Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Archive for May 2011

Cutting, pasting and throwing grad students under the bus

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Most of the so-called scholarship purporting to disprove human-induced climate change has failed epically. Recent events give a perfect example of why this is. However, reactions to the fall-out show that some of the so-called ‘good guys’  also need to take a good, hard look at themselves. Science without standards ain’t science.

The current issue of Nature Magazine has an editorial covering the retraction of a paper co-authored by Yasmin Said and Ed Wegman of a paper that contained material from the 2006 Wegman report. The retraction is due to high levels of unattributed material in the paper uncovered by bloggers Deep Climate and John Mashey.

One main criticism of mainstream climate science is the level of collaboration between scientists and their role with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is portrayed as a conspiracy where the peer review system is abused by scientists giving each other favourable reviews and shutting out the opposition. This supposed lack of ethics in mainstream science is one of the main themes being used to foster doubt and confusion amongst the public. It wasn’t helped by the stolen CRU emails. However, if the contrarian view is to be supported by a respectable scholarly literature, shouldn’t the same high standards apply?

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Written by Roger Jones

May 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm

NYT compares Oz No-Carbon-Tax movement to Tea Party

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On May 23, the New York Times carried an article In Australia, a Tempest With Echoes of a Tea Party, reprinted in the International Herald Tribune. It compared the “people’s revolt” with the Tea Party, saying:

A call in February by the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, for a “people’s revolt” against the plan has incited one of the most raucous protest movements the country has seen in decades. Thousands have rallied and counter-rallied across the country, with the battle hardening along familiar lines: small versus big government; free markets versus environmental protection; climate change believers versus skeptics.

“Australian politics is becoming increasingly vitriolic, as I think maybe American politics is too, and especially since Tony Abbott became opposition leader,” Rod Tiffen, a media expert and emeritus professor of political science at the University of Sydney, said in an interview. “The charge and counter-charge has just really escalated and become more personal and, well, simple-minded.”

The leaders of the two main parties increasingly view politics as a zero-sum game, he added.

All this is true, but what the journalist, Matt Siegel, didn’t mention was that the counter rallies far outweighed the  rallies. This wasn’t all that well reported in Australia, either. The Melbourne rallies were reported by our ABC as several hundred anti C-tax (400 official) versus several thousand pro C-tax (8,000 official).

What the article did show was that the resemblance is more than skin deep. He mentioned an organiser of the anti-tax coalition as one Tim Andrews, co-founder of conservative Internet portal Menzies House. Andrews’ CV includes his last two jobs, which were with the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform and as a fellow at the Charles G. Koch Foundation. The latter is a think-tank for culture warriors financed by the Koch Brothers, offensive science denialists and bank-rollers of the tea party.

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Written by Roger Jones

May 26, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Climate Commission: The Critical Decade

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The Climate Commission has released its report The Critical Decade prior to a national forum on Climate Change at Parliament House tomorrow. The report was written by Will Steffen of the ANU Climate Change Institute and has been widely reviewed. I recommend it. It can be downloaded here:

The report pulls few punches. Page 3 reprises our Hungry Beast rap when it states:

Climate science is now being debated outside of the normal discussion and debate that occurs within the peer-reviewed scientific literature in the normal course of research. It is being attacked in the media by many with no credentials in the field. The questioning of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the “climategate” incident based on hacked emails in the UK, and attempts to intimidate climate scientists have added to the confusion in the public about the veracity of climate science.

By contrast to the noisy, confusing “debate” in the media, within the climate research community our understanding of the climate system continues to advance strongly.

It concludes:

As you’ve read in this report, we know beyond reasonable doubt that the world is warming and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause. The impacts of climate change are already being felt in Australia and around the world with less than 1 degree of warming globally. The risks of future climate change –to our economy, society and environment – are serious, and grow rapidly with each degree of further temperature rise. Minimising these risks requires rapid, deep and ongoing reductions to global greenhouse gas emissions. We must begin now if we are to decarbonise our economy and move to clean energy sources by 2050. This decade is the critical decade.

Get downloading (Warning: it’s 8 Mb).

Written by Roger Jones

May 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Northern Victorian Flood Review Part II

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This post examines the hydrological influences on past and present flooding leading to the January 2011 floods in northern Victoria. The floods themselves are discussed n Part I here, and affects on the family farm in Kerang are shown here. Part III on climatic influences is here.

Local data used are daily flows at Laanecoorie Reservoir on the mid Loddon River, and daily rainfall from the Newstead and Cairn Curran rain gauges upstream. Hydrological issues concern long-term catchment change and flow data. These affect the assessment of historical floods on the Loddon River.

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Written by Roger Jones

May 22, 2011 at 11:17 am

Wentworth Group spurns draft MDB v2 plan

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The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists have withdrawn from engaging with version 2 of the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s plan to return sustainable environmental flows to the MDB. The first plan was withdrawn under controversy with fierce opposition from irrigators within the basin, largely because of the way it had been introduced and how the cuts were perceived. The original plan comprehensively reviewed water yield and use catchment by catchment. The results provided scientific estimates of the reductions needed to sustain an environmentally healthy system while retaining core regions of high yield irrigation.

So what is the main issue? The original plan had estimated that if 6,983 Gigalitres were recovered, environmental targets would be met with high confidence, and if 3,856 GL were taken back, they would be met with low confidence. The number in the v2 draft 1,000 GL lower than the low confidence figure, so leaves pretty much bugger all (a technical term meaning bugger all) hope of achieving the desired outcome. The Wentworth Group have pulled out of the formal process. Their statement is provided here and GetUp are organising a petition (follow the above link) and other actions to demonstrate the level of public support for water reform. If you feel strongly, please sign.

I suspect the wet year and temporary recovery of water storages has taken the pressure off and the weaker draft plan is the result. This is what happens when science gets jettisoned in favour of political compromise.

Proper recovery of environmental flows doesn’t necessarily mean that irrigators are thrown to the wolves. The industry doesn’t distinguish well enough between effiency, yield and volume in assessing water futures. The first draft plan didn’t help in that respect at all, and failed to take an integrated approach, concentrating on reducing institutional risk to the MDBA. Hopefully, I can make some time to go into more detail in another post.

Written by Roger Jones

May 22, 2011 at 1:22 am

I’m a climate scientist rap: follow up

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I’m a climate scientist, the Hungry Beast rap, is now a modestly-sized intertube virus, having had over 50,000 plays at YouTube. The comments are edifying, not.

Graham Readfearn has talked to a few of us to outline the reasons why we took part in such a risky, but funny, process;
posted on his blog and re-posted at Crikey.

The clip has been picked up at Deltoid, Hot-Topic and the HuffPo where there is actually a worthwhile discussion of the pros and cons going on.

The denialosphere is aghast at the obscenity, wondering how low the science will go. Find your own links if you have to look.

Written by Roger Jones

May 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Posted in Humour

Northern Victorian Flood Review I

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This post reviews some of the events that led to the northern Victorian floods of January 2011. Part II looks at the hydrological influences and Part III on the climatic influences on the floods. Recommendations for the flood review are made in Part III.

There are two flood enquiries happening in Australia at the moment. The one in Queensland is understandably much higher profile because of the loss of life and damage caused. It has the powers of a Royal Commission, so can subpoena, call witnesses and cross examine.

Victoria’s enquiry is a review. Former Police Chief Neil Comrie has been appointed to examine matters extending from flood prediction and warning all the way through to access to emergency funding and government services. Public meetings are being held in affected areas and written submissions are being taken until May 27.

The biggest difference is the Review is more reflective and will address the information delivered, whereas the Commission is investigative and is charged to assess contributing cause to the disaster and its management. It can interrogate.

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Written by Roger Jones

May 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Hungry Beast

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Who’s a climate scientist? I’m a climate scientist!

Update: 24 hours after this was posted, the YouTube link is upward of 10,000 plays and the comments have turned into a flamewar that gets pretty amusing in spots. Same old, same old.

From my point of view, communicating the science from a respectable, learned position can get pretty boring if it’s the only thing going. This was fun to do.

Thanks to the HB team for putting together a flash clip.

Written by Roger Jones

May 11, 2011 at 8:34 am

Posted in Humour