Posts Tagged ‘The Conversation’
This is an excellent article by Andrew Campbell on The Conversation, republished here under a Creative Commons licence.
Rethinking rural research in Australia
By Andrew Campbell, Charles Darwin University
Rural research is vital. It is about 10% of our national innovation system. Annual investment exceeds $1 billion, according to the Rural Research and Development Council. The rural sector and farm-dependent economy accounts for 12% of GDP, 14% of exports, 17% of employment, 60% of the land mass and between half and two-thirds of total water use. (Mining accounts for 9% of GDP, 35% of exports and 2.2% of employment.)
A vibrant, world-leading rural, environmental and agricultural research sector is more strategically important for Australia now than ever. This is clear from authoritative reviews on climate change, biosecurity, drought policy, biodiversity conservation, food security and energy-water-carbon intersections. The Australian Government has also received the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Rural R&D Corporations and the Rural Research and Development Council’s National Strategic Rural R&D Investment Plan.
All these reviews and reports say we need more and better rural research, development and in some cases extension. Read the rest of this entry »
No, not an exotic Hungarian sandwich, but The Grauniad has an excellent 50th anniversary review of Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions written by John Naughton in their Sundy paper. In a total paradigm shift, the comments aren’t totally trolltown, either. See also, Howard Sankey on the The Conversation.
Before Kuhn, our view of science was dominated by philosophical ideas about how it ought to develop (“the scientific method”), together with a heroic narrative of scientific progress as “the addition of new truths to the stock of old truths, or the increasing approximation of theories to the truth, and in the odd case, the correction of past errors”
A couple of my recent forays into the media have provoked comment below the articles themselves and in emails sent querying particular points. They are worth unpacking because they reflect on the different between the straight communication of science and framing risk.
One was in reference to a recent op-ed in The Age. In it, I said:
If people accept the 0.0038 and 0.02 degree benefits as valid then they also accept the science behind a 5.3 degrees warming for business as usual (As in the emission scenario created by Treasury for the 2008 Garnaut Review). Who wants to live in a world warming by 5 degrees or more? Major food crops could not be grown in many parts of the world, projected sea level rise would be tens of metres, most of the shelled species in the ocean would not survive, ecosystems would be disrupted as the pace of change outstripped their ability to adapt and millions to billions of people would lose environmental security leading to mass migrations never before seen.
That prompted an email from an earth scientist wanting to know what peer-reviewed reference I was using for the projected tens of metres of sea level rise. I sent back this now famous diagram and a note saying that I wasn’t putting it on a timetable. He then replied suggesting that people could be misled into thinking that the date was 2100 (because that was tied to the two temperature measures) and that I was being alarmist. Because it would take thousands of years to be realised. Read the rest of this entry »
Little by little: the benefits of Australian climate policy
By Roger Jones, Victoria University
A catchment threatened by salinity can’t be repaired by one or two landholders. Revegetation designed to lower watertables has its greatest ecological benefit where the plants are, but its net impact on salinity is small and spread over a much larger area. To achieve catchment-wide benefits, many good neighbours need to pay a small amount towards revegetation, with everyone contributing according to their capacity. Landcare – an idea invented in Australia and exported overseas – works exactly on that basis. It is supported by all major political parties, and many Landcare programs are funded by the taxpayer.
For climate, any action to permanently reduce greenhouse gas emissions in one region spreads the benefits across the globe. A global effort requires many good neighbours amongst countries who may not know each other well or trust each other very much. Read the rest of this entry »
Planet under Pressure 2012: here’s the wrap
The Planet Under Pressure 2012 Conference was held in London a fortnight back and released the first State of the Planet Declaration. The conference aim was to set out the science (in a broad sense) in the run-up to the UN Rio+20 conference. The recommendations in the statement have been passed onto the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, who has agreed to take them on board. 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.
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.