25 June 2024

1.5 degrees Celsius is here and now

Surface air temperatures, 21 June 2024.
Credit: C3S/ECMWF (pulse.climate.copernicus.eu)
By David Spratt

Has the world already reached a global warming trend of 1.5°C (compared to ~1900 pre-industrial baseline)?

There have been some sharp disagreements between scientists over this question, with former NASA climate science chief James Hansen saying that for all practical purposes the climate system trend is now at the 1.5°C mark, whilst Penn State University’s Michael E Mann and others disagree and say we have up to a decade to go.

In May 2024, Hansen wrote that the 12-month mean global temperature “is still rising at 1.56°C relative to 1880-1920 in the GISS analysis through April. Robert Rohde reports that it is 1.65°C relative to 1850-1900 in the BerkeleyEarth analysis (for the same period).  El Nino/La Nina average global temperature likely is about 1.5°C, suggesting that, for all practical purposes, global temperature has already reached that milestone.”   [El Niño (the warm phase) and La Niña (the cool phase) lead to significant differences from the average ocean temperatures, winds, surface pressure, and rainfall across parts of the tropical Pacific. Neutral conditions are near their long-term average.]

13 May 2024

One event could wreak global climate havoc. Neither side of Australian politics has got a clue about it.

This a case study from the report, Too hot to handle, recently published by the Australian Security Leaders Climate Group.

There is no greater disruptive physical climate risk than the collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), the main current system in the South and North Atlantic Oceans, which is linked to circulation in the Southern Ocean. 

There is a non-trivial and unacceptable risk that the AMOC flow will collapse this century, with devastating consequences for global food production, for sea levels and for flooding in Australia. Shifts in global weather patterns would likely deprive Asia of vital monsoon rains, with enormous security consequences for the region and for Australia.

Yet in the Australian Government’s analysis of climate risks, no attention has been paid to the AMOC collapse. In fact, it does not get a mention in the Defence Strategic Review, or the first report of the current National Climate Risk Assessment (NCRA). 

No minister or member of either major party has even mentioned it in parliament since the ALP came to power in 2022. Neither side of Australian politics has got a clue about it. One of the greatest climate-related threats to our future appears completely absent from the Australian Government’s thinking. 

11 May 2024

Are climate risks ‘too big’ for politics?

 by Adm. Chris Barrie (Rtd), first published at The Canberra Times.

We all know that climate change is a massive issue. So why is it not a priority for the powers that be?

The biggest risk to Australia’s future is not a priority for either side of politics in Australia, and that’s a problem for all of us.

Both the  government’s and the opposition’s security narratives are that China is the greatest threat to our future. It’s man-made. Hence we have AUKUS, the Quad, continual regional hand-shaking, more joint military exercises, the illusion of nuclear-powered submarines and an enhanced US presence in in Australia's north where bases are being expanded.

But this narrative represents siloed thinking on security. It does not align well with international perceptions. The World Economic Forum’s 2023 survey of public and private sector global leaders found that the biggest three risks in the coming decade were all climate-related, whilst “geo-economic confrontation” (read China) came in ninth.

10 May 2024

Climate security risks and Australia’s failure

 by Ian Dunlop, first published at Pearls and Irritations

 “Too hot to handle: The scorching reality of Australia’s climate–security failure” is a report published on 2 May by the Australian Security Leaders Group (ASLCG) . This article is an extract from the report

You can’t solve a problem without talking about it, honestly. Take the impact of climate disruption on security.

One line of evidence for the Australian Government’s seriousness about climate–security risks is government activity, but there is little to see. The government’s most valuable initiative, the Office of National Intelligence risk assessment, has been buried. There have been no significant or specific announcements on climate-related security issues since the report was finished, and the government has not responded to a number of requests made by ASLCG for the report’s release of any of its key findings.

03 May 2024

Climate-security risks too hot to handle for Australian Government


Register here for webinar.

by David Spratt

This week, the Australian Security Leaders Climate Group (ASLCG) released a new report, Too hot to handle: The scorching reality of Australia’s climate–security failure.

There will be a webinar on the report next Wednesday,  8 May at 6pm, and you can register here. I will be one of the speakers.

Ret. Adm. Chris Barrie, former head of the ADF and a member of the ASLCG Executive Committee says that: “It appears that the government either doesn't understand what our scientists are telling them, or they are deliberately hiding the facts from the Australian community. Facing down the climate threat will require unprecedented global cooperation, not a new arms race.”

09 March 2024

Is scientific reticence the new climate denialism?

Jonathon Porritt (technically, Sir Jonathon Espie Porritt, 2nd Baronet, CBE) has an excellent piece out, called "Mainstream climate science: The new denialism?" 

It really is worth the read.  For people who have followed this blog, it won't be shockingly new, but in a forthright manner  he questions the startling new reality we are facing, which we discussed in  recent series for Pearls&Irritations

Porritt focusses on the "deceit" of "mainstream scientists, NGOs and commentators" have been "holding back" because of the alleged need to "protect people from the truth of climate change", noting that this strategy has not worked "as a way of enlisting the huge numbers of people required to force our politicians to start getting serious".

And he concludes that "we have to see off this patronising, manipulative, self-serving deceit ONCE AND FOR ALL".

29 February 2024

Pigs might fly: Australian aviation’s delusional emissions future

by Mark Carter, first published at Pearls and Irritations

Australian aviation is in the news again. Having ripped off passengers, illegally sacked workers, and impacted the health of residents under airport flight paths, the industry has now received $30m from taxpayers to manufacture “sustainable aviation fuel” (SAF). And investors and airlines are clamouring for more.

Having “committed to net zero emissions by 2050”, or Net Zero 2050, (Aviation Green Paper, p.1) the federal government says sustainable aviation fuel will help maximise “aviation’s contribution” (Aviation Green Paper, p.73).

So, yes. Pigs might fly. Literally and metaphorically.

Literally as pig fat in SAF. And metaphorically because the government’s emissions reduction proposals for aviation can never make flying climate safe.

14 February 2024

As warming accelerates and 1.5°C is breached faster than forecast, Australian Government stumbles on climate risks

 by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop, first published at Pearls and Irritations

If there was shock and awe last week when the Copernicus Climate Change Service announced that global average warming over the last twelve months — February 2023 to January 2024 — had exceeded 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C), it was likely because too many people had succumbed to the predominant but delusional policy-making narrative that holding warming to 1.5–2°C was still on the cards.

What does this symbolically important moment mean for the poor understanding of climate-risk analysis by Australian governments? To begin, the idea that emissions could continue till 2050 and still achieve the 1.5–2°C goal was always a con; now it is fully exposed.

26 January 2024

Towards an unliveable planet: Climate’s 2023 annus horribilis

The "production gap". Government plans and projections would lead to an increase in global coal production until 2030, and in global oil and gas production until at least 2050 (UNEP).

by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop, first published at Pearls and Irritations.

This is the second article in a two-part series.  Read the first part here.

 The heat and extreme climate records of 2023 shocked scientists. So where are we heading? Given current trends, the world will zoom past 2°C of warming and the Paris climate goal of limiting warming to 1.5-2°C.

Climate model scenarios similar to current policies project 2°C of warming before 2050; if James Hansen is right (see Part 1) and warming sharply accelerates, it could be a decade sooner. These outcomes will be driven by the high energy imbalance, continuing high emissions, the accelerating accumulation of heat in the oceans, and decreases in short-term aerosol cooling.

Several years ago a group of eminent scientists proposed a “carbon law”, which said that keeping warming to 2°C required emissions to be halved every decade from 2020 onwards, including a halving between 2020 and 2030, plus some carbon drawdown. Instead, the level of greenhouse gases and coal use both hit record highs in 2023. And the largest national fossil fuel producers plan to keep on expanding production As a result, current government plans worldwide will likely result in emissions in 2050 almost as high as they are today, according to the UN Environment Programme’s 2023 Production Gap report.

25 January 2024

Humanity’s new era of “global boiling”: Climate’s 2023 annus horribilis


by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop, first published at Pearls and Irritations

For climate change, 2023 was an “unprecedented” year, “absolutely gobsmackingly bananas” and “scary” and “frightening”. And that was what climate scientists said! The UN Secretary General called it the year in which humanity crossed into a new climate era — an age of “global boiling”.

Climate disruption shocked climate scientists in 2023. “Surprising. Astounding. Staggering. Unnerving. Bewildering. Flabbergasting. Disquieting. Gobsmacking. Shocking. Mind boggling,” said Prof. Ed Hawkins when September 2023 exceeded the previous September record by a huge 0.5°C.

The decline in Antarctic sea-ice extent was much greater than model projections, leading the National Snow and Ice Data Centre’s Walt Meier to exclaim: “It’s so far outside anything we’ve seen, it’s almost mind- blowing.”

Many records were set for new climate extremes — record heat, rainfall and floods — with some of it driven by the destabilisation of the polar jet stream. “We are hitting record breaking extremes much sooner than I expected. That’s frightening, scary, and concerning, and it really suggests that we’re not as aware of what’s coming as we thought we were,” said Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick of the University of NSW.

20 December 2023

COP28 adalah "tragedi bagi planet ini" saat Sindrom Stockholm berlangsung


Oleh David Spratt dan Ian Dunlop, diterjemahkan oleh Owen Podger

Aslinya: https://johnmenadue.com/cop28-a-tragedy-for-the-planet-as-stockholm-syndrome-took-hold/

Hingga 100.000 orang — yang sebagian besar memperoleh status profesional dan pendapatan mereka dari politik, advokasi, dan bisnis terkait iklim — terbang ke Dubai untuk menghadiri acara pembuatan kebijakan iklim global tahunan COP28, Konferensi Para Pihak di bawah konvensi iklim Perserikatan Bangsa-Bangsa. Dan hasilnya?

Bencana yang tak tanggung-tanggung. Masyarakat adat, komunitas garis depan, dan kelompok keadilan iklim menegur (rebuked) kesepakatan itu sebagai tidak adil, tidak adil, dan "bisnis seperti biasa". Pada sesi terakhir, resolusi kompromi (compromise resolution) yang lemah dan tidak koheren antara negara BBM dan negara-negara kecil dan pendukung – yang tidak menyerukan penghapusan bahan bakar fosil – diterima tanpa perbedaan pendapat dan disambut dengan tepuk tangan meriah, bahkan ketika delegasi Pasifik dan pulau kecil dilarang oleh keamanan memasuki ruangan.

Terlalu banyak tanggapan fasih adalah variasi pada tumbuk (mash) "bergerak ke arah yang benar, tetapi lebih banyak yang harus dilakukan", dengan "cacat tetapi masih transformatif" satu contoh klasik. Dua hari setelah itu, presiden COP28, yang juga mengepalai perusahaan Minyak Nasional Abu Dhabi, mengumumkan Uni Emirat Arab akan mempertahankan rekor investasinya dalam produksi minyak bumi baru.

COP28 a “tragedy for the planet” as Stockholm Syndrome took hold

A self-congratulatory standing ovation greets a deeply-flawed final resolution at COP28

by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop, first published at Pearls & Irritations 

Up to 100,000 people — most of whom derive their professional status and income from climate-related politics, advocacy and business — flew into Dubai for the COP28 annual global climate policy-making event, the Conference of the Parties under the United Nations’ climate convention. And the result?

An unmitigated disaster. Indigenous people, frontline communities and climate justice groups rebuked the deal as unfair, inequitable and “business as usual”. At the final session, a weak and incoherent compromise resolution between petrostates and smaller states and advocates — which did not call for the phase-out of fossil fuels — was accepted without dissent and greeted with a self-congratulatory standing ovation, even as Pacific and small island delegates were barred by security from entering the room.

Too many glib responses were variations on the “moving in the right direction, but more needs to be done” mash, with “flawed but still transformative” one classic example. Within two days the COP28 president, who also heads the Abu Dhabi National Oil company, announced the United Arab Emirates would keep up its record investment in new oil production.

07 December 2023

How climate disruption turns strategic priorities upside down

 by Ian Dunlop and David Spratt, first published at Pearls and Irritations

Second of a two-part series.

The first article in this series highlighted the risks of accelerating climate change, and the existential threat humanity now faces because of global leaders’ collective failure to take timely action, culminating in the COP28 meeting in Dubai not acting decisively to rapidly phase out fossil fuels.

The bottom line is that a 1.5°C average global surface temperature increase will be approached this year and, without radically accelerated action, the world is headed toward a catastrophic 3°C of warming, bringing the curtains down on contemporary civilisation.

In short, the Paris Agreement is dead and the imperative for emergency action has never been greater. This demands a fundamental change to Australia’s strategic priorities.

04 December 2023

The stark choice facing climate conference: A livable climate or more oil and gas?

 by David Spratt, first published at The Bulletin

Guardian story, 3 December 2023

Looking for ideas for a new streaming video series on climate politics? Try this:

Over three decades, global emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases increase by half, despite repeated promises by nations to cut them. Now it is crunch time, with petrostates determined to increase their oil and gas production while poor and vulnerable nations say that, for their peoples, such a course will mean the end of life as they have known it. In 2023, the stage is set for a clash over the human future.

Small island states are aghast that dirty deals result in a petrostate winning the presidency for an annual global climate policymaking get-together, amid deepening fears of another year of political failure and as the clock ticks down. And then, just days before the conference is to start, leaked documents show that the host state—the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf—has used its position to push new oil trade deals with senior government officials and business leaders from around the world. There is uproar. Will the conference president, who is also the chief executive officer of the UAE’s state-owned oil company, confront the media and declare it is all “fake news”? He does, with a straight face, and the show goes on, with crumbling credibility.

24 November 2023

COP-out: Why the petrostate-hosted climate talkfest will fail on key emissions-reduction task

by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop, first published at Pearls and Irritations

New York Times story on extreme heat in COP host nation

After a succession of record-breaking months of unprecedented heat including 1.8°C for September, global warming in 2023 as a whole will likely tip 1.5°C, with 2024 even hotter as the effect of the building El Nino is felt more fully. Already hundreds of thousands have died and millions displaced, primarily in countries least responsible for climate change. The annual economic cost globally is in the hundreds of billions.

So what will the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), starting 30 November in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), say about this? And in particular what will Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of the UAE state oil company ADNOC, who will preside over the international negotiations, say?

26 October 2023

Climate activists deserve our support, say 70 Australian and international researchers in public statement


Seventy scholars from 16 countries have signed a public letter in support of climate activists taking non-violent direct action and speaking out about the potentially (and increasingly likely) civilisation-ending risk of accelerating climate disruption.

Discussing the open letter, Professor Colin Butler, of the Australia National University, explains that "Peril lies in understating the risk to global civilisation from unabated climate change (and other aspects of limits to growth); I call on my colleagues to show leadership and courage." 

Focusing on the unfair treatment of climate activists, Professor in Science Education, Dr Caroline Smith, from the University of Tasmania said: "Shooting the messengers is a disgraceful state of affairs. We send congratulations and strength to those courageous scientists who continue to speak out for all our futures." 

18 October 2023

One swallow doesn’t make a Spring, so do a few super-warm months mean global warming has really hit 1.5°C?

by David Spratt

One swallow doesn’t make a Spring. And a week, a month, or even a year of global warming above 1.5°C does not make that the long-term trend.

In this field, a trend is an average over a longer term, by scientific convention 30 years, though sometimes shorter periods may be used.  From this point of view, a trend can’t be determined till way after the event when the running averages can be calculated. It’s similar for tipping points — you generally can’t say they have been breached till you have the observational evidence some time after the event — and then it is too late.

So a more pertinent question is this: when we look back in five, ten, fifteen years, is it likely that the global warming trend during 2023 and 2024 will be seen to have been 1.5°C or above?

28 September 2023

Did Penny Wong really just suggest China is an ‘existential’ threat?

by David Spratt, first published at Pearls&Irritations

Poster and cover of Cold War comic book, 1947

The Australian Government has a big problem with its security narrative. Preparing for a putative war with China is the nation’s top security priority, while the government’s knowledge of the growing existential threat of climate disruption and their security consequences remains a closely-guarded secret.

It is embarrassing for the government that it will not share in any meaningful way the assessment of climate–security risks delivered to the Prime Minister’s Office last November by the Office of National Intelligence (ONI), even in a declassified version. As our allies have done. Nor has it outlined any substantial policy responses.

The ONI report, if it ever sees the light of day, will likely portray climate disruption as the greatest threat to Australia, the region and its peoples, both in terms of likelihood and impact.

So how can the government square the ledger? Elevate China to become an existential threat, too? Preposterous as that may seem, this appears to be the purpose of Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s speech  to the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 September. 

10 September 2023

Decarbonising? Only just.

By David Spratt

The scientific imperatives are overwhelming. The planet has just experienced its first month with warming more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial temperature zone, and the hottest winter on record in Australia. 

Extraordinary events with the North Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and with Antarctic sea-ice are way outside scientific projections and expectations. The Canadian bushfires are blowing away all records.  And on it goes, as Joelle Gergis describes in her recent essay for The Monthly

Policymakers tell us we are on the path to decarbonising the energy sector and the economy, but the reality is different from those carefully-manicured expectations. Take one example. Governments, including that of the USA, will make all sorts of pledges and noises about being committed to net zero emissions by 2050. Or more accurately, as Prof.Kevin Anderson puts it, “not zero”.

Then have a look at this chart from the US Energy Information Administration on projected energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to 2050 for the USA.  The central, or reference case, is for emissions to have fallen just 20% over the next 30 years! No wonder, when the US is pumping oil faster than ever.

Click on chart for higher-resolution image

05 September 2023

Betting against worst-case climate scenarios is risky business

Illustration by Erik English

As the world is hit my mind-boggling, even-more-extreme climate events, records are busted and some events are way beyond scientific expectations, it’s time to ask the question: "Are the worst-case scenarios coming true too often, and what does that for the way we approach climate risks in policy making?"

And this is relevant to the way the Australian government constructs its emission-reduction targets, based on some very risky analysis.

The IPCC and the climate-economy models it uses to produce carbon budgets and emission scenarios focus on the probabilities, not the possibilities. Is this a fatal mistake?