WAITING IS NOT A OPTION August 29, 2010Posted by wmmbb in Environment.
Next week we will probably have a government to replace the caretaker government but will we have a government prepared to act on Global Warming?
The new government, Labor or Coalition, will have the necessary signed agreements with the appropriate number of Independents to ensure confidence on the floor of the House of Reps. There is little credence to be given to those calling for another election. There are two obvious reasons. There must be a practical time limit that the caretaker provisions can last given that they have lasted through the course of the election and it aftermath while the count of the vote has been finalized. The two party preferred outcomes supplied by the AEC indicate how very close the election turned out to be. The Independents are going to have to make a decision as to which of the major parties they will back conscious of their status as Independents in the eyes of their supporters. They will tend decide who lost and who won the election, and in that sense be accountable to the wider electorate. Parliament will then sit next month, and there should be no reason to be suppose that the new government will not be as stable as any previous government, subject to the narrow majority that it will command.
Global warming is not an issue that will go away. It is a looming crisis unfolding over the next century that demands policy, foresight and courage. If the non-scientific opinion is put aside, its effects will impact Australia as anywhere else on the globe. The unraveling catastrophe in Pakistan is illustrative of the extreme climate and weather events that are predicted to increase in frequency. For example, ABC News Online reported that one million more people had been forced to evacuate their homes.
The question arises whether this disaster has been a product of Global Warming. Julian Hunt is clear that this disaster is related to global warming and likely to reoccur. In The Sydney Morning Herald, via The Guardian, he wrote:
Heavy monsoon precipitation has increased in frequency in Pakistan and western India in recent years. In July 2005 Mumbai was deluged by almost 950 millimetres of rain in just one day, and more than 1000 people were killed in floods in the state of Maharashtra. Last year deadly flash floods hit north-western Pakistan, and Karachi was also flooded.
This trend is fuelled by global warming and potentially by any intensification and alteration of the El Nino-La Nino cycle. To understand the reasons global warming is playing a role, look at the main climatic trends in south Asia. In addition to more extreme rainfall, there is also a reduction of ice over the Tibetan plateau and changing precipitation patterns, with less snow at higher levels, plus more rapid run-off from mountains.
How does climate change help explain this? First, the warming in temperatures leads to less snow. Second, the less stable atmosphere causes deeper convection and intense rainfall. The less stable atmosphere also leads to more airflow over mountains and less lateral deviation – so that the monsoon winds and precipitation can be higher in north-western India and Pakistan and weaker in the north-east.
In 2006 there was an unusually intense drought in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam and rain in north-western India. This year, with the strong rainfall in the north-west, there is no pronounced decrease in the north-east. Recent studies in the US have also concluded that the mountain meteorology is changing, but as a result of the aerosols emitted from urban areas of south Asia.
The biggest question is whether the El Nino southern oscillation (Enso), which determines the 10-year oscillations of weather across the Pacific basin and into south Asia and Africa, will change.
Although there is no scientific consensus, it seems likely if the Amazon rainforest continues to disappear, and snow/ice melt significantly increases over the Tibetan plateau, there will be significant changes in Enso climatic fluctuations as rises in temperature over land become comparable with the areas of the Pacific where the temperature fluctuates over a few degrees.
The reason for concern about changing Enso is that, depending on its periodic strength, it greatly affects magnitudes and locations of floods, droughts and hurricanes. Until about 2020-30, these natural fluctuations are expected to be greater than man-made changes (as was pointed out by many scientists in the 1990s).
Once these effects start multiplying they do not seem to stop. The notion of a single tipping point may be a misconception. We have heard that carbon dioxide is plant food, but that only applies when there are trees growing. Ben Cubby comes along to spoil the optimism that was generated by ignoring one of the critical ingredients in tree growth. He writes:
LESS rainfall and rising global temperatures are damaging one of the world’s best guardians against climate change: trees.
A global study, published in the journal Science, shows that the amount of carbon dioxide being soaked up by the world’s forests in the past decade has declined, reversing a 20-year trend.
It diminishes hopes that global warming can be seriously slowed down by the mass planting of trees in carbon sinks. Although plants generally grow bigger as a result of absorbing carbon-enriched air, they need more water and nutrients to do so, and they have been getting less.
If nothing is done, and what is required is a concerted Global response because while the weather might play favourites, the climate doesn’t. There is a structural injustice if those that will suffer, and are suffering are not the principal people who have benefited and caused the problem. Those who will be most effected are the recent arrivals on Planet Earth. James Hansen, with his grandchildren in mind became an activist. He observes, via Common Dreams:
What had become clear was that our planet is close to climate tipping points. Ice is melting in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica, and on mountain glaciers worldwide. Many species are stressed by environmental destruction and climate change. Continuing fossil fuel emissions, if unabated, will cause sea levels to rise and species to become extinct beyond our control. Increasing atmospheric water vapour is already magnifying climate extremes, increasing overall precipitation, causing greater floods and stronger storms.
Stabilising climate requires restoring our planet’s energy balance. The physics is straightforward. The effect of increasing carbon dioxide on Earth’s energy imbalance is confirmed by precise measurements of ocean heat gain. The principal implication is defined by the geophysics, by the size of fossil fuel reservoirs. Simply put, there is a limit on how much carbon dioxide we can pour into the atmosphere. We cannot burn all fossil fuels. Specifically, we must (1) phase out coal use rapidly, (2) leave tar sands in the ground, and (3) not go after the last drops of oil.
Actions needed for the world to move on to clean energies of the future are feasible. The actions could restore clean air and water globally. But the actions are not happening.
It would appear that Gillard and Abbott are both do nothing alternatives with respect to Climate Change, and so who is chosen will not make a significant difference, which on its face it an undemocratic outcome of concern to none of the official political commentators. In the face of institutional failure, what is to be done? David Sirota, at Truthdig, reminds us that we all might take actions to reduce our carbon footprint. A week may be a long time in politics, but is a short moment in global warming.