Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Archive for July 2012

Provoking comment and framing risk

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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 »

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Where are the economists?

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For those who didn’t catch it, during the week an op-ed of mine was Climate Policy will Stay a Mystery until Silent Specialists Join the Debate was published in The Age. It was based on an earlier post where I detailed the benefits of Australia’s climate policy and the tricks used by opponents to make it look more ineffective than it is likely to be. In the op-ed I ask where are the barefoot economists who will challenge untrue statements about climate and the economy? Text reproduced below (with small edits for clarity).

Read the rest of this entry »

Wind farm syndrome

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It used to be that visions were religious, as were communicable diseases. Visions of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and God were common in the ancient Christian world. Likewise, diseases were delivered via curses from the devil and his minions.

These days, most visions are products of technology and the modern world. Aliens abound, kidnapping and probing  the innocent. Visionary virgins are now rare, mostly hanging on in less technological agrarian societies.

Technology is also delivering new curses and diseases. Nothing is more cursory in the Australian landscape than wind farms, giving rise to wind farm syndrome – an illness with a range of symptoms they ascribe to the presence of wind generators. The scourge of the wind farm syndrome has prompted the Victorian government to mandate a 2 km distance between any new wind generator and a residence, pretty much killing new wind farms in the state.

Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney has written a terrific article on wind farm syndrome, describing it as a nocebo, where a cause and effect relationship that has an illusory physical relationship is charged with causing a negative effect. I made light of it above, but for the people suffering from it, the disease is as real as one caused by a genuine pathogen. This suggests there are two issues that need to be addressed. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

July 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Benefits of Oz climate policy on The Conversation

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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 »

Car-bike intercourse

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Car-intercourse-bike. Bike comes off second best. Bike-intercourse-car. Bike comes off second best. Australian drivers are some of the most selfish in the world when it comes to sharing the road with more vulnerable forms of transport.

The attitude seems to be that if anything without a motor comes in between a car going from point A to point B it’s violating the driver’s right of way. Having just spent a week riding in Arizona at the Adaptation Futures conference, I got the strong impression that US drivers are more bike friendly than Australian drivers. What can be done to make Australia, a mostly flat country that’s great to ride on, more bike friendly? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

July 19, 2012 at 2:09 am

Spooner again

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The Age cartoonist John Spooner returned to climate policy this weekend. I won’t have go at Spooner as I did after last weekend’s effort but I will discuss his theme. Spooner maintains that the carbon tax and GST double up, giving the example of a little boy with his lawyer trying to avoid a shopkeeper double taxing his chocolate. What Spooner is doing here – to put a generous point on it – is to reflect what many people are thinking.

Illustration: John Spooner

So how realistic is this scenario? On Friday, the Minister for Climate Change Greg Combet and the assistant treasurer David Bradbury issued a joint statement that GST does not apply to the $23 per tonne price of permits. This avoids double taxation where GST is charged on GST (which they shouldn’t be anyway). Where permits are given free, the prices will not be carried through, limiting its effect. I can’t see however, that GST won’t be levied on general goods and services as reported here. But these numbers will be comparatively small. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

July 15, 2012 at 3:05 am

Spooner’s war on climate policy

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John Spooner, cartoonist for The Age has fired his latest salvo in his war on climate policy in yesterday’s (7-7-2012) paper. It mentions me so I feel obliged to provide a response. J’accuse Spooner of being a propagandist.

Illustration: John Spooner

Yep, that’s me down by the *. Quoted as measuring Australia’s policy impact as being 0.0038°C in 2100. Which would happen if Australia was to reduce its emissions by 5% from 2000 by 2020 and maintain that until 2100. But is this cartoon an accurate and amusing reflection of the conversation Gillard would have with her imaginary friend? Well yes, until the fourth panel. Then it falls away — and that’s worth a bit of scrutiny. And he gets IPCC wrong. What is the IPPC? Read the rest of this entry »