Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Archive for August 2011

Our Say: The Climate Agenda

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The Sunday Age has launched a conversation with the public on climate change. In partnership with the newly formed social media group Our Say, they are encouraging the public to ask questions about climate change, with a view to having those questions expertly addressed. Already the site has erupted into a battle for hearts and minds as Andrew Bolt’s blog has encouraged his acolytes to make their views heard.

There are a heap of questions already posted. Readers have to click down a number of times to see the all. A couple of examples:

“There are some very vocal and seemingly influential climate change sceptics who have been given well supported platforms by some media organisations in Australia. 2GB’s broadcasting of Alan Jones and News Limited’s publishing of Andrew Bolt is a couple of examples that spring to mind. It appears that these media organisations have the goal of destroying the credibility of anyone who supports the science of and actions to mitigate the effects of human civilization’s influences on earth’s climate. Do these media organisations obtain funding from any corporate, organisational or individual entities with a vested interest in maintain the industrial status quo where unlimited greenhouse gas emissions are largely the norm?”

“The very point of Australia’s carbon tax is to reduce global warming. How much will reducing 5% of Australia’s around 1.5% contribution of global CO2 emissions reduce global temperature by? If the amount is negligible (which it is), then given the present economic turbulence, what is the probability of Australia’s carbon tax inspiring major emitters like USA, China and India to make ACTUAL cuts to their C02 emissions (as opposed to mere carbon intensity) and economic growth?”

Go vote


Written by Roger Jones

August 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Environment Canada budget slashed: Adaptation and Impacts Research shut down

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The conservative Harper Government in Canada has cut over $200 million from the budget of Environment Canada, resulting in the loss of 1,211 jobs over the next three years. Some of the biggest cuts were in the program activities of Climate Change and Clean Air, Substance and Waste Management, Weather and Environmental Services, Water Resources and Internal Services. The programs that were cut this year include, the Clean Air Agenda and the Air Quality Health Index. The programs that will be cut next year include Species at Risk.

Included in the swingeing cuts is the Adaptation and Impacts Research branch. From their website:

Environment Canada has undertaken impacts and adaptation science for more than 15 years, developing methodologies and tools, and interpreting climate and weather data.  Environment Canada conducts impacts research to improve our understanding of the sensitivities of sectors, regions, people and property to a changing climate in order to help develop appropriate adaptation actions, with implementing partners, for the benefit of all Canadians.  Multi-disciplinary studies have led to numerous adaptation success stories to safeguard health, safety, economic competitiveness and the biological diversity of Canada.

Professor Ian Burton:

I  regret to have to tell you that the Adaptation and Impact Research group that I established in Environment Canada some
17 years ago has  been axed (It’s not quite dead yet but most of the senior scientists have received “surplus to requirements” letters). This is just the first round of the drastic budget cutting that is expected.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

August 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Total failure to adapt

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Joseph Romm of Climate Progress had an article on Grist that was reprinted on Climate Spectator, detailing cuts to climate adaptation funding being either planned or implemented by the Republican controlled lower house in the US. Some of them are committee recommendations, others are contained in appropriation bills. Not being totally au fait with US political governance, I’m assuming they all have to get through the Democrat-controlled Senate. Still, they make chilling reading:

NOAA CLIMATE SERVICE: In the Commerce, Justice, and Science committee report, “it is the Committee’s intention that no funds shall be used [PDF] to create a Climate Service at NOAA.”

ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS CLIMATE READINESS: Language in the Energy and Water appropriation committee report offered by Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) prohibits spending on response to climate change in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, with $4.9 million cut from their budget and transferred to the Spending Reduction Account. Approved by a House vote of 218-191.

AGRICULTURE CLIMATE READINESS: A rider in the Agriculture appropriation (Sec. 755) blocks the Agriculture Department (USDA) from carrying out its Policy Statement on Climate Adaptation. The rider by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) would prevent the USDA from even assessing what impacts climate change might have on farmers, foresters and other landholders. Approved by a House vote of 238-179.

HOMELAND SECURITY CLIMATE READINESS: A provision in the Homeland Security appropriation (H.R. 2017, Sec. 707) offered by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) prevents the Department of Homeland Security from running its Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. Approved by a House vote of 242-180. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

August 5, 2011 at 12:57 am

Sea level rise. Part II – tide gauge analysis

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Sea level rise Part I covered the stoush resulting from a paper on long-term tide gauge records for Australasia. The author was Phil Watson of the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water and the paper was published in the Journal of Coastal Research in March. Tamino has pointed out the limitations of the statistical methods used, showing that the conclusion of decelerating sea level cannot be sustained. Tamino removed the annual cycle then used 20-year and lowess smoothing to show that the opposite conclusion – recent sea level rise is accelerating – is probably true for the Australasian region. A conclusion I strongly support.

It’s generally accepted that long-term climate records are analysed using trend analysis; either as a linear or non-linear trend, usually quadratic. The use of a particular statistical method assumes a specific model of how a system behaves. That model can be made explicit but if not, there is still an assumed model being used. Sometimes the assumption won’t be declared because it’s a widely accepted paradigm.

So what is the model sitting behind trend analysis – measured as either a straight line or a curve – and what paradigm of change process does it support? By analysing single tide gauge records, I am asking “How does sea level respond to externally-driven warming at a given location?” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

August 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Sea level rise. Part I – the stoush

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A stoush on Australiasian sea level rise has erupted in the press and the blogosphere since the publication on July 22 of a story in The Australian covering a paper analysing long tide gauge records in Australasia. The details are covered comprehensively by Deltoid. The paper, by Phil Watson of the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water was published in the Journal of Coastal Research in March. It concluded that:

The analysis reveals a consistent trend of weak deceleration at each of these gauge sites throughout Australasia over the period from 1940 to 2000. Short period trends of acceleration in mean sea level after 1990 are evident at each site, although these are not abnormal or higher than other short-term rates measured throughout the historical record.

The Australian misprepresented this conclusion by calling in question 21st century projections of sea level rise (SLR). There is a very simple reason as to why this is not the case. The projections are about current and future ocean budgets, whereas the tide gauge records are more about process. Sea level budgets are known well enough to provide very high confidence that SLR will accelerate throughout the 21st century. The process of sea level rise at a site as measured by tide gauges is complex. Watson’s conclusions as emphasised by himself, his employers and real experts do not call into question the basic science about future SLR budgets.

However, as to the process of SLR I think the statistics currently being used don’t tell the full story. In part I, I summarise the story to date and in Part II, I will show an alternative method for analysing long-term tide gauge records. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

August 4, 2011 at 9:11 am