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.
Open thread for a few days, I’ve come down with a rather nasty virus!
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.
To the horror of the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Environment Minister Greg Hunt and the conservative media, everyone is talking about climate change.
If only they’d shut up about it!
Maybe it is folly to try and stop people talking about climate change when significant parts of the country are burning in early spring. Reality, unlike a compliant and supportive News Corp journalist, is not in the business of denying global warming.
And yet it was supposed to be easy for Tony Abbott once he’d parked himself in the big chair.
All he had to do these past three years was run a great big scare campaign against the great big tax. Who would have thought the tricky part would come after taking government?
Mr. Abbott seems to have assumed that simply warming the chair of his predecessors would magically fix things to his liking. The nightmare years of Labor in government and the inconvenience of having to do anything about climate change would be magically wiped away.
Repeal this, slash that and hey presto we’re back to Howard’s glory years.
But what exactly Abbott is doing in government is anyone’s guess. Outside of repealing legislation, dumbing down the NBN, jumping on a fire truck for a spot of back burning and cutting the Climate Commission there doesn’t seem to be much of that “vision thing”.
However to his increasing frustration, the more people talk about the connection between the fires and global warming, the more the Abbott’s agenda to scrap the carbon tax comes under scrutiny.
What’s a PM sceptical of climate change to do?
Well, if you’re Mr. Abbott you’re desperate to stop people talking about “it”. And by “it” I mean the reality of climate change.
Thus we owe Adam Bandt a great deal of gratitude for daring to suggest a link between the NSW fires and the badly conceived and ineffective Direct Action Plan.
What Bandt did what was both brave and necessary. He made explicit the obvious link between the fires and global warming. He also drew attention to the incongruous situation of the government tearing down Australia’s response to climate change as some of the worst fires seen in NSW history ravage the state. Here merely pointed what folly such actions are.
Did I also mention we’ve seen the hottest day, hottest month and hottest year on record during these past 12 months? And that we’re due for a horror fire season? Gosh, it’s almost like there is a link.
Thus, when highly placed UN official Christiana Figueres also drew the same connection to the unpredicted scale of the fires and questioned the government’s plans, she drew the ire of the PM:
Mr Abbott batted away the comments on Wednesday, saying that Australia had had ”bad fires” since the beginning of European settlement.
”Well I think the official in question is talking through her hat, if I may say so,” he told Fairfax Radio.
”Climate change is real as I’ve often said and we should take strong action against it. But these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they’re a function of life in Australia.”
It is patently clear the government is losing control of the climate change narrative.
In fact it is getting impossible to wave away peoples concern about the issue, especially during extreme weather events. Over the next few years the Abbott government is going to find the politics of climate change even trickier to manage as incidents such as the NSW fires happen with greater frequency and ferocity.
Climate change will define this government.
So far it looks like Abbott & Co are floundering badly. On this and a range of other issues the government is looking out of touch and ill equipped to manage the act of governing Australia in the 21st century.
Wasn’t this supposed to be a government of grownups?
Then why do I get the impression they’re more like a bunch of timid deers caught in headlights, transfixed by the oh-so-shiny-but-dangerous-glare of forces greater than them?
Rather than embracing challenges as grownups should, the response of Abbott & Co is to stay in denial, attempt to shut others up and pretend the problem will go away. In the long run this strategy is bound to fail.
Still, along the way we’re promised many fine and amusing incidents as senior members of the Abbott government try wave the issue of climate change away.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt was in especially fine form today, dismissing the connection between global warming and the fires by doing (wait for it) a quick scan of Wikipedia:
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has hosed down suggestions of a link between climate change and increased bushfire intensity, saying he had ”looked up what Wikipedia” said and it was clear that bushfires in Australia were frequent events that had occurred during hotter months since before European settlement.
Given he has access to experts at the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian scientific community, Mr. Hunt seems satisfied with a quick Google search.
And yet somehow such a person managed to get elected to high office?
Deers in headlights.
On September 7 2013, the Australian voting public put into high office a man known for his scepticism of climate change, for surrounding himself with a coterie of fellow sceptics and for turning his back on partisan efforts to introduce a price on carbon.
It is scarcely acknowledged today, but as late as June 2009 Tony Abbott argued for a price on carbon. In Sky News interview, Abbott stated:
“If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax. Why not ask motorists to pay more? Why not ask electricity consumers to pay more?
And then at the end of the year, you can take your invoices to the tax office and get a rebate on the carbon tax you paid.
It would be burdensome, all taxes are burdensome, but it would certainly change the price on carbon, raise the price of carbon without increasing in any way the overall tax burden.”
Abbott’s repudiation of his own position and that of perceived wisdom is one of the most stunning turnarounds in Australia political history. The question, though it may never be answered, is what prompted Abbott’s about face? There are clues given to us but the man himself.
Following the defeat of Howard Government in 2007 Abbott found solace in writing what should be regarded as his manifesto for the government he leads, Battlelines.
Of it’s almost 200 pages, Abbott dedicates a scant four of them to climate change. And yet those four pages tell us all we need to know about Abbott the man and his view on the issue.
Abbott cites notable climate sceptic Ian Plimer as an authority, regurgitating many of the same arguments made by Plimer that have been widely dismissed by the scientific community. He also cites the equally discredited economist Bjorn Lomberg, of “sceptical environmentalist” fame. Lomberg acknowledges global warming but cherry picks facts without reservation to downplay it’s seriousness. It is an argument Abbott uncritically adopts in Battlelines, and without doubt guides his actions on climate change.
A clue to Abbott’s radical shift can be found in his concluding sentences on the issue, where he notes:
“Australians will continue to tell pollsters that they want action for a cleaner environment, but they are unlikely to support policy changes that they think might make daily life harder or much more expensive” (Battlelines, page 173).
Perhaps climate change is real. Perhaps not. Perhaps technology solutions and nuclear energy is the answer. Or not.
Regardless, it seems Abbott has cynically read the mood of parts of the electorate and played to them. Abbott is now in a position to impose the views expressed in his Battlelines manifesto upon the country.
There is much irony in that Abbott, the man who grudgingly acknowledges the science (in public at least), who will dismantle the carbon price and who has closed institutions such as the Climate Commission is defined by the politics global warming.
Without doubt Abbott, his government and his legacy will be measured against his policy approach to climate change, the very issue he denies is a genuine risk to Australia or the world.
A man for our time, or a man for all seasons?
In the play A man for all seasons, playwright Robert Bolt muses on questions of identity and personal conscience in politics.
Based upon the life and death of Thomas More, Bolt suggests via the narrative of the play a person of conscience will stand by their principles regardless of external pressures and the temptations of short term gain.
By abiding by their principles, such individuals forfeit the temptations of power and its abuse. They remain true to themselves, a person “for all seasons”,
In the plays most famous scene, More argues against those who would put aside laws for the sake of expediency. He argues with his son-in-law, who urges the illegal arrest of a man who would eventually go on to betray him:
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
It is well known tony Abbott has yearned for the Prime Ministership all his life.
When the opportunity was presented to him, Abbott recognised the thicket of laws he needed to cut down to achieve his ambitions. He read discontent is some parts of the electorate, and played to their fears.
At this moment of writing, fire-storms are wiping out communities across New South Wales. There is no respite at this point, conditions such as these may last for weeks.
It is early spring, Australia’s extended fire season is upon us. The ill winds of climate change are upon us.
Against this background Prime Minster Tony Abbott moves steadily, without pause or consideration to cut down laws.
Who is Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a man cynically exploiting the moment or a man for all seasons?
And while fires are not uncommon for this time of year, the scale and intensity of what we are seeing is unprecedented
As the Bureau of Meteorology noted recently, 2013 is shaping up to be the warmest year on record. Over late 2012 and 2013 Australia experienced the “Angry Summer” as fires devastated parts of New South Wales and Tasmania.
Less than year later, fires equal to those of the Angry Summer are upon us again.
For those familiar with the science of climate change this is to be expected. Fire plays an important part in Australia’s landscape, but we’re now seeing the fire season become longer.
We’ve known this, indeed there isn’t a government or relevant agency that hasn’t been told this by experts.
Of course, attributing individual events to climate change can be tricky; however the events in New Wales are clearly indicative of the profound changes to Australia’s climate.
Thus when Adam Bandt, the Green’s member for Melbourne tweeted the following:
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) October 17, 2013
…the conservative media erupted in outrage.
Staff writers at the Herald Sun harrumphed Bandt was making “political mileage” of the fires:
PEOPLE’S lives are at risk. Houses have been lost. At latest count there are at least 40 homes burned to the ground. That number will almost certainly rise.
It is a shocking, distressing time right now in eastern New South Wales. The sky above Sydney is thick with smoke. Ash is falling from the sky in many suburbs. A dry southerly change due any minute may only make things worse as the fires change course.
So what does Greens MP Adam Bandt do?
He ignores the unfolding human tragedy and pushes his political barrow on Twitter.
How dare Bandt link unprecedented extreme weather events to climate change!
It’s almost as if climate change was real and having an actual impact on ordinary citizens.
Perish the thought that anyone should make the connection.
Or that we should seek to implement policies that reduce the impact of climate change.
Bandt has stood by his comments (see this ABC interview), and so he should.
But that won’t make those desperately in denial happy: “Shhhhh. The planet is burning. Whatever you do, don’t mention climate change. People just might want to do something about it.”
Some more thread for thoughts, links and debate.