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CLIMATE WARMING AND IDEOLOGICAL PARALYSIS November 4, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, CLIMATE CHANGE.
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The non-existent paradox is rather a contradiction. Could it be that the warmest September and October ever recorded overall in Australia was evidence, as claimed, of a plateauing of rising global temperatures?

There is always in a dynamic, multi-variable system, the possibility of contrary indications. They do not seem evident in the Australian temperature records Australia is a relatively large land mass entirely surrounded by ocean.

The significance of ocean influence is confirmed by the Bureau of Metererology:

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has remained neutral since mid-2012, with all atmospheric and oceanic indicators of ENSO presently within neutral bounds. International climate models surveyed by the Bureau of Meteorology suggest that the neutral ENSO-pattern will persist through the coming summer.

While ENSO is the dominant natural driver of Australia’s climate, a neutral period does not guarantee a benign climate. A neutral ENSO period indicates that the equatorial Pacific Ocean is not shifting the odds towards either a particularly wet or dry period, and hence other influences may come into play. Weather extremes can and do occur during neutral ENSO phases, though tend to be less widespread.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is neutral, with climate models indicating that it will remain so until the end of the austral spring. The IOD typically has little influence on Australian climate during the period from December to April.

There is more evidence of climate change. The temperatures are increases. September, followed by October, were the warmest on record. In fact the Bureau of Meteorology comments on “a remarkable sequence of months of warmer-than-average temperatures since August 2012.” There were record average temperatures recorded over much of the continent:

(Source:  Australian 12-month mean temperature record broken for third month running.)

This pattern of temperatures has been suggested by climate modelling, including NASA’s:

The effect on drylands of increased evaporation and decreased rain, if it occurs together is a vicious cycle. Tim Radford, republished in Truthdig reports:

Drylands matter: they account for more than 40% of the planet’s land surface and they support more than 38% of its population. Drylands add up, in the dusty language of science, to the largest “terrestrial biome” of all.

And even though on average more warmth will mean more evaporation, and therefore more water vapour in the atmosphere and more precipitation in some of those zones that already have ample rainfall, the pattern could be different in the arid lands.

All the calculations so far indicate that these drylands will increase in area, and become drier with time. Already 250 million people are trying to scrape an increasingly meagre living from lands which are degrading swiftly, either because they are turning to desert, or because they are overgrazed.

But to make things worse, climate scientists predict that between 2080 and 2099, soil moisture will decrease by between 5% and 15% worldwide. And that in turn could have a profound effect on the levels of carbon and nitrogen nutrients naturally in the topsoils.

What keeps soils alive, and productive, is the compost or humus of leaf litter, animal dung, withered roots and other decaying vegetation in the first metre or so of topsoil: this in turn feeds an invisible army of tiny creatures that recycle the nutrient elements for the next generation of plant life.

But these microbes also need water to thrive. The consortium of researchers predicted that as the soils got drier, biological activity would decrease, but geochemical processes would accelerate. That is, nutrients that depended on little living things in the soil would drain away, but other elements – phosphorus among them – would increase, because they would be winnowed from the rock by mechanical weathering or erosion.

The research team tested this argument with samples from 16 countries, including the Negev desert in Israel, the woodlands of New South Wales in Australia, the Altiplano of Peru, and the Pampas lowlands of Argentina.

Who knows how the Federal Government’s proposed Direct Action will work, other than adopting the curious notion of paying polluters. Perhaps action might be taken with respect to “Marine vegetated habitats (seagrasses, salt-marshes, macroalgae and mangroves)” which apparently:

. . . occupy 0.2% of the ocean surface, but contribute 50% of carbon burial in marine sediments. Their canopies dissipate wave energy and high burial rates raise the seafloor, buffering the impacts of rising sea level and wave action that are associated with climate change. The loss of a third of the global cover of these ecosystems involves a loss of CO2 sinks and the emission of 1 Pg CO2 annually. The conservation, restoration and use of vegetated coastal habitats in eco-engineering solutions for coastal protection provide a promising strategy, delivering significant capacity for climate change mitigation and adaption.

Unlike the rest of us, governments have access to the best science advice available. One suspects that the current Federal Government led by inestimable Tony Abbott has an ideological prejudice against accepting the science of climate change. There are good reasons to set a good example, and set ambitious carbon emission reduction goals. Bob Brown suggests in this interview the unthinkable, that 90% of the Murray Basin could be lost. It is not just the loss of agricultural productivity, but the net loss of food production in a world in which the population is expected to increase by about 43% before leveling off. Anathema, as it may be to the Federal Government, led by the blinkered, climate change has to be engaged in as part of the global community. Failure to act, albeit that such action will require to be cost effective, in the face of the evidence is unconscionable.

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