ahead of John Howard at least. Trouble is they then drew a blue line on a map which put a lot of poor beggars under water, so now they say they can't sell their houses for anywhere near what they were worth before. And not a decent flood in sight to prove the 'spurts wrong. Perhaps I should tell the Mayor not to start building bridges and levies just yet.

Ah the hidden costs of global warming and the power of a thin blue line.

BTW: Not a frost this year yet, when normally Canberra and Goulburn would have had them by late March. Maybe The Seekers could re-write that song to be the climate, it is a changin'. And Howard should  be asked not to stand in the doorway and block up the hall.

Howard, Costello and Neville Chamberlain

An excellent post, David.

In the 1930s, two old rivals separated by vast distances in political outlook and geography, tried to warn the western democracies about the serious and growing threat contained in fascism, and in particular, German Nazism. Because their message was to prepare for war with Hitler, and because there were so many excellent reasons for citizens and statesmen alike to hope that the threat was exaggerated, all action was deferred until it was too late. All of Western Europe except the neutrals, Sweden and Switzerland, fell to Hitler’s armies between September 1939 and June 1940.

But for decisions made by the German and Japanese governments to attack the USSR and Pearl Harbour, Britain may well have fallen as well. But those decisions brought the USSR and the US into the war, sealing the ultimate fates of Germany and Japan.

The two old rivals were the out-of-favour Conservative politician Winston Churchill and the exiled and soon-to-be-murdered former Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky. It is common for such people to be cast into the fateful role of Cassandras by the leaders and populace of their time, “doomed to tell the truth, but never to be believed.”

The Stern report warns of an imminent climate catastrophe, equivalent in cost to the sum of both World Wars and the Great Depression. Moreover, the changes are accelerating, and get harder to combat as each year passes and more thresholds and tipping points are crossed. Peter Costello tonight reminded me of Neville Chamberlain just back to London from Munich in September 1938, holding up a scrap of paper and mouthing the pathetic words which will ever be associated with his name: “Peace in our time!”

Costello tonight threw just enough money at the climate change issue to give the appearance that the Government was doing something, but nowhere near enough to make any real difference. Compare what was done in 1940 when the governments finally came to their senses and gave the war “to prevent a new Dark Age” (Churchill’s phrase) top priority. Policy wise, everything had to make way for winning that war. Both capital and labour were conscripted for the cause. That is how seriously the situation then was taken, and should be taken now.

In my view, the “tax cuts” money, which will find its way into private consumption and boost the country’s imports bill, should have been put towards reversing the build-up of CO2 through investment in alternative energies, reafforestation and other greenhouse strategies. The reality is that Howard and Costello are still in denial towards climate change in May 2007, just as most British politicians and members of the public were towards war in September 1938. With the clock ticking in both cases.

Many of the great rivers of the world originate in mountain snowfields, where warm moist air gets a chance to mix in turbulence with cold dry air. The Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Mekong,  Yellow and Yangtse are just some that originate in the Himalayas. Similarly, the snowfall on the Snowy mountains is vital for catching the feedwater of the Murray, making it a much more voluminous river than the (longer) Darling, even though it drains a much smaller overall catchment area. This can be clearly seen where the two rivers meet at Wentworth, NSW. (pdf) The Murray is the wide river on the left of the photo, the Darling the narrow one on the right. Graphic comparison of the catchments and discharges of the rivers of the Murray-Darling system is shown here (see fig 1).

I for one do not find it hard to see why failure of the snowfalls in the Southern Alps of Australia would be disastrous for our greatest food bowl. Yet this is what climate change threatens, and this is what Howard and Costello still refuse to take seriously. If only in recognition of the Precautionary Principle, they should take their rightful places in the dustbin of history. Before it is too late.

CO2 Causing Climate Warming IS a FRAUD

Current incompetent stories regarding CO2 Causing Climate Change are a fraud.

Junk science is infesting the media, the Internet and public schools, affecting public health, squandering your tax dollars, poisoning sick people and miseducating our children.

Pseudoscientific claptrap abounds. Quackery is now found everywhere.

Consensus is NOT science.  Educate, inform yourself, take a 9th grade science class.

Stop listening to folks that have a financial interest in the subject. Unfortunately, many have learned to spin information, thusly have become intellectually and academically dishonest.

Unfortunately, we can no longer trust most of the media for information, as they no longer assign "Reporters" that investigate then report on a subject, most just parrot or reinterpret the information to fit their bias or their employers bias and then publish (this is called yellow journalism), thusly we have a world of disinformation and junk science.
Information Vetting: I have no financial interest in this subject. 

David R: on the other hand, I am independent, not paid by anyone and have studied climate science beyond 9th grade, and personally discussed it with many climate scientists far more qualified than I (and infinitely more qualified than you, obviously.) Most of the scientists I've talked to are paid by the Australian government, whose official position is closer to yours than mine, so if they were being biased by their paymaster they'd be playing down the GH effects, not exaggerating them. While you're entitled to your opinion, you aren't entitled to call it science.

He has to go

David, thanks for this and it backs up a growing sense of foreboding that I have had over the past 15 years. All I can say is that Howard has to go. If he spent a bit more time out in the bush intead of gazing out over the Harbour he would see that change has already been going on right under his nose for quite some time.

For the past thirty years we farmers have been aware that we were into a long drying phase. In Goulburn floods on our property were an almost annual event up to 1974, with some short drought periods in between. Since 1974 (ie in 33 years) there have been just four floods at Goulburn, and none at all in the past 15 years. And much longer and more severe droughts have become the norm in that 33 years.

Over the past 15 years that we have been on a property in NNSW,  I have noticed other signs indicative of drying and warming such as:

A drastic fall in annual rainfall, in some years as high as 60%.

The spread of noxious desert weeds such as galvanised burr. which cannot tolerate wet conditions.

The moving in of  the red kangaroo from their usual warmer and drier habitat on the northern plains to the surprise of a visiting roo expert who said he had never seen them so far south before. That was four years ago and they are now permanent residents in our area.

The greatly accelerated dying of the remnant rain forest trees (of which there were about five species scattered all over the property) and an increase in woody shrubs and weeds more suited to a dry climate. Some of those trees were estimated to be over three hundred years old.

The disappearence of some native pasture species and weeds, such as fleabane, which thrived 15 years ago under better rainfall.

Warring ant colonies, a phenomenon never seen before by old timers, with larger ants being driven out by aggressive armies of small black ants. (Not sure what that signifies)

And at Goulburn the invasion of grasses and weeds that normally thrive 300 kms further north in drier zones, but are now spreading rapidly in the south.

I do not feel that we have time to waste on this, but I despair when all we get is talk and argument and little action. As I understand it the permafrost is already melting and releasing its methane and the Greenland and Arctic ice cover has shrunk a lot faster than was expected.

But our crisis is here right now. If we do not get good snow this winter and good winter rains, then we will have a taste of what is to come, because the Murray Darling economy will collapse. One only has to look at those big almost empty dams on the upper Murray to realise just how serious the situation is right now. 

Howard talks of jobs. Just how many jobs does he think will be lost in the Murray Darling basin and its dependant towns if the rains and snow fail this winter? Add to that those jobs that will be lost in allied industries in the cities, the loss of export income,  the cost of basic food imports and the pressure on cities of rural population drift. Forget fifty years from now. We are facing a potential economic catastrophe in the Murray Darling basin within the next twelve months and which will have far reaching repercusssions for the whole economy. 

And I say again, there should be no tax cuts till we see just where all this is going at least in the next 12 months. As for an inland railway,  that may turn out in the long run to be a white elephant as the Snowy Scheme is fast in danger of becoming.  

I repeat Howard has to go. Few now buy his skepticism I believe. But whether they will vote for their present comforts rather than their childrens' future is another matter.

Forget the war on terror its Global Warming!

David Roffey, excellent post, what you describe is catastrophic. I fear we will be like the Easter Islanders and continue doing what we have always done until we are extinct.

The internet might save us, giving enough information to as many people as possible, might give enough of us the courage to act. We need to replace the leaders who still tend to pussy foot around the issue.

The possibility of the dramatic changes predicted, demand that we act as if we are at war.

Forget the “war on terror” we need to focus on the real threat to our way of life, Global Warming!

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