However, swearing is also shorthand way of expressing disgust and disapproval. Moreover, YeaNah is suggesting that ‘balance’ be privileged over the truth. Is Tingle unable to express the truth because she is working for the ABC, so she must demonstrate ‘balance’ at the expense of truth?
The brown skies I observed in the Blue Mountains this week are a product of human-caused climate change. Take record heat, combine it with unprecedented drought in already dry regions and you get unprecedented bushfires like the ones engulfing the Blue Mountains and spreading across the continent. It’s not complicated.
2019 will always be known for the fires. So how different was the climate?
2019 was Australia’s driest year on record with nationally-averaged rainfall 40% below average for the year at 277.6 mm.
2019 was Australia’s warmest year on record. Australia’s area-averaged mean temperature for 2019 was 1.52 °C above the 1961–1990 average, well above the old record: +1.33 °C in 2013. Mean maximum temperatures were the warmest on record at 2.09 °C above average, also well above the previous record, which was +1.59 °C in 2013.
Please note the temperature is referenced against the 1960-1990 average, not pre-industrial.
At 277.6 mm, 2019 rainfall was well below the previous record from 1902 which was 314.5 mm.
The main influence was a very strong positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), one of the strongest on record. The El Niño–Southern Oscillation remained neutral throughout 2019, so I guess things could have been worse.
All this gave us severe fire weather throughout the year; the national annual accumulated Forest Fire Danger Index was the highest since 1950, when national records began.
For images to illustrate, I’ll begin with a temperature trend for the summer months worked out by Tamino:
Looking at the graph, add about 0.5°C to get the anomaly to pre-industrial. This year looks so much an outlier that one would think it unlikely to be repeated for a few years. However, it has shown us what the future may hold.
Here are the maximum temperature deciles:
More than half the continent was the hottest on record, with average and below average bits hard to find.
Under climate change, the conditions for catastrophic fires will likely be much more frequent — along with the conditions for drought, flooding and storms.
So a nation-building effort to minimise risk would seem prudent.
Morrison is hiding behind the notion that solving climate change requires effort from all nations. His rhetoric is that Labor’s policy would be “economy wrecking”. Yet leading climate scientists, such as Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute say:
“Earth observations show that big systems with known tipping points are already now, at 1°C warming, on the move toward potentially irreversible change, such as accelerated melting of Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, drying of rainforests, and thawing of Arctic permafrost”
Countries are being asked to come to the 2020 meeting of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties with increased ambition. As preparation the Climate Change Authority published a consultation paper in July, and having heard what came out of the Madrid Conference in December will shortly finalise their advice.
PM Scott Morrison could take that opportunity to show some leadership. Also he has spoken of the possibility of a royal commission on the bushfires. That could be an opportunity to pivot. However, George Megalogenis in Morrison, the political animal who missed the political opportunity to leadthinks Morrison has fluffed it, and simply does not know how to behave faced with an international pile-on.
this isn’t about people, it’s about ideology, and to accept the unprecedented scale of the fires and act accordingly is to accept that the climate is changing and something needs to be done. That’s it. To me, this is the most striking aspect of the crisis — the debate about how best to douse a burning country has been seamlessly press-ganged into service in the ongoing culture war, all of which is amplified and buttressed by an increasingly demented right-wing media and an absurdly powerful fossil fuels lobby.
No one is being told to calm down anymore. The smug reassurances have given way to blind panic as it comes apparent that not even the friendly media can shield the government from the rising ire of the public. But even as the army is called in to assist in the relief effort, even as Morrison agrees to pay volunteer firefighters, even as a two billion dollar recovery fund is pledged, the government refuses to alter its climate change policy.
Transpiration is a process whereby trees take water from the soil and release it into the air. The effect is immense and under-appreciated according to an article in the New Scientist by Fred Pearce.
Transpiration is responsible for around half of all precipitation, up to 60,000 cubic kilometres of water per year, more water than all the world’s rivers combined.
In the Amazon, for example, 400 billion trees or so circulate water into the air five or six times. Isotopic analysis has revealed that the water supply for Sao Paulo’s 20 million people mostly comes from rainforest.
If the Amazon turned into desert the effects would be felt as far away as Argentina and right up into central USA.
A recent study has found that deforestation has reduced regional rainfall by as much as 40% per annum.
Key source regions include western North America, eastern Africa, Europe, western Asia, India and, above all, the Brazilian Amazon. Flying rivers often take this water long distances. Around 70 per cent of the water in the River Plate basin, which stretches from southern Brazil through Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay to Buenos Aires in Argentina, comes from transpiration in the Amazon. China gets the moisture for over 80 per cent of its rain from far to the west in the forests of Siberia and Scandinavia, a journey involving several stages of water recycling by trees and taking six months or more.
“The China finding was among my first, and it was a real eye-opener,” says van der Ent. “We learn in high school that rainfall comes from the oceans. China is next to an ocean, yet most of its rainfall is moisture recycled from the land far to the west.”
This map shows some of the main rivers in the sky.
Australia does not show up there, perhaps because the river has run dry. The text actually targets the impact of early human intervention:
It was much wetter until around 45,000 years ago. Today’s desert depressions were huge permanent lakes, kept full by strong and wet monsoon winds. Lake Eyre, also known as Kati Thanda, back then extended to around 10,000 square kilometres, but is now usually a dry salt-encrusted plain.
Also it says:
In the past half century, some 130,000 square kilometres of forest along the western coast south of Perth has been replaced by wheat fields. While rainfall along the coast has remained stable, there has been a 20 per cent decline inland, leaving reservoirs that supply Perth parched, says Jorg Imberger, former director of the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia.
Water management needs to take a broader view. One study looked at planting 70,000 square kilometres of extra forest in the Bolivian Amazon to deliver 600 million cubic metres of extra rain annually to a river supplying the country’s largest city, Santa Cruz.
Some species transpire more than others. An inconvenient finding is that palm oil and rubber trees can transpire more than the trees they replace.
For the Amazon a reduction of 20 to 25 per cent forest cover may be the tipping point which converts the region into open savannah. Africa may be in even more peril with the source of the Nile and jungles of Central Africa.
There have been reviews aplenty. This one is based on Twenty years to 2020 published in the AFR, with some enhancements.
Bitcoin was born and we had the Black Saturday bushfires. The Copenhagen climate talks failed, ratf*****d by the Chinese, according to Kevin Rudd, who spent the summer break writing a children’s book while Wayne Swan read to Henry Review into taxation.
My wife and I walked the Milford track. 16 year-old Jessica Watson sails around the world. Kevin Rudd squibs a double dissolution election on climate change, and is turfed out in favour of Julia Gillard.
30 asylum seekers drown when their boat crashes into the rocks at Christmas Island.
Scientists develop a functional synthetic genome.
A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hits Christchurch, killing 180. A tsunmami hits Fukushima, blowing up the nuclear plant, killing 15,840. Osama bin Laden is killed, and Qantas grounds its entire fleet in an industrial dispute.
Australia did pass ‘world leading’ climate change legislation, courtesy of the Gillard government, working with the Greens and independents.
The AFR forgot the Brisbane floods, the Toowoomba cloudburst and cyclone Yasi.
Gillard made he famous ‘misogyny speech’, Uber launched in Australia, a Royal commission into child abuse was announced, and Australia introduced plain cigarette packaging.
Not mentioned by the AFR the Bahnisch family had a reunion.
Rudd turfs Gillard out, then loses the election to Tony Abbott, instituting a new dark age which still prevails.
Prince George was born and analog TV was turned off in Oz.
Malaysian Airways flight MH4370 disappeared with 239 people on board, Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine with 298 killed, Gough Whitlam died and two hostages and a gunman were killed in the Lindt Cafe siege.
Some of us had a Red Centre holiday and crossed the Simpson Desert.
Also the blog Climate Plus came into being.
The Charlie Hebdo shooting saw 12 killed and the birth of the slogan “Je suis Charlie”.
The Apple watch is launched and Malcolm Turnbull turfs out Tony Abbott.
The Bahnisch family did a trip from Prague to Budapest, via the Danube which ran out of water at Bratislava. Plus various other European places of interest.
Not mentioned by the AFR, but Germany experienced the VW stuff-up, plus absorbed about a million refugees.
Nor did they mention the Paris Agreement on climate change and the death of a bloke called John Malcolm Fraser.
UK votes 51.9% in favour of Brexit.
Augmented reality game Pokemon Go is released.
Donald Trump is elected 45th POTUS.
Women’s march is the largest single-day protest in US history.
Grenfell Tower fire in London kills 72.
GMH ceases manufacturing in Oz.
Same sex marriage is legalised in Oz.
The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Super and Finance Industry makes a stir.
Kim Jong-on crosses into South Korea.
Apple becomes the first trillion dollar company.
Malcolm Turnbull got the chop, making way for Scott Morrison.
Cardinal Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys in 1996.
Scott Morrison wins an election with a little help from Clive Palmer, Bill Shorten and the ALP election team. (There is a rumour that former Greens leader Bob Brown and a coal mine in Central Queensland had an effect.)
Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg inspires the school climate strikes. (Actually that started in 2018, she sailed to New York and addressed the UN in 2019.)
Did they miss any?
Of course any list is somewhat arbitrary. I would have noted the rise of social media other than blogging, which I think dates from around 2012.
Also in 2018 there was the Thai cave rescue story, and the Christchurch massacre.
Where are we now?
According to Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens at The Minefield we’ve reached a point where nothing really matters any more. There are no consequences for bad behaviour, truth has no enduring meaning and can be changed with a tweet to become whatever you want.
All that could be changed if we could clone Jacinda Adern and get her to run every country on the planet. In 2019 she brought down a Wellbeing Budget:
After more than a year of curiosity and speculation, New Zealand’s Labour coalition government has unveiled its “world-first” wellbeing budget, to widespread praise from social agencies charged with looking after the country’s most vulnerable people.
The finance minister, Grant Robertson, unveiled billions for mental health services and child poverty as well as record investment in measures to tackle family violence.
“Success is making New Zealand both a great place to make a living, and a great place to make a life,” Robertson told parliament.
He said many New Zealanders were not benefiting from a growing economy in their daily lives, and this year’s budget had been designed to address the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots.
What will 2020 bring?
We’d best not talk about climate change here or we’ll never finish.
I don’t think killing Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran was a smart move. After Iran did a deal with Obama on nukes the country could have pursued peace and prosperity, one would think. What happened was anything but. However, killing a military leader is unlikely to be followed by an outbreak of peace and love.
Now if Iran misbehaves Trump has threatened 52 strikes, including cultural sites, normally classified as a war crime.
Apart from that, any given year usually brings forth something entirely unexpected.
The New Scientist has a short article suggesting that facial recognition technology will be big, and on another front research on human origins may produce a more settled view on how we evolved from being just another ape.
Then medical research is on the threshold of producing two drugs which may make ageing redundant.
One new drug clears out “senescent” cells out of the brain. The second drug mimics the transfusion of young blood “which has been shown to increase cognition in animals and reduce biomarkers for cancer and heart disease.
They are about to enter phase 3 trials, but could be sold as al-purpose rejuvenation therapies by the end of the decade.
Probably too late for me, and that might be just as well!
The New Scientist asserts that most of us are materially better off, but that puts no price on ‘nature’ and the environment. As top predator we are still on a classic path of a plague species heading for a population crash.
That’s a screenshot of an advertisement put out on Twitter, which you can see here authorised by S. Morrison for the Liberal Party to spruik what the Australian Government is doing to in ” response to these terrible #bushfires“.
The prime minister’s promotional video was staggeringly objectionable and highlights his failure to lead
It really is hard to keep up with a prime minister who declares one minute disaster management is predominantly a state responsibility, and he won’t be running over the top of state premiers, and then, seemingly, five minutes later, calls out the ADF reserve, deploys military assets and procures more water bombers than anyone asked for.
This kind of plot twist is dizzying stuff in normal conditions, let alone in the middle of a disaster, when the prime ministerial norm is generally one of steadiness and consistency.
Perhaps it was Scott Morrison’s own demonstrable lack of clarity about what his government was, or was not, doing, in response to Australia’s catastrophic summer of bushfires that prompted his communications team to pump out a promotional video – on one of the most perilous days of the disaster – outlining today’s initiatives.”
That piece ends with Morrison’s own account of the woman at Cobargo refusing to shake his hand and other people yelling at him. Essentially he says there is a lot of emotion around, and the fact that he was the ‘first senior leader’ to enter the town made him a target for people’s anger and fear.
‘The Australian Defence Association (ADA) — a public-interest watchdog of Australian defence matters — said on Twitter the video “milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires” was a “clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs”.
On the radio Morrison is arguing that earlier he took the position that fire-fighting was a state matter, and that he had been responding to their requests. Now, he says, they were not asking enough and the situation demands actrion, so he is acting.
However, his style appears to be totally non-consultative, ignoring the appropriate protocols. As John Davidson said on another thread:
” He also said somewhere that he was doing what he was doing without listening to the premiers. The big man has taken over AND IT WILL BE DONE HIS WAY!!!
Sounds like out of control political panicking from someone who doesn’t know how to lead. “
This David Rowe cartoon from mid-November seems apposite:
When people with expertise wanted to meet with him he refused. Now he just goes ahead regardless, although on radio he said that calling in the reserves was planned in November. The Guardian has a useful chronology from May 2018 of how the issue developed over time, although they could have started with scientists’ warnings which Penny Wong says she was given when in government prior to Abbott’s ascension to power in 2013.
Paul Bongiorno had already written Morrison’s leadership off in The summer Scott Morrison’s leadership broke. Bongiorno details how Morrison continually gets the decisions, the optics and the words wrong. Whatever political capital he had from the election has been squandered.
On New Year’s Eve we had the PM telling us what a great place Australia is to live when a debate raged as to whether the fireworks should be cancelled and the cricket authorities are spelling out the protocols about who decides whether the players can still see the ball for the smoke. Well before that time the PM had become a bit of a joke. The first comment on this Mumbrella piece says “Morrison is no leader, he couldn’t even lead a choko vine over a dunny wall.! “
Reflecting on a photo of himself surveying some of the damage from Air Force One, George W Bush said:
That photo of me hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground,” Bush wrote later in his book Decision Points.
“That was not how I felt. But once that impression was formed, I couldn’t change it.”
Tingle dismembers the Government’s shallow, perfidious and contradictory climate ‘policies’.
A price we have paid is a general lack of trust in politicians and the institutions of government, which the right side of politics have trashed in Australia over the last 10 years. Joe Hildebrandt comes up with an unusual analysis which nevertheless is built around the central point that we’ve had Liberal and Labor powerbrokers treating the office of the prime minister as a personal plaything and the electorate with contempt in the process. The notable exception, he says, has been Anthony Albanese, but than he says Albo has been attacked by the lunar left for not attacking Morrison.
Must say, I don’t know where or when that happened, or who the ‘lunar left’ are.
I was surprised at Tingle’s report on the scale of the fires:
“To give some scale to what has happened here so far, international media outlets have been reporting the 2018 California fires burnt 2 million acres; the 2019 Amazon fires 2.2 million; and the 2019 Siberian fires 6.7 million.
So far Australia’s 2019/20 fires have burnt 12 million acres.”
This year was a very strange year when almost nothing happened worth writing about, but we were busy all year, with some of the projects we’d shunted on from the previous year still not accomplished.
This year we seemed to be
constantly busy but nothing too dramatic happened, and in a way we were grateful for that.
On the day I wrote this the
forecast was 39°C for Brisbane and 43°C for Ipswich. The weather/climate has
certainly been unusual. In Australia we have had record floods in the north, drought in large
parts of the country, water being carted to inland towns, a huge fish kill in
the Darling River system, horrific fires mainly in NSW and Qld, and then storms
with supercells delivering destructive hail. It used to be “as big as golf
balls”. Last week it was “as big as coconuts”.
We have been struggling to keep the main structure of our garden alive, while around the suburbs mature trees are dying. Here’s a golden penda photographed in April:
This photo is from 16 December:
As an update, we had 84 mm of rain in all in December, and the tree is attempting to put out new leaves.
This is what our grass in the front yard looked like before the rain:
We’ve twice been out to
visit my sister at the Carinya Hostel in Miles where she has settled well in the
residential aged care facility. The 24/7 care seems excellent.
After the election we
joined the Mt Coot-tha Branch of the Labor Party, and I joined LEAN (Labor
Environment Action Network), a low-profile group that works within the ALP to
help shape policy, and then keep the politicians honest.
On the basis of a
submission I made I was encouraged to attend their national conference in Sydney in October. My wife came along to help
navigate the big city, catch up with her nephew and his wife, and take in an
art gallery or two.
The natives were friendly and very helpful but after only two days we were glad to come back home. Being in Sydney was like living in a huge ants nest.
In January my daughter and granddaughter came to visit:
They are coming again
next year in April, to help me celebrate my 80th birthday.
In 2018 we had a simple Christmas on our deck with the boys:
In 2019 it was just one.
Mark stayed with us from
October 2018 until the end of January. Then the next day Alex moved in. By
mid-year Alex had moved out, and Mark came back. In December he went to Chiang
Mai in Thailand where he and his Thai teacher Waan awere writing their novels
and hanging about.
So we had that ‘empty
house’ feeling for about two days until we got used to it.
Other than that life continues as normal.
My wife sang in Messiah
once again. I have one less yard in Brookfield to look after, and continue to
blog, though my output has suffered because of my political engagement, plus
everything seems to take a bit longer than it used to. This year over 100 posts
were added. I think there are about 1400 there now.
We saw some brilliant
movies, and went to GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) to see the exhibition of
Margaret Olley and Ben Quilty.
Here’s the amazing portrait Quilty painted of Olley:
That one is from the
So in an increasingly
troubled world life continues to be good for us. And we continue to
cultivate the four
emotions worth having – loving-kindness,
compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.
We hope you had a pleasant and rewarding Christmas/New Year and wish you health and happiness for 2020.
Hello, long time no visit. I originally set this blog up for Brian quite a few years ago, and it’s mostly been well behaved, but then it decided to take a Bex and have a lie-down at a very inconvenient time.
What with the time of year forcing other obligations it’s taken me this long to work out that the fix was actually an embarassingly simple one when I’d been looking at a bunch of complex possibilities.
So, belatedly, it’s back up again but with fewer of the special functions until I work out which one was sending the database into conniptions.
Australia has had a history of bushfires stretching back long before the English invasion. There seems to be little doubt that the fire related activities of Aborigines have had a substantial effect on local ecologies and the species that have survived and gone extinct.
Time lauded the 16-year-old from Sweden for starting an environmental campaign in August 2018 that became a global movement, initially skipping school and camping in front of the Swedish Parliament to demand action.
“In the 16 months since, she has addressed heads of state at the UN, met with the Pope, sparred with the President of the United States and inspired 4 million people to join the global climate strike on September 20, 2019, in what was the largest climate demonstration in human history,” the magazine said.
“Margaret Atwood compared her to Joan of Arc. After noticing a hundredfold increase in its usage, lexicographers at Collins Dictionary named Thunberg’s pioneering idea, climate strike, the word of the year.”
Leading scientists have expressed concern about the lack of focus on the climate crisis as bushfires rage across New South Wales and Queensland, saying it should be a “wake-up call” for the government.
Climate experts who spoke to Guardian Australia said they were “bewildered” the emergency had grabbed little attention during the final parliamentary sitting week for the year, which was instead taken up by the repeal of medevac laws, a restructure of the public service, and energy minister Angus Taylor’s run-in with the American author Naomi Wolf.
‘Tipping point’ is a metaphor, first used by science and the media about climate change from about 2005 as this article explains. The metaphor has become topical now because some of the most senior climate scientists on the planet have used it to warn everyone, just before the nations of the world meet in the Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC meet in the first two weeks of December, as they do every year, this time in Madrid, to plan an international response to what was identified in the Rio Earth Summit as dangerous anthropogenic interference [DAI] with the climate system”.
The article, commentary rather than research – Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against – is freely available at Nature. The authors are Timothy M. Lenton, Johan Rockström, Owen Gaffney, Stefan Rahmstorf, Katherine Richardson, Will Steffen and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber with the message;
The growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes must compel political and economic action on emissions.