Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

End of the hiatus

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Understanding Climate Risk has been in something of a hiatus, or a pause for the last couple of years due your host being almost fully submerged, but maybe it’s time to rise to the surface and get things going again.

This is for a few reasons. One is that research, especially public good research and especially in CSIRO, is under serious threat in Australia. We have a government who tout innovation, but who wilfully ignore the role of the generation of underpinning knowledge in fuelling such innovation. They are interested only in commercial innovation – public-good innovation is not only being ignored, it is being excluded from processes such as the Cooperative Research Centre bids currently under way. Having sustainable cities, catchments and ecosystems is impossible without public good research and social innovation, with funding that extends across the sciences, the humanities and the arts. With an election going on, these harms need to be publicised. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

May 22, 2016 at 1:19 pm

CSIRO climate research cuts: Statement by concerned scientists

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The following is a statement prepared by a group of climate scientists in response to the recent announcement of cuts by CSIRO. It was released today at lunchtime by scientists attending the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society 2016 Conference.

 

We strongly believe that the proposed cuts to CSIRO (announced 4/2/16) will seriously undermine Australia’s capacity to respond to the challenges posed by climate change.

Some 100 positions are to be cut in CSIRO’s Ocean and Atmosphere Flagship as part of 350 lost positions across the organisation. This will cripple CSIRO’s climate research.

Australia is a continent surrounded by rapidly changing weather patterns, connected to a rapidly changing global climate. We have already learnt a great deal about our region’s climate, but urgently need to improve our understanding in important areas. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

February 8, 2016 at 5:26 pm

CSIRO cuts to climate science are against the public good

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Roger Jones, Victoria University

CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is facing another round of job losses to basic public research, with the news that the organisation is making deep staffing cuts to areas such as Oceans and Atmosphere and Land and Water. Internally, there are signals that Oceans and Atmosphere will be cut substantially, amid 350 job losses over two years across the organisation.

In a letter to staff, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said:

CSIRO pioneered climate research … But we cannot rest on our laurels as that is the path to mediocrity. Our climate models are among the best in the world and our measurements honed those models to prove global climate change. That question has been answered, and the new question is what do we do about it, and how can we find solutions for the climate we will be living with?

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Written by Roger Jones

February 5, 2016 at 6:18 pm

Pell hoists himself on his own logic

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We have been waiting for Cardinal George Pell to comment publicly on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ because it professes pretty much the opposite to Pell’s public omnipotence on all things climate change.

Speaking to the Financial Times in a story on his reform of Vatican finance, Pell says this:

“It’s got many, many interesting elements. There are parts of it which are beautiful,” he says. “But the church has no particular expertise in science . . . the church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters. We believe in the autonomy of science,” added Cardinal Pell.

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Written by Roger Jones

July 19, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Is the Chief Scientist’s recent science & economy report really pseudo-science?

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Fairfax journo Gareth Hutchens has an article in today’s Herald with the headline:

Australia’s scientists forced to rely on pseudo-science to be taken seriously in Canberra

Well, it is April the first.

Hutchens has a go at the recent Chief Scientist and Australian Academy report: The importance of advanced physical and mathematical sciences to the Australian economy (pdf). They engaged the Centre of International Economics to conduct an economic analysis that used the MMRF-NRA computable general equilibrium model to estimate the impacts of a number of input assumptions on the contribution of the physical and mathematical sciences to the economy. The report estimates that the direct contribution of the advanced physical and mathematical sciences is
equal to 11% of the Australian economy (about $145 billion per year). Along with the direct contribution, the report estimates additional and flow-on benefits of another 11%, bringing total benefits to just over 22% (around $292 billion per year).

I felt I had to defend the report, which is not perfect but necessary (I think I also agree with the headline). In doing so I find myself in defence of CGE economic models (which I can’t quite believe I’m doing). Basically, Hutchens reckons that by engaging with an economic consultancy and an economic model, the Chief Scientist and Australian Academy of Science have prostituted themselves (my words) to the same economic lobbying that everyone else in Canberra uses to argue for government support. Here’s my response posted to the comments of the article (slightly edited – doesn’t seem to have made it through, either):

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Written by Roger Jones

April 1, 2015 at 9:17 am

‘Wait and see’ on climate? No, the science is clear: act now

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‘Wait and see’ on climate? No, the science is clear: act now

By Roger Jones, Victoria University and Roger Bodman, Victoria University

When should we act to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change: now, or later when we know more?

One person who thinks we should wait is New York University theoretical physicist, and former US Under Secretary of Energy for Science, Steven Koonin.

In an article published by the Wall Street Journal, and reproduced in The Australian, Koonin claims that climate models are still too uncertain and that everyone should hold their horses, arguing that:

… because the natural climate changes over decades, it will take many years to get the data needed to confidently isolate and quantify the effects of human influences.

That’s not to say that the issue isn’t pressing. But Koonin says we should urgently do science, rather than urgently cut emissions:

The science is urgent, since we could be caught flat-footed if our understanding does not improve more rapidly than the climate itself changes.

Well, yes. But we’ve been doing this “urgent science” for decades. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

September 30, 2014 at 8:09 am

Frontiers retraction controversy

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The following is a long post, but on an important issue.

Frontiers is an open source science publisher based in Switzerland. Their aim is to provide an open access, open science platform that empowers researchers in their daily work and where everybody has equal opportunity to seek, share and generate knowledge. They have started up a whole host of “Frontiers in” journals covering a wide range of subjects. They have also been linked with the Nature publishing group who is interested in the open access model Frontiers is developing.

So I jumped at the opportunity to be an associate editor of the newly established area of Interdisciplinary Climate Studies. The Editor in Chief is the Swiss climatologist, Professor Martin Beniston. An associate editor invites a panel of reviewers who review a collection of articles each year. The associate editor establishes their interdisciplinary area with a “challenges” paper to set the ball rolling. Their task is to encourage researchers to submit innovative papers exploring the frontiers of knowledge. Read the rest of this entry »

McLean follow up

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Elaine McKewon book-ended my letter to the editors of Fairfax papers The Age and Sydney Morning Herald regarding the publishing of John McLean’s error-ridden piece on the IPCC (the editors, by the way, have not responded) with a terrific take down of McLean in Crikey.

She questioned McLean’s byline on the original article, to whit:

John McLean is the author of three peer-reviewed papers on climate and an expert reviewer for the latest IPCC report. He is also a climate data analyst and a member of the International Climate Science Coalition.”

asking “But is that accurate? Who is John McLean? What qualifications entitle him to speak as an expert on climate science? What is the ICSC, and which groups, interests and agendas do McLean and the ICSC represent? What exactly does it mean to be an “expert reviewer” of IPCC reports?”

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BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013 – quick links

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On Friday Jan 3, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology released its Annual climate statement 2013. The headline statements include:

Data collected and analysed by the Bureau of Meteorology show that 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record while rainfall was slightly below average nationally.

  • Summer 2012–13 was the warmest on record nationally, spring was also the warmest on record and winter the third warmest
  • Overall, 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record: annual national mean temperature was +1.20°C above average
  • All States and the Northern Territory ranked in the four warmest years on record
  • Nationally-averaged rainfall was slightly below average for the year, with 428 mm (1961–1990 average 465 mm)
  • Rainfall was mostly below average for the inland east and centre, and above average for the east coast, northern Tasmania and parts of Western Australia

The statement was widely reported – two good summaries by the BoM crew and Lewis and Karoly can be found on The Conversation. One of the biggest talking points was that 2013 was a normal year meteorologically – no El Niño in sight – but the temperature was still a record. Much of the reporting in Australia pointed out the disjuncture between observations and current government policy. The Australian Science Media Centre also had a rapid round-up that included some words from me.

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How to read an IPCC report

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By Roger Jones, Victoria University and Celeste Young, Victoria University

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the accepted global authority on climate change. It produces reports that are collectively agreed assessments of the scientific literature by leading researchers. The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is being delivered over 2013–2014, starting this weekend.

What an IPCC report is

An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is an assessment that collects and summarises current knowledge in relation to climate change. This is done using literature from peer reviewed and unreviewed (grey) sources.

It is considered the leading review globally of climate change and is produced by a team of hundreds of scientists and specialists from a diverse range of disciplines.

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