A Planet on the Backburner

The mothballing of Australia’s CPRS, a scheme at best symbolic in nature, heralds the success of the massive anti-climate science disinformation campaign waged on the pages of the conservative media. Other sections of the media, including the ABC, maintain a “balance”. Where 2+2=4, and if the party in George Orwell’s 1984 decrees “2+2=5”, the media’s “balanced” approach suggests “2+2=4.5”

Day-in and day-out the media trots rising and falling interest rates, the All-Ord index, GDP growth percentages and footy scores, failing to report the atmospheric CO2 growth rate on which future global temperatures depend, last recorded as 391 ppm (parts per million) at Mouna Loa and rising at a rate of about 2.02 ppm per-year (2009).

The shelving of the CPRS represents the stark difference between those who call for 11th hour attempts to stem the unfolding climate catastrophe and those who propose to continue in business as usual. Unfortunately the atmosphere is not waiting for human decision. Summing up the implications of the current collapse of the great ice sheets, rise of sea level, migration of climate zones toward the poles and intensification of extreme weather events, a joint communiqué by the world’s academies of science states:

However, climate change is happening even faster than previously estimated; global CO2 emissions since 2000 have been higher than even the highest predictions, Arctic sea ice has been melting at rates much faster than predicted, and the rise in the sea level has become more rapid. Feedbacks in the climate system might lead to much more rapid climate changes.

Evidenced by accelerating ice melt rates, as reported by NASA,

The most detailed satellite information available shows that ice sheets in Greenland and western Antarctica are shrinking and in some places are already in runaway melt mode. A new study, using 50 million laser readings from a NASA satellite, calculates changes in the height of the vulnerable but massive ice sheets and found them especially worse at their edges, where warmer water eats away from below. In some parts of Antarctica, ice sheets have been losing 30 feet a year in thickness since 2003.

As reported recently by the Australian CSIRO and BOM:

“Australia will be hotter in coming decades. Australian average temperatures are projected to rise by 0.6 to 1.5 ºC by 2030. If global greenhouse gas emis­sions continue to grow at rates consistent with past trends, warming is projected to be in the range of 2.2 to 5.0º C by 2070” and “Much of Australia will be drier in coming decades.”

Lost on people and governments is the reality of a world with “2.2 to 5.0º C by 2070,” a development which exceeds the glacial-interglacial climates (Figure 1) and climate conditions since 2.8 million years ago, signifying an environmental calamity which defies contemplation, where our children will need to survive, including:

Accentuation of current trends, where much of southern, southwestern and southeastern Australia will become prone to cycles of increasingly severe droughts and bushfires, while the north and corridors in west-central and eastern Australia suffer floods.

At mean global temperatures above 2º C a large part of the Greenland and west Antarctica ice sheets would melt, leading to sea level rise on the scale of many meters.

The loss of regular Himalayan snow-fed river flow in southern and southeast Asia, replaced by low river levels and intermittent floods which, when combined with sea level rise, inundate river delta and low river valleys (Yangtze, Yellow River, Mekong, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus), which can only result in hundreds of millions of refugees.

As one of the world’s top per-capita emitters, as well as major exporter of coal, Australia bears responsibility. Ironically the current stream of coal export ships may lead to a future influx of refugee boats compared to which the current influx would pale into insignificance.

By 2012, when the CPRS may, or may not, be resurrected from the mothballs, CO2 levels would have risen by about 6 parts per million, edging toward 400 ppm, or 460 ppm CO2-equivalent (including methane), which approaches the upper stability limits of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

“We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”
(Joachim Schellnhuber, Director, Potsdam Climate Impacts Institute, advisor to the German government).

Dr Andrew Glikson is with the Research School of Earth Science & School of Archaeology & Anthropology at Australian National University in Canberra. He can be reached at: andrew.glikson@anu.edu.au. Read other articles by Andrew.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on May 8th, 2010 at 12:12pm #

    Andrew may or may not, be resurrected from the mothballs well here in the States it’s more like may not and of course the present plan cap and trade a joke on the human race. Playing around the edges as we all go down the drain in not such slow motion. Playing around the edges is being nice of course as it sure looks like the decision has been made to do nothing. It will take a lot of us calm at peace and not a one time way of thinking but total focus. Easy it will not be better to try and if we did try very easy to see the good the bad and the ugly even without those glasses I found in a dumpster a few years ago.

  2. Don Hawkins said on May 8th, 2010 at 3:50pm #

    Well so far no luck with BP’s giant funnel. Hoped it would work enough destruction on the third planet from the Sun. Yes a Crude Awakening the spill and China and India and the US Nashville and the Arctic and this summer will be an eye opener. How’s the bank regulations going in the Senate just more illusion and who will be the first to step up and tell the truth about climate change not hope and change words of little meaning but the truth.

    MUMBAI, April 14(Xinhua) — At least 60 people were killed when a severe storm hit two eastern Indian states, local media reported on Wednesday.

    The storm with a wind speed of more than 100 km per hour swept through North Dinajpur district in West Bengal and four neighboring districts of Bihar late Tuesday evening, leaving at least 60 people dead and more than 200 others injured, Press Trust of India quoted the local official as saying.

    “A large number of people seem to have been injured, maybe lots of people are trapped under the debris,”a local police officer said.

    There is no power supply, and land telephone and mobiles are not working. West Bengal Civil Defense Minister Mukherjee described the situation as “very grave.”

    CHONGQING – The death toll from a violent storm in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality since Wednesday has climbed to 31, said local authorities Friday.

    More than 100,000 residents in Chongqing were short of drinking water due to damages of water facilities, it said.

    Fuling District received the most rainfall of 195.3 mm in the six hours to 8 am Friday, according to the municipal meteorological bureau.

  3. Don Hawkins said on May 8th, 2010 at 3:59pm #

    Of course the standard line is you can’t point to one or two storms weather event’s and say climate change. Climate change, Climate change, Climate change, Climate change, 1 plus how many zero’s do we need?

  4. Don Hawkins said on May 9th, 2010 at 6:02am #

    Some of our best friends have become the planet’s worst enemies.
    The climate and energy bills in Congress were designed by big banks and fat-cat
    environmental organizations that have lost touch with the people and nature.
    The bills all use smoke-and-mirrors: cap-and-trade, offsets, and give-aways.
    The truth is this: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy we will go to the ends of
    Earth the deepest ocean, the most pristine land for the last drop of oil and gas, and
    destroy mountains for the last shard of coal.
    But that would guarantee climate disasters for young people and nature – we would
    destroy creation.
    Fossil fuels are cheapest only because they do not pay their costs to society – for damage
    to human health, the environment and future generations.
    So today, based on discussions with religious leaders, congressional staffers, economists,
    and concerned citizens, I am proposing a People’s Climate Stewardship bill.
    The bill defines a simple, honest carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies upon
    the first sale at the mine, wellhead or port of entry.
    The money collected will be distributed monthly to the public as a green check – so
    families can afford the energy they need during the transition to a clean energy future. Hansen

    This is not over yet oh great one’s fasten your safety belt’s because Kansas is going bye bye. Remember you are the few and so far we are the many. Granted you the few have some of the many somewhat confused and that will get much harder to keep doing on the third planet from the Sun. Halliburton detention centers well put that out of your devious little mind’s never happen oh great one’s. Calm at peace the truth the knowledge remember ignorance is what the great one’s have well on camera off camera a different story.

  5. GLloyd Rowsey said on May 9th, 2010 at 6:31am #

    I’ll brave the wrath of the venerable Don Hawkins, and call attention to the Gulf Oil Disaster. It truly will make the Exxon Valdez look like little potatoes; a couple of days ago, at OpEdNews, a headlined article warned about the entire southwestern U.S. becoming a desert; and BP’s dome over the leak effort failed yesterday.

    Some may welcome a desert from Houston west for 600 miles. Methinks Andrew would advise them not to do so.

  6. Don Hawkins said on May 9th, 2010 at 1:08pm #

    “The next tactic is going to be something they call a junk shot,” Allen told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “They’ll take a bunch of debris — shredded up tires, golf balls and things like that — and under very high pressure, shoot it into the preventer itself and see if they can clog it up and stop the leak.” CNN

    Shredded up tires, golf balls and things like that to stop the oil leak. As long as there are minds like this running the show the human race will never be free. Of course this is the oil leak can we think on any different levels where the human race has a snowball’s chance in hell of making it with the thinking we see today? Golf balls and shredded up tires not beyond petroleum but beyond belief. Mr. President can you please make a call to NASA start there.

  7. Don Hawkins said on May 9th, 2010 at 1:36pm #

    Who the hell is in charge Goldman Sach’s is it time for dinner yet? Get the spec’s on that well call JPL start there we need people who can think outside the box or for that matter just think.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 18th, 2010 at 2:50am #

    There has been a peculiar alignment of the stars in Australia that explains our deranged and suicidal behaviour. First,the anthropogenic climate change denial campaign has been granted the unrestrained services of Rupert Moloch’s Empire of Evil, in particular his local flag-ship, ‘The Australian’. This far, far, Right rag, that also specialises in snide anti-Aboriginal racism, dressed up in the false raiments of tender concern, grovelling sycophancy to Israel and the US and, latterly, ferocious hatred directed at environmentalists, is a type of print version of FoxNews.It runs an almost totally denialist editorial policy, certainly in editorials, and 99% or so in opinion pieces. It combines this coverage, in true Orwellian style, with endless lying that it is the only rag with a ‘balanced’ (as in ‘Fair and Balanced’ the credo of FoxNews) coverage. Moloch’s other rags (he controls the vast majority in this country, and, with that spooky synchronicity, that ‘action at a distance’ so well-known from the Moloch Archipelago, they speak as with one voice)are the same.The rest of our media, entirely Rightwing,of course, in the market capitalist manner,is replete with vicious, demented, ignorant and stupid Rightwing ‘commentators’, all equally crazed, or mendacious, or both.In the non-Moloch media this is a little balanced by voices of reason.
    To this Rightwing cacophony has recently been added the voice of the ABC,once a refuge of comparative sanity and decency, but which was impelled Rightwards by the Howard fascists from 1996 to 2007. The last Howard appointment as head of the ABC (Howard also stacked the board with Rightwing agitators, many avowed haters of public broadcasting)Newman,a Zionist Jew and old friend of Howard’s, recently revealed himself as a denialist, although he took on the laughable self-description of sceptic. This probably,in part, explains why the ABC was forced, by the board, to broadcast that notorious fraud The Great Global Warming Conspiracy, a few years back, over the objections of staff.
    This media cabal swung into clearly co-ordinated action around the time of Copenhagen, and the whole moronic inferno of ‘Climategate’, ‘Glaciergate’ and all the other plethora of lies was drummed into the public’s notoriously thick skulls. It is well, here, to acknowledge that, as far as science goes, the average Ocker is a proud ignoramus.One viscerally detested type in Australian society is the ‘smart-arse’, the ‘know-it-all’, which, for those on the Right, sufferers of the phenomenon identified by Dunning and Kruger, is most people with above room temperature (Celsius) IQs. Hence it is very easy for the denialist industry to push stupid, but plausible, lies, and the popular mass being, alas,dull and proud of it, will swallow it. Moreover years of brainwashing to hate ‘greenies’, and the use of this moral panic by the Right to incentivate its core support, has led to the debate becoming theological and ideological, rather than rational. Once the Rightwing mob is roused to fury at ‘socialists’ and ‘Communists’ lying in order to destroy capitalism, the viciousness and distemper rapidly rise. The lynch-mob is the Rightists’ home away from home, his natural habitat, and climate scientists have been subjected to torrents of vicious, threatening e-mails, for speaking the truth.
    The last piece in this tragic jigsaw was provided by our one-term Prime Miniature, Kevin Rudd. Rudd is a figure akin to Blair and Obama in that he is far Right, a servant of power, but pretended otherwise to get elected. Unfortunately he has all the charisma of a smugly self-satisfied bank manager of the old type, unlike those charming psychopaths Bliar and O’bummer. He campaigned on climate change, ‘the greatest moral imperative of our age’he called it, when defeating the arch, fanatic anthropogenic climate change denier, John Howard. Once in power Rudd ratified Kyoto, which Howard had refused to do. Then, as in every other field, Rudd followed Howardite policy. Australia played a sneaky obstructionist role at Bali and Poznan. Rudd put billions into the bulldust of CarbonCapture and Storage, to protect our biggest industry, coal mining. He proposed a carbon reduction target, 5% by 2020, so low as to be risible. Renewable energy policy was incoherent,almost certainly deliberately so, rules changing with no warning and the industry double-crossed over and over. Rudd’s one remaining trump was a Emissions Trading System, that tired old market capitalist mechanism, that was even acceptable to Howard. But, when the Opposition Liberal Party was taken over by a denialist putsch of their Dunning-Kruger hardcore, and Abbott, a die-hard ultra-Right ideologue, came to power, Rudd’s other irredeemable feature, his moral cowardice, came to the fore. The ETS, to address the greatest moral challenge etc, was dropped like a ton of hot bricks. People do not prefer cowards and humbugs as leaders, so Rudd’s popularity has plummeted since this ‘volte farce’. Seemingly, after three years of Ruddite treachery and incompetence, we will be back to an extreme Rightwing, climate change denying, slavishly pro-Zionist,pro-US regime. Abbott recently opined that children ought to be taught that it was warmer when Jesus walked the earth.No-one is quite sure where he got that particular imbecility from, but it shows you what’s in stall. ‘Those who the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad’.