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global warming + AFR « Previous | |Next »
May 31, 2007

An example of global warming---not climate change-- in action.

Rongbu.jpg
Chinese Academy of Sciences and Greenpeace, The Rongbuk glacier on Mount Everest's northern slopes. The photo above was taken in 1968 and the one below was taken this year (2007).

The first photograph shows a long valley filled with ice towers as high as 20 metres that form the Rongbuk glacier, the biggest glacier on Mount Everest's northern slopes. The second photograph taken on April 29 this year (early spring here), shows that the ice forest has retreated dramatically.

The melting glacier has created many new lakes but the extra water has been more than offset by less rainfall and hotter temperatures. A similar kind of scenario in Australia --less rainfall and hotter temperatures is the reason for the need to cut carbon emissions, and to make it illegal to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere without a permit, to set a cap on emissions and to ensure that the cap bites deeply into emissions.

Alan Mitchell, the economics editor of the Australian Financial Review, has an op-ed in the AFR on emissions trading as a way of dealing with the effects of global warming. It's offered as a quick primer on some of the basic choices still to be made on climate policy. Mitchell says:

The most basic choice is whether to believe the warnings about global warming. Governments are reacting not because they know the true extent of the threat but because their believe in risk management. They key to good risk management is flexibility so that policy can adjust as scientific knowledge improves.

It's furphy. We are way past the choice to believe the warnings about global warming.Global warming is the real deal, and human activity has been causing it. It's a reality we now live. Mitchell is way behind policy circles on this, whilst the debate in scientific circles is structured around the tipping point scenario.

Mitchell goes on to say that the next choice is between regulation and market-based policies. He rightly acknowledges that federal and state governments have mandated renewable energy targets.

But, as the game gets serious, governments are turning to market-based policies that allow businesses and consumers to find the lowest cost way to curb emissions. That means the market should decide which emission abatement technologies are used. So beware the special pleas of the nuclear industry, the windmill makers, the ethanol brigade and other rent seekers.

What no mention of the special pleas of the coal industry and the intensive energy users and their greenhouse mafia? Surely Mitchell's free market economics is not a cover for protecting the coal industry? Note the emphasis on 'emission abatement technologies' whilst no mention is made of moving to a carbon free economy in the form of solar and geo-thermal power? Is Mitchell's free market economics a cover for the Australian economy being a carbon based one?

If Mitchell is not an ideologue then it is lack of knowledge and understanding that shines through this quick primer.He is struggling to move beyond the old duality of economics versus environment that many neo-liberal economists have been ensnared in for so long. What they offer as policy is often little more than rightwing politics that traditionally has had a deep detestation of, and hostility towards, environmentalism.

What comes through Mitchell's "primer" is a strategy of doing little now because of new technology being available in 20-30 years time and generous quotas that impose little cost of polluters to give them time to adjust. It's a primer that is structured to favour the coal industry. No mention is made of needing to design an emissions trading scheme to prevent the global warming tipping point; in fact there is no mention of a tipping point ---the delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:17 AM | | Comments (12)
Comments

Comments

I was listening to Dr Karl on the radio this week. You probably know him. The science guy with the colourful shirts that does the falling asleep ad on tv. I dont think he sees the ice melting seas rising stuff too seroiusly. His example was to fill a glass all the way to the top with ice so its bulging over the top. Then, fill the glass to the very top till the water is just about to spill over. Then put the galss on the table and watch the ice melt. The ice melts and the glass doesnt spill over.

Nope,
don't know the guy. Maybe he should reassure the Pacific Islanders who are experiencing rising sea level that theory is better than empirical data. However, I note that he holds that climate change is real and that humans are causing it.

My experience at Victor Harbor is that it is less rising sea levels --barely noticeable--and more wilder storms that destroy the beaches.The wilder storms that denude the beaches of sand are becoming more frequent. The coastline is being battered by wild weather even though the overall temperature is much warmer.

There are many pictures of the history of the sea eating away the coastline so that holiday houses that were once in prime spots close to the sea are being washed away.

The sea level rising stuff is being taken seriously by Malcolm Turnbull who is working with local coastal councils re contingency planning. Some areas will be protected others left.

London already has barrages to stop the rising water levels in the Thames estuary to protect London.

Bondi would be at risk in Sydney, as would the Port Wakefield area north of Adelaide. Not sure about the Gold Coast or Brisbane.

Perhaps Dr Karl could conduct another experiment. Fill one glass with water and another with ice, wait for the ice to melt and then attempt to pour the meltwater into the first glass.
He is correct that melting sea ice will not cause a sea level rise because it is already floating on the sea. The icecaps of Greenland and Antartica are a different matter

Yes agreed they are a different matter.

Les,
so we get back to rising sea levels and wild storms. So which of the coastal parts of Australia are going to be effected?

The gold coast has had its share already of beaches being washed away.
What do the experts say? You would know more than me. I have paid very little attention to it and haven't even seen that Al Gore film.
We were all supposed to be dead from the hole in the ozone layer by now weren't we?

Les,
Cairns already faces the sort of risk that New Orleans faced. It's in a tropical cyclone belt and it's all low lying. So it's potentially subject, if a category five cyclone comes through, to serious flooding and damage.

Last year, a study for the insurance industry identified 700,000 buildings at risk nationwide:

In the Northern Territory nearly 900 coastal buildings, mainly in Darwin, are at risk. Along the Tasmanian coastline, more than 17,000 addresses are considered vulnerable. More than 60,000 in South Australia, mostly around Adelaide, and along the Victorian coast over 80,000, mainly around Melbourne. In Western Australia, 94,000 buildings have been identified around Perth, but the biggest concern is along the eastern seaboard; more than 200,000 buildings are considered vulnerable on the NSW coast, including Sydney. Queensland faces the largest risk, with almost 250,000 buildings under threat, stretching from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast. The north coast of New South Wales, south-east Queensland is one of the big magnets for this big demographic shift that's occurring with the sea change community and the preferred development sites are the flat low lying areas which are probably the most vulnerable to the Venice flooding type syndrome.

It's more a case of what the local council is planning to do to protect the property from the surge from storms and aking tide. David Power, the Gold Coast Deputy Mayor, says his council is well aware of the problem:
The Gold Coast is probably one of the most vulnerable given that we have seven flood plains, but we're vulnerable from the point of view that we have a short catchment. We have mountains right behind our flood plains.

I guess you can expect some properties in south-east Queensland to have their insurance removed, or to become uninsurable. I'd listen to the insurance companies as they are the experts in assessing risk , not real estate agents.

It depends on what the modelling shows. The 7.30 Report says that:

it was refused access to risk modelling prepared for the Gold Coast Council, but using available data we've reconstructed what could happen to one area of Gold Coast canal development. In the worst case scenario, a rising sea level combined with a king tide and storm could result in a six-metre surge that would cause serious flooding.

That's a big surge. At the moment the science or the maps or the information is not available to be able to predict the local areas, and then down to the local streets, exactly where the water will inundate local communities.

Lots have breathed a sigh of relief now that the Hinze dam is not full. That factors in the equation. I know that people buying old canal homes must build up the land 1200mm before rebuilding. We all expect the canal homes to go under at some stage. I am not aware how the insurance companies charge them for insurance as I am the hinterland. After a big rain we often see plastic out door settings floating down the river. Some people chain the tables and chairs together so they can find them easier in the boat.

The AFR has never had a science and technology editor, unlike The Financial Times and The Economist. Even The Wall Street Journal manages a regular technology section.

I don't know where the AFR gets its journalists and section editors from but I'd be surprised if there is a single B.Sc. or B.E. amongst the lot of them.

That newspaper unfortunately perpetuates a strand in Australian business thinking that believes that science and technology is purely for government-funded, glasses-wearing, lab-coat-clad geeks, who are best kept well away from commerce and business.

C.P.Snow's definition of an educated man was one who understood the second law of thermodynamics. I don't think Alan Mitchell would understand it if it jumped up and bit him - as it might.

It's a shame really, as the AFR once had the potential to become Australia's financial newspaper of record.

Now it's becoming a bunch of columnist in search of a workable web site.

MikeM,
yes it is sad. The AFR could have been a better newspaper---and you would think it endeavour to do so given the price it charges for a paper copy.

I understand that its online site--AFR.com--is close to a disaster with many walking away.

The AFR has never had a science and technology editor, unlike The Financial Times and The Economist. Even The Wall Street Journal manages a regular technology section.

I don't know where the AFR gets its journalists and section editors from but I'd be surprised if there is a single B.Sc. or B.E. amongst the lot of them.

That newspaper unfortunately perpetuates a strand in Australian business thinking that believes that science and technology is purely for government-funded, glasses-wearing, lab-coat-clad geeks, who are best kept well away from commerce and business.

C.P.Snow's definition of an educated man was one who understood the second law of thermodynamics. I don't think Alan Mitchell would understand it if it jumped up and bit him - as it might.

It's a shame really, as the AFR once had the potential to become Australia's financial newspaper of record.

Now it's becoming a bunch of columnist in search of a workable web site.

Nobody in the U.S. believes scientists, so now we are past the tipping point, no matter, nobody willing to stop driving SUVs buying large houses, etc, or even care at all...it is now sept. 07 and it is, sunny, 95 degree fahrenheit outside in upstate NY. It is very humid and all day there is a ground level ozone warning so cannot stay outside in upstate NY!!! It is supposed to be high in 70s accord. to historical averages, last year I barbecued on both christmas day and new year's day, it was in the 60s!!! I just wish the pool was still open!!!also, last year twice!!and this spring we had devastating flooding in this region...but now we appear to have a drought (although unsubstantiated)since no news has talked about, I do know we haven't had rain now in two weeks, and next ten days only isolated thunderstorm everyday, we live at headwaters for chesapeake bay, and provide watersource for most NYC, so it COULD be a problem...but nobody cares about this to change their own habits, and realistically, not much anybody can do now anyway...we would rather increase carbon emission by sending our military everywhere, and denying global warming....my neighbor works at one of the many ski resorts here which will close since last year only had enough snow for one month, march I think, and now all man-made snow....I should visit Australia before the reef is all gone....