Australia is one of the worst climate change polluters of all nations in per-capita terms. So Australia has an ethical responsibility to do more than most other nations toward lowering our emissions. Australia is a democracy, so the crimes of our government are the crimes of the people of Australia.
In 2014, due to the policies of the Abbott government democratically elected by the people of my homeland, Australia's emissions increased following the repeal of an effective carbon tax. Weak and ineffective policies from governments that are compromised by their interests in short-term profits from a huge fossil fuel industry will see emissions continue to be much greater than they could be.
The Turnbull and Morrison governments that followed the Abbott government continued with the same pro-fossil-fuel anti-sustainable-energy policies.
Either there are not enough Australians who have high ethical standards or those who do have standards have not done enough to counter the activities of those who have low ethical standards and are chasing short-term gain. For my own part in that, I apologise to those who are not at fault and are suffering or will suffer for the harm done by my nation.
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©
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See also Climate change in the international context
Climate change is impacting Australia now, and my state, South Australia now, and my region, the Mid-North of SA now
Kangaroo Creek dam, South Australia
The wall was raised by four metres and the spillway was being widened by 40 metres in response to increasingly heavy flood flows in the Torrens River due to climate change.
The USA and Australia, with a couple of small middle eastern oil states, are the worst per-capita greenhouse polluters in the world. The Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments all failed to treat the problem with anything like the urgency it require. The Abbott Government was even worse, the Turnbull Government was a great disappointment and the Morrison Government was perhaps the worst of them all.
Wendy Bacon reported in Sceptial Science that Australian media, especially the Murdoch controlled part, was the most climate-sceptical in the world. Is this due to the huge financial influence of the coal mining industry? (Australia is the fifth largest coal miner and the biggest coal exporter in the world.)
Closely associated with climate change is ocean warming and ocean acidification. For some years the bleaching of coral reefs has been known to be caused by the former, more recently the latter has been shown to be caused by the higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and to pose a great risk to all sea-life that produces skeletons of calcium carbonate. In addition to the corals, many of the tiny animals that make up plankton have calcium carbonate skeletons; they provide one of the greatest food sources for cephalopods (squids and octopuses), fish, dolphins and whales.
Sea creatures with calcium carbonate skeletons eventually die and some of mineral matter in their skeletons is buried in the sea bed. This is one of the most important ways in which carbon is taken out of the atmosphere in the long term. Ocean acidification has the potential to substantially slow this process; effectively leading to an accelerated increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
This page is intended to provide some useful information on the human induced greenhouse and its related effects, but is not, by any means, a full explanation. It provides evidence obtained from a number of sources, and links to reputable organisations that can provide evidence. For a discussion of what Australia and Australians could reasonably do to reduce Australia's huge levels of greenhouse gas production see What should be done?. I speculate on why humanity is so slow to react to such a serious problem in the psychology of climate change, and compare climate change to other disasters on another page.
I suspect that future generations will condemn nations like Australia
and the USA because of our part in the greenhouse warming of the
Why accept that humanity is causing climate
First, the science:
|The number of days on which Australian mean temperatures were in the hottest 1% since records began|
|Rainfall trends in Australia|
The areas coloured in browns are where the rainfall has decreased in the last 41 years, the areas in greens have had increases in rainfall.
A Study by Dr Naomi Oreskes, University of California, San Diego, published in the peer reviewed magazine, Science, December 3, 2004 Vol. 306, Issue 5702,1686 described a random sample of nearly 10% of articles on global warming published in peer reviewed journals in the previous 10 years. Of the 928 articles sampled, and analysed whether agreeing or disagreeing with the prevailing consensus view of anthropogenic global warming, none disagreed with this consensus.
I would like to thank Dr Colin Endean for the above information.
And for those who deny the science, there are many other reasons too.
There's about as much doubt about global warming as there is about whether
the Earth is flat or round.
"that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming."
Other papers on the consensus between climate scientists have been written by Oreskes, 2004; Heima; and Anderegg, 2010.
Also see Wikipedia
Obviously the scientists in those specialities where they would be well placed to know about climate change are in no doubt. The fact that the popular media are suggesting that there is a lot of doubt on the matter explains much of the confusion in the general public. Respectable popular science journals, such as Scientific American and New Scientist, are not in any doubt that climate change is happening and is largely caused by human activity.
One must be cautious about quotes from 'scientists' about any subject outside of the field of the individual scientist. A scientist, like any other person, often has little expertise outside of his or her own speciality.
I pick on geologists because they seem, more than most other scientists, to be skeptical about the causes of recent climate change. It is quite true that there have been huge changes in climate in the very distant past; one need only think of the ice ages, and there have also been very warm periods. However, what the geologist-skeptics seem to neglect is that any of these changes, especially those that came on suddenly – and a change that happened over a century or two is a very sudden change in geological time – were disastrous to many species.
Geologists are trained to look at things in the very long term. It is true that the biosphere will adjust to climate change. In several million years, or tens of millions of years, things will have settled down again and a visitor to the earth might not easily see that anthropogenic climate change ever happened; although, if he studied the genetic diversity of the species present he might come to the conclusion that some great disaster happened in the geologically recent past.
It should also be remembered how people running the tobacco industry
managed to ignore the facts about the health problems associated with
The following is a quote from a media release by the Australia Institute:
"Seventy five professors of economics today called on the Federal Government to stop undermining international efforts to tackle climate change and to ratify the Kyoto Protocol without delay.The full statement seems no longer to be available from the TAI site.
The 75 professors are among 271 Australian university economists who have signed a statement drawing attention to the economic damage to Australia of failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
It seems that the economists realise the damage that will be done by greenhouse far outweighs any damage to the economy caused by addressing the problem. I wonder if Howard's real reason for doing nothing is simple pig-headedness; he has always been against it and he's not about to change his mind – to change his mind would be to admit he was wrong, and he never admits he was wrong on anything.
"A group of more than 200 leading Australians, including leading scientists and academics, business and community leaders, former politicians and rockstars have issued an urgent call to action on major threats to humanity’s future, including global warming.The letter itself and a list of its prominent signatories was published on the Human Future Internet site and I quote it below:
Signatories to the open letter include former Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, former top federal public servant Martin Parkinson and rockstar Jimmy Barnes. Signatories also include a number of former state premiers, including Bob Carr, Steve Bracks, Geoff Gallop, Carmen Lawrence, and Jay Weatherill."
"LETTER TO ALL AUSTRALIANS
As nations worldwide deal with the economic consequences of their battle with the coronavirus, it’s time to change direction so that humanity can survive and thrive far into the future. We cannot go back to business as usual.
The coronavirus crisis, with its economic and social impacts, can be seen as a dress rehearsal for what awaits us. Unless we take unified preventative action urgently, we will continue to be caught napping by ten catastrophic threats, including destructive changes in climate, serious shortages of water and other critical resources, pervasive pollution, the growing danger of nuclear war and the mass extinction of species.
The world, its governments, corporations and people, are unprepared for these risks because we have constantly ignored, in some cases for decades, well-substantiated warnings about them from science. As a result, as surely as the coronavirus followed last summer’s bushfires, we face crisis piling upon unanticipated crisis at an ever-increasing rate.
This MUST change. Hoping to relax back into the way we were is not an option. Societies have already demonstrated unexpected willingness to adjust behaviour, in ways they probably never imagined, in response to the pandemic.
The catastrophic risks we face, the policy pathways we must consider and some of the solutions to individual risks are described in the report “Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century” by the Commission for the Human Future
We call on all governments, industries and people to join together in developing a national dialogue, sound policies and a concrete plan for surviving and thriving amid the mounting dangers that beset humanity.
We can and must move in a new direction to ensure a positive future for our children and theirs."
But on top of this Australia and Australians must take responsibility for the fossil fuels that they export to be burned elsewhere.
I've calculated elsewhere that burning 1 kg of natural gas results in 2.8 kg of CO2 going into the atmosphere. So when the 6.5 million tonnes of natural gas that Australia exports each year is burned it results in the release of 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
|The Climate Change Performance Index: Results 2015|
Note Australia's position; second last of 61 nations.
In the above report, the comment about Australia in the Climate Policy section is:
"Since joining the "very poor" group last year, Australia has lost even more ground and now comes in last together with Canada and Turkey."
"It is an incredibly important issue and there are incredibly strong reasons for taking comprehensive, effective global action to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions."
In 2016 we are not even hearing 'nice words' from the Coalition any more, let
alone credible action.
"Australia only produces about 1.5% of the world's greenhouse gasses. If we were to cut our emissions to nothing tomorrow it would make very little difference to the world. Therefore we would be foolish to risk crippling our economy by taking strong action."The fallacy in this argument can best be demonstrated by taking it even further.
"South Australia produces well under one percent of the world's greenhouse gasses; South Australians can't be any part of the problem!" and further: "The people in my home town of Crystal Brook produce a tiny proportion of the world's greenhouse gasses, plainly we don't need to bother reducing our production." and further: "I produce maybe only a billionth of the world's greenhouse gasses, there's no point in me changing my ways."Australia is a part of the world; we must do our bit. On a per-capita basis Australians are responsible about five times as much greenhouse gasses as the average world citizen. We have a larger moral responsibility to reduce our emissions than most other nations and most other people.
Then neither is it justifiable to say, as has been said many times, "If Australia was to reduced its emissions it would impact our economy but would not solve the climate change problem".
I suspect that most of the people who use this argument know that it is not valid, but they hope that some people will accept it as valid. And the more often it is said without immediately being refuted the more likely it is to be accepted.
I have listed a number of the actions that the Australian government could take to reduce Australia's greenhouse impact on What should be done?.
The steep rise in temperatures starting in the early twentieth century is
As a part of my work I monitored some of the local creeks and rivers. Over the period that I did this monitoring, mainly around 1990 to 2003, I recorded a long-term decline in flows.
As there was little human extraction of groundwater from at least some of these catchments it is most likely that the decline in flows is related to climate change.
The Crystal Brook is close to my home. I have personally noticed a great reduction in flow in this stream over the period during which I have lived in the township of Crystal Brook; around 1976 to 2014. The redgums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) along the Crystal Brook have suffered badly from the decreased flow.
|A redgum on the Crystal Brook|
The tree above has, together with all the other redgums along the lower
Crystal Brook, suffered from climate change trends.
Note that in the image on the right the tree has far less foliage than in
the earlier image.
The graph at right shows long-term average monthly temperatures and the average temperatures of recent months. The important point in this context is that most of the recent months were warmer than average months.
Higher temperatures cause greater need of water by native vegetation; however, we are not getting any more rain; in fact recent years have generally been drier than average. Early 2008 was particularly dry and in March 2008 there was a heat wave of such length that it went well beyond the previous record. This placed the native trees in the Clare Valley under such stress that by May thousands of them were dead.
Many years ago a conservation park was established at Spring Gully near Clare to protect a pocket of red stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha) trees that had, thousands of years ago, become separated from the remainder of the species. These have proven particularly vulnerable to the drought and heat; in May 2008 it appears that many of these trees have died.
It is more a guess than an estimate, but it seems to me that a third to a half of the stringybarks in the Clare Valley are dead.
The average annual rainfall from 1863 to 1990 was 632mm, from 1991 to 2008 it was 557mm, 75mm lower. In the period from 1994 to 2008 the average was 525mm, 107mm lower than the 1863 to 1990 average. The curved line was calculated as a line of best fit to the data.
The steepness and persistence of the decline in rainfalls since about 1970 seems to be unprecedented in the data. Plainly the declining rainfalls, combined with higher temperatures, will stress perennial plants.
Worryingly, the decline in rainfall seems to be becoming steeper, there is no reason to think that the bottom has been reached.
See also Climate Change hits the Clare Valley.
Red stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha) trees, Spring Gully
Conservation Park, South Australia.
Many in this photo died.
The photo was taken on 11th May, 2008;
More information on another page on this site.
The pair of graphs on the left shows that, over the past 400 000 years,
carbon-dioxide levels have been very closely linked to temperatures.
This CSIRO graph shows that CO2 levels have increased steeply since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Technical Paper IV, 2007, on climate change and water stated that:
"The atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and CH4 in 2005 exceed by far the natural range over the last 650 000 years. Global increases in CO2 concentrations are due primarily to fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution. It is very likely that the observed increase in CH4 concentration is predominantly due to agriculture and fossil fuel use."(The IPCC report is no longer available from the Net.)
To claim that the atmospheric changes are coincidental is to hide one's head in the sand.
"In 2001 energy which users obtained by direct combustion of fuels and collection of solar heat provided 69% of the energy supplied to users (including use in the production and processing of fuels other than electricity), but accounted for only 31% of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary energy. Electricity generation accounted for the other 69% of emissions."Put simply, while less than one third of Australia's energy comes from electricity, more than two thirds of Australia's greenhouse gasses, from the energy sector, are produced by our electricity generators. So if Australia is to reduce its greenhouse gas production rate, the electricity generation industry is a good place to start.
|Temperature records are not sufficiently accurate and/or not sufficiently long for us to be sure that temperatures have really risen.||Not only are there records of directly measured temperatures,
but past ocean temperatures can be inferred by measuring oxygen
isotope ratios in oceanic fossils of known ages.|
"The record is relatively consistent from one core sample to the next and can be correlated throughout the oceans."Also see BOM temperature graph (on this page).
|Thickness of some polar ice sheets is increasing; does this make sense if the world is becoming warmer?||Temperature is not the only variable involved (and in any case
while average global temperatures are rising, not all local
temperatures are necessarily doing the same).
A quote from the USA EPA |
"Precipitation has increased by about 1 percent over the world's continents in the last century. High latitude areas are tending to see more significant increases in rainfall, while precipitation has actually declined in many tropical areas."An increase in winter snowfall would cause thickening of some ice sheets.
Also, it should be noted that the Greenland ice sheet is melting at record rates and the Arctic Ocean ice cover is thinning.
|The amount of greenhouse gasses produced from natural processes is much greater than is being produced by Man, so doesn't than mean that our effect is negligible?||The short answer is no. A quote from World Book Encyclopaedia on CD ROM,
"Without the natural greenhouse effect, the average temperature of the earth's surface would be about 33oC cooler than it is now."We need this much greenhouse warming, but significantly more could be disastrous. Note that if we add only 10% to the natural effect, that's another 3 degrees C.
|Isn't the warming of the past century just a natural rebound from the little ice age?||The little ice age was mainly confined to Europe (it peaked from 1650-1750), and any rebound from that would have been largely completed by the 20th century. Indeed, the natural long-term climate trend today would be toward a cooler climate were it not for human activities. (Thanks, in part, to Scientific American)|
|The surface warming that is claimed to be evidence of global warming is mainly urban 'heat island' effects near weather stations.||
Not so. As predicted, the greatest warming is found in remote regions
such as central Asia, the Antarctic Peninsula and Alaska.
The largest areas of surface warming
are over the ocean, far from urban locations. (Thanks, in part, to
Also see Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Surface temperature analysis.
"Should present trends in the emission of greenhouse gases, particularly of CO2, continue beyond another 100 years, climatic changes larger than any ever experienced during recent geologic periods can be expected. This could substantially alter natural and agricultural ecosystems, human and animal health, and the distribution of climatic resources."
"Rising global temperatures are expected to raise sea level, and change precipitation and other local climate conditions. Changing regional climate could alter forests, crop yields, and water supplies. It could also affect human health, animals, and many types of ecosystems. Deserts may expand into existing rangelands, and features of some of our National Parks may be permanently altered."
New Scientist Journal Website
"Burning fossil fuels and using the atmosphere as an open sewer has turned out to be a recipe for disaster. The Earth is warming and the pace is quickening."
Our governments are playing with band-aids while what is needed is
major surgery; they are fiddling while Rome burns.
"The change has surprised Australian media observers and, no doubt, media consumers given News Corp’s long-held climate denialist stance, which is well documented in public commentary and research."and
"[The Murdoch media has] moved from calling decarbonisation too expensive and bad for jobs (it tagged the cost at A$600 billion in 2015), to describing it now as a potential $2.1 trillion economic “windfall”, offering opportunities for 672,000 new jobs."I'd have to wonder what the consumers of the Murdoch media would think of this? Surely anyone with any intelligence would have to see this as showing that the Murdoch media has very little credibility.
I have referred to the climate denialism of the Murdoch media in many places on these pages for more than ten years. On the face of it this seems to be one of the great 'road to Damascus' moments of recent history. (But having changed his colours once I wouldn't be surprised to see Rupert change again. He is driven by power and profits, certainly ethical standards rate very low on Mr Murdoch's list of priorities.)
Gabi Mocatta is Research Fellow in Climate Change Communication, Climate Futures Program, University of Tasmania, and Lecturer in Communication - Journalism, Deakin University.
Ward continued to propose that a similar disaster could be caused by the current rise in atmospheric CO2. As CO2 increases the oceans warm and as they warm oxygen becomes less soluble in them; that is, they move toward anoxia. If they become sufficiently anoxic the H2S producing bacteria could establish and trigger another global extinction. Ward suggests that the geological data indicates that this could happen at an atmospheric CO2 level of around 900 parts per million.
This is a very short interpretation of Ward's article.
I suggest that readers consult the original in Scientific American.
This Internet site has been written in the Mid North of South Australia, and there is abundant evidence to be seen in this area for a much drier period in the not too distant past: only a matter of several thousand years. Fossil sand dunes are to be seen, not only in the Mid North, but on Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas, and the far north of the state.
What happened in the past may well happen again, especially if we mess
with the climate.
Astronomers have long studied the evolution of stars and the subject is now well understood. They can say with a high degree of confidence how the Sun formed, how it evolved to become what it is now, and how it will change in the future before 'burning out' in about five billion years. The Sun is at present in a long and stable 'middle-age' in which it changes only very slowly. The main change is a very gradual increase in the amount of heat it produces.
About 66 million years ago there was a series of massive volcanic eruptions in southern India known as the Deccan Traps. It is possible that the release of carbon dioxide associated with these eruptions caused a warming that might have been involved in the extinction of the Dinosaurs. Whether or not the Deccan Traps caused a warming, geologist are quite sure that there were warmings in the distant past.
So, while a burst of greater than usual warmth due to some event such as the Deccan Traps in the distant past might not have quite been enough to 'tip the Earth over the edge' and make it into another Venus, it is just possible now that the Sun is a little hotter that another warming might reach that point.
A similar run-away greenhouse effect to that on Venus, while unlikely, would quite probably destroy all life on Earth.
"The fossil-fuel industry may be potentially liable for the impacts of global warming. The question here is – when will the link between greenhouse gases and climate change become a 'scientific certainty', so that down the track companies cannot dispute it?
Most scientists would argue that such evidence exists today. So where does this leave companies which are fundamentally involved in fossil fuels? At a strategic level, it may require them to rethink their business, as shown by BP's move to 'Beyond Petroleum' – renewing their commitment to the environment and solar power. However, such a strategic change takes time. In the meantime, companies can balance the potential liability of their fossil-fuel products, e.g. coal or gas, with climate change initiatives in other parts of their business which produce 'carbon credits'. Climate change product liability may affect related industries sooner rather than later, as shown by the recent case of a number of US States taking power generation companies to court over climate change."
So, will companies, and perhaps governments, involved in polluting
the earth's atmosphere with greenhouse gasses, be forced to mend
their ways if they want a future for themselves? Will Australia,
and Australians, have to financially compensate other nations for
the damage that our present government's short-sighted policies
Reef bleaching is expected to worsen as global warming progresses.
An article for SBS News, was written by Nick Baker on the subject, 2020/01/06. Baker wrote:
The Garnaut Climate Change Review's final report said projections of fire weather "suggest that fire seasons will start earlier, end slightly later, and generally be more intense". "This effect increases over time, but should be directly observable by 2020."And yet Liberal Senator Jim Molan said on ABC's Q and A on 2020/02/03 that climate scientists had not warned the Australian government about the bushfire risks associated with unabated climate change!
The report said there could be a 300 per cent increase in the number of days with extreme fire weather by 2067. "It's in the interest of the whole of humanity that we move promptly towards zero net emissions," he said.
"If climate change drives temperature up a degree or two," goes the common dismissal, "how bad could that be?"A one degree rise in temperatures could occur well before 2050.
Here's an example: Higher temperatures draw moisture out of live and dead trees and brush, making them more flammable. The heat also can alter precipitation ... lengthening the fire season. A one degree Celsius climb in average global temperature could cause the median area burned annually by wildfires in parts of the American West to increase up to sixfold.
If global warming will make the US forests more flammable, it will do the
same thing in Australia.
The photo on the right is of debris including soil and ash left in the Crystal Brook in the town of the same name. The upper parts of the Crystal Brook catchment were burned in the Bangor fire.
The native vegetation will recover to a large extent in a few years following a fire like this, but the soil will take hundreds or thousands of years to be replaced.
Increased frequency and ferocity of fires will be disastrous for Australia's fragile soils.
While the fires were not directly caused by climate change the conditions that lead to the fires were certainly made far more likely due to climate change. Australia had been suffering from drought for several years; this, like the fires, was likely linked to climate change. The drought also made the fires worse than they would otherwise have been because the land being burned was exceptionally dry.
Luke Henriques-Gomes wrote an article about the fires in The Guardian dated 2019/12/31. Many others were available on the Internet.
I have also written about these fires, in the context of them being a symptom of climate change rather than an isolated problem
elsewhere on these pages.
Here in South Australia there was more than 1200MW of wind farm generation capacity (as of October 2011). A number of companies were exploring for hot rocks to use for the generation of geothermal energy, which will help replace coal fired power station electricity .
The state government had set a target of 33% renewably generated electricity by 2020.
On the positive side, the target of 33% renewable energy by 2020 was greatly exceeded, Open NEM showed 59% renewable energy for the year in 2020. In early 2003 SA had virtually no renewably generated electricity and much of its power was generated by burning low quality coal.
In 2020 13.2% of SA's electricity was generated by rooftop solar, more than double the figure of four years earlier. Utility scale solar generated more than 4% of SA's power in 2020, just two years earlier the figure was less than 1%.
South Australia's great success in its move from fossil fuels between 2003 and 2020 was truly a remarkable achievement.
While the solar power proportion for the whole of the National Electricity Market was behind that of SA, the amount of solar power had doubled in the two years up to the end of 2020. Wind generation on the NEM had increased by 43% over the previous three years.
There is some reason to hope for a brighter and more rational future.
The first shows how emissions from electricity generation in Australia were decreasing, and decreasing especially steeply while the carbon tax was in place, and have increased since. The carbon tax was in place for the period between the two vertical lines.
The fact that emissions have steeply increased since the Abbott Government removed the carbon tax shows the damage that they have done to total world greenhouse emissions and suggest the damage that they have done to Australia's reputation as a responsible participant in the world.
The second graph shows, among other things, how brown coal emissions in particular have increased since the removal of the carbon tax. Brown coal is the most polluting form of generation in Australia. It is also one of the cheapest; cheap and dirty.
The fall in black coal generation is thought to be due to the general decline in power consumption in NSW combined with the rise in wind generation, especially in SA and Victoria. Black coal generation is more expensive than brown, although slightly less polluting.
|Arguments||Grist: How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: Responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming|
|Australia, Climate change in||Updated climate change information for Australia|
|Australian Academy of Science||booklet "The science of climate change", February 2015.|
|Bioenergy Australia||Bioenergy Australia (see below)|
|BuzzFeed||18 Scientists On What They Actually Think About Climate Change by Joe Duggan and Kelly Oakes|
|Climate Action Network Australia||CANA|
|Climate Debate Daily||A new way to understand disputes about global warming|
|Climate Science Watch||Climate Science Watch (see below)|
|The Conversation||Climate policy needs a new lens Fiona Armstrong and Peter C. Doherty, 2016/07/21, discussed the threat that climate change was posing to health.|
|Australia's 'deadliest natural hazard': what's your heatwave plan?, 2018/01/18, Andrew Gissing and Lucinda Coates.|
|An update on the weather Australia has been getting, 2020/03/03. A number of temperature records set.|
|German Watch||The Climate Change Performance Index: Results 2015|
|Global Environment Report||UK; New Scientist|
|Global Warming Clearinghouse||A single source for contemporary key reports, articles, papers, and Blogs referencing the latest information available on Global Warming|
|Global Warming Debate||A Layman's Guide to the Science and Controversy|
|Global warming information||USA; Environmental Protection Agency|
|Goddard Institute for Space Studies||Surface temperature analysis – a very informative site|
|Google Scholar||There are a huge number of scientific papers dealing with climate change and greenhouse, far too many for me to cite here, see Google Scholar or Google Scholar, Australia.|
|European Commission||A list of countries by carbon dioxide emissions is given at World Carbon Emissions from Fossil Fuels; data from the European Commission Joint Research Centre: Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research.|
University College London and The Lancet report: climate change the biggest global-health threat of the 21st century.
|Manne, Robert||How can climate denialism be explained? Manne is professor of politics at Melbourne's Latrobe University|
|McMichael, Professor Anthony||The Conversation; the impact that climate change is likely to have in Australia|
|Ocean acidification||Royal Society, Paper "Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide"|
|Oceans are going quiet||The silencing of the seas, Uni. Adelaide research, Sept. 2016, Nagelkerken, Connell, Rossi; due to pollution and acidification|
|One Person Can||This project is showing, not only that one person can have an impact, but that many people are doing a lot already.|
|Real Climate: Climate science from climate scientists||RealClimate – science rather than journalistic "debate"|
|Renewable Energy Generators of Australia (REGA)||REGA (see below)|
|Skeptical Science||Examining the science of global warming skepticism and more specifically Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says.|
|State of the climate||State of the Climate 2018: Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO: fifth biennial State of the Climate report|
|Sunrise Project||The Sunrise Project aims at helping people combat climate change. Provides funding.|
Some similarly polluting activities for comparison...
So why do the Australian and US governments think that dumping carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions from power stations directly into the atmosphere is acceptable? There are two reasons:
Sequestration, as applied to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) (also called carbon capture and storage; CCS), is the storage of carbon dioxide, or the carbon content of the carbon dioxide, in a sink. The sink may be one or more of several alternatives including: an underground aquifer, an exhausted oil field, a deep ocean trench, and trees.
One of the flaws in the sequestration concept is in the question of how long does it last? Carbon sequestrated in trees may be back in the atmosphere 20 years later if the trees are converted to wood pulp, the pulp into paper, and the paper burned or allowed to rot. Sequestration of carbon dioxide in a geological formation is experimental, in theory it seems like it should work, but what if the CO2 doesn't stay where it is put? Sequestration takes carbon that has been locked away from the atmosphere safely for hundreds of millions of years and places it where we hope it will not get back into the atmosphere for decades or longer.
The other problem with CCS is that no-one has done it with the CO2 from a power station or similar large CO2-producing installation successfully on a commercial scale. (For example, see The Norwegian CCS nightmare)
It seems pretty plain that it would be better to leave the carbon in
the rocks in the first place.
What seems to often be neglected by the proponents of growing trees (or bush or forest) as a way of counteracting the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is that trees do not live forever. When a tree dies it typically rots and the carbon in it is returned to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Of course this may be delayed if the timber in the tree is used for another construction purpose.
In some situations, generally in wetter situations than are at all common in Australia, dead trees do not return all of their carbon to the atmosphere. It can be held in the soil beneath the forest as peat. This is, of course, the beginning of the natural process that finishes in the formation of coal. But usually, when the trees in an Australian plantation reach maturity, that plantation no longer removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Compare this with the estimated cost of geosequestration of carbon dioxide from coal fired power stations of around US$50/tonne. The Australian Government under John Howard is giving the Australian coal industry big money to research the latter!
These mallee trees would have other potential values:
This natural process could be put to use to slowly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Trees could be grown, then cut and buried in wet soil. The methane could be collected and used as an energy source.
Apart from the slowness of this reversal of the man-made greenhouse effect,
one other problem would be that plant nutrients would also be lost to the
biosphere with the carbonaceous material. They might be recoverable by
pumping leachates from the peat.
Geosequestration is the deep underground storage of carbon dioxide as an alternative to allowing it to enter the atmosphere and increase the greenhouse effect. Similar to disposal of rubbish by land-fill, it is not a sustainable technology, but it is a way of temporarily reducing the harmful side effects of burning fossil fuels. Sooner or later the carbon dioxide will again enter the atmosphere, however if the particular form of geosequestration works correctly, most of the CO2 will be isolated from the atmosphere for thousands of years.
In Australia carbon dioxide could theoretically be sequestered in depleted oil or gas fields (not expected to be sufficiently depleted until 2030), deep underground unmineable coal seams, or deep saline aquifers.
There are risks in geosequestration associated with the high vapour pressure of CO2 at the temperatures found in geological formations and with the high solubility of CO2 in groundwater. In 1986 a large leakage of naturally sequestered carbon dioxide occurred in Lake Nyos in Cameroon, killing around 1 700 people and many thousands of animals. When carbon dioxide is release in large quantities, it forms a suffocating blanket close to ground level.
Is geosequestration economically feasible? Is geosequestration desirable? How does geosequestration compare with other greenhouse abatement methods?
While these questions have certainly not been answered in favour of geosequestration, already the Australian Government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on geosequestration research, while providing very little money for renewable energy research. One can only suppose that they are doing so because they have a commitment to support the fossil fuel industry. See Corporate political donations.
An informative discussion on geosequestration was aired on the ABC Catalyst program of 2004/09/09.
The material in this box was drawn from the ABC Radio National's Earthbeat program of 15/02/2003.
Keith Tarlo is a senior researcher with the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney. He's investigated a proposal to use geosequestration with brown coal in the La Trobe valley, and believes that the technology is risky.
Professor Andrew Blakers is Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University. He is discussing research and development into clean energy.
The cost of geosequestrationThe Clean Energy Future Report by the Clean Energy Future Group quotes figures from the International Energy Agency (Davidson, Freund & Smith 2001; Freund & Davison 2002) of between US$45 (Aust$68) and US$55 (Aust$83) for every tonne of carbon dioxide geosequested. The lower figure was for coal with integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) and natural gas combined cycle, while the higher figure was for conventional pulverised coal power stations.
It can then be calculated that the additional cost of gas-fired and coal-fired electricity due to geosequestration is likely to be from US$36/MWh to US$66/MWh depending on the type of coal and the type of power station. Also see my page on heating efficiencies etc.
Scientific American (News Scan: Burying Climate Change, Nov. 2009) reported that the cost of electricity without geosequestration of the CO2 is about US$63/MWh. Geosequestration would add another $51/MWh, putting it up to $114/MWh; this is much more expensive than electricity from several sustainable generation methods; wind in particular.
Subsidies to fossil fuelsSome years ago I received a wad of material from then Senator Stott-Despoja about subsidies going to the fossil fuel industries; see Fossil fuel subsidy. That totalled $6.5 billion and was under the Howard Government.
In 2021 calls were still being made for the reduction of the subsidies going to the fossil fuel industries.
An ABC political reporter wrote an article on 2021/04/26 titled "Calls to phase out fossil fuel subsidies after speculation about net-zero emissions target". Quoting from the ABC article:
"Fossil fuel subsidies have cost state, territory and federal budgets roughly $10.3 billion over the past financial year, or $19,686 a minute, according to a new report from The Australia Institute.
Ironically, as a part of the Gillard Government's Carbon Tax package back in 2012 huge additional subsidies (sometimes called 'compensation') was to be paid to the big polluters. For example "emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries" were to get $8.6 billion as a "Jobs and Competitiveness Program". Another $1.3 billion was going to the coal industry as a "Coal Sector Jobs Package".
Carbon 'offsets'People, and in particular businesses, buy 'carbon offsets' in an effort to somehow excuse them from responsibility for releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. How valid are carbon offsets?
The most common offset is tree planting. It is true that as a tree (or any other plant) grows it takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. But what happens when the tree stops growing, or when it is cut down? Eventually, and in many cases 'eventually' will be in less than a century, the wood, leaves and twigs of the tree will be either burnt or rot, and the carbon contained in them will go back into the atmosphere.
The only fully effective way of 'offsetting' the fossil fuel carbon that you release into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide is to bury an equal amount of carbon that would otherwise have been burned (with the resulting carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere). Plainly, this would be pointless.
Also, burying something like wood in an attempt to lock its carbon away from the atmosphere would not be a good idea because it would ferment and release methane into the atmosphere. Methane is an even more greenhouse-intensive gas than carbon dioxide.
It seems to me that carbon offsets, at least in the form of tree planting, are of questionable validity and are effective only in the short term. 'Offsetting' the carbon that you burn by conserving fossil fuel energy in some other area would, I think, have more validity; but the only real answer to greenhouse/climate change is to greatly reduce the amount of fossil fuels that we burn.
carbon offsets in
In town without my carThe European Union has an 'In town without my car' day during which the people try to leave their cars at home at least on that day every year. In 2003 there were 1031 participating cities.
Australia would do well to join in this.
A quote from that site:
In Town Without My Car "is centred on three types of measures, designed to:The graph at right is from Aust. Bureau of Statistics and shows how many Australian use various modes of transport.
You can calculate how much difference would be made to your share of carbon
dioxide emissions by changing your mode of transport at
'Calculate your personal
If you must use a car, use a small one
By driving a car that is no bigger than you need you save a heap of greenhouse emission.
You could also consider buying a highly efficient hybrid car. Both
Toyota and Honda have one on the Australian market.
Why do so few support action on greenhouse/climate change?Read the bit below from top to bottom. The groups represented by the statements on the left are subtracted, one at a time, from the original group of all people represented by the green bar. Finally, on the last line, there's few people left who want to see humanity's rates of greenhouse gas production reduced.
Who is to blame?
Corporations are at fault. The fossil fuel industries, oil, gas, and especially the dirtiest fuel of all, coal, lobby governments very successfully for laws and regulations that favour their growth. But then the directors of these companies are (at least in Australia) bound by law to place the welfare of their shareholders before all other considerations. So we come back to the law and the law is made by governments.
Any farmer who clears scrub or forest is responsible for climate change. Any landowner who allows his land to be clear-felled is responsible. Irresponsible Chinese, Malaysian, and Japanese companies that log in Third World rainforests are responsible for climate change as well as the more direct and local damage due to deforestation.
However, most people in the First World are also responsible. Anyone who drives a fossil-fuelled car (and almost all of them are fossil-fuelled) must accept a share of the blame. Anyone who uses electricity, if that electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, is responsible for climate change.
Democratically elected governments do what the voters demand of them. The Australian government has rightly decided that Australians place a higher priority on a few more dollars in their pockets than on tackling the greenhouse problem.
It would be fair to say that most people in the Third World would consume more if they had the money to do so. Consumption and greenhouse gas production are closely linked.
So the great majority of us are either responsible for climate change, or would be if we could afford to be. How bad will climate change have to get before we place it at the top of our list of problems that must be addressed? And will it be too late by then?
Australia and climate change responsibility
What would we think of a person who went to a birthday party with five other
people and ate half the birthday cake?
This is what the USA and Australia are doing in regard to greenhouse gasses.
Our two nations are placing far more than our share of strain on the
atmosphere for their own short-term selfish interests.
It would be a seller's market; there would be many more buyers than sellers because the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere must be greatly reduced. Those who were unable to buy quotas would have to reduce their energy consumption or have to pay to have their CO2 sequested.
The atmosphere is not just the property of the First World. All life on the planet has a right to use the atmosphere and all people should have an equal right to it. At present the US produces 25 times the CO2 produced by India on a per-capita basis. What could be fairer than changing the rules to give every person an equal quota?
Adoption of Contraction and Convergence (C&C) would result in a relatively hard time for the wealthy of the world for a time, but ultimately it would bring a much more equitable sharing of responsibility and wealth. Of course it would be far from a simple matter, but then we are talking about averting a huge global disaster.
See Wikipedia for more information.
The article said:
"In terms of human health, the report estimates $74.6 billion a year in public health burdens in Appalachian communities, with a majority of the impact resulting from increased healthcare costs, injury and death. Emissions of air pollutants account for $187.5 billion, mercury impacts as high as $29.3 billion, and climate contributions from combustion between $61.7 and $205.8 billion. Heavy metal toxins and carcinogens released during processing pollute water and food sources and are linked to long-term health problems. Mining, transportation, and combustion of coal contribute to poor air quality and respiratory disease, while the risky nature of mining coal results in death and injury for workers."Also see Skeptical Science 'True cost of coal power'.
2018 was the third warmest year on record in Australia, the warmest was in 2013, the second warmest in 2005.
Every year from 2013 to 2018 was warmer than all but one year of the twentieth century.
on this page or on the
Bureau of Meteorology web site.
Another hail storm hit Sydney in 2018/12/20, see The Guardian article for more detail. The photo on the right of hail damaged solar panels was taken by an acquaintance at the time.
Data published on Mr Childs' article showed that hail storms in which there were exceptionally large hail stones were becoming more frequent. The records indicated that both hail stones greater than 50mm and greater than 75mm were becoming more common. Climate science indicated that this was to be expected with climate change and the consequent increasing prevalence of violent storms.
In December 2018 exceptionally big hailstones caused damage to solar panels in a few Sydney suburbs. (Where tiled roofs were not protected by solar panels many tiles were broken.) I have written a page on this elsewhere on this site.
There were unprecedented fires in NSW, bad fires in South Australia, Australia experienced its hottest day on record, there was an unprecedented drought and unprecedented low flows in the Murray-Darling. It had just been reported that agricultural incomes in Australia have fallen 22% due to climate change.
I'll mention just a few examples of the neglect of our shared responsibilities below.
Several shopping centres in South Australia have been much more progressive, installing huge solar PV arrays, including in their car parks.
Had solar panel shades been installed rather than simple shade sails most of the power consumption of the shopping centre could have been offset and a huge amount of greenhouse emissions avoided (most of Western Australia's power is generated by coal-fired power stations). I estimated that the area covered by the shade sails was 1,320m2, twice that of the Woolworths, Clare, shades, so had solar PV panels been used rather than shade sails the installed capacity would be around 280kW. Such a solar PV installation would generate about 490 megawatt-hours of electricity each year and that could reduce WA's greenhouse CO2 emissions by something like 400 tonnes each year.
In 2022 solar PV panels typically pay for themselves in about five years. In this case where the cost of installing the shade cloth sails would have been avoided, the payback time would be shorter. PV panels also have the advantage of casting much denser shade, so the cars beneath the panels would be cooler in summer.
One can hint and push but it is a rare thing to get a definite result such as this one. Having the car park lights on only when needed (if that is what happens in future) will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by something like 30 tonnes each year.
In my home state, SA, there are big solar shaded carpark installations at Vicinity Centres (claimed to be the biggest in Australia at the time of construction, 1,400 panels on the car park alone) and Castle Plaza (430 solar shaded parking spaces).
Also see my page on solar car park shades.
Let's imagine that there is an island that is home to 100 families and its only fresh water supply is a spring that yields 100 kilolitres per day (one kilometre, kl, is one thousand litres, about 220 gallons).
If each family limited themselves to one kl they could all live happily together, but some families use much more than that so other families have to get by with much less. (Just as some nations produce much more than their share of greenhouse emissions and some nations produce less).
Let's say that the Joyce family is one of those that uses more than its share of the water. Mr Joyce justifies this by saying that if they halved the amount of water they used their garden would suffer and it would make only a tiny difference to the overall water supply situation.
The Abbott family also use much more than their share. Mr Abbott says that he doesn't believe there is any water supply problem at all - it's all made up by greenies.
The Morrisons, a 'good church-going' family, are part of a group on the island who are running a coal mine and exporting the coal. They need a lot of water for their mining and exporting operation. Mr Morrison says that the whole island profits from the coal mine and whatever they do they must keep it operating and even make it bigger.
A great many of the other families on the island are having to make-do with less and less water because of people like the Joyces, the Abbotts and the Morrisons. Surely the injustice in this is obvious.
In real life Barnaby Joyce is an ex-leader of the Australian National Party, Tony Abbott was an Australian Liberal Party Prime Minister, as was Scott Morrison.
I wonder if in years to come, after the full effects of climate change have hit and the world in very different to now, people will look at the wind turbines (or what is left of them) and say "they were built by people who wanted to stop the climate change disaster. It's a pity there were not many more people like those."
External sites...A list of the older external related sites is on this page under Links.
Climate of the Nation 2020: South Australians Concerned about Climate Fires, want Renewables Led Recovery; "In the wake of the devastating Black Summer bushfires, an overwhelming majority of Australians (82%) and South Australians (81%) say they are concerned about climate change resulting in more bushfires, according to a new benchmark report released today by the Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program."
On this site...Climate change
Lists of pages relevant to greenhouse/climate change in an Australian context and in a international context.
On this page...
Adverse effects of climate change
Are temperatures related to gas levels
Australia and climate change responsibility
Australia and greenhouse
Australia's greenhouse emissions
Australian mean temperature anomaly
Bushfires and dust of late 2019 – early 2020
Call to act on climate signed by more than 200 prominent Australians
The China red herring
Climate change denial
Contraction and convergence
Coral reef bleaching
Could the Earth become a second Venus?
Economists and greenhouse
Emissions, Australia's greenhouse
Equitable sharing of the atmosphere
Evidence of climate change at Clare
Evidence of past climate change
Exceptional weather events
Extinction from the oceans
Flooding in North Queensland have been compared to a one in 1,000-year event
Fossil fuel electricity in perspective
Fossil sand dunes
Geologists are not climatologists
How far we have to go!
In one hundred years
Importance of peer-reviewed literature
In town without my car
Is it really happening?
Invalid argument often used
Letter to the editor and a result
Local evidence of climate change
Primewest, Erskine shopping centre, another lost opportunity
Marine life is fleeing the equator
The Murdoch media's remarkable about-face on climate change
No escape for Great Barrier Reef
Primewest, Erskine shopping centre, another lost opportunity
Reduced stream flow
Sequestration in peat
Sequestration in the ocean
Sequestration in trees
Some say it is not happening
Specious greenhouse argument
Subsidies to fossil fuels
This is a time of greatness
True cost of coal
What do the experts say?
What do the papers say?
What is the science telling us?
Who is to blame?
Why accept that humanity is causing climate change?
Why do so few support greenhouse action?