Tag Archives: Dangerous climate change

Texas is freezing, but the Arctic is hot

Well, hotter than normal.

That is the temperature for Wednesday 17 February, referenced to a 1979-2000 base, from John Englander’s blog.

Some parts of the planet’s surface are 15 – 20 degrees Celsius colder than we would expect, and other parts are 15 – 20 degrees Celsius warmer.

However, with climate change one of the big effects is destabilisation of the weather. Continue reading Texas is freezing, but the Arctic is hot

Climate tipping points: real and present

The planet has changed. This is Iceland’s Skaftafellsjokull glacier in 1989 and 2020:

As reported in Al Jazeera, Christiana Figueres, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, was stunned speechless when:

    She was told by leading climate scientist Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, that we have already gone beyond some key tipping points. Losing the resilience of the planet was the nightmare that is keeping scientists awake at night, Rockström said.

He was referring to (1) the Arctic summer sea ice (2) West Antarctic glaciers, and (3) tropical coral reef systems. Continue reading Climate tipping points: real and present

Holocene heat corrected

To set this up, the following is a graph of the temperature during the Holocene Era comes from a 2017 James Hansen publication, with explanatory enhancements by David Spratt:

It was thought that both the Holocene and the Eemian, 130 to 118,000 years ago, experienced an early thermal maximum reflected in the big hump in the graph.

Research done by Samantha Bova et al Seasonal origin of the thermal maxima at the Holocene and the last interglacial gives quite a different picture, one of steady warming. This has important implications for where we are at with global warming. Continue reading Holocene heat corrected

Pivotal moments in climate change: Part 1-Climate Targets Panel report

In recent times the biggest pivot in climate change action has undoubtedly been the election of Joe Biden and President of the United States, whose vision and plans have been described as ‘breathtaking’. More of that later.

However, here in Oz a number of things changed within a 24 hour period.

  • There was a seeming capitulation by Labor to the demands of Joel Fitzgibbon to get rid of Mark Butler in the climate change portfolio,
  • An ad hoc group including John Hewson and Will Steffen, the Climate Targets Panel, released a report that took a look at what Australia’s fair contribution to the Paris Agreement should be,
  • The National Party issued a report arguing the necessity of building coal-fired power stations, inter alia,
  • and Dr Andrew Forrest AO delivered the first Boyer Lecture 2020 on Rebooting Australia — How ethical entrepreneurs can help shape a better future.

Seriously, Forrest’s lecture was amazing, and the Dr is not honorary, he actually completed a PhD in marine ecology last year.

In this post I’ll look at the Climate Targets Panel report. Continue reading Pivotal moments in climate change: Part 1-Climate Targets Panel report

Five climate graphs that matter: 2020

The numbers are in for 2020.

Remember Greta Thunberg, the girl who can’t quit, said:

    The emissions are increasing and that is the only thing that matters.

In September 2019 I posted the Four graphs that matter in the climate emergency with some bonus graphs. I’ve decided that we should be watching sea level rise also, because of the future destruction it will wreak, and because sea level rise was the chief motivation behind the move from the island states to target 1.5°C of warming rather than 2°C.

The big news, however, is that 2020 was basically tied with 2016 as the warmest year ever, which is now reckoned to be 1.25°C or more above pre-industrial, depending on where you start. Continue reading Five climate graphs that matter: 2020

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?

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

Climate emergency – ecological sustainability within planetary boundaries, and a safe climate

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That image is a shot of the earth rising over the moon, photographed on Christmas Eve 1968 from Apollo 8, taken from a 2016 article by Martin Rees, looking at the dawn of the Anthropocene.

He plots two futures, one where we continue to degrade the planet, another more optimistic, where human societies could navigate current threats, achieve a sustainable future, and inaugurate a future more marvellous than what was achieved in the Holocene. He is interested in humans becoming electronic beings, which I’d see as a dystopia. Nevertheless, if humans act together, in the interest of the the broad ecology, including our species as a whole, our future could be bright.

In the real world we take action within nation states, which typically put the nation’s interest, however derived, ahead of other nations or indeed ahead humanity as a whole.

Internationally through the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) we are offered scenarios on climate change where, at best, the already bad will get worse. In the case of the latest IPCC 1.5°C report we are offered a 50% chance of avoiding the worst of a dangerous climate. Meanwhile, even if ‘successful’ sea levels will continue to rise, the Great Barrier Reef will be devastated, bad weather, droughts, floods and wildfires will get worse.

Unfortunately in Australia we have a government in power that intends to meet it’s commitments through cheap accounting tricks, where its environment department sees emissions continuing to rise through to 2030. Given that we are one of the largest per capita emitters in the OECD, our Paris commitments are exceptionally modest at 26-28% from 2005 levels. Those were initial commitments. A point overlooked is that under the Paris Agreement parties we undertook to ratchet up our commitments post 2020.

So what should Labor do if elected in 2022 to work towards a safe climate and a world were responsible growth and development is possible? What is a climate emergency, and can we respond appropriately? Continue reading Climate emergency – ecological sustainability within planetary boundaries, and a safe climate

UN meeting failure, so what now?

This is the final version of a post first published on Thursday 26 September. This version contains additional material, and a considerable amount of the earlier version has been pruned.

I hope to do a specific post on the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. Meanwhile we have a closing media release from the summit. While it tells us that “77 countries committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, [and] while 70 countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020 or have started the process of doing so”, none of the large emitters were included. Matt McDonald, Associate Professor of International Relations at the The University of Queensland, gives a neat summary with lots of links in Highly touted UN climate summit failed to deliver – and Scott Morrison failed to show up.

One success of the Summit was Greta Thunberg’s amazing speech:

Greta Thunberg “We’ll be watching you!”
Continue reading UN meeting failure, so what now?