Category Archives: Climate change

Playing (Australian) politics : Al Gore attacks Tony Abbott’s refusal to link bushfires with climate change

From the Guardian

Tony Abbott’s insistence that bushfires aren’t linked to climate change is like the tobacco industry claiming smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer, Nobel laureate Al Gore says.

In light of the New South Wales bushfire disaster, the former US vice-president says the prime minister’s comment that bushfires are a function of life in Australia and nothing to do with climate change reminds him of politicians in the US who received support from tobacco companies, and who then publicly argued the companies’ cause.

“For 40 years the tobacco companies were able to persuade pliant politicians within their grip to tell the public what they wanted them to tell them, and for 40 years the tragedy continued,” Gore told ABC TV’s 7.30 program from Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

“Bushfires can occur naturally and do, but the science shows clearly that when the temperature goes up and when the vegetation and soils dry out, then wildfires become more pervasive and more dangerous.

“That’s not me saying it, that’s what the scientific community says.”

Gore said it was a political fact of life that politicians and commercial enterprise colluded to achieve goals after he was asked if there was a conspiracy between polluters and politicians.

“I don’t think it’s a commercial conspiracy. I think it’s a political fact of life,” he said. “It certainly is in my country. In the United States, our democracy has been hacked.

“Special interests control decisions too frequently. You saw it in our recent fiscal and debt crisis.

“The energy companies, coal companies and oil companies particularly, have prevented the Congress of the United States from doing anything meaningful so far, to stop the climate crisis.”

The Nobel laureate said Australia’s new Direct Action strategy was not workable.

“The meaningful way to resolve this crisis is to put a price on carbon and in Australia’s case, to keep a price on carbon,” he said.

He argues the price needs to be at an effective level with the market sending accurate signals so that renewable systems of energy are encouraged.

Top scientist Sir Mark Walport urges climate change deniers to give in

heatwave

The Government’s chief scientific advisor has challenged climate sceptics to drop their denial of global warming in the face of overwhelming evidence that it poses “an extremely important threat to us”.

Sir Mark Walport said a section of the general public was increasingly doubtful about the existence of climate change and mankind’s responsibility for it in the face of the global economic downturn, sceptical media coverage and “climate fatigue”.

“The [climate sceptics] discussion misses the point, that there is a right answer to the question of whether the climate is changing and whether there is a significant human cause to that,” Sir Mark told The Independent.

“This is not something on which human beings can vote, it’s not your opinion that matters, it is actually the truth of it, there is a correct answer. While there are many questions we can vote on, this is not one,” he added.

“What makes this easy for a chief scientist is that so much rigorous work has gone on around the globe to get an agreed statement on the basis of extremely rigorous science….Clearly climate change is an extremely important threat to us,” Sir Mark said.

He said it was “obviously completely ridiculous” to deal with the reality of climate change by denying the science.

Asked if last week’s report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested that global warming posed a significant threat, Sir Mark said: “It’s a very significant challenge, that would be obvious to anyone I think.”

Sir Mark declined to comment on Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s response to the IPCC report, but his reading of it is clearly at odds with Mr Paterson’s.

Mr Paterson said this week that “People get very emotional about this subject and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries…I see this report as something we need to take seriously but I am relieved it is not as catastrophic in its forecast as we had been led to believe early on. What it is saying is that it is something we can adapt to over time, and we are very good as a race at adapting.”

Sir Mark cited recent research by the UK Energy Research Centre as evidence that, while the bulk of the public believed in man-made climate change, there is growing minority scepticism. The proportion of people who do not believe in climate change has more than quadrupled since 2005, from 4 per cent to 19 per cent, the research shows.

He called on his fellow scientists to communicate the science more clearly, a task he admitted was extremely difficult given the huge complexity of the climate.

Climate change: Indigenous Australians ‘face disproportionate harm’

Second leaked IPCC report warns number of heatwave-related deaths in Sydney could triple by end of the century

Indigenous children Alice Springs
Indigenous children on the outskirts of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Photograph: AAP/Marianna Massey

Indigenous Australians face “disproportionate” harm from climate change, according to a leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The second IPCC report, which is due to be released next March, also warns that climate change could swamp $226bn worth of coastal property via sea-level rises and cause the number of heatwave-related deaths in Sydney to triple by the end of the century.

It says there is “high agreement” among scientists that Indigenous people will face significant challenges from heat stress, extreme weather events and heightened rates of disease by 2100.

“Little adaptation of Indigenous communities to climate change is apparent to date,” the report says.

A sharp increase in heatwaves will impact the broader Australian population, especially older people, through heat-related deaths and hospitalisations. In Sydney, the number of deaths caused by heatwaves is expected to triple from 2.5 deaths for every 100,000 people to 7.4 deaths for every 100,000 people by 2100.

Water and food-borne diseases are projected to increase, with up to 870,000 new cases of bacterial gastroenteritis by 2100. But the IPCC warns there is minimal scientific consensus when it comes to specific disease projections and their link to climate change.

Australia is set to suffer financial as well as human loss, with the IPCC saying sea-level rise is a “significant risk” to the country because of the heavy population skew towards coastal cities and towns.

A rise of 1.1m would affect assets worth $226bn, according to the report, threatening 274,000 residential and 8,600 commercial buildings. Risks to road and rail infrastructure would “increase significantly” with a rise above 0.5m, the report indicates.

“While the magnitude of sea-level rise during the 21st century remains uncertain, its persistence over many centuries implies that realisation of these risks is only a question of time,” it says.

The leaking of the second IPCC report of three comes in the wake of the official release of the headline first report, which was unveiled in September. The initial document, a summation of the work of hundreds of climate scientists from around the world over the past five years, said there was a 95% certainty that humans are responsible for most of the 0.89C rise in average temperatures since 1901.

Australia is set to experience a 6C rise in average temperatures on its hottest days, with the loss of many reptile, bird and mammal species, as well as the celebrated Kakadu wetlands.

Separate research published this week by Australian scientists shows that the impact of el Niño years will be exacerbated by climate change. El Niño is a periodic climate condition which causes warming of the ocean and shifting rainfall patterns in parts of the Pacific region. It can help drive extremely warm years, such as in 1998.

The study team found that areas in the western Pacific, such as eastern Australia, will experience worse droughts during el Niño years.

Scott Power of the Bureau of Meteorology, the lead author of the report, said: “Projections produced by the models indicate that global warming interferes with the impact that el Niño sea-surface temperature patterns have on rainfall. This interference causes an intensification of el Niño-driven drying in the western Pacific and rainfall increases in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific.”

Dr Wenju Cai of the CSIRO added: “During el Niño, western Pacific countries – Australasia, including Australia – experience unusually low rainfall, while the eastern equatorial Pacific receives more rainfall than usual.

“This study finds that both the wet and dry anomalies will be greater in future el Niño years. This means that [el Niño]-induced drought and floods will be more intense in the future.”

‘The Planet and Stuff’ at The Polka : ‘eye-catching and educational treat’!

planet-003

Sarah Simmons of NAEE reports on what happens when climate change hits the stage

The Polka Theatre’s new educational performance, The Planet and Stuff, aims to inform young people about the problems of climate change and what they can do to help solve it. The performance provides fun, interactive and engaging activities which support key areas of both the KS2 and KS3 Science and Geography curricula.

The colourful and eye-catching production, fronted by Felix O’Brien as Joe and Sarah-Jane Scott as Becci, enthusiastically led the audience to tackle the question: “How do we solve climate change?”.  Through bottom wiggles, arm waving, and throwing paper aeroplanes the audience explored the issues of increased levels of carbon dioxide, where it is coming from, and were introduced to ways in which they can help in their every day lives at home and at school.

Uniquely the key facts about climate change weren’t researched by adults, but by the Polka Young Voices Panel, a group of 8 – 13 year olds who come together regularly throughout the year. Prior to the performance, the panel interviewed key players in the climate change debate including: university professors, climate change campaigners and MPs who relayed their thoughts on what children in the audience could do to help solve climate change.

When leaving the auditorium after the performance all the children appeared to be empowered by the performance, chatting amongst themselves about the messages presented and how they plan to solve climate change.  The Planet and Stuff is a thoroughly enjoyable educational performance and definitely well worth a visit to support teaching in both Geography and Science lessons.

 

The Planet and Stuff will be showing at the Polka Theatre until Saturday 26th October 2013. For more information visit http://www.polkatheatre.com/

Twitter : https://twitter.com/NAEE_UK ;  https://twitter.com/polkatheatre ; https://twitter.com/LearnFromNature

CLIMATE CHANGE : Lord Stern: ‘It would be absurd to underestimate risks’

The Guardian reports : 

It would be “absurd” to claim the risks of climate change are small, economic expert Lord Stern said before the publication of a key scientific report on global warming.

The latest international assessment of climate science makes it crystal clear the risks are “immense”, and it would be extraordinary and unscientific to ignore the evidence and argue for a delay in addressing the problem, he said.

The former World Bank chief economist and author of the key 2006 Stern review on the economics of climate change also warned that scientific projections and economic predictions were underestimating the risks of global warming.

While scientists recognised some potential impacts such as the melting of permafrost, which would release powerful greenhouse gas methane, could be very damaging, they were left out of models because they were hard to quantify.

Many economic models, meanwhile, “grossly underestimate the risks” because they assumed that growth will continue and the costs of climate change will be relatively small, he said.

“Both assumptions trivialise the problem and are untenable given the kind of change that could take place,” Lord Stern warned.

Temperature rises of 3C or 4C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 would put humans “way outside” the conditions in which civilisation developed, and could cause major disruptions that would damage growth.

Hundreds of millions or even billions of people could be forced to move from where they lived, causing conflict, there could be large-scale destruction of infrastructure and important services provided by nature could collapse, he warned.

His comments come as scientists and government officials meet in Sweden to finalise the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report assessing the evidence for climate change and its causes, to be published on Friday.

“The IPCC report makes crystal clear that the risks from climate change are immense,” Stern said.

The IPCC has come under fire from climate change sceptics since its last assessment in 2007 over mistakes discovered in that report.

Stern said any assessment of thousands of sources of information, such as the IPCC carries out, was likely to contain some errors, but the message from the scientific information was remarkably consistent.

The IPCC assessment showed a dangerous underlying trend, based on laws of physics known for 200 years, of the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases and their impact on temperatures, with immense risks as a result.

Stern said: “It would be extraordinary and unscientific to argue on the basis of 200 years of evidence that you’re confident that the risks are small.

“Those who would have us delay have to argue they’re confident the risks are small. It would be an astonishing statement to make in light of all this evidence.

He added: “It would be absurd to say you are confident that the risks are small.”

There was a growing recognition from governments of the need to take action to address that risk, and he said he expected more countries to take the lead set by the UK and establish domestic laws to cut emissions.

Countries ranging from the biggest emitters, the US and China, through to Ethiopia and Mexico, were already taking action to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gases.

Stern called on the European Union to set a target to cut the bloc’s emissions by half on 1990 levels by 2030 to show leadership on the issue.

He criticised moves within the UK government to rethink its five-year carbon target up to 2027 and its failure to set a goal to slash emissions from the power sector by 2030 as undermining the certainty needed to invest in a low-carbon economy.

“Vacillation, lack of clarity, suggesting we might backtrack – all these things are very damaging to investment clarity and credibility in the medium term and long term,” he warned.

He also said the full range of technologies, from nuclear and renewables to methods for capturing and storing carbon from power stations, would be needed to address the problem and that energy efficiency measures would play a significant role.

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