Tag Archives: Hansen_James

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

Has the climate tipped?

‘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.

Continue reading Has the climate tipped?

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


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

Weekly salon 7/9

1. Storms for Hansen’s grandchildren

(From Hurricane Dorian: devastation and destruction in the Bahamas – in pictures)

John Schwartz at the NYT (posted at Lethal Heating) asks How Has Climate Change Affected Hurricane Dorian?

Michael Mann and Andrew E Dessler respond in Global Heating Made Hurricane Dorian Bigger, Wetter – And More Deadly. With warm seas and more moisture in the atmosphere hurricanes can intensify faster, contain more moisture, more wind power and move slower. This means greater flooding and a increased possibility of coinciding with high tides. Continue reading Weekly salon 7/9

Climate action: a doddle or deep adaptation?

Again, this post started as an edition of Climate clippings.

Where I ended up after a series of happenings as described below, is concluding that we need a paradigm shift in our climate change aspirations. Instead of trying to limit warming to a point where we can avoid dangerous climate change, we need to recognize that we’ve already gone too far, that the climate is already dangerous, so we should aim to ratchet down GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to attain a safe climate.

1. Germans look to 7.4 trillion tons of fake snow to save the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Continue reading Climate action: a doddle or deep adaptation?

Too good to be true? Is green flying really possible?

This is a long post, around 5,000 words, wherein I go down many rabbit holes. Perhaps at the end, though, there is a little pot of genuine climate gold.

At any given time there are more than half a million people in the sky, a veritable city about 11 kilometres up, strapped into seats in pressurised tubes atop gigantic flying tanks of kerosene. Looking forward, numbers of air travellers are increasing by 5% each year. Continue reading Too good to be true? Is green flying really possible?

Climate change by the numbers

In 1999 NASA lost its $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter because spacecraft engineers failed to convert from Imperial to metric measurements when exchanging vital data before the craft was launched. Numbers are important!

When Michael Le Page attempts to sort out the numbers in climate science (probably pay-walled) it’s not as straight forward as you might think. For starters we are given this image:

When ice melts, sea level rises – but how much, and how fast? Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Creative

Sorry, when floating ice melts the sea level does not rise. The caption is misleading. Continue reading Climate change by the numbers

Our legacy to the children

Last week school children of Australia marked the card of the Morrison government on climate change and gave it a fail. Was this too harsh?

On Q&A last Monday a Melbourne boy called Marco asked the panel:

    “I’m greatly concerned about my future and the future of children all around the world who will suffer the consequences of climate change more than anyone else,” Marco said.

    “A few days ago thousands of students from around Australia, like me, went on strike from school to demand that the Government acts on climate change.

    “When will the Government start to care about my future and children around the world by acting on climate change and create a strong climate policy?”

Continue reading Our legacy to the children

Cool patch below Greenland is bad news

Two years ago this month I posted Global temperature, the North Atlantic cool patch and the Gulf Stream. The cool patch was still there, lasting throughout the 2018 northern summer:

This now needs to be recognised as an enduring feature associated with the slowdown of the overturning ocean circulation AMOC (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) which James Hansen and Makiko Sato say is having an effect on the east coast hurricanes which have been so prominent during this summer. Continue reading Cool patch below Greenland is bad news

IPCC on 1.5°C: the target is wrong, but we have a strong wake-up call

The target should not be 1.5°C; rather we should aim for a safe climate. James Hansen told us in 2007 that to achieve a safe climate we need to bring GHG concentrations down to 350 ppm as soon as possible. That’s CO2 equivalent, not CO2. Current CO2e is not often quoted, but would be around 500 ppm on the basis that CO2 is about 80% of total GHGs. Also we need to focus on what we are doing to the planet over centuries and millennia, not just the next 50 to 100 years.

However, the IPCC team putting the report together were not asked what the goal should be. They were asked to build a scenario for achieving the 1.5°C warming limit specified as desirable in the Paris Agreement of 2015, and to look at the impacts of a 1.5°C world as against a 2°C world. Two Degrees came out of Europe in the 1990s, achieved a general currency, then became the official goal of at the Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC in Cancun in 2010. At that time there was a move mainly by many of the island states vulnerable it inundation for a more ambitious target. Essentially the whole group at Paris agreed to try.

However, while two degrees was commonly seen as a guardrail for a safe climate even by many scientist, it was never a scientifically derived goal for a safe climate.

The IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C is important because it shows that the path to 1.5°C has a high degree of difficulty and has implications which to most will not be acceptable. It’s importance is in changing the discourse, from being seen as an achievable safe guardrail to 1.5°C as difficult to achieve and far from safe. Continue reading IPCC on 1.5°C: the target is wrong, but we have a strong wake-up call

Hansen got it right

In 1988 James Hansen gave his famous testimony to the US Senate. For the short story, go to Tamino at Open Mind. For the longer story, Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate, plus the commentary thread is best.

Hansen told the politicians that our production of greenhouse gases, principally CO2, N2O, CH4 and CFC, were warming the climate. He said temperatures would go up in the coming years: Continue reading Hansen got it right