13 Oct 2011, 12:01am

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  • Year 2, Month 10, Day 13: I Never Has Seen Snow

    The Sydney Morning Herald for October 10 notes that the Australian Alps are going to lose all their snow by 2050 if things go on this way:

    AUSTRALIA’S ski slopes could be completely bare of natural winter snow by 2050 unless concerted action is taken against global warming, according to a government-commissioned report that paints a grim picture of the effects of climate change on alpine areas.

    The report, Caring For Our Australian Alps Catchments, has found that the Alps, which stretch from Victoria through NSW to the ACT, face an average temperature rise of between 0.6 and 2.9 degrees by 2050, depending on how much action countries take to combat climate change.

    ”The effects of climate change are predicted to be the single greatest threat to the natural condition values of the Australian Alps catchments,” the report says.

    I didn’t even know there were Alps in Australia. Sent October 9 (because it’s already tomorrow in Australia):

    There is less wiggle room than ever before for those who would deny the facts of global climate change. For several decades it has been possible to ignore the predictions of climatologists as they assessed the likely shape of a post-greenhouse-effect planet; after all, all those dire things were going to happen sometime in the indefinite future, so there was time enough to worry about them later on.

    Well, as the recently released report on the future of Australia’s Alps demonstrates, the “indefinite future” is no longer “indefinite.” Indeed, it’s hardly even “future”; as ski-slope operators must be realizing right about now, a few decades isn’t much time to prepare for such drastic environmental transformations.

    All over the world, climatologists’ predictions are coming true much faster than anyone expected. It behooves us to pay attention to what they’ve been saying for years — and to what they’re saying now.

    Warren Senders


    Year 2, Month 7, Day 28: Julia!

    Well, I’m writing this on July 12, after an episode of considerable stupidity a little earlier today. I entered my usual group of search terms into google and found a link to an article debunking the climategate idiocy. I leapt to the assumption that for some reason these were in the news again…so I spent about half an hour generating a letter on scientific integrity versus the right-wing noise machine. A good letter it was, too.

    Then I looked at the byline on the article and had a (facepalm) moment; it was about 17 months old. How did it wind up at the top of my google results? Damned if I know. So I put that letter away and generated another piece of boilerplate on Australia’s carbon tax. This one went to the Boston Herald which ran a generic AP feed on the Australian proposal. I’m linking to it from a drive to completeness; I cannot imagine why anyone would need to read it.

    The BH is a Murdoch paper. Maybe by the time this post shows up online Rupert will be in prison?

    Anyway, sent on July 12 to the Boston Herald:

    The Australian carbon tax is an idea whose time has come. Despite the doubts of her constituents and the hostility of the country’s big coal companies, Prime Minister Gillard is showing genuine leadership and a long-term vision that American politicians would do well to emulate. She recognizes that carbon dioxide emissions pose a long-term threat to the world’s stability. If actions today can help reduce the terrifying consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect, all of us will benefit. Conversely, apathy and inaction today will bring a perfect storm upon our descendants. Fifty years ago, we had the excuse of ignorance; now, we can no longer plead that we were unaware of the dangers of a “business as usual” approach to greenhouse gas emissions, for the evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible. Our politicians’ unwillingness and inability to do the right thing will resound to their, and our, eternal shame.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 7, Day 27: There’s Something About Julia

    More on Australia’s carbon tax plans, from the July 10 NYT:

    SYDNEY — Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia announced a plan on Sunday that would tax the carbon dioxide emissions of the country’s 500 worst polluters and create the second-biggest emissions trading program in the world, after the European Union’s.

    The plan is projected to cut 159 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2020, the government said. In 2010, Australia produced 577 million tons of carbon emissions, according to the Department of Climate Change.

    This is basically yesterday’s letter, rearranged and reconfigured. It’s fun to use the word “nobility” in the same paragraph with a reference to American politicians. It’s kind of like using the word “genteel” while discussing a Farrelly brothers film. Sent July 11:

    Washington wants us to believe that unraveling the safety net for our most defenseless citizens in the name of deficit reduction is somehow an act of political courage, since those same citizens (unsurprisingly) don’t like the idea. But conservatives’ hypocritical posturings have always been supported by the wealthiest and most powerful forces in our economy — and with billions of dollars behind them, their casual dismissal of the needs of millions of citizens has nothing of nobility in it. By contrast, Australia’s Julia Gillard has dared to show something few of our politicians can even contemplate: visionary concern for her nation’s future. By imposing a tax on carbon pollution, she’s confronted both the powerful coal industry and the inchoate fears of her fellow citizens. Why? Because Prime Minister Gillard recognizes that the greenhouse effect and its destructive consequences will be far more expensive than any amount of deficit spending.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 7, Day 26: Up With Down Under!

    Australia’s PM is doing something wonderful, reports the Boston Globe in its issue of July 10:

    SYDNEY—Australia will force its 500 worst polluters to pay 23 Australian dollars ($25) for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit, with the government promising to compensate households hit with higher power bills under a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions unveiled Sunday.

    Prime Minister Julia Gillard sought to reassure wary Australians that the deeply unpopular carbon tax will only cause a minority of households to pay more and insisted it is critical to helping the country lower its massive carbon emissions. Australia is one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas polluters, due to its heavy reliance on coal for electricity.

    “We generate more carbon pollution per head than any other country in the developed world,” Gillard told reporters in Canberra as she released details of the tax, which will go into effect on July 1, 2012. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to hold our place in the race that the world is running.”

    She’s right. Australia is right. And America is full of blinkered idiots, as usual.

    Sent July 10:

    Faced with an intractable choice between business as usual and an environmentally responsible policy on carbon emissions, Australia’s Julia Gillard showed something this country hasn’t seen in quite a while: genuine leadership. Promoting unpopular policies on deficit reduction is not the mark of political courage many of our politicians claim; there is no nobility in advocating policies that are heavily favored by deep-pocketed multinational corporations and the monied elites who reap the benefits of their success. Any world leader who ignores the worldwide scientific consensus on climate change (approaching unanimity as rapidly as the Arctic is shedding ice mass) is betting the lives of countless millions of people on a very long shot indeed. In taking on the enormous power of Australia’s coal industry, Prime Minister Gillard is doing something our politicians cannot: the right thing, both for her nation and the world.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 6, Day 18: Up With Which I Will Not Put

    The Gold Coast Mail (Australia) notes a study which suggests that climate denialism is dying out Down Under:

    CLIMATE change sceptics are an endangered species in Australia, a national survey shows.

    The survey of almost 3100 Australians found 74 per cent believe the world’s climate is changing.

    When asked a different question about the causes of climate change, which removed the reference to personal beliefs, 90 per cent of respondents said human activity was a factor.

    Just five per cent said climate change was entirely caused by natural processes.

    Overall, less than six per cent of respondents could reasonably be classified as true climate change sceptics, the study by Griffith University researchers found.

    The comments on the article would, unfortunately, indicate otherwise. Sent June 4:

    Recently, a new and invasive species was spotted in many locations all over the world. Combining intellectual genomes from anti-science religious zealots and anti-environment business forces, these “climate change denialists” fed on toxic media emissions, rapidly growing larger and posing ever-greater threats to journalism and the civility of public discourse. Clogging the channels of communication essential to a free society, denialists rapidly replaced subtler ideas about planetary climate patterns and regional weather events with ill-founded conspiracy theories and innumerate contempt for scientific authority. The result? Many of the world’s developed cultures were virtually incapacitated; the USA hosts a particularly virulent strain which has essentially destroyed the integrity of its political system.

    Denialists’ status as an endangered species in Australia is very welcome news. We can only hope that in centuries to come, they’ll have a place in the history books alongside the Dodo, the Pig-footed Bandicoot, and the Passenger Pigeon.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 6, Day 4: Lending A Word Here And There

    An editorial in the Australia Courier calls for “Less Hot Air On The Climate Change Debate, Please.” A good piece, and worthy of some support from over here on this side of the marble:

    For every scientist who supports common acceptance of global warming, the sceptics can roll out one who says the opposite.

    But there needs to be a point where we, as a nation, take a side. And in this case, the cautious approach is to act, rather than do nothing.

    It is time for the conversation to move past the debate and onto what we can do to ensure that we are acting before a crisis is upon us. Simply, the time is now.

    Sent May 23:

    The facts of climate change have been incontrovertible for a fairly long time. As early as 1953, Arctic ice melt was predicted as a consequence of the greenhouse effect, and for the past six decades the evidence has been accumulating. At this point the scientific consensus on human causes of global warming is extremely robust; the only people in the climate science community who disagree turn out to be in the pay of industries with much to lose in a transition to a low-carbon energy economy. And by presenting these “skeptics” as equal countervoices to the thousands of very worried climatologists, the world’s news media provide protective cover for those who seek to delay a shift to energy sustainability. Were this a trivial political matter, it would sort itself out, given a chance. But these stakes are very high indeed; it is not only Australia whose future hangs in the balance.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 3, Day 14: Coal Makes You Stupid (So Does Oil)

    An Australian paper, the Mackay Daily Mercury, runs an article noting, unsurprisingly, that Australian coal companies are opposed to a tax on carbon. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Industries are not known for taking the long view. If corporate charters were set up to encourage century-long thinking, a lot of things might have turned out differently.

    Sent March 6:

    It’s hardly surprising that higher-ups in Australia’s coal industry are opposed to a carbon tax. Despite their comprehensive and lavishly-funded denial of the facts of climate change, the multinational corporations which have made enormous fortunes from our species’ eagerness to consume fossil fuels are beginning to see the writing on the wall. They’re soon going to confront the limitations of the Earth’s resources and the laws of nature; we’re going to run out of oil and coal — unless the long-term consequences of the greenhouse effect bring our species to an evolutionary bottleneck first. The coal industry needs to be asking how to find ways to employ people once they’re no longer mining coal, not how to avoid paying taxes on carbon emissions. The days when economic actors could easily afford to disregard climatic warning signals are long past; our addiction to cheap energy has become a very expensive habit indeed.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 1, Day 28: Denialism Is Going To Require More And More Energy As This Goes On.

    The Brisbane Times speaks sooth on the changes in our climate. So I figured I’d speak some sooth back.

    Some of these newspaper sites are set up in a way that makes sending an LTE very difficult; I spent more time looking for a letter submission address than I did writing the damn letter. In the end I gave up and sent it to one of the support addresses, hoping that it will get somewhere, somehow.

    The most alarming thing about the Earth’s accelerating warming is the fact that, statistically, we don’t seem to be worried about it. Has the anesthetizing effect of our mass media taken hold to such an extent that people cannot be troubled to notice what’s happening right outside their windows? It is saddening to realize that those with the most access to information are also the most prone to denial and rejection of inconvenient truths; while this is changing as the worsening climate crisis affects prosperous and industrialized countries, it’s not happening fast enough. Modern man is in a complex predicament; extricating ourselves requires admitting that we’re in trouble in the first place. If humanity survives the coming centuries, our descendants will have harsh words for the irresponsible media outlets (and the petroleum industries backing them) that have left us unprepared for the gravest threat we’ve ever faced.

    Warren Senders

    13 Jan 2011, 7:04pm

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  • Year 2, Month 1, Day 13: Talkin’ The Talk

    The Sydney Morning Herald has an excellent article on the need for realism in the climate debate.

    The floods that have led to most of Queensland being declared a disaster zone are a disturbing reminder that living in one of the richest countries in the world does not shield us from the devastation of natural disasters.

    The footage of death and destruction we are seeing on our TV screens is gut-wrenching. Most dinner table conversations in Australia this week will undoubtedly focus on these floods and their horrific consequences. But while we are talking about the immense loss and what we can do to help, there is another conversation that we should be having: the conversation about climate change.

    When we talk about climate change, we mostly talk about complicated economic policy, markets and reports. But we need to start talking about what climate change actually looks like – and we don’t need to look much further than Queensland.

    So they get a letter. A new rhetorical flourish here is something I borrowed from a science-fiction short story I read a few years ago. I forget the author (Kornbluth, perhaps?), but it concerned a bunch of different groups involved in weather modification technology and the failure of communications between them. Hence the penultimate sentence of my letter, which is going to appear fairly often as 2011 waddles onward.

    To any who’ve been following the slowly unfolding catastrophe of climate change, it’s not surprising that 2010 was a record-breaking year. And likewise, it will be no surprise when this year’s numbers are regularly surpassed. Since the nineteen-fifties, when scientists began talking about the climate-altering potential of increased atmospheric CO2, the consequences were always scheduled for some indefinite time in the relatively distant future. It was always our descendants who’d have to contend with a world in a state of environmental upheaval.

    Until now. Queensland’s floods are far from an isolated case; all over the planet the weather is less predictable, more extreme, and more dangerous. For over fifty years, as our greenhouse emissions have steadily increased, we’ve avoided discussing their climatic consequences: everybody’s doing something about the weather, but nobody’s talking about it. This must end; denial is a luxury we can no longer afford.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 1, Day 1: Hangover Edition

    Adam Morton gives a good summary of the past ten years’ worth of climate change in The Age (Australia). I figured I’d get a jump on the deniers with this letter…

    Listening to the increasingly vociferous voices of those who deny the validity and relevance of climate science, one wonders: do these people live on the same planet we do? The planet climatologists are studying is buffeted by increasingly severe weather, uprooting people from their lands, crippling agricultural systems, and tearing holes in the fabric of life. On the alternate planet where global warming deniers live, it’s always the right temperature; crops aren’t wilting; floods aren’t wiping out villages; glaciers aren’t melting. On the planet we live in, we’re headed for a significant temperature increase in a time span so short it doesn’t even qualify as a geological instant. On the planet of the deniers, that’ll be fine, because when dinosaurs were alive, the atmosphere was a lot hotter than it is now. Our species is inadequately prepared for such an abrupt climatic shift — on this Earth, anyway.

    Warren Senders