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Humanity’s scorched Earth program – where to now?

The intensity and frequency of bush fires and firestorms around the globe, including recently in Australia, is a growing worry. Under conditions where mean land temperatures have increased by ~1.5 degrees…

The effects of climate change are becoming more apparent - who will take responsibility for the delay in action? AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

The intensity and frequency of bush fires and firestorms around the globe, including recently in Australia, is a growing worry. Under conditions where mean land temperatures have increased by ~1.5 degrees Celsius since 1750, the effects of fires under higher temperatures projected by the IPCC for later this century defy contemplation.

While there is scepticism from those who do not accept the scientific method nor empirical evidence, the laws of physics tell us atmospheric temperatures are largely regulated by greenhouse gases (GHG). The same applies to the connection between rising temperature and the spate of extreme weather events around the world. This includes increased climate variability, heat waves, fires, cold fronts, intensification of the hydrological cycle and consequent rise in floods and hurricanes experienced in Australia over the last few years and at present.

The failure to negotiate agreements for mitigation of GHG, through Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban and Doha now poses an existential risk around the world and in Australia.

Where does responsibility belong?

Since 1990 the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued detailed peer reviewed science-based climate change reports. They document past and current climate parameters and project trends to the end of the century. However, the gradual and linear nature of these trends has lulled the public into false sense of security. Many of us assume sufficient time remains to stabilise the climate by gradually mitigating carbon emissions.

Further, IPCC reports tended to underestimate climate change rates. They provide limited information about the stability of ice sheets, the magnitude of amplifying feedback effects and methane release.

As UN climate efforts depend entirely on decisions by its members, the first port of call has to be with governments. Elected or otherwise, they ought to be committed to protect people’s lives, present and future.

In this regard, James Hansen, NASA’s chief climate scientist states:

Ladies and gentlemen, your governments are lying through their teeth. You may wish to use softer language, but the truth is that they know that their planned approach will not come anywhere near achieving the intended global objectives. Moreover, they are now taking actions that, if we do not stop them, will lock in guaranteed failure … The problem is that our governments, under the heavy thumb of special interests, are … pursuing policies to get every last drop of fossil fuel.__”

Until recently few government officials dared to link extreme weather events with climate change, using terms such as “one in a hundred years event” for floods and fires occurring at increasing frequency. Governments continue to encourage fossils fuel production and some have even abolished climate change programs and reduced fire rescue services.

The next ports of call are the large fossil fuel corporations. They are known to donate funds to think tanks biased toward rejection of climate change observations - even though those observations are made by the bulk of peer-reviewed scientists, research organisations (NASA, NOAA, NSIDC, Hadley-Met, Tyndall, Potsdam, CSIRO, BOM), the World Meteorological Organisation and the world’s academies of science.

Major responsibility lies with large sectors of the corporate media which compromise or cover-up the climate evidence which climate scientists attempt to communicate. Much of the media would not acknowledge the connection of extreme weather events with climate change.

However, neither governments nor vested interests would have been able to continue on the track leading toward a climate calamity had it not been for the majority who, aware of the risks, pay only lip service to the issue. Ultimately it is the collective foresight or lack of such, by our species which it will decide its future.

Where to now?

Some scientists despair. Professor Guy McPherson writes “It seems no matter how dire the situation becomes, it only gets worse when I check the latest reports”. Others accept Pablo Casals‘ dictum “The situation is hopeless. We must take the next step”.

In themselves, efforts at reducing atmospheric CO2-emission are no longer sufficient to prevent further global warming. Along with sharply reducing carbon emissions, we need to undertake efforts to reduce atmospheric CO2 from the current level of near-400 ppm to well below 350 ppm. A wide range of technologies - many known as “geo-engineering” - have been proposed to do this job.

The concept of “geo-engineering” rings alarm bells for some, but it has been confused. Most people understand this concept in terms of solar injection of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere. This is a Band-Aid at best; at worst it is a harmful measure causing further ocean acidification and the retardation of precipitation and of the monsoon.

By contrast, CO2 draw-down is a far-better option. It would attempt to reverse the deleterious consequences of the over 560 billion tons of carbon released from combustion and land clearing. Other measures such as NASA-applied outer space shade technology may buy time for such planetary defence effort.

The alternative does not bear contemplation.

Join the conversation

100 Comments sorted by

  1. Jenny Goldie

    president at Sustainable Population Australia

    Excellent article Andrew. The alternative certainly does not bear contemplation. But how to stop governments lying? How do you deal with the schizophrenia in your own nation's Cabinet where Combet and Dreyfus put out worthy press releases yet the government is exporting so much coal as to make a mockery of even their inadequate goals under Kyoto2? When will they listen to such bodies as the International Energy Agency that say we have to keep at least two thirds of fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to keep within so-called 'safe' levels of warming? James Hansen is right about those who deny climate change: they should be charged with crimes against humanity, or at least treason as Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman suggests.

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    1. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Design Engineer

      In reply to John Troughton

      Great bit of alarmist propaganda. Starting the quoted warming during the Little Ice Age is a good idea because it gives you twice the the .7 to .8 degrees quoted by your brethren and is much more scary. I have always wondered how the world warmed enough to come out of the LIA without the help of a bit of extra CO2
      Jenny - charging deniers with treason is a great idea and as half the country do not agree with your ideas we would have a new growth industry. It might be cheaper just to chuck them into camps around the country and make them wear labels so we know who they are. I am sure that has all been done successfully before.

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    2. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      "I have always wondered how the world warmed enough to come out of the LIA without the help of a bit of extra CO2"

      So, you acknowledge the role of CO2 and other molecules have a role to play in the global climate system?

      If so, maybe would like to consider this concept: while a small amount of X in a given context can have an effect that humans value, a significantly larger amount of X in a different context may have effects that are obviously not valued by humans.

      I am sure that as an engineer…

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    3. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Neil, that "little bit" of CO2 which is being spewed into the atmosphere in massively increasing amounts every minute of every day, is being absorbed every minute of every day by the earths ocean. Acid ocean? food chain? Maybe if you thought about this one fact, you could realise your folly. Temperature averages are just that, but the temperature increase over land is higher over au than the ocean, the average of both being .75. Now maybe you could prove why the excellent and succinct article above is propaganda (and for who), or just get out of the way so that the rest of us who care can move on from arguing with poppycock

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    4. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Design Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      CO2 levels were not relevant in 1750 obviously- I was making the point that a lot of warming occurred at the end of the LIA when CO2 levels were low!

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    5. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      "CO2 levels were not relevant in 1750 obviously"

      They were relevant - CO2 is part of the climate system so can not be considered as irrelevant. However, If you simply wish to say that the warming occured without change in CO2 levels that is fine.

      No one argues that CO2 is the sole-determinant of climate.

      However, if your argument runs like this:

      1) Variation in CO2 levels were not the cause of warming after the LIA.
      2) Therefore they are not the the cause of of warming now.

      Then…

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    6. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      "Starting the quoted warming during the Little Ice Age is a good idea because it gives you twice the the .7 to .8 degrees quoted"

      What a bare-faced shameless lie. Warming from the Little Ice to the early twentieth century was just a small fraction of the warming since then: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/figure-6-10.html

      These denialists must be absolutely desperate.

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  2. Ken Fabian

    Mr

    Rather than ask who bears responsibility for decades of failure, how can those who bear the burden of responsibility - our elected representatives - be induced to face the problem head on, like the future security and prosperity of nation and world are at stake?

    Those who bear the responsibility to make the best choices on our behalf need to be using the strength of science based knowledge to strengthen their own and their colleague's convictions, to stand firm against the influence of vested interests seeking to put their narrow aims above the long term wellbeing of their constituents. They need to cultivate a mood of acceptance of the need to act within the wider community and to encourage optimism for the changes that can result.

    To accept the challenge and face it, difficult as it may be, will enrich us all - even if it's more expensive. Taking the easy road and choosing to embrace failure is what will impoverish us - no matter that it's cheaper.

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      Ken, I completely agree with every thing you say, but see our government a bit like a giant leopard slug stuck to its own track. We are not like Britons who got through the Blitz, and know difficulty. We in au seem to behave brattishly when there's any hint of a lolly being taken from us. Changing the behaviour of our country will only happen when lots and lots of ordinary people demand it. Or some truly awful cataclysm, like a whole state lighting up, or the whole of west antarctica sliding off into the ocean. Or no prawns for christmas.

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  3. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Who bears responsibility?

    Let those who took the first A380 out of Tullarmarine for their overseas Christmas holiday cast the first stone.

    You blokes just don't get it. You blame 'Corporate Media', 'Big Coal', 'They', 'The Government', 'Sceptics' but never look at your own behaviour.

    If you truly believe that burning fossil fuels is threatening the world, then for crying out loud stop burning JetA1 fuel to fly overseas for your own pleasure.

    You have to drive a car to work, you have to take the train to the footy, you have to read at night, you have to use your IPad - all things essential to modern life that use fossil fuels and coal. But you do not have to fly overseas for a holiday.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      "Let those who took the first A380 out of Tullarmarine for their overseas Christmas holiday cast the first stone."

      Actually, your argument seems to be that these people should not be casting stones. John 8:7 suggests that we "let those without sin" cast the first stone. Setting aside the deeper meaning of that reference, you believe that those on the A380 are sinners, and your argument is that they are acting hypocritically when the lay blame elsewhere.

      "You have to drive a car to work, you…

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    2. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      "Actually, your argument seems to be that these people should not be casting stones. John 8:7 suggests that we "let those without sin" cast the first stone."

      Yes, Gerard Dean got it the wrong way around. And he thinks "you blokes" just don't get it. What a clown.

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    3. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      The Clown is back Mr O'Neill,

      My play on the old bible phrase simply points out that people like you publicly call for governments to cut fossil fuel usage while at the same time you choose to burn JetA1 fossil fuel for pleasure.

      I would rather be a clown than a hypocrite.

      Gerard Clown Dean

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    4. Daryl Thomas

      Mr

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Just love the logic of Gerard Dean,

      <b>Reasonable Person:<b>

      I really enjoy this lifestyle but we need to find a way to make this lifestyle sustainable.

      <b>Gerard Dean:<b>

      <i>"You have to drive a car to work, you have to take the train to the footy, you have to read at night, you have to use your IPad - all things essential to modern life that use fossil fuels and coal"<i>

      Why do you assume fossil fuels are the only energy source available to maintain this lifestyle Gerard? Are you suggesting that once all the fossil fuel sources are exhausted that civilisation as we know it will collapse?

      You're not a clown Gerard, clowns have a purpose. You sir are a dill!

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    5. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      "I would rather be a clown than a hypocrite."

      Strawman. There is no law of nature that says it is necessary to stop using aeroplanes in order to bring GHG emissions down to a safe level.

      Gerard Dean: The clown with a strawman.

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  4. Wade Macdonald

    Technician

    Anyone care to write an article explaining the extreme cold weather being felt across the entire northern hemisphere at present? Some areas are experiencing there coldest temps sice the 1930's.

    Not doubting overall warming here just saying that this one dimensional approach to OZ bushfires and local temps has been heard to death on here because it supports the alarmist agenda.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Wade, the only thing that has been 'heard to death' is your endless repetition of this pseudo-point which has already been refuted repeatedly on these pages.

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    2. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      If you are not prepared to wait, here is an interesting blog piece on snow fall and climate change.

      http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1427

      As for extreme cold events - we are still at the bottom range of a predicted upward trend in global averages - "average" not "particular". There are still extremely cold air masses and will be in the future unless we go the full Venus.

      Here is an article from the SMH (I haven't looked up the actual research paper) but…

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    3. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Wade.

      Why don't you provide an explanation that we can then discuss.

      Come on. As Felix points out, you repeat your talking point ad nauseum despite the science being explained to you repeatedly.

      Why don't you demonstrate that you actually understand something of climate science rather than playing the role of the denialist spammer.

      Are you up to the challenge or are you just another blowhard?

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    4. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      Thanks Geoffrey,

      I will have a read of your links later.

      To Felix MacNeill,

      Has any scientist posted a written article on the current situation in the north hemisphere on here yet?

      Because your responses refute nothing I have asked for in reality. They only confirm your cognitive rigidity on such matters.

      Mike, I am not an expert, I am simply asking for some balance on the topic so I can dissimintate truth from apocalyptic hyperbowl through a balanced perspective.

      I have nothing to proove to you over a question that is for a professional to answer.

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    5. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mike, I don't deny the current warming trend but I refuse to deny million of years of history and/or imparcialty on any topic just because you and Felix are so convinced the end is nigh!

      Should I have been born an expert on everthing...because even experts don't know it all as a single indivisual, same as you.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Wade, what might or might not have yet been published on The Conversation bears no relevancew to anything.

      I haven't seen an article here on gravity, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

      The Conversation is not the only source of information and as so many people have repeatedly pointed out there is a huge amount of good quality information perfectly readily available. you've been directed to a few good examples several times in other pages here.

      If this confirms my cognitive rigidity, then all I can say is that I'd rather be a rock than a blancmange...

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    7. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Already done, Wade.

      1) Fereday et al, "Seasonal forecasts of northern hemisphere winter 2009/10", Environ. Res. Lett. 7 (2012) 034031 (7pp) doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/3/034031 (free download http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/3/034031)

      2) Cohen et al, "Arctic warming, increasing snow cover and widespread boreal winter cooling", Environ. Res. Lett. 7 (2012) 014007 (8pp) doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/1/014007 (free download http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/1/014007)

      3) Jaiser et al, "Impact…

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    8. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Hi Wade, I am currently looking for someone to write about Europe's current cold snap, in particular to contrast it with the heat we're having. Most of the meteorologists I've spoken to so far say the European weather isn't especially unusual or interesting, but I'm still searching.

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    9. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix,

      David Arthur provided a response on Perth's increasing winter minima a few days back over another post I made but no one has specifically addressed the reason for the 'current' northern hemi weather pattern on here from my knowledge? Plenty of old info out there.

      As David and Geoffery have kindly pointed out it appears some information about the current weather is now coming online.

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    10. Dave McRae

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      The President of the AMS (American Meteorological Society) tweeted this link yesterday on the denier meme of the day, but it's cold elsewhere
      http://grist.org/news/how-to-respond-to-people-who-say-the-cold-weather-disproves-global-warming/

      Regarding the debunked denier chant. All gambling sites that offer climate gambling offer great odds for their BS and further, give the denier a near 1/2 degree head start. Intrade bet for Dec12 was 200:1 for Dec12 being less than 0.45C above average of previous…

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    11. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Jane Rawson

      Gday Ms Rawson, perhaps you could invite the BoM authors of the 18 January 2013 'The Conversation' piece "What’s causing Australia’s heat wave?" to write about the anomalous track followed by ex-Cyclone Oswald.

      What I'd like to see is an explanation of why the high pressure system over the South Island of New Zealand has remained approximately stationary for most of January.

      It was the continued presence of that high pressure system that contributed to East Australia's heat wave, and to…

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    12. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to David Arthur

      "to write about the anomalous track followed by ex-Cyclone Oswald"

      Yes, very interesting. There are maps showing sets of cyclone tracks so I'll go and have another look at those. I know there were some ex-cyclones that crossed WA from the north-west to the south coast so tracks that head mainly south are not entirely unknown.

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    13. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Perhaps in WA, but my memory of the last 16 years is that Oswald is the only East Coast cyclone to have continued pretty well south all the way into NSW.

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    14. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to David Arthur

      "my memory of the last 16 years is that Oswald is the only East Coast cyclone to have continued pretty well south all the way into NSW"

      Indeed, it's been decades since there was such a track through NSW. The cyclone tracks map is at http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/history/index.shtml

      Have a look at the 1955-56 map: http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/cyclones.cgi?region=aus&syear=1955&eyear=1956&loc=0 which had a highly unusual path that crossed NSW and finished on the south island of New Zealand.

      There were a lot of cyclones that year BTW.

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    15. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Thanks for that Chris. There's a page listing cyclones which crossed into NSW: http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/about/nsw.shtml. Dated October 2007, it includes lists four categories of cyclone trajectories.

      1. A tropical cyclone making landfall in NSW from the east.
      - TC137 20 February 1954.
      - TC Nancy in February 1990.

      2. Tropical cyclone making landfall in the Gulf of Carpentaria and moving overland towards the southeast over Queensland and then NSW
      - TC119 16-19 January 1950.
      - TC…

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  5. Colin Kline

    logged in via Facebook

    #History Of (Australian) Fire Fighting Strategies#

    Fire Fighting authorities (& Govts), on both sides of the Pacific, are frequently reported as obdurately pursuing policies that guarantee large numbers of people, animals, homes, forest will be regularly annihilated.

    These catastrophes will repeat, and increase, with Global Warming.

    Authorities have arrogantly (and frequently) refused to use better & more appropriate technologies, viz - replacing Miniscule Manpower and Piddling Planepower…

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    1. Wil B

      B.Sc, GDipAppSci, MEnvSc, Environmental Planner

      In reply to Colin Kline

      Apart from being completely irrelevant, it is also utter bollocks (and chockers with abusive language such that I should have just ignored you). Vic DSE trialled a DC-10 all summer just a few years ago, and it did not work, was entirely cost-ineffective. The turn-around times were too long, the big tanker was inflexible and had limited applicability.

      Do you have shares in the company or something? that's the only reason someone without the full facts could spout such nonsense.

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  6. Michael Bailes

    logged in via Facebook

    "Other measures such as NASA-applied outer space shade technology may buy time for such planetary defence effort."
    Science fiction !

    For a good partial solution far closer to home, look to the possibilities of biochar. If this was adopted for all waste streams and produced via Pyrolysis, it is one of the saner options
    http://pacificpyrolysis.com/about.html

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Michael Bailes

      Biochar is a really attractive idea, Michael, one I'd just love to see work, but I gather the evidence is pretty patchy at best.

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    2. Michael Bailes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      No Felix the evidence is excellent
      Though not a total solution, it is a "win win" one that should be being pursued with great vigour.

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  7. Bernie Masters

    environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

    With respect, there is another alternative to consider which does bear contemplation: adaptation. If the consensus is that the world's governments are not going to act to reduce global CO2 emissions within a realistic time frame, then maybe we should start focusing on how humanity can learn to live in a hotter world. For starters, everyone should read Bjorn Lomberg's book "Cool It".

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Adaptation won't work.

      We are already starting to outstrip our ability to adapt our food to the changing climate. Even if we are allowed GM breeding, we are still talking about plant and animal breeding that would have to keep up or surpass environmental changes happening far faster than can be dealt with.

      Also, Lomberg has no credibility and his arguments are flawed and full of extensive errors and misrepresentations. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2010/11/22/174848/scientists-debunk-lomborg http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Bjorn_Lomborg

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Err, Bjorn Lomborg is a statistician, so he's pretty good at inferring straight lines from historical data, then extrapolating them. He's not so good at publicly acknowledging emerging and new phenomena.

      Regarding sea levels, for example, Lomborg continues to publicly assume IPCC AR4 (2007) sea level projections, despite the IPCC itself clearly advising that the 2007 projections excluded ice melting and were based on thermal expansion only.

      If were going to bother with Lomborg, then we also need to be aware of the limitations of his analyses; a 16 January 2013 blog at Skeptical Science "Ridley, Murdoch, and Lomborg Attempt to Greenwash Global Warming" (http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?n=1810) is informative.

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  8. Geoffrey Henley

    Research Associate

    Another day, another piece of alarmist propaganda at the Conversation. Never mind that a number of regions in the World are experiencing their coldest winters in decades. Never mind that global temperatures have essentially flatlined for well over a decade.

    Just pick a time in history and tell us that its warmer today. So what if it's a degree or so warmer than 1750. Not suprising if the Earth is recovering from the little ice age.

    As for the number of bushfires, it might be a good idea to look at the reasons these blazes started before leaping into wild conjectures. Could it be related to an increase in firebugs for one thing.

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    1. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      LOL - Just pick a time in history and tell us that global temperatures have flatlined.

      "So what if it's a degree or so warmer than 1750".

      You don't quite understand the nature of the problem, do you. It is not that fact that is one degree warmer now than in 1750 that is the issue. The issue is what the temperature will be in 2050 or 2100.

      "As for the number of bushfires..."

      It is not merely frequency - it is also intensity. The article actually starts with "The intensity..." and the same paragraph concludes with "...the effects of fires under higher temperatures..."

      The source of ignition is one issue, but the intensity with which these fires are burning is a major focus. Firebugs do not determine fuel loads or prevailing conditions.

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    2. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      Another day, another science denier on a Conversation article.

      Last time it warmed one degree it took tens of thousands of years to do, not a few decades.

      Changing climate systems due to more heat trapping don't mean that areas can't have cold, in fact it can mean some areas will experience record cold spells.

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    3. Colin Kline

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      -
      Mike,

      Congratulations - your "Wunderground Site" is a paragon of scholastic excellence.

      Keep posting your shiploads of data, m8.
      _

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    4. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      Geoff, I sympathise with you, the cataclysmic nature of the alarmist propaganda conspiracies hatched by the likes of NASA chief climate scientist, and Proff Guy McPherson. (who is he anyway). And how dare Hansen suggest governments are lying. I suggest you dust off your CV, and offer your services to NASA immediately. I am sure global temperatures have flatlined as you say, and they need to be told about that little ice age.

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    5. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      You cite an article by Bob Tisdale, a man who has no science credentials, no publications of note, and has no understanding of statistical analysis. The man wishes to fit straight trend lines to data that requires a moving average or is already itself a trend line, and he consistently cherry picks data points.

      Stick to injury studies, Geoffrey, because you clearly don't understand climate science.

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    6. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      I'm not sure what criticism the author thinks is negating the principle of the SKS escalator - I don't see anything in there that contradicts what it's trying to show. Their criticisms are completely inconsequential to the point being made.

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    7. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      @Geoffrey Henley

      Remember the good old days Geoffrey. When you were not plagiarising your comments from De Spiegel, you were lecturing all and sundry about the scientific method.

      The video that I linked to from the Eureka Prize** winning Skeptical Science web site is a visualization of the peer reviewed article by Foster and Rahmsdorf 2011.
      http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/4/044022

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/16_more_years_of_global_warming.html

      Your rebuttal is a blog post…

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    8. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      "Not suprising if the Earth is recovering from the little ice age."

      So why isn't the Earth still in the Little Ice Age? (which it was still in at the beginning of the twentieth century)

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    9. Geoffrey Henley

      Research Associate

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Like the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC/Al Gore, the awarding of the Eureka Prize to John Cook was done for political reasons and has little to do with merit. There are numerous blogs superior to SS. John Cook's appointment as a 'Climate Communication Fellow' is again a polticial decision not based on merit and a thinly veiled attempt to try and improve Cook's standing in the scientific community. Cook has never worked as a climate scientist and has not published any scientific research of any note.

      Interestingly you reference the 'tamino' site which is hosted by a blogger whose identity and credentials remain a mystery. Not particularly convincing.

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    10. Geoffrey Henley

      Research Associate

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      The Earth has been going through cycles of heating and cooling for millions of years based on a complex interaction of many factors. Go figure!

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    11. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      Tamino - Grant Foster. Co Author of Goster & Rahmstorf. Not so secret really.

      And the Australian Museum is political is it? I suppose it has to be. In the eyes of the dedicated denialist, there can't be any other explanation. Since obviously the small percentage of arm-chair scientists deniers are absolutely convinced that AGW isn't true and,projecting their inner certainty onto others, allthose peolewho doaccept the science must be wrong, and presumably must know they are wrong. Thus, knowing…

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    12. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      "The Earth has been going through cycles of heating and cooling for millions of years"

      which all had a reason. So can you answer the question, what was the cause of the Little Ice Age ending? (which didn't end until the early twentieth century) Unlike millions of years ago, it should be much easier to determine the cause.

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    13. Geoffrey Henley

      Research Associate

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      "It's all so obvious once you accept that a few arm-chair experts are right and the worlds scientists are wrong."

      The fallacy of your argument here is that quite a number of prominent scientists, included many of those involved in climate research question the AGW hypothesis. The much touted '97% of climate scientists blah blah blah...' assertion is based almost entirely on a flawed survey as part of a PhD thesis.

      In fact, to my knowledge, there does not exist a single credible study or survey…

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    14. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      "quite a number of prominent scientists, included many of those involved in climate research question the AGW hypothesis"

      And who, pray tell, are these many prominent scientists involved in climate research who question the AGW "hypothesis" and what exactly is it that they question?

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  9. Andrew Glikson

    Earth and paleo-climate scientist

    Two responses to comments made above:

    1. The little ice age (~1600 - 1650 AD) resulted mainly from very low to nil sunspot activity during this period, leading to an average global cooling of about --0.5 degrees C. No relevance to the rise since 1750 AD of ~2.3 degrees C (about half of which is currently masked by the albedo effect of short-lived sulphur aerosols) driven by more than 560 billion tons of carbon from combusution and due to land clearing.

    2. North Europe and NE America snow storms have intensified as a result of increased evaporation from the Arctic Ocean as its ice cover is drastically reduced. As cold vapour-rich air masses migrate from the Arctic southward they colide with masses of warm air, with consequent snow storms.

    Andrew Glikson
    24-1-2013

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  10. Chris Owens

    Professional

    It is interesting that those with the most cavalier attitude to the future habitability of the planet are in many instances (but not all) older people. Many of my parent’s friends are elderly and also staunch deniers. Audiences for denier shock jocks are mostly older. Socioeconomic factors do not appear to be a factor.

    As far as I’m aware we don’t have another planet to move to if their wrong. So there is no plan B. Maybe at that age it is difficult to comprehend a changing climate. The most obvious answer is because they are not gambling with their own lives. However they all have children and grandchildren who I assume they care for. Puzzling..

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Chris Owens

      Chris, as a 56 year old (approximately) white Anbglo-Celtic male, I have to admit that, sadly, there's afair bit of demographic truth in what you say.

      However, I take some comfort in noting some evidence of stronger commitment to personal action on sustainability among my poor old much-maligned-and-only-partly-deserving-iy baby boomer generation (whatever 'generation' might actually mean i nreality) - and from the fact that many of the greatest champions in the fight are of a similar age.

      I suspect it's just cognitive ossification and a certain amount of having believed something for so long, and built so much of one's life around a certain set of ideas and ideals, it just becomes hard to face so grat a change...

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    2. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      In Western Australia ,the government is spending $80,000 to protect swimmers from shark attacks. Research is going to look at reasons for the 5 deaths that have occurred recently. One suggestion was the Leeuwin Current has brought record sea temperatures to the coastal areas and could be the reason for the increase in attacks. When you look at the BOM tidal station sea temperatures for the last 20 years there is very little increase . Also sea levels at Fremantle over the period of records has only…

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      p.s. sorry about the lousy typing above - senility seems to be advancing more reapidly than I'd realised - oy maybe it's just the heat...

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    4. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to trevor prowse

      trevor - you appear to be a very selective reader. Did you read the report yourself or did you get your "interpretation" from a climate denier blog?

      "Whereas the average rising trend in sea level off the WA coast has been ~1.5 mm per year over the past century, there has been an acceleration of the rising sea level trend in the past two decades, at ~5 mm per year. The acceleration is closely associated with a relatively high global sea level rising trend (~3 mm per year)"

      http://www.oceanclimatechange.org.au/content/images/uploads/2012_Leeuwin_current_marine_report_card_2.pdf

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    5. Michael Bailes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Owens

      Rubbish Chris I am 65 YO, (though a smattering of Uni science probably informs my views a bit) Part of the problem may be poor science literacy and a stupid, biased MSM (Terrorgraph, Fox etc)
      You need to explain to your relatives the difference between weather and climate and avoid terms like " Global Warming" which confuses so many Including journalists ) and make sure the radio cannot be tuned to Alan Jones
      The ABC has an excellent show on the history of oil /crude (http://www.abc.net.au/science/crude/resources/statement.htm) which you could show them. It is also important that they don't feel powerless..

      There does seem to be a tendency for Conservatives and Republicans to reject Climate Change/Science.
      Unfortunately this leads to ideologically silly decisions like Newman's vendetta in Queensland toward solar energy (The latest- rejecting a $1.2 Billion solar plant)

      We don't need another planet we just need to get off our arses and fix this one now

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    6. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mike----You may not have noticed , but in quoting the sentence, I put several dashes to indicate that it was part of the sentence. Also when looking at sea levels the scientific method accepted is to quote at least 30 years to look at climate trends. The rest of the sentence was meant to concern the reader of the effect of the Leeuwin current bringing down warmer water, which is not unusual. If you correctly analyse sea levels of the long Fremantle station data , it only gives a 1.5 mm/year rise…

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    7. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to trevor prowse

      "When you look at the BOM tidal station sea temperatures for the last 20 years there is very little increase"

      This has no statistically significant difference from the average rate of rise of global surface temperature for the past 38 years (which is 0.17 deg C/decade).

      "Also sea levels at Fremantle over the period of records has only increased by 1.5 mm/per year."

      What period was this? Note that sea level does not rise at the same rate everywhere and does not keep rising at the same rate.

      "Its good to hear both sides of the research data"

      That's rather ironic considering you are so interested in cherry-picking.

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    8. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris-----The period of records of Fremantle sea level is one of the longest in Australian data . The data I am quoting from is the CSIRO authors previously quoted, which was over 100 years. The problem I have with the authors of the Climate Commission papers is that they only quoted the last two decades of sea levels at Fremantle. They are the ones that are cherry-picking, or is it alright for them to do it if they are being paid to sell the carbon tax?

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    9. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Michael Bailes

      "avoid terms like " Global Warming" which confuses so many Including journalists"

      If you have to do that then there's probably not much hope.

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    10. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to trevor prowse

      "The data I am quoting from is the CSIRO authors previously quoted, which was over 100 years."

      In that case your extrapolation over 666 years is hardly likely to be valid.

      "The problem I have with the authors of the Climate Commission papers is that they only quoted the last two decades of sea levels at Fremantle."

      You didn't explain that problem very well. You didn't even cite them saying this.

      "They are the ones that are cherry-picking"

      So if you think someone is cherry-picking, then that means you can cherry-pick? Ever heard of the saying "two wrongs don't make a right"?

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    11. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      My sources are mostly from the data collected by the CSIRO and BOM . If the data has only been collected since the Tidal Stations were established in 1992, then it is only that I can not obtain longer data. In the case of the Fremantle data on sea levels , I would prefer to extrapolate over 100 years of data than the two decades that the Climate Commission authors have used in their attempt to sell the carbon tax. I do not think I was cherry-picking ,but how could you claim I was ,when the only…

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    12. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to trevor prowse

      "My sources are mostly from the data collected by the CSIRO and BOM"

      You're missing the point. Your extrapolation assumes that the future rate of sea level rise is the same as the average over the observation period that you picked. You have provided no justification for your assumption. You clearly are naive about the hazards of extrapolation.

      "I would prefer to extrapolate over 100 years of data than the two decades"

      I'm not familiar with the Climate Commission's report but I presume…

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    13. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      It is interesting to debate the climate when the debate has changed from "global warming" to "climate change". It is a bit like being asked ,"have you stopped beating your wife." Which ever way you answer ,your answer will get you into trouble. If I discover data over 100 years in lenght , surely it would be more reliable than data that was only two decades old. If I extrapolate that data out , surely that extapolation would be superior to data of only of two decades. As sea levels are high in one place and low in others , long term averages are more accurate, to give trends. The problem then comes then as to how long do you go back to decide if the present change is climate or weather. If the author had not used the heading "humanities scorched earth" , but used the a term which also described the exteme cold as well, it would have given the debate the ability to be discussed scientifically.

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  11. Theo van den Berg

    IT consultant and trainee farmer

    Excellent article with lots of food for good and bad discussions. Of course, like most readers, I follow links in some of the better articles for a more enjoyable experience.

    " . . . under higher temperatures projected by the IPCC for (LATER THIS CENTURY) defy contemplation."

    That second link is meant to refer to the (leaked) IPCC report, but actually goes to another very interesting place.

    http://berkeleyearth.org/results-summary/

    It has an extensive database of land temperature records over a VERY long time. Being ex-Melbourne, one particular statistic stood out. Not the average increase of a very long time, but the warming since 1990.

    Mean Rate of Change ( °C / Century )
    Since: 1990
    Victoria 4.29
    Tasmania 3.48
    NSW 2.84
    SA 1.81
    WA 1.49
    NT -1.59

    Not good for future bush fires, specially with all that cleared land surrounding areas of bush. Looking around the globe, only the very North of the Northern hemisphere beats that number.

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  12. Andrew Glikson

    Earth and paleo-climate scientist

    "Everyone is entitled to their opinion but not to their facts" (Senantor Daniel Moynihan).

    Climate science is about direct measurements in nature and the laboratory and calculations consistent with the laws of physics and chemistry of the atmosphere/ocean/cryosphere system. In paleo-climate we use proxies based on ice cores, tree rings, fossil plants, cave deposits, oxygen isotopes, carbon isoopes, boron isoopes and many other methods.

    Those who question the science need to present cogent observations…

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    1. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      Andrew, no one should dispute 'the facts' but it critically important for one's credibility to not be selective in regards to which facts people present in their arguments. For example, New Scientist reported last year that 42% of recent sea level rise was due to the draining of terrestrial groundwater resources into the oceans. While this is a serious problem in its own right, not taking account of this 'fact' (assuming that it's true) diminishes the degree to which people talking about global warming-related…

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      I hope you have misquoted Prof Salby, because the source of elevated atmospheric CO2 is readily shown to be industrial CO2 emissions (fossil fuel use + cement production).

      Historic fossil fuel use and cement production data (Oak Ridge National (US) Laboratory Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center) shows sufficient CO2 emission from 1800 to 2007 to raise atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppm to 430 ppm. Dissolution of CO2 in oceans has limited atmospheric CO2 to about 390 ppm, and decreased ocean pH.

      You can get the data and do the calculation yourself, if you like.

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    3. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to David Arthur

      No, I haven't misquoted the professor. Have a look at http://berniemasters.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/blockbuster-planetary-temperature.html for the article that first described his work on this issue. Interestingly, or worryingly, I haven't seen any follow-up to his speech, so cannot say if the promised book and peer-reviewed article have been published, so it may not have survived peer review.

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    4. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Bernie

      I would be interested in a link to the New Scientist article. My understanding was that loss of ground water isn't a significant factor. Not because the amount isn't significant, it might be.But that it has tended tobe balanced by increases in empoundment - the world has been building dams and storing water in them and the net of both these effects is almost zero.

      Bernie

      Here are a couple of articles you might like to read. The first is a critique of one aspect of Salby's talk at the Sydney Institute http://www.skepticalscience.com/salbyratio.html. And in an email reply to the articles author, Tom Curtis, Salby's response included the line - 'I don't debate with amateurs'. Charming.

      Then there is this article I wrote some time ago looking at the evidence of warming and importantly what conclusions we can draw from the data as to causation. http://www.skepticalscience.com/Breaking_News_The_Earth_is_Warming_Still_A_LOT.html

      See what you think.

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    5. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      Glenn, thanks for the comment and links. I searched the New Scientist website and glad I did as it shows the deficiencies of the human mind. The rise in sea level due to groundwater extraction - see http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128314.700-groundwater-greed-driving-sea-level-rises.html - is 7.4% of the sea level rise over recent decades, so many apologies for my faulty memory which suggested a number 6 times higher.
      I visited both websites you provided links to. I have no difficulty with…

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Thanks Mr Masters, spoken like a true politician.

      By now you will have had ample time to review the spreadsheet showing how Industrial CO2 emissions have been more than sufficient to increase atmospheric CO2 from its pre-Industrial 275 ppm to the present 394 ppm.

      Since these Industrial CO2 emissions are not temperature-dependent per se, but are the result of human activity, we can pretty well disregard Prof Salby's remarks as irrelevant.

      Should you choose to ever be a politician, I trust that you will adopt reality as the basis for your policy positions.

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  13. Leo Kerr

    Consultant

    When I look at some of the posts on this page from seemingly sensible people who try ad nauseum to refute not only the science but the cold hard evidence before their very eyes of the ever increasing global occurrences of extreme weather events, I feel we are just another failed species. Headstone of the Human Species - "RIP - smart but not smart enough".....or perhaps "Too greedy for their own good" - seems to me it's already past midnight. As the saying attributed to Native Americans "When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, the air we breathe is sickening, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money" - it's always been about money - vested interest protecting its patch.

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    1. Michael Bailes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      Unfortunately Leo CC has become a wedge political issue for Conservatives in Au and USA (not UK).
      I can't believe that the LNP is as ignorant of the processed of science as they make out, I am sure they just think there are votes in obfuscating the issue.
      I despair a little too about Homo "sapiens"

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  14. Michael Bailes

    logged in via Facebook

    Funny no one ever mentions the hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluride. These account for roughly 5% of greenhouse gases and are entirely human made. If these caused a hole in the ozone layer they would be banned by now.

    Methane and water vapour are also greenhouse gasses.
    As the temperature of the planet rises we are getting more water vapour and methane in the air. Fracking looks like it will add more free methane too, along with melting Siberian permafrost and cow farts

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    1. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Michael Bailes

      According to the last IPCC report (AR4), the (since 1750) radiative forcing of CO2 was 1.6 W/m2 and the radiative forcing of (non-H2O) other GHGs was 1 W/m2. The net radiative forcing after the negative forcings of sulphate aerosols and oceanic heat absorption are accounted for is about 1 W/m2.

      So if there were no GHGs besides CO2 then we wouldn't presently have any significant global warming at all. So those other GHGs are very important.

      The expectation however, is that CO2 will continue to grow much more than the other GHGs.

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  15. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Oh dear me. I just read the clanger of the year and the year has only just started!

    The author, Mr Glikson, in his final paragraph wrote, "Other measures such as NASA-applied outer space shade technology may buy time for such planetary defence effort" and conveniently provided a link which I quote verbatim:

    "According to Dr. Angel's paper, just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there would have to be a cloud of lenses about 100,000 kilometers long. To accomplish…

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    1. Colin Kline

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Oh Dear,.

      The Dinosaur Luddites are renown for being so uneducated, they can have no idea how uneducated they really are.

      This is also know as the "Dunning_Kruger_Effect".
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

      Gerard DEAN, may I suggest that you first read up on alternative launch systems to "rockets" or "railguns", like the "Slingatron".

      See:

      http://www.slingatron.com/spacelaunch.htm

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-rocket_spacelaunch

      http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2007/06/slingatron_spac/

      http://defensetech.org/2006/05/09/giant-slingshot-new-way-to-space/

      http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/Nowicki/SPBI125.HTM

      My business & I have in development a newer version of the Slingatron, that is 1/10E3 of current construction costs, X1/10E6 in running costs, and X10 in payload capacity.

      Of course there is a patent coming, so only outlines can be provided.
      -

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    2. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Colin Kline

      Mr Kline

      In future please don't smear me by calling me uneducated. It is far more honourable to refute my argument with facts. Unfortunately, the facts in this instance are clearly on my side.

      Basic physics says that it takes an enormous amount of energy to sling a kilogram of stuff into space, regardless of where that energy comes from.

      The 'slingshots' you mention are still dreams that would require far more in resources including coal, oil and minerals to build than using current rocket…

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    3. Colin Kline

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      -
      "An enormous amount of energy" is NOT a fact; it is an opinion without figures, and no comparison with any datum (since 'enormous' means "compared to")
      -

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  16. Andrew Glikson

    Earth and paleo-climate scientist

    Response to Berney:

    Regarding sea levels - pumping of ground water and dam storage work in opposite directions:
    http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/05/21/3507321.htm
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v5/n6/full/ngeo1476.html

    Since 1930 the storage of water has prevented a total of about 1.2 inches of sea-level rise. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080313-dams-water.html

    Regarding the effects of CO2. Some 560 GtC have been released to the atmosphere since 1750…

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    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      Mr Glikson,

      Above you will find my brief analysis of Dr Angel's plan to fire 800.000 plastic lenses into space every 15 minutes for 10 years which you cited in your concluding paragraph as a viable method to defend our planet.

      My back of the envelope computations indicate that this project would consume the entire worlds industrial production to launch the equivalent of 350,000 NASA Space Shuttle flights to do the job.

      Perhaps I am wrong. I would appreciate your view on this matter and an outline of how Dr Angels plan would work.

      Thank you

      Gerard Dean

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    2. Andrew Glikson

      Earth and paleo-climate scientist

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerald Dean

      I am not clear what would be the costs of creating a transient reflective solar shield but I doubt it would cost more than the current global military budgets of ~$2 trillion. It would depend where H. sapiens is going to invest its remaining resources in, i.e. in the military and in wars or, alternatively in planetary defence.

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    3. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      I am afraid you are mistaken Mr Glikson, Dr Angel's plan involved launching a space shuttle payload every fifteen minutes for 10 years, making a total of 350,000 launches would cost 25 times the world $2 trillion military spend.

      According to Wikipedia, the amortized cost to NASA was estimated at US$1.5 Billion per flight.

      Dr Angel says we should spend $1.5 Billion X 35,000 launches annually equating to an annual cost of $52 trillion. Then we have to add the cost of the lenses themselves, let's…

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