25 June 2011

How not to engage the community: the politics of 5 June

by David Spratt and John Rice

On Sunday 5 June, a set of coordinated public rallies in support of climate action, and particularly a carbon tax, under the banner “Say Yes....”, were held in capital cities around Australia.

For many people, including climate activists, they were a disconcerting experience, in which the community was effectively taken out of these events, reduced to little more than extras providing a staged backdrop for an inordinately expensive media stunt, led by GetUp.

The events may have been public, but they had nought to do with community organising and empowerment. In many ways, they were its negation.

14 June 2011

“Most of Australia” can expect extreme temperatures of more than 50 degrees by end of century

Climate change is making our planet hotter and wetter on average, but also drier in some places including southern Australia, and with more extreme events as the total amount of energy in the climate system increases.

So how hot will hot be? One answer comes from Andreas Sterl and 10 colleagues from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at Utrecht University. In “When can we expect extremely high surface temperatures?”, they ask how extreme would temperatures be at end of this century if the global average temperature were to increase by 3.5C by 2100 compared to 2000 (based on the IPCC scenario known as A1B).

08 June 2011

Australian government deliberately underestimating risks from rising sea levels

First published in Crikey, 8 June 2011

Last weekend, the Australian government released the latest in a series of reports documenting the possible impacts of climate-change-induced sea-level rises (SLRs) on Australia.

It found a "worst-case scenario sea level rise of 1.1 metres" within 90 years would have a devastating impact, with as much as $266 billion worth of potential damage and loss to buildings and infrastructure.

This upper bound of 1.1 metres is used consistently by government. Inundation maps use three simple sea-level rise scenarios for the period about the year 2100: low (0.5m), medium (0.8m) and high (1.1m).

The big problem is that 1.1 metres is the wrong figure by a wide margin, with serious implications for the efficacy of the risk management and planning such research should underpin.

03 June 2011

'Direct Action' could reward polluters rather than discourage

First published in Crikey, 3 June 2011

Without any mechanism to discourage additional carbon emissions, the Coalition’s "direct action" climate plan may perversely reward them.

The Coalition plan proposes cash rewards for actions to "support 140 million tonnes of abatement per annum by 2020 to meet our 5% target", at a cost to taxpayers said to be $3.2 billion over the first four years. (The government now assesses that abatement task at 160 metric tonnes, for the meagre 5% goal of both major parties -- which stands in sharp contrast to the carbon budget approach advocated in the recent Climate Commission report.)

The Coalition plan does not discourage additional pollution, whether from new industrial investment or increased energy use accompanying population growth and increased household consumption. At $25 a tonne, the plan’s budget for 2012-13 would buy 20 million tonnes of abatement. Economic growth of 4% would be enough to nullify most of that.