Not well at all, according to the scientists. Actually it is a travesty of language to call Abbott’s position “science”. In this piece I’ll highlight the kind of thinking that unfortunately cannot be dismissed as an Abbott aberration, but has the Turnbull government in it’s thrall. Let’s start with David Rowe’s amazing cartoon from the AFR:
New research published this week reveals that vast stretches of the ocean interior abruptly lost oxygen during the transition out of the last ice age that occurred 17,000–10,000 years ago.
If that happened as a result of the relatively gentle forcing caused by changes in the Earth’s orbit, imagine what is possible now!
Like most of the life on the planet, the large majority of marine organisms need oxygen to live. Most marine life, from salmon, crabs, to shellfish, respires oxygen and many forms are intolerant of low oxygen seawater.
So-called ‘dead zones’ do contain life comprised of worms, bacteria, specialized urchins and bivalves, and other extremophiles, just not the kind of tucker we like to eat.
India is one country a bit allergic to discussing agriculture and climate pollution. They worry about feeding the millions. They also got a serve from Obama when he was there:
During a visit to New Delhi last month, Obama warned that the world does not “stand a chance against climate change” unless developing countries such as India reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
India, as usual, is impervious to pressure, but the environment minister reckons they are doing their bit. New prime minister Narendra Modi is keen on renewable energy:
Since coming to power in May, Modi has pledged to increase India’s renewable energy in a bid to lower coal use and bring electricity to more than 300 million poor people currently without power.
Modi, who built up a solar industry in Gujarat state when he was chief minister, has set a target for India to have 100 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2022.
3. Abbott’s decline attributed to G20 Obama snub and climate change
On Newspoll Abbott’s net approval rating is now -44 (68% disapprove, 24% approve of how he is doing his job). Jason Wison says:
After a polling mini-recovery of sorts for Abbott between July and September, November – the month of the G20 and Obama’s address – marked a turning-point. Between September and November, Abbott’s always-poor net satisfaction ratings had improved and stabilised a little; from November they declined rapidly to where they are today. In some polls, Abbott now has more than half the voters saying that he should resign. November was also the month in which Bill Shorten decisively overcame Abbott as preferred prime minister, and Shorten’s lead is now wider than ever.
Wilson reminds us that Abbott refused to accept President Obama’s request to put climate change on the G20 agenda. Obama’s response was to kick off his stay with an address at the University of Queensland embarrassing Abbott with his references to Australia and climate change.
Maurice Newman is of course Tony Abbott’s top science advisor. Graham Readfearn investigated his claim and found:
Newman is not only misrepresenting the charity’s position, he appears to be making up positions that the charity simply does not hold.
between 2004 and 2011 the average annual energy bill in the UK went up from £610 to £970.
Only £30 of that £360 increase was due to costs related to low-carbon power generation.
Most of the increase, the analysis said, was down to higher gas prices and network costs (maintaining poles and wires).
In my view, Newman’s attempt to pin the blame for the deaths of UK pensioners on renewable energy policies is either disgustingly dishonest or pathetically sloppy.
In the rest of the article Readfearn gives an explainer on how world surface temperature is measured.
5. Miocene temperatures
This Skeptical Science post gives a detailed account of what happened 14 to 17 million years ago in the “Mid Miocene Climate Optimum” (MMCO):
The MMCO was ushered in by CO2 levels jumping abruptly from around 400ppm to 500ppm, with global temperatures warming by about 4°C and sea levels rising about 40m (130 feet) as the Antarctic ice sheet declined substantially and suddenly.
Over the succeeding 2-3 million years Antarctic ice fluctuated dynamically in response to orbital wobbles, showing it was balanced on a knife-edge between a world with little ice and a world with substantial ice caps. Ice-free parts of Antarctica were rain-drenched and supported lush vegetation, while Arctic land was covered by temperate forests. Parts of the planet that had been arid before the MMCO rapidly re-greened and reforested (eg Patagonia).
This graph plots temperature and CO2:
There were some differences between then and now. The Isthmus of Panama had not closed, for example. The warming happened on a warmer base.
Our warming is about 1000 times faster, giving less time for ecosystems to adapt. This is problematic for ocean acidification inter alia.
The law says that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) should be reviewed every two years, so a 2014 review is mandatory.
The law also says that the review should be undertaken by the Climate Change Authority (CCA), which still exists courtesy of the senate. The CCA in a draft report on the emissions target suggested the current 5% emissions reduction target was not enough if we are to pull our weight in the world. In the text they appeared to favour a 25% target, but recommended at least 15% pointing out also the an additional 4% could be added courtesy of Kyoto credits.
I believe the RET has been one of the more successful factors in restraining emissions.
I am not a denier, nor a sceptic actually, of climate change per se. What I am sceptical is the claims that man-made carbon dioxide is the major cause of global warming. I’m not a denier of that, but I am sceptical of that claim.
When asked whether he believed renewable energy had its role to play in Australia’s energy mix Warburton replied:
Yes it does. Renewable energy does have a place to play. The review is asking us to look to see whether it is an efficient and effective way of doing it as we’re doing it at the moment.
I understand he did overtly oppose carbon pricing.
In my opinion Warburton is a denier. Given the degree of certainty in the science you either accept the science or deny it. There’s no room left for fence sitting. That being said, Warburton had a fine reputation as a businessman leading Dupont’s Australian operations, was used by the Keating government in industry renewal, has been a member of the Reserve Bank board and has had various company board roles.
It has emerged that Warburton has been the subject of an investigation into his role as a former director of a firm involved in Australia’s worst foreign bribery scandal. I would suggest that Abbott has done his due diligence and found him in the clear.
Both Abbott and Macfarlane have been emphasising their concern over renewables contributing to the cost of electricity. A second panelist is Matt Zema, the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator. As such he was responsible for a study recently
that found 100 per cent renewables would be possible in Australia, and concluded that the cost of electricity would be little different to business as usual, although AEMO declined to do a full cost analysis.
Greg Hunt parrots his boss’s concerns:
“We are a government that is unashamedly doing our best to take pressure off manufacturing and households through anything that can lower electricity prices,” he said in a theme frequently repeated by the conservative government.
If they are concerned about the future cost of electricity they could begin by looking at the policy of privatisation, found to be “a dismal failure” by Professor Quiggin.
A third panel member, Shirley In’t Veld, is the former head of WA government owned generation company Verve Energy which
has had a history of snubbing renewable energy and chose instead to invest in the refurbishment of the ageing Muja coal-fired generator. The refurbishment has proved to be a financial disaster, with the WA government admitting that nearly $300 million had gone down the drain.
The fourth member is Dr Brian Fisher, the former long-term head of ABARE until he left for private enterprise in 2006 to head up a fossil fuel lobby group, Concept Economics. At ABARE he gained notoriety for his positions on climate policies and is a noted free-market hardliner. Under Fisher:
ABARE was responsible for the infamous “MEGABARE” model that made Australia a laughing stock in connection to the Kyoto negotiations.
Sounds like a merry crew, Abbott’s idea of ‘balance’, and bound to add to the climate recalcitrance now so common in the Anglo-Saxon world.
There is a question as to whether the LNP deliberately lied and misled the public prior to the election. The SMH cites specific bi-partisanship as late as July 2013. Labor’s view:
“At every possible point, they tried to assure the community that there was a bipartisan consensus around the RET, and therefore the growth of renewables,” Labor climate change spokesman Mark Butler says. “What’s clear now is that it was just an utter falsehood.”
“They made it very clear; Greg Hunt staked his reputation on the maintenance of the renewable energy target,” he told said in the island state of Tasmania.
“It’s important for jobs. It’s important in terms of positioning Australia as a clean energy economy into the future.
“We’ll wait and see what they do but we’ll be holding them to account,” Mr Albanese said.
Update: Giles Parkinson tells how the Warburton Review is getting down to business today by looking at what the RET of 20% means. Presently it is a number – “41,000GWh of large-scale developments and an uncapped amount of small-scale generation”. It seems that more than half of that number can be made to disappear by changing definitions.
These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.
They can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed on important climate news.
California approves first broad US climate plan
California has approved “the most sweeping US plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
It includes a cap-and-trade plan:
Initially, California will technically not restrict emissions but instead freely allocate “allowances” to businesses covering their carbon output. The state will gradually reduce allowances, forcing firms to go green.
Companies can also earn credit by supporting environmental projects in forests or farms, including through preservation of woods in Mexico’s Chiapas state and Brazil’s Acre state.
Not everyone is happy, as the scheme could involve clear-felling to plant trees.
Essential research has just found that believers in AGW has fallen to 45% in Australia. That’s still well ahead of the 36% who believe that we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate. The “don’t know” category is quite large, at 19%.
Still 61% either see it as very or quite important to “tackle” climate change.
Peter Lewis, director of Essential Media Communications, speculates in the linked article on how we have come to be where we are.