Australia’s PM On The Spot

2,000 scientists recently endorsed an open letter to our Prime Minster Turnbull calling for a halt to coal to save the world’s coral reefs. With 50% of global coral already dead, and a global bleaching event that started in 2014 still underway and ready to hit the Caribbean next, the Coral Reef Symposium in Hawaii issued the urgent call for leadership from Australia (see

“We call upon the Australian Commonwealth Government to stop endorsing the export of coal and specifically to stop or revoke the approval of new mines…”

“Australia is currently perceived as a laggard compared to other developed countries in pursuing the urgent pathway to a low carbon economy…”

What could be stronger than these words!

Why was climate change not higher on the agenda during this election? If vested interests/money was not involved, we would see the biggest outrage from the media.

This is not and should not be regarded as a ‘green’ issue as it goes to the heart of human survival into the coming centuries. We rely on the services that our environment provides to us – water, air, food, etc. Changes to our climate are already having serious consequences. The impacts we see today were created by our emissions in the 1990’s and we have not yet seen the impacts of the last 20 years of emissions. Inevitably, we will all be affected.

The simple message is, “The more we emit the worse the impacts will be”.

The current commitment to sea level rise has been estimated to be between 1.2m and 2.2m over the long term if we reduce emissions rapidly. If we continue to increase emissions over the next 30 years the commitment will be 9m of sea level rise. This would mean the drowning of coastal cities everywhere.

Those born this century have not experienced a year where the global average temperature was lower than any year in the 20th century except 1998, which was a strong El Nino year.

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Action beyond Paris Agreement

It is now 25 years since the first global reports warned us that greenhouse gas emissions were a serious problem. I have watched the debate these two decades on climate change with increasing levels of concern. This is not some minor issue that will be easy to overcome. It is a massive juggernaut that will careen faster and faster, crashing through human society with drastic consequences. We have already committed our children to a degrading planet with compounding problems. If we don’t stop emitting greenhouse gases (particularly CO2) our children or their children may not have a livable planet at all.

The tragedy of it is that we can do something to stop it. It is very simple – we must give up fossil fuels. We know how to do this. Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources are feasible and not overly expensive. It is not too late. In fact there is a driving moral duty to reduce emissions (and thus the impacts) as quickly as possible. The longer we wait, the harder it will become; until it is no longer possible to recover the Earth to the condition that have enjoyed through 5000 years of settled civilization. Every additional tonne emitted today will drive further warming over this and later centuries.

Besides what we can do individually to reduce our fossil fuel emissions, it falls on our governments to put in place plans to build new renewable energy plants so that we can close down fossil fuels. Because we have delayed for 25 years, there is now no other way to do this than actively closing down our fossil fuel plants. Our government must:

  1. Declare a climate emergency.
  2. Ban any new fossil fuel industry or infrastructure.
  3. Ban any new coal mines.
  4. Set in place a plan to build new renewable generation capacity sufficient to close down our coal plants.
  5. Found and organize our future carbon free industries.

Australia is in a unique position for renewable energy resources. Solar, wind and wave plants are already being constructed around the world. We have wide expanses of open land where solar energy would be ideal and a massive market to our north that needs energy.

Unfortunately, the agreement in Paris is not binding and the voluntary commitments made by all nations are not enough. Our ambition for reducing emissions must be increased in line with the above to avoid the worst possible outcome.

There is no future in those who continue to deny this crisis. We must have leaders who are willing to make the commitment needed to reduce emissions. No-one can expect us to stop emissions immediately, but I believe it is economically possible to replace our electricity system with currently available renewable energy plants in 10 years. Replacement of petrol would likely take longer.

With an election pending this year, we should be asking candidates of all colours how soon they plan to transition to a low carbon economy.

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People’s Climate Rally

A number of Central Coast organisations were represented at the Climate Change Rally in November 2015. This included CEN and ACF Central Coast branch.
The rally was held to remind governments that real action is needed at the Paris Climate Summit the following week.
The rally was a huge success with an estimated 45,000 attending and more than 750,000 world wide.
The COP21 outcome was encouraged by the show of support. No legally binding wording was included but countries have to review their commitments on a regular basis with a view to increasing cuts.
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Sustainability Talk – Climate and the Central Coast

Climate Change and the Central Coast

Thursday, 20 March, 2014

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Climate Action Sunday 17th

Philippines delegate Yeb Saño announces hunger strike demanding climate change action

Philippines delegate Naderev (Yeb) Saño, announces his decision to go on hunger strike on the first day of the COP19 Climate Change Summit in Poland, 11 November 2013. Making an impassioned plea for action by the conference, he said that he would be fasting in solidarity with his country-folk until action to prevent climate change is forthcoming. Saño received a standing ovation after describing the hardship suffered by Filipino’s, including members of his own family, due to the “colossal” typhoon Haiyan which recently hit his country

View some of his speech:

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IPCC AR5 – WG1 Physical Science Basis

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now says we are as certain that humans are dramatically changing the planet’s climate as we are that smoking causes cancer.” (J. Romm)

Working Group 1 of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has issued the first part of Assessment Report 5. This Report covers the Physical Science Basis for anthropogenic climate change.

Global warming is confirmed yet again: “Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750.” This statement is backed up by direct measurements of the climate system.

And it is human caused: “Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.” …and… “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.

Even models are better: “Climate models have improved since AR4. Models reproduce observed continental-scale surface temperature patterns and trends over many decades, including the more rapid warming since the mid-20th century and the cooling immediately following large volcanic eruptions (very high confidence).

Dealing with projections and required action: “Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

There is little change in the climate sensitivity (still in range 1.5 to 6). The “transient” climate sensitivity (that likely over decades or centuries) is given as in the range 1 to 2.5 (sensitivity is the expected rise in temperature for a doubling of CO2). The response to the cumulative quantity of GHG emissions

These statements are based on a broad range of measured data from across the entire climate system and on close monitoring of our burning of fossil fuels and other human activities such as forest clearing.

Of course, to most this is no surprise. The main message of the report is that since AR4, nothing much has changed only the urgency to act has increased. It is all the more certain that we are heading for disaster if we don’t cut emissions. Scientists hold the same confidence in the evidence that smoking kills as they do that humans are causing global warming.

The huge effort on research in the last 7 years has failed to find any doubt that we are causing our planet to warm by our use of fossil fuels and that we must act swiftly to stop this or suffer serious and long term consequences.

So, the science is settled (and has been for some time). What then should we do….

The Report uses projections of how the climate will change. These are based on new scenarios that relate to the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere (Representative Concentration Pathways: RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP 6.0 and RCP8.5, Skeptical Science has a good rundown on these…

These pathways are similar to previous future scenarios in that they give a range of human emissions from strong reductions in emissions (RCP2.6) to business as usual emissions (RCP8.5). RCP8.5 sees global temperature approaching 4.5 degrees by 2100 – a disaster scenario. The modeling is conservative because it omits some positive feedback effects such as permafrost melt and loss of arctic sea ice.

There is little difference to the previous AR4 in that strong cuts are required to give us any chance of staying below the 2 degree limit. 2 degrees of rise is the internationally agreed safety rail beyond which dangerous climate change would occur.

Many scientists believe we may be already too late to stay below the 2 degree limit, essentially because of poor decisions made by our leaders over the last few years. Certainly, the failure at Copenhagen had a lot to do with it.

For a 2 in 3 chance of staying below the 2 degree limit, total emissions needs to be limited to a total budget of around 800 GtC – we have so far used up 530 GtC of this amount so there is only 270 GtC still available. This equates to the reduction scenario represented by RCP2.6. Including reduction in aerosols (particles from fossil fuel burning) and melting of permafrost would reduce the emissions budget limit still further.

To achieve RCP2.6, global emissions need to peak before 2020 and reduce at around 5% per year. Current thinking is that RCP2.6 is not a practically achievable scenario as we have already gone past the window to achieve it.

Finally, it must be remembered that the IPCC reports are highly conservative and are regularly revised ‘upwards’. This results from the highly scrutinized process and editing by the many countries that are involved. Consequently, the outcomes of the Report are highly robust and generally we can expect that the reality will turn out to be worse.

Further info… .

A few other points to note in AR5:

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) research shows this current is likely to slow (between 10% and 35%). This slowing is likely to impact on the European climate (make the region colder).

Sea Level Rise is expected to be between 0.3m and 1.0m for the range of scenarios (slightly increased from AR4). There is insufficient confidence in the empirical assessments to include them even though they predict up to double the rise. Also, the contribution of Antarctica is still not fully included due to the uncertainty of the actual melting there. Many researchers consider destabilization of marine based Antarctic ice (such as in West Antarctica) to be a serious risk.

Ocean acidification is very well defined as it depends directly on the emissions that occur. The values for reduction in ph (i.e. acidification) are:-   0.15 for RCP4.5, 0.2 for RCP6 and 0.31 for RCP8.5.

Large climatic changes are already locked in and likely to continue for centuries, unless GHG’s are actively removed from the system. Around 25% of the CO2 released will remain in the atmosphere for 1000 years, even if we stopped now.

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IPCC Report Due Tomorrow

With the next IPCC Report due to be released tomorrow, there has been some debate designed to undermine the science even before it is released. There has also been some effort put into diluting the contents of the report even before we get to see it.

Unfortunately, the report will repeat the basic statements regarding science that we all dread to hear… that warming is occurring, that there is already considerable change in the pipeline and that we must act quickly if we hope to slow the warming.

It would be great to listen to people like Curry or the other advocates of low impacts (or even that its all a hoax) but every time such statements are looked into, it becomes obvious how they are ignoring basic scientific knowledge regarding our climate.

But enough of the negativity, what can we do to fight the changes? We should be focusing on the opportunities, not the threats.

First there is the replacement of our fossil fuel power stations with renewable energy. This is the largest target in our use of energy. This would be followed by:- the vehicle fleet (replace with electric) cement production (find alternatives) aluminium/steel making and industrial processes (develop new methods) .

There are challenges with these, but we have time if we deal with the big problems first (power stations and vehicles).

When all this is done, we may have to look at extracting GHGs from the environment. There are already methods available to extract CO2 from the air. This would be a big task and require a lot of energy, but innovative methods may be developed in the longer term.

Still pressing is the need to get on with the job of cutting fossil fuel use. It is becoming more obvious that this will only happen when people are directly impacted. Extreme weather is likely to be the driving force. If only we didn’t have to be hit by floods or bushfires before people wake up to the threat.

ENSO appears to be looking neutral for the next 6 months which generally means quiet weather ( Lets hope it stays that way – the next El Nino will not be pleasant.

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