Archive for March 2012
The Planet Under Pressure 2012 Conference has just finished in London and released a statement as these things are wont to do. The conference itself is a biggie and is setting out the science (in a broad sense) in the run-up to the UN Rio+20 conference. It was co-convened by Lidia Brito and Australia’s own Mark Stafford-Smith and sponsored by the big international research collaborations IGBP, Diversitas, IHDP, WCRP and ICSU. The recommendations in the statement have been passed onto the D-G of the UN Ban Ki-Moon who has agreed to take them on board.
Before commenting on the statement, I’ll do a gap assessment. Instead of seeing who was present – who was absent? Present were over 3,000 attendees and many more on-line. The peak global change research organisations were represented. The patrons of the conference were mostly blokes and mostly western, despite a very different mix of interested parties at the ground level. The supporter of the conference included scientific, aid and development organisations. So development interests, gender, poverty and other issues straddling society and environment were present. Absent were the Davos types, miners, OECD, IMF. Read the rest of this entry »
Rapid warming in SE Australia challenges plans to adapt gradually
Step changes in warming of a few tenths to 1°C can produce rapid changes in risks such as extreme heat and fire danger. Yet, adaptation-planning that follows the dominant model of smooth climate change makes gradual adjustments to keep up with small changes in extremes. In these circumstances, a rapid change can catch sensitive systems out. Poorly planned responses may also lead to maladaptation.
Studies of prehistoric climate change in Victoria’s western lakes imply that future changes might not be smooth. Dacre Smith's painting of Lake Gnotuk, from Views of Victoria in the steps of von Guerard.
The full IPCC Special Report Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) has been released. The download of the entire report (44 Mb) is here, the Summary for Policymakers is here, the press release is here and slide presentation (pdf) here. Also on the site are individual chapters for download, review comments, process information, graphics and the grey literature library.
As I posted late last year with the release of the SPM, the great benefit of this special report is the coming together of the climate change and disaster management expert communities. A marriage, which I’m told, got a bit rocky at times. The report emphasises the need to address both biophysical and social-economic aspects of changing climate extremes and the systems exposed to those changes. Read the rest of this entry »
The run up to Rio 20+ is well and truly on with the Planet Under Pressure Conference currently underway in London. There will be a declaration that carries on from the Copenhagen Declaration but the focus this time will be on solutions. And a good thing, too. A host of other declarations are also being prepared and signed.
One such is the Natural Capital Declaration:
The Natural Capital Declaration is a statement by the financial sector demonstrating our commitment at the Rio+20 Earth Summit to work towards integrating Natural Capital criteria into our financial products and services for the 21st century.
Through it we wish to acknowledge and re-affirm the importance of Natural Capital in maintaining a sustainable global economy, and call upon the private and public sectors to work together to create the conditions necessary to maintain and enhance Natural Capital as a critical economic, ecological and social asset.
Natural Capital comprises Earth’s natural assets (soil, air, water, flora and fauna), and the ecosystem services resulting from them, which make human life possible. Neither these services, nor the stock of Natural Capital that provides them, are adequately valued compared to social and financial capital. Despite being fundamental to our wellbeing, their daily use remains almost undetected within our economic system. Using Natural Capital this way is not sustainable.
The Natural Capital Declaration is the first of its kind to be only open to signature by CEOs of willing financial institutions – a measure intended to get top-level buy-in by banks, institutional investors and asset managers and (re-)insurance companies.
Both the Victorian and Queensland governments have recently announced they are dropping emissions targets set within state climate change legislation. They say that the presence of national targets make state targets redundant. Alan Pears, writing in The Conversation disagrees. He says that because of flaws within the federal legislation there is no incentive beyond doing the bare minimum:
The Commonwealth Government’s Clean Energy Future scheme design is flawed. I, along with Richard Denniss from the Australia Institute, the Voluntary Carbon Markets Association and others have been pointing out this flaw and showing how it could be fixed, for over three years.
The problem is that if a state government, council, business or household voluntarily cuts its emissions beyond what it is legally required to do (for example, under building energy regulations), this simply frees up more permits for other emitters to use, so their efforts don’t cut the total amount of carbon emissions. But Canberra econocrats and politicians have simply turned deaf ears.
The frustrating thing is that this flaw is easily fixed.
Last Friday the global climate conspiracy erected another plank dressing up the façade that is record of warming record in Australia. At an extra-ordinary nerdfest held the Victorian State Library, the cruel manipulations of temperature records by the Bureau of Meteorology were described. ACORN-SAT, I mean, really! Lies dressed up as statistics were outlined to an audience who hung on every word. The conspirators have done such a good job that the Australian record so closely resembles the tricked up records from Hadley-CRU, the Goddard Centre for Space Studies and NASA, that they all have to be made up. There’s no way that independent analyses of measurements of something we can’t see – air – can be so accurate.
Well, that’s the objections of the denialati out of the way.
The BoM did release The Australian Climate Observations Reference Network – Surface Air Temperature (ACORN-SAT) data on Friday and it looks excellent. Today I’m downloading some of the data for a project I’m involved in, so it’s good to have. The data were also used in the recent State of the Climate 2012 released by the Bureau and CSIRO.
Part of the impetus to get this done was a barely coherent set of assertions on how Australia’s climate records were being massaged by the Bureau. These assertions were formally submitted (pdf) as a request to audit climate records to the Attorney-General in February 2010. Co-signees were Senator Cory Bernardi, Joanne Nova (an alias), Andrew Barnham, Anthony Cox, James Doogue, Chris Gillham, Ken Stewart and Dr David Stockwell. They also alleged that BoM and CSIRO advice on climate change was misleading. This follows up similar fishing expeditions in New Zealand and the US yielding similar results. Not only were the records validated, quality control methods and subsequent adjustments improved those data giving us even more confidence that the record of warming they contain is unimpeachable.
Improved methods, external international review and a more comprehensive coverage have led to the Bureau to claim they have the some of the best quality records of temperature of any country. I think they’re right.
SOUTHEASTERN Australia could be shocked by a surge in wild bushfires and heatwaves, according to research suggesting that scientists might have underestimated the suddenness of future climate change impacts.
Yesterday the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO released their State of the Climate 2012 report and today the Climate Commission released The science behind southeast Australia’s wet, cool summer. Both documents outline the latest changes with clear explanations and useful diagrams.
State of the Climate 2012 showed a general trend toward increased spring and summer monsoonal rainfall across Australia’s north, and a decline in late autumn and winter rainfall across southern Australia.
Sea-levels had risen around Australia at rates equal to or greater than the global average, and sea-surface temperatures in the region had increased faster than the global average.
State of the Climate 2012 documents the annual growth in global fossil-fuel CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases. The CO2 concentration of the atmosphere had risen to around 390 parts per million in 2011, a level unprecedented in the past 800,000 years. During the past decade it has risen at more than 3% per year, which is projected to cause significant further global warming.
The Climate Commission Report was written by Professors Will Steffen, Matt England and David Karoly:
Most parts of Australia have experienced exceptionally heavy rains over the past two years, filling many dams around the country and breaking the drought of 1997–2009. There has been much confusion in the media about what this means for climate change. This report seeks to set the record straight.
The main point for me, which I fully endorse:
Climate change cannot be ruled out as a factor in recent heavy rainfall events. The Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) around northern Australia during the spring and early summer of 2010–2011 were the highest on record. This has very likely contributed to the exceptionally heavy rainfall over much of Australia in the last two years. La Niña events bring high SSTs to the seas around northern Australia, but warming over the past century has also contributed to the recent record high SSTs.
Living Treasure Clive Palmer told the ABC’s 7:30 Report last night that he intended to challenge the government’s carbon legislation on the basis of a constitutional challenge to its tax status:
CLIVE PALMER: Well, our advice is that the carbon tax in its current form is unconstitutional, and that’s recognised in the legislation itself when it says it’s found to be unconstitutional, the Government will (inaudible) us through other acts – that’s in the legislation.
CHRIS UHLMANN: On what grounds is it unconstitutional?
CLIVE PALMER: Well the grounds are set out in legal advice and they’ll be coming in the High Court.
The Sacred Cowboys sang nothing grows in Texas. Last summer it came true. The Texan drought of 2011 was hotter and drier than any of the great droughts of the 1930s. Is it possible to diagnose what role climate change may have played? State Climatologist for Texas John Nielsen-Gammon asked this question last year in a preliminary post on the drought.
He concluded there was a strong anthropogenic evidence for warming but little evidence for its influence on the extremely low rainfall. The following analysis was developed without seeing his summary and happily, they have much in common. The big difference is the explicit treatment of non-linear warming.
I applied the methods for analysing step changes and attributing regional warming developed for SE Australia to the Texan climate. Was it possible to estimate the relative contributions of global warming for a single season? The results were more successful than I had anticipated. Tmax was 86% more likely to be due to anthropogenic warming and Tmin 95%. The method is unorthodox, so may be controversial. Details over the fold. Read the rest of this entry »