Category Archives: Climate Change & Sustainability

Posts on aspects of climate science, climate action and climate policy & planning.

Temperature pushes Great Barrier Reef to tipping point

In this post we find that the 2020 global average surface temperature was 1.25°C hotter than pre-industrial, equal first with 2016, according to The European Copernicus Climate Change Service. This is important for the Great Barrier Reef, because in a little known report in 2013 scientists found that 1.2°C is the warmest compatible with the Reef remaining a coral-dominated system. Focus recently has been on the emergence of annual severe bleaching (ASB) when the affected reefs are effectively dead. Climate change action of the type we are engaged in will only delay the emergence of ASB on average from about 2034 to 2045. Continue reading Temperature pushes Great Barrier Reef to tipping point

Reflections on climate policy

Updated 10 December, 2020

I’m looking for a paradigm shift in the climate change goal from (a) ‘limitation of warming to 1.5°C’, thus escaping the worst of an already dangerous climate, to (b) ‘restoration of a safe climate’.

A safe climate may be described as ecological sustainability within planetary boundaries to include preservation, restoration and enhancement along with responsible economic, social and personal growth and development.

A mouthful perhaps, but the difference between hope and despair.

Looking at existing aspirations (zero net emissions for a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C) how can we say we will preserve the Great Barrier Reef when scientists tell us that 1.5°C will destroy up to 90% of it?

How can we stop our Pacific neighbours from being swamped by the ocean when we are told that current levels of total greenhouse gases (including methane and all of the ‘Kyoto six’) have an implied warming of 1.75–1.95°C (p13) and longer term equilibrium warming of~2.4°C?

That is with total greenhouse gases at ~490 ppm CO2 equivalent. Right now they are at 508 ppm. Continue reading Reflections on climate policy

Our beds are burning

Ask yourself a simple question. Can you give hope to future generations that the Great Barrier Reef will be protected if your policy is to limit warming to 1.5°C when the GBR is already disappearing before our eyes?

With about 1.1°C of warming we are told that Unprecedented fires in California and Australia signal the dawn of the ‘fire age’. Richard Flanagan talks of a Tasmanian rainforest burnt in 2018, now desolate shale with no sign of regrowth.

As I write, pristine Fraser Island is burning on a front about 46 km long, with reports that water from water bombers is evaporating before it hits the ground.

We have now reached a point where the cost of insurance alone in flood and bushfire-prone communities makes it impossible to live there.

Dangerous climate change is already here.

How can we set a target of 1.5°C temperature (actually a 50% chance of limiting the increase to that level) when we know that during the Eemian interglacial sea levels rose 6-9 metres with 300ppm of CO2, and we have already broken through the 410 ppm? Continue reading Our beds are burning

Should Biden’s election cause Australia to pivot on climate change?


Our Prime Minister Scott Morrison refuses to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and Joe Biden’s election as US president will not change Australian climate policy.

Joe Biden calls climate change the ‘number one issue facing humanity’:

    “Climate change is the existential threat to humanity,” the former vice president said. “Unchecked, it is going to actually bake this planet. This is not hyperbole. It’s real. And we have a moral obligation.”

Continue reading Should Biden’s election cause Australia to pivot on climate change?

Weekly salon 10/10

1. Stimulus budget wildly off target

Laura Tingle summed up the Frydenberg budget strategy in an article that in the AFR was titled Frydenberg stimulus shot veers wildly off target:


    The Government has punted everything on a private sector-led recovery out of recession; one that will happen both really, really quickly and dramatically enough to offset the huge disruption just about to start as businesses lose JobKeeper support for their workforce, run out of rent and bank payment holidays, and decide to close their doors.

Frydenberg spoke of:

    “providing a helping hand to those who need it”, yet so much of the Budget is actually directed at people, and sectors, who don’t need it.

    The most obviously perplexing political decision is that the Government has not only abandoned such a large swathe of its own small business base, but it has constrained the chances of it taking part in the promised recovery.

Continue reading Weekly salon 10/10

Two faces of America: the VP debate

Listening mostly on radio, I thought Mike Pence won the debate by a fair margin, if what he said was true. However, he sounded as though he was stretching the truth, again by a fair margin. His problem was that he had to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, or defend the indefensible. This can stretch his credibility, which to me it did.

However, what I think does not matter to the election outcome.

Do VP debates matter? The conventional wisdom is that on balance they mostly don’t by election day.

Except this debate did matter as an opportunity to stop the drift against Trump. Pence needed a knockout. He did not get it, so he failed. Continue reading Two faces of America: the VP debate

Weekly salon 8/10

1. Trump in travail

POTUS Donald Trump who has contracted COVID-19. This US Today report has a video of him telling us he is doing well. I saw the same on SBS news the other night, and he looked very ill indeed.

We must not make fun of a sick man, but Trump has a way of turning things into a joke himself. Seriously! His Sunday motorcade drive-by was described an an act of insanity: Continue reading Weekly salon 8/10

Weekly salon 21/9

1. What is going on with Brexit?

Bloomberg tells us that Boris Johnson is engulfed by chaos over his plan to renege on a treaty with the European Union by rewriting the Brexit deal with the EU, by breaking his promise and international law in selling the Irish down the river.

What he did was to promise the Democratic Unionist party there would be no border down the Irish Sea, then signed a withdrawal agreement that entails exactly that, and now proposes a bill that would break the very treaty he had signed. Continue reading Weekly salon 21/9

COVID-19: Time is of the essence

During the last week the most interesting piece of information I heard about dealing with the coronavirus was not who is to blame for the mess in nursing homes, or who let the passengers off the Ruby Princess, it was a short interview of Professor Michael Toole, epidemiologist at Burnet Institute, by Patricia Karvelas – Unknown COVID sources have experts worried.

Toole lays down some markers for effective testing, tracing and isolating.

He said that after a test, the results should come back and 90% of the contacts should be traced and found within 48 hours at a maximum. Continue reading COVID-19: Time is of the essence

Rudd shunted 10 years ago: reflections and reappraisals

It was 24 June 2010. I was the dentist chair watching Kevin Rudd giving his tearful exit speech, played on the TV in the ceiling. Rudd recounted the achievements of his term. Quite a long list, it was.

Peter Brent tries to make sense of what happened after that in Regrets? We’ve had a few.

To leave aside for a moment whether shunting Rudd was a good idea, and how all that worked out, Brent thinks the reason for our quick turnover of PMs is the Senate and our propensity to elect third party senators.

Currently the Coalition needs three out of five from One Nation’s two, Centre Alliance’s two and Jacqui Lambie’s one.

A lot of the time One Nation lines up, after some histrionics, with the Coalition. Which then leaves it up to Jacqui Lambie. I find that just a bit terrifying. Continue reading Rudd shunted 10 years ago: reflections and reappraisals

Do we really want to save the Great Barrier Reef? Reprise

Bleached coral at Magnetic Island 2020

This post started as a Climate clippings which last appeared in August 30 last year. This post outgrew the CC format and ended up asking again Do we seriously want to save the great Barrier Reef?

Coral bleaching is becoming the new normal

From the New ScientistThe Great Barrier Reef has suffered its most widespread bleaching yet:

Sad, angry, guilty, some hope – climate scientists reveal their feelings

As a weather attribution study finds that climate change made the weather that drove the devastating Australian fires 30% more likely, Joe Duggan, a science communicator at ANU returned to his project of asking climate scientists how they feel about climate change.

Graham Readfern explains that Duggan was bowled over when he first started the project in 2014. Continue reading Sad, angry, guilty, some hope – climate scientists reveal their feelings