Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

McLean follow up

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Elaine McKewon book-ended my letter to the editors of Fairfax papers The Age and Sydney Morning Herald regarding the publishing of John McLean’s error-ridden piece on the IPCC (the editors, by the way, have not responded) with a terrific take down of McLean in Crikey.

She questioned McLean’s byline on the original article, to whit:

John McLean is the author of three peer-reviewed papers on climate and an expert reviewer for the latest IPCC report. He is also a climate data analyst and a member of the International Climate Science Coalition.”

asking “But is that accurate? Who is John McLean? What qualifications entitle him to speak as an expert on climate science? What is the ICSC, and which groups, interests and agendas do McLean and the ICSC represent? What exactly does it mean to be an “expert reviewer” of IPCC reports?”

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BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013 – SWWA SST

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As a result of the statement I made regarding the BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013, I was asked to do a radio interview on ABC drivetime radio in WA, so had a close look at the WA numbers to provide some local background. Average temperature was 0.98°C warmer than the 1961-90 average, the next highest being +0.93°C in 1998. Maximum temperature was also the warmest at +1.11°C compared to +1.00°C in 1994. Minimum temperature was not quite the warmest on record.

But the big shock I got was when I looked at sea surface temperatures (SSTs) for south-west WA. Have a look at this graph (note that 2013 isn’t up there yet due to a delay in processing):

Sea Surface Temperature anomalies south-west WA 1900-2012
Sea Surface Temperature anomalies south-west WA 1900-2012 (Source: BoM)

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BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013 – quick links

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On Friday Jan 3, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology released its Annual climate statement 2013. The headline statements include:

Data collected and analysed by the Bureau of Meteorology show that 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record while rainfall was slightly below average nationally.

  • Summer 2012–13 was the warmest on record nationally, spring was also the warmest on record and winter the third warmest
  • Overall, 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record: annual national mean temperature was +1.20°C above average
  • All States and the Northern Territory ranked in the four warmest years on record
  • Nationally-averaged rainfall was slightly below average for the year, with 428 mm (1961–1990 average 465 mm)
  • Rainfall was mostly below average for the inland east and centre, and above average for the east coast, northern Tasmania and parts of Western Australia

The statement was widely reported – two good summaries by the BoM crew and Lewis and Karoly can be found on The Conversation. One of the biggest talking points was that 2013 was a normal year meteorologically – no El Niño in sight – but the temperature was still a record. Much of the reporting in Australia pointed out the disjuncture between observations and current government policy. The Australian Science Media Centre also had a rapid round-up that included some words from me.

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Letter to SMH/The Age editors on McLean’s Op-ed

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Readers of the Australian press over the holiday period would have seen the spray from Maurice Newman the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council in The Australian on December 31 where he claimed Australia’s climate policies were being driven by scientific delusion. That was followed by an article by David Karoly in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on January 1 correcting Newman’s take on the science. Then on January 3, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald printed a response to Karoly and Newman from John McLean. Following is a letter I have sent to the editors of both papers.

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to express my great disappointment at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald’s decision to publish John McLean’s opinion piece Lack of accountability clouds the climate change debate on Friday January 3. After the recent statement by SMH letters editors Julie Lewis and Marc McEvoy that (October 13, 2013) “climate change deniers or skeptics are free to express opinions and political views on our page but not to misrepresent facts”, we in the scientific community were hopeful this would be the case. Alas, it is not.

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Backburning

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Lucy J Evans – ‘I might explain myself a little further. My family home is in the fire affected area and my parents are currently awaiting bad winds on Wednesday which could possibly blow embers into their property, even though the fire has already burned its way completely around them. My dad was a member of the RFS for 18 years and I have grown up with a deep respect for fire and all men and women who risk their lives. I’ve experienced first hand what it is like to leave your home, not knowing if you’ll return again. I’ve also witnessed the tremendous work they do whether it be back burning or trying to contain a fire front. Tony Abbott rolled on into Bilpin, sat around and ate, got some happy snaps (despite this being a terribly sad situation), watched some people complete a back burn operation, drove a fire truck, got his moment of glory and then left. Not only is it completely irresponsible of him to put himself at risk (seen as though he somehow managed to get the top job), he also managed to exploit this situation to the tenth degree.’

This came from a tweet and unfortunately the link did not take and I no longer have it, but the original source was Facebook.

Meanwhile, the PM has been doing more backburning – this time on twenty-five years of research: Graham Readfearn at The Guardian (updated Oct 23, 2:30 pm EAST)

Written by Roger Jones

October 22, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Australia, Fires, Politics, Risk

Tagged with ,

Fire and climate change: don’t expect a smooth ride

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By Roger Jones, Victoria University (reproduced from The Conversation)

With fires still burning across New South Wales, it’s time to have a look at the role climate change might have played. Are the conditions we’re seeing natural variation, or part of a long term trend?

In fact, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Has bushfire risk increased due to climate change?

In research I did with colleagues earlier this year we looked at the Fire Danger Index calculated by the Bureau of Meteorology, and compared how it changed compared to temperature over time in Victoria.

South-east Australia saw a temperature change of about 0.8C when we compared temperatures before 1996 and after 1997. We know that it got drier after 1997 too.

We then compared this data to the Forest Fire Danger Index, to see if it showed the same pattern. We analysed fire data from nine stations in Victoria and did a non-linear analysis.

We found that fire danger in Victoria increased by over a third after 1996, compared to 1972-1996. The current level of fire danger is equivalent to the worst case projected for 2050, from an earlier analysis for the Climate Institute.

While it’s impossible to say categorically that the situation is the same in NSW, we know that these changes are generally applicable across south-east Australia. So it’s likely to be a similar case: fire and climate change are linked. Read the rest of this entry »

Bolt vs Bandt – pants on fire

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Adam Bandt published an op-ed in The Guardian on October 16 linking Tony Abbot’s repudiation of the carbon price to increased climate risks for Australian’s then tweeted it with a link to the current fires in NSW. Andrew Bolt had to tell us how morally bankrupt Bandt is in the HeraldSun today. He cited me:

“Nothing in the records shows ­global warming has made bushfires bigger or deadlier in NSW – or ­globally. The US is recording its quietest fire season a decade.

The most telling point against Bandt’s alarmism, of course, is that global temperatures have barely changed for 15 years. Indeed, Canberra last week recorded its coldest October night in history. Like Sydney’s hot spell, it’s called weather, Adam, not climate change.

So Bandt is wrong about the cause of the fire and wrong to pretend these fires are worse. He’s wrong to imply global temperatures have been steadily rising, and wrong to claim Abbott could make the slightest difference.

Just ask Professor Roger Jones, an author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which estimates that even if Abbott kept Labor’s carbon tax policies, Australia would at best cut temperatures by an imperceptible 0.0038 degrees by 2100.

So Bandt is wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong. And a hypocrite as well as a vulture. Oh, and a disgrace.”

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Written by Roger Jones

October 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm

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