We’ve just had a cool May

Official summaries for the globe and for Australia will no doubt appear soon.

For the globe visit State of the ClimateGlobal Analysis – that’s April 2011 but you will find May easily when it is posted.

201104

Note the obvious. In April (as in May no doubt) it was cooler in some parts, but much warmer in others…

Our BOM has a good climate data set. Even I get the point of these maps.

The first represents my lifetime; the second the past 30 years.

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But you still get buffoons telling you the world has been cooling since 1998 or 2000… 

Look, I am really quite conventional. I accept the reality of climate change and the high degree of likelihood that this is currently anthropogenic for much the same reason that I accept evolution, plate tectonics, that HIV causes AIDS and a whole lot of other things. Most reputable scientists and all peak scientific organisations say that’s where the truth lies, as best we can tell. In the case of climate change I have been appalled, when I’ve looked closely, at how threadbare and ideologically driven so many of the so-called sceptics prove to be, convincing as they may be to great scientists like George Pell, Alan Jones or David Flint.

But I do agree there is crap on the “other side” too. I’m not a radical anarchist’s bootlace or a hippie’s Indian shirt. I don’t live in a commune. I think some of what I recently read in AdBusters is barking mad. I refer especially to their referencing and quoting a grade A nutjob called Pentti Linkola. According to a fansite this Finnish “deep ecologist” advocates some things that are even scarier than global warming.

Linkola is one of the few voices who advocates:

1) No immigration
2) Downsize population
3) Kill defectives
4) Stop rampant technology

In the eyes of the most credible sources, planet Earth can sustain a half-billion humans without any sizable destruction of our habitat, or any loss in species or stability of our ecosystem. Any numbers higher than that, no matter how much they recycle, will cause environmental chaos. The modern leftist-tinged environmental movement is terrified of telling anyone that they cannot breed and keep buying whatever strikes their fancy, but someone must do this in the future. The sooner we do it, the fewer people in the future will be left without a means of sustenance and thus require termination.

As Linkola himself has said, "We still have a chance to be cruel. But if we are not cruel today, all is lost."

Sorry, that’s just crazy stuff.

Better is the non-peer-reviewed Australian science magazine Cosmos. A recent editorial:

IT’S TIME FOR a reality check: climate change is not the biggest threat to the planet. It does not threaten all life on Earth. It’s not even the end of humanity.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most authoritative assessment of global scientific opinion, estimates that – if we continue with business as usual – mean global temperatures will rise by 1.8°C by 2100 at the low end, and 4.0°C at the top end. Sea levels are estimated to rise a mean of 28 cm at the low end of estimates, and a mean of 43 cm at the top end.

Yes, these forecasts are fraught with varying levels of certainty and uncertainty, but are the best estimates from the best minds. And because the IPCC’s reports are produced by consensus, it is more likely that these estimates conservative rather than exaggerated.

But even the worst-case scenarios are not going to “kill the planet”, as some of fringe environmental groups argue. They are not going endanger all life, not are they going to see the end of humanity.

SIR NICHOLAS STERN, in a report on the economics impact of climate change for the British government, estimated that a ‘business-as-usual’ approach would – at worst – lead to a permanent reduction in per capita consumption of up to 20%.

That’s going to hurt, but it won’t destroy modern civilisation: global GDP grew by almost 3,700% during the 20th century, and per capita world GDP rose by some 860%.

Yes, it will lead to increased drought, crop failure, disease and extreme weather events. The rise in sea levels is more worrisome: half of the world’s people live on or near the coast; in some countries (eg. Bangladesh, population 164 million), nearly all the land area is within a few meters of sea level.

Hence the political, economic and humanitarian consequences may be localised, but nevertheless large-scale and disruptive to global societies: how will rich nations concerned by asylum seekers react when tens of millions of people are displaced and search for a new home?…

There are very few existential threats to life on Earth: sterilisation of the planet’s surface resulting from a nearby gamma-ray burst, and the ignition of a nearby hypernova, come to mind, and are all unlikely.

Even doomsday scenarios of global nuclear or biological warfare and pandemics will not kill everyone.

In fact, it’s hard to think of a plausible collapse in which our species is wiped out or incapable of rebuilding civilisation.

HERE AT COSMOS, we have argued for science as the basis for rational discussion, and that critical thinking is a priceless tool we need apply to important public policy and societal decision-making.

So while we support the scientific consensus on climate change, we heartily dismiss exaggerated claims of an impending apocalypse. It’s the sort of zealotry that undermines the rational case for taking action against climate change.

Even the destruction wrought by a devastating asteroid collision 65 million years ago did not extinguish life; in fact, it made the rise of mammals – and eventually humans – possible.

New evidence suggests that impacts may have been necessary for the formation of life in the first place.

It’s an interesting new take on an old story. It makes me think of Earth as an anvil on which life may have been shaped by what author Arthur C. Clarke once poetically called ‘the hammer of God’.

There is truth in that. But see also Shooting the messenger and Australian scientists take a stand on climate.

The planet will indeed survive. After all for most of its existence it didn’t support any life at all and got on fine without it! Whether our grandchildren like what we have passed on to them is a different matter. So far we’ve done very badly at minimising our descendants’ difficulties. And we’ve missed a vital bus just in the last week:

… If present trends of a 1.5–2ppm annual increase in CO2 levels continue, there is little chance of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 ppm. This would only result in a 50% likelihood of limiting global warming to 2C. Climate scientists say it would be necessary to achieve stabilisation well below 400 ppm to give a relatively high certainty of not exceeding 2C.

Two degrees is the point that scientists consider to be the threshold for "dangerous" climate change which, once passed, will leave millions exposed to drought, hunger and flooding.

"It’s not too late to stop dangerous climate change if the world acts now – and fast. We need to save energy, reduce demand, and develop safe and renewable alternatives to polluting fossil fuels," said Mike Childs, head of climate at Friends of the Earth.

The new CO2 peak comes as 189 countries prepare to resume the UN climate talks in Bonn. No final agreement is expected this year because of continuing disagreements between rich and poor countries but progress is expected to be made on reducing emissions from forestry and securing cash to enable the poorest countries to adapt their economies to increasingly severe climatic events.

Last Monday’s Q&A depressed me: it confirmed how banal, how pathetic, our pollies are on the issue these days, and how fatuous the public “debate” has become. I agreed with Joe:

JOE HILDEBRAND: Look, I’d like say, gentlemen, yeah, look, can I just say you’re both wrong. The only – the only feasible – you talk about socialising the cost. (Indistinct) sequestration we don’t know if there’s even the capacity for it to work to the extent it would need to to properly offset emissions and it would be a subsidy to polluters or, you know, industry as other people call it. The other question, though, of providing a carbon tax while at the same time just using that to subsidise people for higher power bills seems to me to just be just taking a giant pile of money and setting fire to it, pardon the analogy. The only real way that you can have a genuine process on climate change – it’s what everyone is doing overseas – is to have a proper emissions trading scheme that provides incentives for big polluters to throw their money. They’ll be forced to give their money to renewable energy companies and alternative energy companies. It’s what they’re doing in Europe. It’s what they’re doing everywhere that it works in some states in America. It’s what the Brits are doing now to the nth degree. It will probably involve nuclear and I know that’s a scary word for a lot of people but it’s the only feasible way.

The fact that both major parties are having a debate over this yin and yang of just half assed stupidity on both sides is just unbelievable in a modern democracy.

Too true!

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4 thoughts on “We’ve just had a cool May

  1. See also the source at Media Watch. Jones is breathtakingly, totally and absolutely a prat and worse on this issue! It is almost impossible to imagine greater rudeness or folly! I see on the US mirror a commenter compares his performance to Rush Limbaugh — noting Jones is actually worse.

    http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3230989.htm

    Blather and bulldust from a man supposedly intelligent enough to know better, but then he sucked up everything Lord Monckton said as well, didn’t he? What a wanker!

    It’s not just that Jones had his opinions — fair enough! It’s that he has no objectivity, no humility on this — and he is comprehensively and tragically WRONG! And this man is a god to so many! Sad, sad, sad…

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