News, view and (civil) debate.
News, view and (civil) debate.
The devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan is both staggering in scope and heart breaking. At least 10,000 people have been killed, while millions have been displaced. Food and water is in short supply. There have been reports of wide-spread looting and shell-shocked survivors staggering across a devastated landscape “like zombies”.
There is little point in engaging in the sterile debate over whether or not to attribute this monster storm to climate change. Studies predict storms will become stronger as the globe warms:
“…future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6–34%. Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre…” – Tropical cyclones and climate change, Nature Geoscience 3, 157 – 163 (2010)
Storms like Haiyan are what we can expect.
To those denying the seriousness of climate change, attempts to link the events in the Philippines with the well understood science are anathema. Apparently drawing a connection between unprecedented weather extremes and climate change is “insensitive” to the victims and politicises human tragedy.
Thus in typical fashion, the Murdoch owned Herald Sun (home to arch denier Andrew Bolt) rails against anyone who dares suggest there is a connection:
First it was Greens MP Adam Bandt who foolishly tried to somehow make Prime Minister Tony Abbott responsible — because of his government’s climate change policy — for the recent bushfire tragedy in New South Wales.
Now, as the Herald Sun reveals today, Greens Senator Richard Di Natale has drawn a link between the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the Federal Government’s plans to axe the carbon tax.
“You’ve got record storms in the Philippines and now you’ve got record stupidity from Tony Abbott, who’s basically going to unwind some of the world’s most ambitious and important climate change legislation,” Di Natale told the Herald Sun’s Phillip Hudson.
He then accused Mr Abbott of making no sense at all by taking an anti-science stance on climate change.
What is really stupid and makes no sense is this repeated use by the Greens of death and destruction to try to gain political advantage.
It is to be hoped Australians of all political persuasions see this unsavoury tactic for what it is — cheap opportunism of the sort to be deplored.
Bandt was wrong to make the link last month and Di Natale was misguided in following Bandt’s lead yesterday.
They both deserve our widespread condemnation for their ridiculously insensitive and hurtful statements.
Clearly the Greens are ideologues who will use any human tragedy, no matter how large the loss of life and property, for their own selfish political ends.
To silence those making a connection is a political act. The very last thing sceptics want is the public drawing connections between extreme weather events, climate change and the inadequecy of Tony Abbott’s laughable “direct action plan” (or more broad scale policy failures).
Perhaps the editor of the Herald Sun should pay attention to the words just spoken by the Philippine representative, Yeb Sano, at the latest round of climate change negotiations in Warsaw:
To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.
Sano wept as he described the devastation.
He also made clear the link between climate change and Haiyan:
“The science has given us a picture that has become much more in focus. The IPCC report on climate change and extreme events underscored the risks associated with changes in the patterns as well as frequency of extreme weather events. Science tells us that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the Earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.”
Sano pleads for the world to “end the madness”:
“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw.”
We await the condemnation of Sano by the editors of the Herald Sun for making the link between climate change and the deaths of tens of thousands of his fellow citizens.
Let them call Mr. Sano an oppurtunist for begging the world to take serious action.
Or perhaps the editors of the Herald Sun should take up Mr. Sano’s invitation and get out of their ivory tower and see first hand the devastating impacts of climate change.
Thanks for you patience guys, I’ve finally got over that rather nasty virus. Needed a few weeks to fully recover – posts resume tomorrow.
Skeptics have made much of the so called 15 year “pause” in warming for land surface temperatures, while conveniently overlooking the warming oceans.
A study just released this week in Science indicates the Pacific Ocean may be warming at a rate faster than it has in the last 10,0000 years [pay wall]:
Observed increases in ocean heat content (OHC) and temperature are robust indicators of global warming during the past several decades. We used high-resolution proxy records from sediment cores to extend these observations in the Pacific 10,000 years beyond the instrumental record. We show that water masses linked to North Pacific and Antarctic intermediate waters were warmer by 2.1 ± 0.4°C and 1.5 ± 0.4°C, respectively, during the middle Holocene Thermal Maximum than over the past century. Both water masses were ~0.9°C warmer during the Medieval Warm period than during the Little Ice Age and ~0.65° warmer than in recent decades. Although documented changes in global surface temperatures during the Holocene and Common era are relatively small, the concomitant changes in OHC are large.
This study was also reported in the LA Times, where some (genuine) climate scientists expressed scepticism about the rate of warming. Still it is very clear the oceans have been acting as a “buffer” in absorbing additional heat. However we can’t bank on the oceans performing this role in future centuries:
“This is much faster than anything we’ve seen in the long term,” said Yair Rosenthal, a professor of earth sciences at Rutgers University and lead author of the study.
The timing could be fortuitous, because we may be pumping the atmosphere full of carbon after a naturally-occurring cooldown, just when the oceans are most prepared to absorb the heat, Rosenthal said.
“There may be some hope, “ he said, “because maybe the ocean will be able to store more heat than we were estimating before.”
It could also spell trouble. While temperatures in the atmosphere go up and down pretty quickly, seawater can absorb a lot of heat before its temperature rises. So even if carbon emissions are reduced, it could take years or even centuries for the ocean to respond, a lag that could have consequences far into the future.
[Image source: Scientific American]
Are cracks beginning to appear in the foundations of that bastion of climate change denial, News Corporation?
Perhaps feeling chastised (or foolish in response to the buzz the study has generated), a story was quickly published on News.com titled “10 simple points about climate change”. By News Corp standards it’s a rather puzzling article. Puzzling in that it contains factual information. Yes, my jaw is still on the floor.
However, this didn’t escape the attention of one Mr. Andrew Bolt:
It is disappointing that News Corp, of all media outlets, yesterday published this article on warming, revealing more faith than facts.
Here’s just some of the most egregious errors or misleading claims.
Do tell Andrew, is there an official News Corp position on climate change? That is something even Rupert Murdoch denies. Golly, it is as if Andrew thinks News Corp shouldn’t be publishing articles that accurately present the science.
Bolt also hilariously “corrects” the article using indomitable sources such as “Watts up with that?”
Go, read and marvel at the crazy.
Andrew Bolt must be feeling increasingly isolated even with the depths of News Corp.
This ones for you Andrew, perfectly attuned to your plaintive cry of despair:
Open thread for a few days, I’ve come down with a rather nasty virus!
In case there was any doubt Prime Minister Abbott shares the same conspiracy driven world view of the more extreme elements of the climate sceptic movement, his recent speech to the Tasmanian Liberal Party Conference makes it clear (ABC reports):
Mr Abbott also said the carbon tax was a socialist policy in disguise.
“Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism,” he said.
“That’s what the carbon tax was.”
This claim is straight from the New-World-Order playbook of paranoia.
Equating environmentalism with a global plot to take over the world via concerns about climate change is often referred to as the ”watermelon theory”. It has been a staple of right-wing conspiracy culture for almost two decades. And it seems our Prime Minister is happy to share his paranoia in like-minded company.
In Battlelines Abbott hints at his belief in this great-big-conspiracy:
“For many, reducing emissions is a means to achieving a political objective they could not otherwise gain.” [page 171]
So – according to our Prime Minister a market based mechanism as represented by the emissions trading scheme is “socialism”. And yet supposed to we’re accept the Direct Action Plan, which plays polluters using the public purse, is the epitome of free market.
In retrospect, Abbott becoming Prime Minister is not such a bad thing – the lack of scrutiny that was missing in media during these past few years is dissipating. The world’s eyes are on the PM, and we’re getting a far better understanding of how Abbott sees the world.
[Hat tip Tim @ New Anthropocene]
Historians have long appreciated the weather can have a profound impact on the course of events.
A spring drought on eve of the French Revolution pushed up food prices, and was the final spark that pushed a hungry populace to revolt. Two bitterly cold winters destroyed the imperial ambitions of both Napoleon and Hitler in Russia. In the thirteenth century a “divine wind” saved the Japanese from Mongol invasion.
The weather can be both capricious and unpredictable, especially when it wrecks havoc upon the ambitious plans of generals and politicians. The weather can rob would-be emperors of certain victories.
Given humanity has now loaded the dice for more extreme weather events by continuing to alter the planet’s atmosphere and climate, it is virtually certain increasing political disruption will follow extreme weather events with greater frequency.
This is the lesson both the Abbott government and Australian population are now learning.
The Abbott government was elected on the promise of dismantling the price on carbon introduced by the previous Labor government. Helped by a vicious anti-Labor and anti-science campaign by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, they cruised into office promising a government of grownups.
But then New South Wales burned, changing the political landscape.
Very quickly Abbott and News Corp lost control of the climate change narrative. Desperate to disavow any links between the extraordinary fires and climate change, Abbott and his Environment Minister Greg Hunt fumbled badly in trying to control the message. According to both these men the fires could not, would not and should not be linked to the science.
To their frustration the public refused to listen and made the obvious connections.
Abbott simply dismissed the connection, and came across as stubborn and intractable. Day-by-day, Abbott is looking increasingly uncertain and strangely timid in office. His infamous bovver boy and mischief-making style is proving ill-suited for the role of Prime Minister. When he can’t attack, he freezes like a deer in headlights.
Greg Hunt became an international laughing-stock with his now infamous “I looked it up on Wikipedia” comments.
Thanks to the fires, everyone is talking about climate change.
We need to appreciate the profound shift taking place in the Australian climate debate, and how the NSW fires are contributing to this.
Bare in mind these fires follow the flooding and Tasmanian fires of late 2012 and early 2013. These fires follow the battering New York took during Hurricane Sandy. These fires follow Cyclone Yasi. These fires follow the holocaust that killed almost 200 Victorians during Black Saturday in 2009.
A pattern is emerging, and people are noticing the climate regime has shifted. This fact is intuitively understood and accepted by the public who are often the victims of such events. Watching your home burn, your town flooded or choking on the acrid smoke of the fires that have drifted into the heart of Sydney will put to rest most people’s lingering scepticism.
For this reason both Abbott and Hunt are furiously stating they accept the science. Abbott may think climate change is “crap”, but it is now unacceptable for the PM to state this belief in public.
Those fighting the sceptic movement can take heart that climate change denial in Australia is a spent political force, consigned to the margins and conspiracy theory enthusiasts.
However the events of this week are also a harbinger of the shape fires and political disruption to come.
In discussing the politics of climate change in Australia we’ve focused almost solely on the policies (or lack thereof) of the major parties and the Greens.
We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time dissecting and critiquing the role of the media. We’ve also convinced ourselves the future of the carbon price is dependent on the makeup of the Senate and the voting behaviors of the micro-parties.
Partisans on both sides of the debate have assumed the debate was about careful messaging, well-considered opinion pieces in the major dailies and peppering the media with sound bites.
But no one has talked about the weather and it’s potential to disrupt and reshape Australian politics.
Generals and conquerors in the past have learnt through bitter defeat the climate can wipe out entire armies, fleets and political ambitions. We’ve forgotten these lessons from history.
However the fires of NSW has taught us history is back with a fiery vengeance.
History is roaring back into life in the shape of a firestorm, laying waste to vast tracts of the bush, rural communities and the ambitions of the Prime Minister.
Those who forget the impact of extreme weather events on politics are doomed to fall prey to its unpredictable nature.
Just ask the Prime Minister.
Environment Minister Grey Hunt’s attempts to dismiss the connection between climate change and the NSW fires by citing the Wikipedia has generated laughs around the world.
#GregHuntReserach has been generating all kinds of mirth:
Jump in and have fun, but do keep it civil and refrain from personal insults.
Satire is fine, but abuse isn’t.
Freedom of expression, even putting forward minority and unpopular views, is without doubt a universal right. It is a fundamental belief of mine, and shared by all readers of this blog.
Over the years I’ve received notes from readers about the sometimes rambunctious nature of comments on WtD. I’ve allowed many comments from climate sceptics due to my passion for freedom of expression. I’m aware it can result in long discussion threads, which on occasion become heated. There are community standards for WtD which I developed to help manage this issue, and based on these I’ve banned certain readers.
it is worth stating I have not allowed these long threads to boost blogs numbers. Long comment threads add nothing to the overall traffic of WtD.
Which brings me to my point.
As some of you may have recently heard, the Sydney Morning Herald (see here) and Los Angeles Times (see here) have made a stand on printing letters sceptical of climate change. Put simply, they will not print factual inaccuracies.
“Climate change deniers or sceptics are free to express opinions and political views on our page but not to misrepresent facts. This applies to all our contributors on any subject. On that basis, a letter that says, “there is no sign humans have caused climate change” would not make the grade for our page…”
I strongly agree with the stance taken by both the SMH and LA Times. It is a wise move, and one that can help rid the internet of information pollution.
Truth matters, as do facts.
This is especially true in the climate change debate.
The discussion about climate change is not helped if it is polluted by misinformation, which is really the intent of climate change deniers.
So for this reason, claims such as “global warming is not real”, “global warming is a hoax” or “there has been no warming for 15 years” will not longer be allowed. I’d much rather the WtD comments section reflect what we all want the debate to be – about an appropriate response to climate change.
While some may claim this as an act of censorship, I think it is beholden upon myself and other commentators to now take a much firmer stand. The SMH and LA Times have shown wisdom, and I believe it is worth following their example.
We’ve been far too forgiving of the deliberate attempt to mislead and lie to the public. For the acts of climate change sceptics are just that – acts of deception.
Perhaps I should have implemented this policy from the outset or much sooner. Nonetheless, I think my original intention to allow free-for-all debate was well intentioned and was acceptable in the first years of this blog.
Deniers of course have their own blogs and space to make there case, and they’re welcome to prosecute their case there.
I’ll be watching comments closely and implementing this new policy – however if a false claim slips through, please let me know and I’ll attend to it. WtD is a solo effort, thus it is not possible to monitor comments every moment of the day.
it will take a few weeks to fully implement, but I hope this change in policy makes reading WtD more enjoyable.
Thanks to the many readers of WtD over the years, and for those who emailed me with their concerns.
I’ve listened to your voices.
~ Mike @ WtD
[Correction: initially I made reference to the number of visitors when I fully intended to make reference to the number visits. A small distinction, and a genuine error on my behalf. I fully intended to state the later.]