Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Will Pope Francis make climate change an issue for Tony Abbott

April 28th, 2015 Comments off
  • Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change, to Conservatives’ Alarm  – Since his first homily in 2013, Pope Francis has preached about the need to protect the earth and all of creation as part of a broad message on the environment. It has caused little controversy so far. But now, as Francis prepares to deliver what is likely to be a highly influential encyclical this summer on environmental degradation and the effects of human-caused climate change on the poor, he is alarming some conservatives in the United States who are loath to see the Catholic Church reposition itself as a mighty voice in a cause they do not believe in.


  • Obama Finally Gets Angry At Climate Science Deniers And It’s Hilarious b- President Barack Obama just gave pitch-perfect delivery to one of the most brilliant pieces of writing on climate change you are ever going to see. At the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday night in DC, Obama used devastating humor to express rare passion and anger over climate science denial.
  • U.S., Japan unveil new defense guidelines for global Japanese role
  • Waiting for the fallout: Australia and return of the patrimonial society – So, Australians have no room for complacency. In an economy dominated by capital, and in the absence of estate taxation—briefly discussed, and quickly dismissed, in the recent Treasury tax discussion paper (Treasury 2015)—there is little to stop the current drift towards a more unequal society from continuing and even accelerating. On the other hand, Australia’s relative success in using the tax and welfare systems to spread the benefits of economic growth provides grounds for optimism. Australia’s experience belies the claim that any attempt to offset the growth of inequality must cripple economic growth.
  • Gay Liberal senator Dean Smith slams Tanya Plibersek over gay marriage move – Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has “wrecked” progress within the Liberal Party towards a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, the Liberal Party’s first openly gay federal parliamentarian says.
  • How Thatcher and Murdoch made their secret deal – In 1981, Mrs Thatcher needed a boost from the press. By supporting Rupert Murdoch’s bid for the Times and Sunday Times, she made sure she got it. Harold Evans, who led an unsuccessful staff takeover bid, recalls a historic carve-up.
  • Elections are now about digital loathing, not what the newspapers say – Wade through the digital comment at the bottom of so many election pieces and you stumble into web swamps heaving with hate. … Apparently today’s version of democratic freedom means avoiding reading something you don’t agree with.
  • “Smaller and simpler” mantra rings through banking boardrooms – Deutsche Bank’s plan to jettison much of its German retail bank and withdraw from one in ten countries sees it join a growing list of banks choosing to shrink and simplify to survive. The benefits of size and reach, for years considered the holy grail of global banking, are now viewed as being outweighed by the cost and complexity of running businesses across dozens of countries. Many bank bosses have given up on trying to offer everything to everyone. But as unwinding years of expansion proves difficult, pressure for action has intensified, from politicians who show little patience with institutions they consider too big and complex and investors wanting more return on equity
  • Could a Carbon Tax Finance Corporate Rate Cuts? – How about using revenue from a carbon tax to help pay for corporate tax rate cuts? That’s the idea proposed yesterday by Rep. John Delaney (D-MD). His political calculation: Democrats would back the bill as a way to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change. Republicans would support the plan to cut corporate tax rates while retaining at least some popular business tax subsidies. Delaney would use revenues from a $30-per-ton carbon tax to cut the corporate rate from 35 percent to 28 percent. Some of the cash would also provide a tax credit to reduce the burden of the energy tax on low- and moderate-income households. Still other dollars would help coal industry workers who would likely lose jobs as a result of such a tax.

March 2015 Easily Set The Record For Hottest March Ever Recorded

April 21st, 2015 Comments off

noaa temperature map for march

  • New Report: March 2015 Easily Set The Record For Hottest March Ever Recorded – This was easily the hottest March — and hottest January-to-March — on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s latest monthly report … :

    March 2015 was not only the hottest March in their 135-year of keeping records, it beat “the previous record of 2010 by 0.09°F (0.05°C).”

    January-to-March was not only the hottest start to any year on record, it also beat “the previous record of 2002 by 0.09°F.”

    March was so warm that only two other months ever had a higher “departure from average” (i.e. temperature above the norm), February 1998 and January 2007, and they only beat March by “just 0.01°C (0.02°F).”

    Arctic sea ice hit its smallest March extent since records began in 1979.

    Last week, NASA also reported this was the hottest three-month start of any year on record. In NASA’s database, though, this was the third warmest March on record. It was the warmest in the dataset of the Japan Meteorological Agency. These three agencies use slightly different methods for tracking global temperature, so their monthly and yearly rankings differ slightly, even as they all show the same long-term trend driven by carbon pollution.

  • Up to 1m migrants waiting to enter Europe, warns Italian prosecutor
  • Conservative Election Manifesto by Robert Skidelsky – The Conservatives have continued to spin their familiar yarn of having rescued Britain from ‘Labour’s Great Recession’. This, as they must know, is the mother of all lies. The Great Recession was caused by the banks. Governments, the Labour government included, by bailing out the banks and continuing to spend, stopped the Great Recession from turning into a Great Depression. Yet practically everyone seems to believe that the Great Recession was manufactured by Gordon Brown.albrechtsen2
  • Fun times over for power-hungry ICAC – ICAC has unwittingly delivered a model case study of the perverted influence of power within a body charged with hunting down systemic corruption. After being told by Australia’s highest court that you have acted outside your jurisdiction, the normal response is to immediately acknowledge your error, accept it and learn from it. In ICAC’s case, that means returning to its legislative role of investigating serious and systemic public corruption. Instead, this star chamber seems to think it’s part of some kind of tin-pot dictatorship where it can expect government cronies to bolster its power. In its statement, ICAC demanded the NSW government retrospectively amend the ICAC Act to reflect the way ICAC has always operated. Even a first-year law student knows the most basic principle of the rule of law is that laws should be prospective, not retrospective.
  • France’s ‘Pathetic Reality Family Show – Marine Le Pen is betting that this is the far-right National Front’s moment to triumph. But will a feud among the founding family tear the party apart?

A renewable energy nightmare

April 17th, 2015 Comments off
  • American Companies Are Shipping Millions Of Trees To Europe, And It’s A Renewable Energy Nightmare – With climate change already contributing to the frequency and intensity of forest fires and associated loss of forest, the addition of a profitable, extensive, and poorly overseen biomass industry could push the forests further into disrepair.
  • Renewable energy – Not a toy – Plummeting prices are boosting renewables, even as subsidies fall
  • Abbott government’s energy white paper fails to face reality – By failing to take global warming seriously, the white paper discourages solar power, encourages doomed coal investment, hobbles the RET, and misses the chance to raise petrol taxes.
  • Bali tourist areas exempt from beer ban – The Trade Ministry’s new regulation on alcoholic beverages, scheduled to take full effect on Thursday, will not be enforced on Bali as the ministry has decided that tourism areas would be exempted from the ban.On Thursday minimarkets, small vendors and beachside beverage vendors across the country were to stop selling beer. Bali administrations, retail associations and vendors had expressed opposition against the beer ban
  • The Jakarta Post | Editorial – Stop drinking? – Simple solutions are appealing, a fact that politicians here and everywhere know well. As such, it has not only been moralists pushing for legal instruments to regulate behavior at the local and national levels. The latest evidence is a bill that seeks to ban liquor, which has received backing from almost all political parties that control the House of Representatives. It is appealing to millions of citizens concerned over violent drunks and long-term excessive consumption of liquor. Though we share the concerns, which, along with smoking, contribute to the ruin of poor families, we oppose the bill, which is driven not only by the Islamist political parties.
  • The Westminster museum of artless bullshit: a look inside the post-debate spin room – Spin doctors scurry around trying to parrot the same scripted observations to as many hacks as possible – frankly, the whole thing is crying out for infiltration by a telly satirist

choice on anz

A warm world for a Paris climate meeting?

April 14th, 2015 Comments off

The odds are increasing that the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris from 30 November until 11 December will come at the end of another record hot year for the planet. January and February provided the warmest start to a calendar year apart from 2007 and an emerging El Niño is laying the foundation for hot temperatures to continue.

el nino alert (1)

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology today upgraded its ENSO Tracker to El Niño ALERT. This means the likelihood of El Niño developing in 2015 is at least 70%. All international climate models monitored by the Bureau indicate that El Niño thresholds will be reached or exceeded by June. Earth’s previous hottest years have coincided with an El Niño

el nino predictions

The BOM reports:

All eight of the surveyed international climate models indicate the central Pacific Ocean will warm further during the coming months. All surveyed models indicate that NINO3.4 will reach or exceed El Niño threshold levels by mid-year. All models suggest that SSTs will remain above threshold levels for a sustained period. The average value of NINO3.4 expected by the end of the southern winter is about +1.5 °C; however, it is too early to determine with confidence how strong this potential El Niño could be.

Model outlooks spanning February to May (the traditional ENSO transition period) have lower confidence than forecasts made at other times of year.

Arctic sea ice extent hits record low for winter

March 20th, 2015 Comments off

sea iceClick to enlarge

Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has fallen to the lowest recorded level for the winter season, according to US scientists.The maximum this year was 14.5 million sq km, said the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

This is the lowest since 1979, when satellite records began.

A recent study found that Arctic sea ice had thinned by 65% between 1975 and 2012.

Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics said: “The gradual disappearance of ice is having profound consequences for people, animals and plants in the polar regions, as well as around the world, through sea level rise.”

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the maximum level of sea ice for winter was reached this year on 25 February and the ice was now beginning to melt as the Arctic moved into spring.

via BBC News – Arctic sea ice extent hits record low for winter.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Warming world trend continues

March 16th, 2015 Comments off


mpvingaverage globalfeb temps

  • NASA: Earth Tops Hottest 12 Months On Record Again, Thanks To Warm February – NASA reported this weekend that last month was the second-hottest February on record, which now makes March 2014–February 2015 the hottest 12 months on record. This is using a 12-month moving average, so we can “see the march of temperature change over time,” rather than just once every calendar year.funds
  • How Many Mutual Funds Routinely Rout the Market? Zero – The bull market in stocks turned six last Monday, and despite some rocky stretches — like last week, when the market fell — it has generally been a very pleasant time for money managers, who have often posted good numbers. Look more closely at those gaudy returns, however, and you may see something startling. The truth is that very few professional investors have actually managed to outperform the rising market consistently over those years. In fact, based on the updated findings and definitions of a particular study, it appears that no mutual fund managers have. …
  • Vatican backs military force to stop ISIS ‘genocide’ – In an unusually blunt endorsement of military action, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva has called for a coordinated international force to stop the “so-called Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups. “We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t so something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”
  • Bad thinkers – Why do some people believe conspiracy theories? It’s not just who or what they know. It’s a matter of intellectual character
  • Media blackout: would I be happier if I didn’t read the news? – Writer Jesse Armstrong couldn’t go even a few minutes without checking the headlines. So he set himself a challenge: no news for a month. Would he feel better about the world – or just out of the loop?

The nonsense rhetoric about debt and stealing from future generations

February 10th, 2015 Comments off

Debt Is Money We Owe To Ourselves – Paul Krugman blogs: Antonio Fatas, commenting on recent work on deleveraging or the lack thereof, emphasizes one of my favorite points: no, debt does not mean that we’re stealing from future generations. Globally, and for the most part even within countries, a rise in debt isn’t an indication that we’re living beyond our means, because as Fatas puts it, one person’s debt is another person’s asset; or as I equivalently put it, debt is money we owe to ourselves — an obviously true statement that, I have discovered, has the power to induce blinding rage in many people.

The Recent Rise and Fall of Rapid Productivity Growth – Information technology fueled a surge in U.S. productivity growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, this rapid pace proved to be temporary, as productivity growth slowed before the Great Recession. Furthermore, looking through the effects of the economic downturn on productivity, the reduced pace of productivity gains has continued and suggests that average future output growth will likely be relatively slow.

On the recent US-China agreement on climate change – China and the US have recently agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This column asks what quantifiable impact the new targets will have, whether they are any better than previous approaches, and if so, whether they are enough to avoid dangerous climate change. While insufficient for keeping temperature increase below the 2°C limit, the US and China’s bilateral commitments are a step in the right direction, and form the basis for a stronger international agreement in Paris later this year.

monarch butterfly

The monarch massacre: Nearly a billion butterflies have vanished – Threatened animals like elephants, porpoises and lions grab all the headlines, but what’s happening to monarch butterflies is nothing short of a massacre. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service summed it up in just one grim statistic on Monday: Since 1990, about 970 million have vanished. It happened as farmers and homeowners sprayed herbicides on milkweed plants, which serve as the butterflies’ nursery, food source and home.

Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Rock, and Burying It

Her Majesty and the Curious Mystery of the Disappearing Corgis – The Queen’s favourite dog breed is on the brink of extinction – and everyone’s looking suspiciously at Buckingham Palace. There’s only one solution: eBay.


Warmest year on record but no El Niño

January 21st, 2015 Comments off

The immediate threat of El Niño onset appears passed for the 2014–15 cycle. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported this week that since late 2014, most ENSO indicators have eased back from borderline El Niño levels.

As the natural seasonal cycle of ENSO is now entering the decay phase, and models indicate a low chance of an immediate return to El Niño levels, neutral conditions are considered the most likely scenario through into autumn.

Central tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures have fallen by around half a degree from their peak of 1.1 °C above average in late November. Likewise, the Southern Oscillation Index has weakened to values more consistent with neutral conditions, while recent cloud patterns show little El Niño signature. As all models surveyed by the Bureau favour a continuation of these neutral conditions in the coming months, the immediate threat of El Niño onset appears passed for the 2014–15 cycle. Hence the ENSO Tracker has been reset to NEUTRAL.


The Tracker will remain at NEUTRAL unless observations and model outlooks indicate a heightened risk of either La Niña or El Niño developing later this year.

The absence of an El Niño makes the record high world temperatures for 2014 quite surprising. Previous record years have coincided with them

Categories: Environment Tags:

Something for Catholic PM Tony Abbott to think about – Pope Francis convinced global warming mostly man-made

January 18th, 2015 Comments off
  • Pope on Climate Change: Man Has ‘Slapped Nature in the Face’ – ‘Pope Francis said Thursday he is convinced that global warming is “mostly” man-made and that he hopes his upcoming encyclical on the environment will encourage negotiators at a climate change meeting in Paris to make “courageous” decisions to protect God’s creation. Francis has spoken out frequently about the “culture of waste” that has imperiled the environment and he elaborated en route to the Philippines. While there, Francis will meet with survivors of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which the government has said was an example of the extreme weather conditions that global warming has wrought. “I don’t know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” he said. “We have in a sense taken over nature.” “I think we have exploited nature too much,” Francis said, citing deforestation and monoculture. “Thanks be to God that today there are voices, so many people who are speaking out about it.” ‘
  • Catholic groups rally against climate change amid intense church debate – ‘Catholic environmental groups from around the world on Wednesday (Jan. 14) announced a new global network to battle climate change just as many Catholic conservatives are sharply criticizing Pope Francis’ campaign to put environmental protection high on the church’s agenda. “We are certain that anthropogenic (human-made) climate change endangers God’s creation and us all, particularly the poor, whose voices have already spoken of the impacts of an altered climate,” the new Global Catholic Climate Movement says in its mission statement. “Climate change is about our responsibility as God’s children and people of faith to care for human life, especially future generations, by caring for all of God’s wondrous creation,” the statement continues.’

Waiting for Andrew Bolt’s explanation of a record hot year

January 17th, 2015 Comments off

Whatever we might think we read him. Andrew Bolt sucks readers in. That makes him influential in the peripheral game of political debate. And on no subject more so than in his claim that global warming has not increased for a decade or more.

So I’m disappointed he’s holidaying in Holland now that 2014 is announced as the warmest since records have been kept. I want to read his explanation why the figures don’t mean anything.

In the mean time I’ll just have to look at the graphs released this week by the US NOAA and do the best I can tp understand them.

annual global temperature

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global temp with hottest 10 highlighted

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world temp trend lines

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Categories: Environment Tags:

El Niño conditions persist so Australian summer will be hot

December 23rd, 2014 Comments off

The Bureau of Meteorology reports that indicators remain broadly consistent with borderline El Niño conditions. Regardless of El Niño status, the Bureau report, El Niño-like impacts are likely to continue. For Australia, this means drier and warmer than average weather is likely in many areas.

Sea surface temperatures have exceeded thresholds for a number of weeks, and the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has generally been negative for the past few months. Trade winds have been near-average along the equator, but weaker in the broader tropical belt. Together, these indicate some weak coupling of the atmosphere and ocean may be occuring.

Climate models expect little change over the next two to three months, with most predicting a persistence of the current warm sea surface temperatures. If current conditions do persist or strengthen into next year, 2014–15 is likely to be considered a weak El Niño. As a result, the Bureau’s ENSO Tracker status remains at ALERT.

Model outlooks

Four of the eight surveyed international climate models predict that central Pacific Ocean SSTs will reach El Niño thresholds before autumn. Around half of the models predict SSTs will be above the threshold value during some or all of the austral autumn, while the others indicate warm but neutral conditions. On the whole, these outlooks continue to indicate that peak central equatorial Pacific SSTs are unlikely to rise far beyond the threshold value.


Categories: Environment Tags:

World’s hottest year without El Niño and other news and views of the day

December 4th, 2014 Comments off
This year we are poised to set the global temperature record in an ENSO-neutral year. And while eastern tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures have been warmer than normal in recent months, those temperatures were colder than normal in the beginning months of the year, so the net effect of ENSO on 2014 global temperatures has been minimal.

This year we are poised to set the global temperature record in an ENSO-neutral year. And while eastern tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures have been warmer than normal in recent months, those temperatures were colder than normal in the beginning months of the year, so the net effect of ENSO on 2014 global temperatures has been minimal.

  • 2014 Headed Toward Hottest Year On Record — Here’s Why That’s Remarkable – 2014 is currently on track to be hottest year on record, according to new reports from both the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the U.K.’s Met Office Wednesday. Similarly, NOAA reported two weeks ago that 2014 is all but certain to be the hottest year on record. … It’s usually the combination of the long-term manmade warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records. But not this year.”
  • A Global Health Care Spending Slowdown: Temporary or Permanent?
  • Better Off With Bibi? – “Despite all the petty politics and infighting, there are still reasons we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that elections — and (possibly) a new prime minister — will solve Israel’s problems.”
  • How Monsanto’s Big Data Push Hurts Small Farms – “Genetically modified seed/pesticide giant Monsanto envisions itself transforming into an information-technology company within a decade, as a company honcho recently told my colleague Tim McDonnell. A year ago, Monsanto dropped nearly $1 billion on Climate Corp., which ‘turns a wide range of information into valuable insights and recommendations for farmers,’ as Monsanto put it at the time. … Big Data may help monocrop farmers use less fertilizer and pesticides per acre harvested than they had been before, but if they drive out more diversified and less chemical-intensive operations, the result might not be as clear-cut as the agribusiness companies suggest.”
  • Profiling the Islamic state – n a new Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper, Charles Lister traces IS’s roots from Jordan to Afghanistan, and finally to Iraq and Syria. He describes its evolution from a small terrorist group into a bureaucratic organization that currently controls thousands of square miles and is attempting to govern millions of people. Lister assesses the group’s capabilities, explains its various tactics, and identifies its likely trajectory.
“Strangerland” (Australia, Ireland) Director: Kim Farrant Cast: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Maddison Brown

(Australia, Ireland)
Director: Kim Farrant
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Maddison Brown

  • Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2015 Competition, Next Lineups – World Cinema Dramatic Competition – “In the World Cinema dramatic competition, [director of programming Trevor] Groth noted a number of titles pairing emerging filmmakers with established-name actors, including Australian director Kim Farrant’s “Strangerland,” a marital drama starring Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Hugo Weaving”
“Partisan” (Australia) Director: Ariel Kleiman Cast: Vincent Cassel, Jeremy Chabriel, Florence Mezzara

Director: Ariel Kleiman
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Jeremy Chabriel, Florence Mezzara

A warm summer creating another political problem for Tony Abbott

December 3rd, 2014 Comments off

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology this week put out one of what it calls “The Bureau’s Special Climate Statements”. Such statements are “produced on an occasional basis for weather/climate events which are unusual in the context of the climatology of the affected region.” And this time the unusual event is about Australia’s warmest spring on record.

Spring 2014 was Australia’s warmest on record, the ABM reported. Seasonal mean temperatures, averaged nationally, were 0.1 °C warmer than the previous record set just 12 months ago, during spring 2013. Temperatures were 1.67 °C above the 1961–1990 average, the largest such departure from the long-term average observed since national records began in 1910. The previous record positive seasonal departure, set during autumn 2005, was 1.64 °C above the average.

And more hot weather appears to be on the way. The latest ENSO Wrap-Up, released yesterday, says many climate indicators remain close to El Niño thresholds, with climate model outlooks suggesting further intensification of conditions likely. The Bureau’s ENSO Tracker status is currently at ALERT, indicating at least a 70% chance that El Niño will be declared in the coming months.


Regardless of whether an El Niño is declared, El Niño-like effects are likely, as shown by the Bureau’s December–February Climate Outlook, which shows a drier and warmer summer is likely for many parts of Australia. Some El Niño-like impacts have already been seen this spring in Australia and several regions around the globe, including Asia, South America and southern Africa.

And experience shows that a drier and warmer summer makes people much more likely to  believe that global warming is occurring and that governments should be doing something to try and stop it. That will be further bad news for Tony Abbott and his Coalition government and their association with the climate change deniers.

The Key points from the Special Climate Statement:

A number of significant national temperature anomalies have been reported during spring,

• Australia’s warmest spring for mean (+1.67 °C) and maximum (+2.33 °C) temperatures
• Australia’s largest positive mean temperature anomaly for any season (surpassing +1.64 °C set in autumn 2005)
• Australia’s largest positive maximum temperature anomaly for any season (surpassing +2.17 °C set in autumn 2005)
• Australia’s warmest October for mean (+1.91 °C) and maximum (+2.76 °C) temperatures
• Australia’s October maximum temperature anomaly (+2.76 °C) is the fourth-largest positive maximum temperature anomaly for any month
• Australia’s warmest November for mean (+1.88 °C) and maximum (+2.19 °C) temperatures
• Australia’s third-largest positive 3-month maximum temperature anomaly for any three month period (behind +2.70 °C in July–September 2013 and + 2.51 °C in August–October 2013)
• Australia’s third-largest positive 3-month mean temperature anomaly for any three month period (behind +1.94 °C in July–September 2013 and +1.93 °C in August–October 2013)

A significant daily maximum temperature record was also set during spring 2014:

• Australia’s warmest October day on record (36.39 °C on 25 October)The spring period resulted in numerous State and Territory temperature records including:

• The warmest September maximum temperature for Western Australia (with an anomaly of +2.74 °C)
• The warmest October mean temperature anomalies for New South Wales (+2.58 °C), South Australia (+2.81 °C) and Western Australia (+2.45 °C)
• The warmest October maximum temperature anomalies for New South Wales (+4.06 °C), South Australia (+4.14 °C) and Western Australia (+2.86 °C)
• The warmest October minimum temperature anomaly for Western Australia (+2.05 °C)
• The warmest November maximum (+2.83 °C), minimum (+2.33 °C) and mean temperature (+2.58 °C) anomalies for Queensland



Categories: Environment Tags:

The new round of climate talks

December 1st, 2014 Comments off


A benefit of global warming – winter deaths decline in UK

December 1st, 2014 Comments off


  • Why don’t we hear about the beneficial side of climate change? “There is a very good reason why excess winter deaths fell so sharply in the space of a year. Last winter was particularly mild: December and January were 2° Celsius above the long-term average. The winter 2012/13, by contrast, had prolonged periods of cold. There is a long term correlation between cold winters and excess winter deaths.”
  • The Language of Climate Change – “The data in this report will be used by policymakers when making reforms. This importance makes the act of understating the findings—so as not to repeat the wave of criticism of the fourth report—a questionable endeavor. It also strains the IPCC’s relationship with international policymakers. If it is muffling the data so as not to scare people, it might not be fully trusted to provide legitimate information for future changes.”
  • Deficit fetishism – John Quiggin writes: “As the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook approaches, talk about the budget deficit is approaching panic. This piece from Deloitte, warning that ‘the budget is burning’ is typical.”
  • Nicotine Without Death – “Are e-cigarettes completely safe? asked Saul Shiffman, an addiction expert at the University of Pittsburgh. ‘There is not enough data to say that,’ he acknowledged. But on a relative basis, electronic cigarettes are far preferable to the old-fashioned kind. After all, e-cigarettes are essentially nicotine delivery devices, and while nicotine is addictive, it is the tobacco in cigarettes that kills.”
Jeff Koons - 'Self portrait' (1991)

Jeff Koons – ‘Self portrait’ (1991)

China To Cap Coal Use By 2020

November 23rd, 2014 Comments off
  • China To Cap Coal Use By 2020 To Meet Game-Changing Climate, Air Pollution Targets – “The Chinese government announced Wednesday it would cap coal use by 2020. The Chinese State Council, or cabinet, said the peak would be 4.2 billion tonnes, a one-sixth increase over current consumption. This is a staggering reversal of Chinese energy policy, which for two decades has been centered around building a coal plant or more a week. Now they’ll be building the equivalent in carbon-free power every week for decades, while the construction rate of new coal plants decelerates like a crash-test dummy.”
  • octobernoaaClick to enlarge
  • State of the Climate: Global Analysis – The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2014 was the highest on record for October, at 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F). The global land surface temperature was 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the 20th century average of 9.3°C (48.7°F)—the fifth highest for October on record. For the ocean, the October global sea surface temperature was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average of 15.9°C (60.6°F) and the highest for October on record. The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–October period (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.4°F). The first ten months of 2014 were the warmest such period on record.
  • Study shows the media has a clear bias — in favor of dogs
  • The writer who foresaw the rise of the totalitarian state – “The 19th Century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote about characters who justified murder in the name of their ideological beliefs. For this reason, John Gray argues, he’s remained relevant ever since, through the rise of the totalitarian states of the 20th Century, to the ‘war against terror’.”
  • Poverty is a hard sell for newspapers flogging braised endives – “Leftwing papers have to strike an uneasy balance between the lure of aspirational advertising and their mission to report.”

Moving closer to El Niño and a record high world temperature for 2014

November 18th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has upgraded its assessment of the likelihood of an El Niño to 70% and warmer than normal temperatures are increasingly likely to make this current calendar year the warmest in recent history.

In its ENSO Wrap-Up of the Current state of the Pacific and Indian Oceans released on Wednesday the BOM said the Pacific Ocean has shown some renewed signs of El Niño development in recent weeks.

Above-average temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have warmed further in the past fortnight, while the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has generally been in excess of El Niño thresholds for the past three months. Climate models suggest current conditions will either persist or strengthen. These factors mean the Bureau’s ENSO Tracker Status has been upgraded from WATCH to ALERT level, indicating at least a 70% chance of El Niño occurring.

Not all indicators have shifted towards El Niño. Tropical cloudiness near the Date Line and trade wind strength are close to average, suggesting the atmosphere is still not firmly linked with the warmer ocean below. However, trade winds have weakened several times over the past few months and SOI values have remained generally negative, suggesting at least some atmospheric response to the underlying ocean conditions.


International climate models expect the warm tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures to persist, with most models predicting values will remain near or beyond El Niño thresholds for the next two to three months. Regardless of whether or not El Niño fully develops, warmer-than-average tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures, combined with cooler waters currently to the north of Australia increase the chance of some El Niño-like impacts. For many parts of Australia, this suggests below average rainfall and above average temperatures in the months ahead (as shown by the November–January Climate Outlook).

That 2014 as a whole will be an extremely warm year is shown by the latest  GLOBAL Land-Ocean Temperature figures from NASA. For the 10 months ended October the average temperature is only just behind that recorded in 2010.


Unless the forecasters are very wrong about the influence on world temperatures of a warm Pacific, then 2014 should surpass the record highs of 2005 and 2010.


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Backyard windmills, locally owned solar panels and other news and views for Sunday 2 November

November 2nd, 2014 Comments off


  • A 19th Century Novel Explains Quantitative Easing – “The Way We Live Now, Trollope’s longest and greatest novel, is … a novel about a society corrupted by finance, one in which money holds sway and everyone is fantasizing about getting rich quick. … It’s a novel about a bubble, which is especially relevant today, with the economic news dominated by the Federal Reserve’s announcement that quantitative easing, the post-credit-crunch experiment in loose monetary policy, is now over. The American economy is recovering, and normal service can now be resumed. The money people are hoping that QE hasn’t accidentally created a giant bubble in asset prices. As chance would have it, the speculative bubble in The Way We Live Now is also based on American assets — a railway between Salt Lake City and Veracruz. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end well.”
  • The Grapes of Wrath: France’s Great Wines Are Feeling the Heat – “In France, climate change is no longer just an abstract problem. The culinary country’s grand wine culture is threatened by rising global temperatures. Vintners are fighting to save a part of our world culture heritage that spans the last two millennia.”
  • Violence against children in Cambodia: breaking the silence – “Findings from the first-of-its-kind Cambodia’s Violence Against Children Survey, coordinated by UNICEF Cambodia, reveal that many children are subjected to violence at the hands of people they know and should trust in places that should feel safe.”
  • The Secret Life of an ISIS Warlord – “Abu Omar al-Shishani has a fierce, gorgeous Chechen bride. He learned intelligence operations from the U.S. And his older brother may be the real genius of ISIS.”
  • If the Republicans Win Big on Tuesday, So Will the CIA – “The intel community has spent years being bashed by Senate Democrats. Things will be very different if Richard Burr is in charge.”


  • Opera is dead, in one chart – “Opera is officially dead. Or maybe not completely dead, but at best ekeing out a zombie-like existence in a state of undeath. As proof, I submit this fascinating chart of Metropolitan Opera performances, which shows that for decades the Met has rarely performed any operas composed in the preceding 50 years. … Opera, as a genre, is essentially frozen in amber – Raman found that the median year of composition of pieces performed at the Met has always been right around 1870. In other words, the Met is essentially performing the exact same pieces now that it was 100 years ago.”
  • Alcohol calorie content: Labels needed, say doctors
  • Why the Chess Computer Deep Blue Played Like a Human – “When IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997 in a six-game chess match, Kasparov came to believe he was facing a machine that could experience human intuition. “The machine refused to move to a position that had a decisive short-term advantage,” Kasparov wrote after the match. It was “showing a very human sense of danger.” To Kasparov, Deep Blue seemed to be experiencing the game rather than just crunching numbers. … Deep Blue programmer Feng-Hsiung Hsu writes in his book Behind Deep Blue that during the match, outside analysts were divided over a mysterious move made by the program, thinking it either weak or obliquely strategic. Eventually, the programmers discovered that the move was simply the result of a bug that had caused the computer not to choose what it had actually calculated to be the best move—something that could have appeared as random play. The bug wasn’t fixed until after game four, long after Kasparov’s spirit had been broken.”
  • Peter Cullen gave lobbying a good name, writes Laurie Oakes


  • How often is ‘antifreeze’ added to food and drink? – “Fireball Cinnamon Whisky “tastes like heaven… burns like hell”, its manufacturer, Sazerac Company, claims in marketing materials. According to market research firm Nielsen, the whisky is one of the top 10 bestselling drinks in the US, beating popular brands such as Jose Cuervo tequila. The drink has been removed from shelves in Norway, Sweden and Finland after batches of the whisky made to a recipe acceptable in North America – where 50g of propylene glycol per kilogram of food or drink is acceptable – made their way to Europe, where the limit on the substance is lower, at 3g per kilogram.”

A hot summer coming?

October 30th, 2014 Comments off

The seasonal climate outlook released by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology suggests warmer than normal November to January days are more likely for Australia, except for far western areas of WA. Strongest odds are across northern and eastern parts of the country. Likewise, warmer than normal nights are more likely for most of the continent, except for far western parts of WA, and the northern Queensland coast.


Climate influences include warmer than normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and near normal tropical Indian Ocean temperatures. Maximum temperature accuracy is moderate to high over most of Australia, except for a region just south of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Minimum temperature accuracy is generally moderate to high over most of Australia.

When it comes to rainfall the Bureau suggests a drier than normal November to January is more likely over the northern and eastern Kimberley region of WA, the NT, Queensland, northeast SA, NSW, and most of Victoria. Elsewhere, the chances of a wetter or drier season are roughly equal.


The November monthly outlook shows a drier than normal month is more likely over most of the northern half of WA, most of the NT, Queensland, northeast and central SA, and southeast NSW.

Climate influences include warmer than normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, near normal tropical Indian Ocean temperatures, and normal to below normal sea surface temperatures off our northern coasts. Outlook accuracy for the season is moderate to high over western and northern parts of WA, parts of the Top End of the NT, and the eastern mainland States. Elsewhere, accuracy is low.

If the seasonal outlook proves accurate then there probably will be a political impact. Researchers keep finding that the weather people experience at the time has more influence on people’s attitude towards global warming than any predictions by the experts about long-term trends. A hot summer and support for action will increase only to decline again the next time the weather outside the window turns cold.

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Some new old Bob Dylan while Neil Young saves the earth along with other news and views for Tuesday 28 October

October 28th, 2014 Comments off


  • First Listen: Bob Dylan, ‘The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11’ – “Recorded during a period of seclusion after Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle accident, The Basement Tapes present the already-iconic figure as he intentionally departs from the confrontational invective and tightly wound wordplay of the triumphs in his recent past — among them the single “Like A Rolling Stone” and the album Blonde On Blonde. Driven by what sounds like a desire to simplify his art, he begins by diving deeply into traditional American gospel (“My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It”) and modern offshoots (a tremendous version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”), folk (“Po’Lazurus”) and country (Johnny Cash’s “Big River” and “Folsom Prison Blues”). The Band’s Robbie Robertson has said that during this early phase, Dylan was “educating” his collaborators on folk and other styles they’d only recently encountered; they’d been primarily an R&B band before the Dylan tour. From there, Dylan wrote at a torrid clip, generating simple ballads, allegorical blues and story songs. These follow the general outlines of the covers; they eschew fancy language in favor of blunt declarations, and are built on the crisp, regular cadences of the blues. Though they’re not exactly heavy treatises, Dylan does at times venture into heavy topics — like the nature of goodness, salvation and the meaning of existence, themes he tackled more directly on his next album, John Wesley Harding.”


  • A new green anthem – “Who is going to stand up and save the earth … this all starts with you and me.” A blunt-force environmentalist protest song — “End fracking now,” Neil Young demands at one point. Even Alan Jones might play this one from the Storytone album due out early next month.
  • The Pope and the Precipice – “To grasp why events this month in Rome — publicly feuding cardinals, documents floated and then disavowed — were so remarkable in the context of modern Catholic history, it helps to understand certain practical aspects of the doctrine of papal infallibility. On paper, that doctrine seems to grant extraordinary power to the pope — since he cannot err, the First Vatican Council declared in 1870, when he “defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” In practice, though, it places profound effective limits on his power. Those limits are set, in part, by normal human modesty: “I am only infallible if I speak infallibly, but I shall never do that,” John XXIII is reported to have said. But they’re also set by the binding power of existing teaching, which a pope cannot reverse or contradict without proving his own office, well, fallible — effectively dynamiting the very claim to authority on which his decisions rest.”
  • Companies shouldn’t cave in to the demands of climate-change activists
  • It’s my belief and I’m sticking to it – “Part of the reason American voters have become more polarized in recent decades is that both sides feel better-informed. … A common response to this increasing polarization is to call for providing more unbiased facts. But in a phenomenon that psychologists and economists call “confirmation bias,” people tend to interpret additional information as additional support for their pre-existing ideas.”


  • How the election could go into overtime – “Runoffs, quirky candidates and tight races in a number of states may mean that control of the Senate won’t be decided on Election Day.”
  • Your Creativity Might Be Stifled by Your Expertise – “It’s great to be an expert, right? Of course it is. But is it possible that your expertise is actually undermining your ability to think creatively and be open to new ideas? Recent research has revealed that this is exactly what can happen. Innovation–by definition–includes an element of newness. The more you know about a topic, though, the less likely you are to be open to truly groundbreaking advances in the same area. Put another way, the expertise that got you ahead can actually limit your creativity and willingness to consider new ideas.”
  • Who’s Going to Get Rich Fighting the Islamic State? – “Obama’s small war means big profits — and little oversight — for defense contractors and hired guns.”
  • Comcast: Broadband battleground – “The group may become the world’s largest media company. Content companies are worried. … The recent, shortlived $71bn bid for Time Warner, owner of HBO and CNN, from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox was driven in part by a need to create a company big enough to stare down Comcast in negotiations on distribution over its cable systems.”

Following the neighbours and green envy

October 25th, 2014 Comments off

Forget about politically trendy liberals being influenced by their green credentials. The the single most important factor driving whether people instal solar is peer influence. That, at least, is what two researchers at Yale and the University of Connecticut have discovered. Their recently published paper Spatial patterns of solar photovoltaic system adoption: the influence of neighbors and the built environment says empirical estimation demonstrates a strong relationship between solar adoption and the number of nearby previously installed systems as well as built environment and policy variables.

“People have called it green envy before, where you want to be green so that you can show off your greenness effectively,” says Yale’s Kenneth Gillingham, a professor at the School of Forestry and one of the study authors. From an interview with the Washington Post:

In addition to initiatives like the Solarize program, Gillingham says the research suggests that it can be very important for houses who have just installed solar panels to let the installer put up a yard sign, especially if the installation is on the back of the house. “A common technique is to put a big sign in the front yard saying, ‘This house went solar,'” says Gillingham. That then rubs off on neighbors, proving that while there may be many good economic and policy reasons to support clean energy, in the end, humans are also social animals, and motivated by peer and group effects.

“You want to conserve, and be environmental, but you want to do it in a conspicuous way,” says Gillingham.



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An update on a record hot year

October 23rd, 2014 Comments off

The relative plateauing of world temperatures since the late 1990s has become the major argument of those who argue that global warming is nonsense. But I wonder what they will say if 2014 turn out to be a new record high point? Personally I’m looking forward to Andrew Bolt’s explanation.

And an explanation is looking more and more likely. I reported earlier this month how, according to NASA, September just gone was the warmest September globally since records began being kept in 1880. Now the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reached a similar conclusion and has speculated as well with a couple of graphics on what the whole year will end up like.

The graphics compare the year-to-date temperature anomalies for 2014 (black line) to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record: 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, and 2013. Each month along each trace represents the year-to-date average temperature. In other words, the January value is the January average temperature, the February value is the average of both January and February, and so on.

The first graphic shows the basic year-to-date comparison.


The second graphic zooms even further to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record, and shows several end-of-year results based on the following scenarios:

The years 2013 and 2014 are the only years on this list not to begin during a mature El Niño event. The years 1998 and 2010, each of which became the warmest year on record at the time, ended the year in a strong La Niña event, as evidenced by the relative fading of global average temperature later in the year.

The anomalies themselves represent departures from the 20th century average temperature. The graph zooms into the warmest part of the entire history.


(Click on graph to enlarge)

As for the prospects of an El Niño event to kick temperatures along even further, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday that El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indicators, as well as Australian rainfall patterns, continue to show some El Niño-like signatures, but remain in the neutral range.

The tropical Pacific Ocean has remained warmer than average for more than six months, while the Southern Oscillation Index has remained negative since early June. However neither has reached typical El Niño levels for any sustained period, and only weak atmosphere-ocean coupling appears to have taken place so far.

International models surveyed by the Bureau suggest that warmer-than-average tropical Pacific waters are likely to persist. While there has been some easing in model outlooks over the past month, three of eight models reach El Niño thresholds by January and another two remain just shy of the thresholds for an event.

Australia has generally been dry and warm over recent months. A warmer central tropical Pacific late in the year typically heralds warmer and drier conditions for parts of eastern Australia, as well as a reduction in the number of tropical cyclones in the Australian region and increased bushfire risk in the south.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is likely to remain neutral. The IOD typically has little influence on the Australian climate from December to April.


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Compost brings some climate change good news

October 19th, 2014 Comments off

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning on how  a compost experiment that began seven years ago on a Marin County ranch has uncovered a disarmingly simple and benign way to remove carbon dioxide from the air, holding the potential to turn the vast rangeland of California and the world into a weapon against climate change.

The concept grew out of a unique Bay Area alignment of a biotech fortune, a worldclass research institution and progressive-minded Marin ranchers. It has captured the attention of the White House, the Brown administration, the city of San Francisco, officials in Brazil and China, and even House Republicans, who may not believe in climate change but like the idea that “carbon farming” could mean profits for ranchers.

Experiments on grazing lands in Marin County and the Sierra foothills of Yuba County by UC Berkeley bio-geochemist Whendee Silver showed that a one-time dusting of compost substantially boosted the soil’s carbon storage. The effect has persisted over six years, and Silver believes the carbon will remain stored for at least several decades.

The experiments were instigated by John Wick and his wife, Peggy, heiress to the Amgen biotech fortune, on a 540-acre ranch they bought in Nicasio. What began as a search for an artist’s studio turned into a seven-year, $8 million journey through rangeland ecology that has produced results John Wick calls “the most exciting thing I can think of on the planet right now.”

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New genetically engineered corn and soybeans approved and other news and views for Thursday 16 October

October 16th, 2014 Comments off


  • New GMOs Get A Regulatory Green Light, With A Hint Of Yellow – “Government regulators have approved a new generation of genetically engineered corn and soybeans. They’re the latest weapon in an arms race between farmers and weeds, and the government’s green light is provoking angry opposition from environmentalists. The actual decision, at first glance, seems narrow and technical. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it had “registered” a new weedkiller formula that contains two older herbicides: glyphosate (better known as Roundup) and 2, 4-D. Versions of these weedkillers have been around for decades. But farmers in six Midwestern states will be allowed to use the new formula, called Enlist Duo, on their corn and soybeans. And that counts as big news. Farmers will now be able to plant new types of corn and soybeans that have been genetically engineered by the biotech company Dow Agrosciences to tolerate doses of those two weedkillers. (The beauty of herbicide-resistant crops is that they make the herbicides exquisitely selective: They kill the weeds but not the crop.) So farmers can spray either glyphosate or 2, 4-D (or both) to wipe out weeds without harming their corn or soybeans.”
  • Tony Abbott’s own side may put paid to parental leave
  • Is the Pope a Communist? – “At the height of the economic crisis, the appearance of the modestly dressed and humble Pope Francis seemed a statement in itself. His relatively non-judgmental approach to homosexuality surprised conservatives and perplexed liberals. His criticisms of capitalism soon after had the Christian world talking again, with many commentators on the left grudgingly welcoming his comments while some figures on the right, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh, were less than impressed.”
  • Freedom vs. Stability: Are Dictators Worse than Anarchy? – “Although there is always reason to celebrate the toppling of an autocrat, the outcome of the Iraq war and the rise of Islamic State have demonstrated in horrific terms that the alternative can be even worse.”
  • Thailand’s Leader Hints At Putting Off Return To Democracy


  • Forget Facebook, Abandon Instagram, Move To A Village – “People who live in a traditional village — that means a community of about 150 people — are far better off than the rest of us. The author of a new book explains ‘the village effect’.”
  • To G-20 Leaders: Urgent Need to Boost Demand in the Eurozone – “No doubt, under their powerful communication weapons, the G-20 Leaders will give the impression that a vast armada is being marshalled to attack the global growth problem. It will look impressive. … But besides the communication strategy success, the truth remains that, in the absence of a major reconsideration of macroeconomic policies, the G-20 meeting in Australia in November will be another non-event.”
  • Do Plastic Bag Bans Work?


A whale of a yarn about noise

October 15th, 2014 Comments off

The stress that noise can cause is known to most of us but what about the impact on whales? Not a subject of general discussion but made fascinating by Peter Brannen writing in that wonderful journal Aeon.

An example:

The march of commercial shipping had come to a halt as the world recoiled from the dreadful spectacle of crumbling skyscrapers and plane-shaped earthen scars. But underwater, the acoustic fog that had settled on the oceans for decades had lifted. The researchers found themselves in the middle of an unprecedented, if tragic, experiment. The melancholy days after 9/11 on the Bay of Fundy were a brief return to life in the pre-industrial oceans. As Parks’s team was recording the marine soundscape, Rosalind Rolland of the New England Aquarium was collecting faecal samples – floating whale poop – and measuring them for stress hormones. While Parks’s recordings testified to an ocean silenced by tragedy, Rolland found that the whales’ stress hormones had plummeted as well. The whales, it seemed, had finally relaxed.

Maybe it is the years I spent gazing at migrating whales in the sea below my home in Eden but these whale stories fascinate me. One other thing I learned from this beautifully offbeat article concerns the number of years a whale can live. Writing how hydrophones anchored to the continental slope off California have recorded a doubling of background noise in the ocean every two decades since the 1960s, Brannen notes:

For whales, whose lives can be measured in centuries, the dramatic change to the environment is one that could be covered in the biography of a single whale. As a testament to that longevity, in 2007, during a traditional whale hunt, indigenous Alaskans pulled a bowhead whale out of the water with a harpoon embedded in its blubber that had been made in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the 1800s – a type of weapon that might have been familiar to Herman Melville.

‘It’s very likely that the individuals that were being recorded in 1956 were the same ones being recorded in 2000,’ Parks said. ‘Some of these whales were born before there were motorised vessels in the water at all.’


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World in 2014 still heading towards a record hot year

October 14th, 2014 Comments off

New global temperature records are normally accompanies by an El Niño event but 2014 is well on the way without one. NASA reported at the weekend that last month was the warmest September globally since records began being kept in 1880. The first nine months of this year are already close to a record high level as well – 0.65 degrees Centigrade higher than the long term average compared with the 0.67 degree record nine months in 2010.

14-10-2014 averageanomalyAccording to Columbia University’s Earth Institute there is a better than 50% chance that a mild El Niño will arrive by year’s end to push temperatures to a new record high level.

14-10-2014 ensoforecast


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Antarctic sea ice grows while land ice declines at staggering rate

October 12th, 2014 Comments off
  • NOAA: Record Antarctic Sea Ice Growth Linked To Its Staggering Loss Of Land Ice – “NOAA said in a news release Tuesday that “as counterintuitive as expanding winter Antarctic sea ice may appear on a warming planet, it may actually be a manifestation of recent warming.” The most important thing to know about Antarctica and ice is that a large part of the South Pole’s great sheet of land ice is close to or at a point of no return for irreversible collapse. The rate of loss of that ice has reached record levels, tripling in the last five years alone. Only immediate action to sharply reverse carbon pollution could stop or significantly slow that. And that really matters since 90 percent of Earth’s ice is in the Antarctic ice sheet, and even its partial collapse could raise sea levels by tens of feet (over a period of centuries) and force coastal cities to be abandoned.”
  • Inequality and the Fourth Estate -From the blog of Roger Farmer (no relation but a man with some similar views) – “The power of money to influence elections suggests an answer to what is otherwise a perplexing question. Why are taxes on large estates currently set at such low rates? After all, we live in a democratic society in which the rules of the game are set by elected representatives in which every U.S. citizen gets one vote. Further, as Piketty reminds us, 1% of the U.S. population controls 30% of the wealth. Why don’t the 99%, as a matter of course, choose to confiscate wealth from the richest 1% of the population?”
  • The much-delayed war on procrastination
  • UKIP: How far could they go?
  • Free markets need socialism
  • German model is ruinous for Germany, and deadly for Europe – “France may look like the sick of man of Europe, but Germany’s woes run deeper, rooted in mercantilist dogma, the glorification of saving for its own sake, and the corrosive psychology of ageing.”
  • Hardly anyone uses heroin. So why do we keep freaking out about it?
  • The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy – “The Phoebus cartel engineered a shorter-lived lightbulb and gave birth to planned obsolescence.”

Polar sea ice trends continue in different directions and other news and views for Tuesday 23 September

September 23rd, 2014 Comments off


  • Scientists debate polar sea-ice opposites – “Arctic sea ice has passed its minimum summer extent, say polar experts meeting in London. The cover on 17 September dipped to 5.01 million sq km, and has risen slightly since then, suggesting the autumn re-freeze has now taken hold. This year’s minimum is fractionally smaller than last year (5.10 million sq km), making summer 2014 the sixth lowest in the modern satellite record. The Antarctic, in contrast, continues its winter growth. It is still a few weeks away from reaching its maximum, which will continue the record-setting trend of recent years. Ice extent surrounding the White Continent has just topped 20 million sq km. The marine cover at both poles is the subject of discussion at a major UK Royal Society conference taking place this week.
  • The fight of their lives – The White House wants the Kurds to help save Iraq from ISIS. The Kurds may be more interested in breaking away.
  • The Limits to Fighting the Islamic State – Gareth Evans writes – “… as the US-led mission is currently conceived and described, it is not clear whether its objectives are achievable at acceptable costs in terms of time, money, and lives.”


  • The drinking habits of AFL supporters – “Considering that 14 of the 18 AFL teams are sponsored by an alcohol brand or retailer, it seems an apt time to take a look at the booze preferences of AFL fans. In the year to June 2014, supporters of most AFL teams (with the exception of Greater Western Sydney, Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide) were more likely than the average Australian adult to have drunk alcohol in an average four weeks.
  • Who’s made Australia’s most sexist comments? Check out the shortlist – “Tonight, more than 350 women will come together to judge the 22nd annual ‘Ernie Awards for Sexist Remarks. Through a technical voting system of ‘booing’ while the short-listed offenders are read out during the gala dinner, the honourable award winners will be determined.”
  • Giving Chickens Bacteria … To Keep Them Antibiotic-Free
  • Short-Term Benefits of Climate Change Policy – “If the case for reducing the use of carbon-based energy can be made right now, in terms of immediate health benefits, then that seems a useful starting point for discussion. “

No El Niño but getting close to a record hot year for the planet anyhow

September 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Of the world’s five warmest years on record – 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, and 2013 – all but 2013 began during a mature El Niño event. Hence the interest always paid to this measure reflecting ocean water temperatures in the Pacific and to the speculation that 2014 might be another record high temperature one when the climate model makers earlier in the year were putting the chances of an El Niño at 80%. That probability has now retreated a little with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s latest El Niño watch being in the neutral range.

Somewhat surprisingly the warm temperatures have kept coming without an El Niño influence. According to the latest report of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

  • The combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was record high for the month, at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F), topping the previous record set in 1998.
  • The global land surface temperature was 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average of 13.8°C (56.9°F), the second highest on record for August, behind 1998.
  • For the ocean, the August global sea surface temperature was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.4°F). This record high departure from average not only beats the previous August record set in 2005 by 0.08°C (0.14°F), but also beats the previous all-time record set just two months ago in June 2014 by 0.03°C (0.05°F).
  • The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for the June–August period was also record high for this period, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), beating the previous record set in 1998.
  • The June–August worldwide land surface temperature was 0.91°C (1.64°F) above the 20th century average, the fifth highest on record for this period. The global ocean surface temperature for the same period was 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average, the highest on record for June–August. This beats the previous record set in 2009 by 0.04°C (0.07°F).
  • The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for January–August (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.3°F), the third highest for this eight-month period on record.

Now I know there is something magical about calendar year records but I have used NASA’s data to plot average monthly temperature anomalies for the 12 months to August and it too shows 2014 as the third highest on record

22-09-2014 averageaugustanomaly

The NOAA has catered for the calendar year followers with graphics comparing the year-to-date temperature anomalies for 2014 (black line) to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record: 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, and 2013. Each month along each trace represents the year-to-date average temperature. In other words, the January value is the January average temperature, the February value is the average of both January and February, and so on.

The first graphic shows the basic year-to-date comparison. The second graphic zooms even further to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record, and shows several end-of-year results based on the following scenarios:

22-09-2014 scenario

The years 2013 and 2014 are the only years on this list not to begin during a mature El Niño event. The years 1998 and 2010, each of which became the warmest year on record at the time, ended the year in a strong La Niña event, as evidenced by the relative fading of global average temperature later in the year.

The anomalies themselves represent departures from the 20th century average temperature. The graph zooms into the warmest part of the entire history.

22-09-2014 yeartodatetemperatures

22-09-2014 globaltemperaturescenarios

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Strong measures to limit carbon emissions might actually lead to faster growth

September 20th, 2014 Comments off
  • Could Fighting Global Warming Be Cheap and Free? – Paul Krugman writes: “I’ve just been reading two new reports on the economics of fighting climate change: a big study by a blue-ribbon international group, the New Climate Economy Project, and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund. Both claim that strong measures to limit carbon emissions would have hardly any negative effect on economic growth, and might actually lead to faster growth. This may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. These are serious, careful analyses.”
  • Forget the national debt. The new budget threat is climate change – “Shaun Donovan gave his first speech as White House budget director Friday, and he didn’t even mention that Washington obsession of recent years, the $17.8 trillion national debt.No, in the run-up to next week’s United Nations climate summit in New York, the Obama administration is focused like a laser on a different threat to federal finances and the U.S. economy: the consequences of global warming.”
  • Listen up, fellow DORCs, I have a bridge to sell you – “The whole idea of basing user charges on the imaginary current replacement cost of an asset that already exists is ideological claptrap. It says that you tell your kids that they can’t afford to drive the old Volvo in the yard because a new one would cost $ 100,000.”
  • Tax cuts can do more harm than good – “Tax cuts are the one guaranteed path to prosperity. Or so politicians have told Americans for so long that the claim has become a secular dogma. But tax cuts can do more harm than good, a new report shows. It draws on decades of empirical evidence analyzed with standard economic principles used in business, academia and government. What ultimately matters is the way a tax cut is structured and how it affects behavior.”
  • Russia is our most dangerous neighbour  – Russia is both a tragedy and a menace writes Martin Wolf. “In the Financial Times this week Sergey Karaganov offered an arresting insight into the blend of self-pity and braggadocio currently at work in Moscow. It is as depressing as it is disturbing. Western policy makers seem to believe the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis) is the greater danger. But Russia is the nuclear-armed rump of a former superpower and, ruled by an amoral autocrat, it frightens me even more. For Europe and, I believe, the US, there is no greater foreign policy question than how to deal with today’s Russia.”
  • How To Inoculate Angry Teens Against Islamic Extremism – Maajid Nawaz used to be a recruiter for an extreme Islamist group in the United Kingdom. NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with Nawaz about how the recruiting process works, and how it can be thwarted.

Germany’s move to sun and wind power and other news and views for Sunday 14 September

September 14th, 2014 Comments off
The small German island of Heligoland, a popular tourist destination, is undergoing dramatic change as the wind industry takes over. Video Credit By Erik Olsen on Publish Date September 13, 2014.

The small German island of Heligoland, a popular tourist destination, is undergoing dramatic change as the wind industry takes over. Video Credit By Erik Olsen on Publish Date September 13, 2014.

  • Sun and Wind Alter German Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind  -“Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea. They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.”
  • The journalists who never sleep – “‘Robot writers’ that can interpret data and generate stories are starting to appear in certain business and media sectors.”
  • Power from the people: what privatisation has meant for Britain – “Britain has changed beyond recognition in the past 20 years. A failed government policy must take much of the blame.”
  • Iraq: The Outlaw State – Max Rodenbeck in the New York Review surveys four recently published books on Iraq and notes how a fusion of the homicidal and messianic is not without precedent in Iraq. The use of seemingly gratuitous cruelty as a form of display—as a talisman of godlike power and an advertisement of worldly success—has old roots there. “… the country that is now Iraq—although alas not, perhaps, for much longer in its current shape—is no stranger to the ghoulish and macabre. The Mongols, famously, built pyramids of skulls when they pillaged and razed Baghdad in 1258 and again in 1401. It was in Iraq in the 1920s that Britain introduced newer, cheaper methods for keeping unruly natives under control, such as chemical weapons and aerial “terror” bombings. Saddam Hussein’s three-decade-long Republic of Fear, with its gassing of Kurdish villagers, grotesque tortures, and mass slaughter of dissidents, made the later American jailers of Abu Ghraib look downright amateur.”
  • Sweden election: Social Democrats may regain power
  • Nations Trying to Stop Their Citizens From Going to Middle East to Fight for ISIS – “France wants more power to block its citizens from leaving the country, while Britain is weighing whether to stop more of its citizens from coming home. Tunisia is debating measures to make it a criminal offense to help jihadist fighters travel to Syria and Iraq, while Russia has outlawed enlisting in armed groups that are “contradictory to Russian policy.” The rapid surge of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and its ability to draw fighters from across the globe, have set off alarm bells in capitals worldwide. Countries that rarely see eye to eye are now trying to blunt its recruitment drive.@
  • Wine As Economic Indicator: Do Sales Of $50 Pinots And Merlots Predict Our Economy’s Future?
Categories: Environment, Uncategorized Tags:

El Niño development remains possible and other news and views for Wednesday 27 August

August 27th, 2014 Comments off

27-08-2014 elninowatch

  • Little change in the tropical Pacific Ocean – “Despite tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures remaining at neutral levels, models suggest El Niño development remains possible during the coming months.”
  • Regulation gets real for virtual currencies – “Both the EU and New York are looking to bring digital currencies under a full regulatory regime, but their approaches are rather different.” (The Banker – registration required)
  • France and the shadow of the euro – “The fear stalking the eurozone is of a jobless recovery; years of stagnation which will test social cohesion. What the French crisis has underlined is that the eurozone, despite all the claims of recovery, still has the potential to trouble governments, banks and the wider European economy.”
  • A New Reason to Question the Official Unemployment Rate – “Americans are less willing to respond to surveys than they used to be. A new academic paper suggests that the unemployment rate appears to have become less accurate over the last two decades, in part because of this rise in nonresponse.”
  • Could The U.S. Fix Taxation of Multinational Corporations With A Sales-Based Formula?
  • News on social media suffers a ‘spiral of silence’: Pew study – “If social media users think their followers don’t share their opinion on the news, they are less likely to post those views on Facebook and Twitter, according to a new Pew Research Center report. … The authors connect these findings to the ‘spiral of silence,’ a phenomenon where people who think they hold a minority opinion don’t speak up for fear of social exclusion. “One of the possible theories [for this study] is that when people see diversity in opinion, they don’t want to challenge other people, or upset them, or risk losing a friendship,” said Keith Hampton of Rutgers University, one of the study’s authors, in a telephone interview. For the authors, the study implies that the long-documented suppression of minority opinion exists online just as in real life.”
  • We’re Living in a Golden Age of Investigative Journalism – “Newspapers in America may be closing up shop, but muckrakers around the world are holding corrupt officials and corporate cronies accountable like never before.”

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  • Couples who smoke marijuana are less likely to engage in domestic violence – “A new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo finds a significantly lower incidence of domestic violence among married couples who smoke pot. “Couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV [intimate partner violence] perpetration,” the study concludes.”

El Niño back to fifty fifty

July 29th, 2014 Comments off

2014-07-29_elninowatchThe odds of an  El Niño developing this year, and with it the chances of an ultra-hot year for the planet, have dropped considerably. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported this afternoon that despite the tropical Pacific Ocean being primed for an El Niño during much of the first half of 2014, the atmosphere above has largely failed to respond. Hence the ocean and atmosphere have not reinforced each other. As a result, some cooling has now taken place in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, with most of the key NINO regions returning to neutral values.

While the chance of an El Niño in 2014 has clearly eased, warmer-than-average waters persist in parts of the tropical Pacific, and the (slight) majority of climate models suggest El Niño remains likely for spring. Hence the establishment of El Niño before year’s end cannot be ruled out. If an El Niño were to occur, it is increasingly unlikely to be a strong event.

Given the current observations and the climate model outlooks, the Bureau’s ENSO Tracker has shifted to El Niño WATCH status. This means the chance of El Niño developing in 2014 is approximately 50%, which remains significant at double the normal likelihood of an event.
El Niño is often associated with wide scale below-average rainfall over southern and eastern inland areas of Australia and above-average daytime temperatures over southern Australia. Similar impacts prior to the event becoming fully established regularly occur.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) index has been below −0.4 °C (the negative IOD threshold) since mid-June, but needs to remain negative into August to be considered an event. Model outlooks suggest this negative IOD is likely to be short lived and return to neutral by spring. A negative IOD pattern typically brings wetter winter and spring conditions to inland and southern Australia.


Categories: Environment Tags:

Antarctica’s point of no return and other news and views for Sunday 27 July

July 27th, 2014 Comments off

27-07-2014 antarctica

  • Antarctica’s Point of No Return – “Recent satellite observations have confirmed the accuracy of two independent computer simulations that show that the West Antarctic ice sheet has now entered a state of unstoppable collapse. … Rather than reacting to global warming with gradual and predictable patterns of change, the West Antarctic ice sheet has suddenly “tipped” into a new state. A relatively small amount of melting beneath the Amundsen Sea’s ice shelf has pushed its grounding line to the top of a sub-glacial hill, from which it is now “rolling down.” Simply put, one thermal kick was enough to initiate an internal dynamic that will now continue under its own momentum, regardless of any action that humans might take to prevent it.
  • Powerful and Coldhearted – “Can people in high positions of power — presidents, bosses, celebrities, even dominant spouses — easily empathize with those beneath them? Psychological research suggests the answer is no. … On the basis of a study we recently published with the researcher Jeremy Hogeveen, in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others.”
  • Five myths about the gender pay gap – 1. The pay gap is closing rapidly. … 2. Women earn less because they work in industries that pay less. … 3. Women earn less because they don’t negotiate well. … 4. Women earn less because mothers choose to work less. … 5. To close the pay gap, we should focus on deterring discrimination. …
  • Boat turnbacks make harsh deterrents pointless – “Australia’s policy of mandatory detention isn’t what is stopping the boats, and we should put an end to the untold damage that is being inflicted on people’s lives, writes Mike Steketee.”
  • Government anti-piracy plan one of the world’s toughest – “Australia would have some of the toughest anti-piracy measures in the Western world if leaked government proposals to crack down on online copyright infringement were implemented, according to copyright experts. The draft discussion paper, published by news site Crikey on Friday, includes proposals to block overseas websites that host pirated content and to compel internet service providers (ISPs) to stop users illegally downloading movies and music.”
  • The Long History Of The Gaza Tunnels – “In his forthcoming book, Gaza: A History, Jean-Pierre Filiu describes the ‘first historic reference to the loose subsoil of Gaza’ during Alexander the Great’s 332 BC siege of this Mediterranean city, then under Persian rule. Filiu writes that Alexander expected quick victory. But ‘the siege of Gaza involved 100 days of fruitless attacks and tunneling.’ When Gaza finally fell, Alexander was infuriated and went on a vengeful rampage.”

A 1968 Robert Kennedy speech on GDP I’d like an Australian politician to give today

July 26th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Robert Rubin Echoes Robert F. Kennedy: GDP Is Fatally Flawed Measure Of Economic Health – “Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin has a must read piece in the Washington Post, ‘How ignoring climate change could sink the U.S. economy.’ The centrist economic panjandrum main point: The notion that tackling climate change will harm the economy is the exact opposite of the truth. In this regard he makes a similar point to one Climate Progress made last week — one that Sen. Robert F. Kennedy made so powerfully on the presidential campaign trail nearly half a century ago … — the GDP is a deeply flawed measure of the economy’s health.”
  • When all the jobs belong to robots, do we still need jobs? – “… there’s a real scarcity of economists willing to think about the possibility that abundance makes markets obsolete altogether. Property rights may be a way of allocating resources when there aren’t enough of them to go around, but when automation replaces labor altogether and there’s lots of everything, do we still need it?”
  • Longest UK slump in a century ends – “Of the G7 major economies, only Italy has taken longer than the UK to regain its pre-crisis size and output per head in Britain is still 4 per cent below its pre-crisis level. A muted Mr Osborne admitted there was ‘still a long way to go’.The big question for him is whether the rebound has come too late to save the Conservatives at the next election, but he is convinced voters will not turn back to a Labour party that was in power when the crash hit in 2008.

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  • Britain’s economy is finally bigger than it was in 2008. What took so long? “Britain’s economy is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. And finally, six years later, it’s an economy that’s bigger than it was before the Great Recession.”
  • Former CIA Officials Denied Chance To Preview ‘Torture’ Report – “About a dozen former CIA officials named in a classified Senate report on decade-old agency interrogation practices were notified in recent days that they would be able to review parts of the document in a secure room in suburban Washington after signing a secrecy agreement. Then, on Friday, many were told they would not be able to see it, after all. Some of them were furious, while Democratic Senate aides were angry that they were given the chance in the first place. It’s the latest chapter in the drama and recriminations that have been playing out behind the scenes in connection with what some call the Senate torture report, a summary of which is being declassified and is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

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The state of the climate in 2013 and other news and views for Friday 18 July

July 18th, 2014 Comments off


  • The State of the Climate in 2013 – a supplement to the July 2014 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
  • .The Rise of the Non-Working Rich – “The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing. In fact, we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history. The wealth is coming from those who over the last three decades earned huge amounts on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, or as high-tech entrepreneurs. It’s going to their children, who did nothing except be born into the right family.”


A world first solar roof with heat and power and other news and views for Wednesday 9 July

July 9th, 2014 Comments off
The opening was attended by the Bob Baldwin, the deputy for Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. “This a great display of Australian ingenuity and an example of industry leveraging government funding to make breakthroughs that may lead to advanced manufacturing and export opportunities,” he said in a statement. Next month, Baldwin’s party will introduce legislation to close ARENA, the agency that made this funding possible.

The opening was attended by the Bob Baldwin, the deputy for Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. “This a great display of Australian ingenuity and an example of industry leveraging government funding to make breakthroughs that may lead to advanced manufacturing and export opportunities,” he said in a statement. Next month, Baldwin’s party will introduce legislation to close ARENA, the agency that made this funding possible.

  • Bluescope unveils “world first” solar roof with heat and power – “A small terrace house in the inner Sydney suburb of Glebe is hosting what is believed to be the world’s first building integrated solar system that generates electricity as well as heat. The array combines thin-film solar PV and solar thermal technologies into a steel sheet roofing product produced by Australian steel manufacturer Bluescope, with assistance from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.”
  • Climate sceptics are losing their grip – Martin Wolf writes: “Conducting irreversible experiments with the only planet we have is irresponsible. It would only be rational to refuse to do anything to mitigate the risks if we were certain the science of man-made climate change is bogus. Since it rests on well-established science, it would be ludicrous to claim any such certainty.”
  • U.S., China ink coal, clean energy deals in climate cooperation – “The United States and China on Tuesday signed eight partnership pacts to cut greenhouse gases, bringing the world’s two biggest carbon emitters closer together on climate policy.”
  • ‘Trust me, I am a financial adviser’ is not good enough
  • The Real Reason Pot Is Still Illegal – “Opponents of marijuana-law reform insist that legalization is dangerous—but the biggest threat is to their own bottom line.”
  • West Africa’s Misguided War on Drugs
  • Are the Authoritarians Winning? – “The conflict between authoritarianism and democracy is not a new cold war, we are told, because the new authoritarians lack an expansionary ideology like communism. This is not true. Communism may be over as an economic system, but as a model of state domination it is very much alive in the People’s Republic of China and in Putin’s police state.”

The data deleted from the United Nations’ last major climate change report and other news and views for Saturday 5 July

July 5th, 2014 Comments off
  • Data Deleted From UN Climate Report Highlight Controversies – “When the United Nations’ last major climate change report was released in April, it omitted some country-specific emissions data for political reasons, a trio of new papers argue, sounding a warning bell about the global politicization of climate science.”

5-07-2014 Rrome

  • Roman Jokers – A review of Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up by Mary Beard – “Elizabethans joked about cuckoldry and venereal disease. Roman audiences laughed at crucifixion jokes, bald men, and dwarves. The epigrams of the early imperial poet Martial circle back again and again to sniggering innuendos about bad breath and oral sex.”
  • ‘National Security Has Become a State Religion’ – In a SPIEGEL interview, Edward Snowden’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, and former NSA contractor Thomas Drake discuss the reasons behind the American spying agency’s obssession with collecting data.
  • The new way of war: killing the kids – “In 1994, on the eve of Rwanda’s genocide, Radio Mille Collines, in Kigali, incited listeners with a venomous message: “To kill the big rats, you have to kill the little rats.” It was a veiled command to murder the youngest generation of Tutsis, the country’s minority tribe. In less than four months, an estimated three hundred thousand children were slashed, hacked, gunned, or burned to death, according to the United Nations. Among the dead were newborns. The Rwandan slaughter was not unique. The specific targeting of children is one of the grimmest new developments in the way conflicts have been waged over the past fifty years.
  • The Middle East and the Return of History – Ever since Francis Fukuyama argued, more than two decades ago, that the world had reached the end of history, history has made the world hold its breath. China’s rise, the Balkan wars, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the global financial crisis of 2008, the “Arab Spring,” and the Syrian civil war all belie Fukuyama’s vision of the inevitable triumph of liberal democracy.
  • The secret to America’s most “disruptive” supermarket—fruits and vegetables – “Every inch of the traditional track around US supermarkets—from the beautifully lit piles of produce and bounteous bakery section to the inviting prepared foods—has been honed to maximize the grocery industry’s tried-and-true business strategy: Promote the national brands and packaged goods that drive customers in the door, but steer them toward the more-profitable, perishable goods—such as fresh produce—where the supermarket really makes money.

The ice at opposite ends of the earth still moving in different directions

July 4th, 2014 Comments off

Figures from the National Sea and Ice Data Center show June 2014 is the 6th lowest Arctic sea ice extent in the satellite record, 490,000 square kilometers (189,000 square miles) above the previous record low in June 2010. The monthly linear rate of decline for June is 3.6% per decade.


The trend in the Antarctic was different with a continuation in June of the pattern of increasing sea ice extent.


Categories: Environment Tags:

Those CO2 levels keep rising

July 2nd, 2014 Comments off

At the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, where CO2 levels in the atmosphere have been measured since 1958, they have just recorded for the first time three consecutive average monthly levels above 400 parts per million. While there is nothing magical about 400 ppm when it comes to influencing world temperatures, it is another sign that atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas which helps drive global warming are very much on the rise.

2-07-2014 meanCO22-07-2014 fullCO2recordThe dashed red lines represent the monthly mean values, centered on the middle of each month. The black line represents the same, after correction for the average seasonal cycle.


Categories: Environment Tags:

El Niño likely in 2014

July 1st, 2014 Comments off

I watch with great interest the twice a month reports from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) on the the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) because what happens to world temperatures the next time an El Niño occurs will have a major influence on the global warming debate. The evidence seems to suggest that under the influence of El Niño temperatures rise and a new high temperature reading for the world would be a blow to those who argue that global warming has plateaued over the last 15 years or so. Conversely, an El Niño that does not break the plateauing trend line would be manna from heaven for the climate sceptics.

Today’s report from the BOM continues to point to an El Niño being likely.

1-07-2014 ninoalert

Based on the assessment on 1 July 2014, the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Tracker status remains at El Niño ALERT level, meaning that there is at least a 70% chance of an El Niño occurring in 2014. Current observations and model guidance indicate an El Niño is likely to develop by spring.

El Niño conditions generally result in below average winter/spring rainfall over southern and inland eastern Australia, while southern Australia typically experiences warmer days.

In the ENSO report for 1 July the BOM headline says  while some more El Niño-like patterns emerge, but no El Niño yet.

While the tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperature is currently at levels typically associated with a weak El Niño, waters below the surface have cooled and atmospheric patterns continue to remain neutral.
However, over the past fortnight changes have occurred in the atmosphere that may be a response to the warm surface waters–the Southern Oscillation Index has dropped by over 10 points, and weakened trade winds have re-appeared. These changes would need to persist for several weeks in order for an El Niño to be considered established, and it remains possible they are simply related to shorter term weather variability.

1-07-2014 ninomaps
Climate models surveyed by the Bureau continue to indicate that El Niño is likely to develop by spring 2014. The Bureau’s ENSO Tracker remains at El Niño ALERT, indicating at least a 70% chance of El Niño developing in 2014.
For Australia, El Niño is often associated with below-average rainfall over southern and eastern inland areas and above-average daytime temperatures over southern parts of the continent.
The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral. Model outlooks suggest the IOD is most likely to remain neutral through winter and spring. The likelihood of a positive IOD event increases with El Niño. Positive IOD events are typically associated with large parts of southern and central Australia experiencing lower rainfall than usual.

Categories: Environment Tags:

In for a warmer season whether El Niño comes or not

June 25th, 2014 Comments off

Warmer days and nights are more likely than not for Australia for July to September. The Bureau of Meteorology in its latest national temperature outlook puts the chances that the July to September maximum temperature outlook will exceed the median maximum temperature at greater than 60% over Australia. Chances are greater than 80% over southwest WA, southeast Queensland, northeast NSW, southern Victoria and Tasmania. So for every ten July to September outlooks with similar odds to these, says the Bureau, about six to eight of them would be warmer than average over these areas, while about two to four would be cooler.


The chances that the average minimum temperature for July to September 2014 will exceed the long-term median also are greater than 60% over Australia. Chances rise to greater than 80% over southern and central WA, southern Victoria, Tasmania, and the eastern seaboard of NSW (see map above).

The Bureau’s outlook says the warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean over the past several months has primed the climate system for an El Niño in 2014. However, in the absence of the necessary atmospheric response, the increase in Pacific Ocean temperatures has levelled off in recent weeks. Despite some easing in the model outlooks, international climate models surveyed by the Bureau still indicate El Niño is likely to develop by spring 2014. While POAMA, the model that produces the seasonal outlooks, does not forecast a high probability of El Niño, it retains a warmer signal across the country due to patterns in the ocean and atmosphere across the Pacific. This warmer signal is generally consistent between international models regardless of their ENSO forecast.

Models indicate the currently warm Indian Ocean is likely to remain warm. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is expected to remain neutral for the next three months, and is therefore unlikely to have a significant influence upon this outlook.


On the outlook for rainfall the BOM believes a drier than normal season is more likely for parts of central and eastern Australia with a wetter than normal season is more likely for eastern Tasmania


Categories: Environment Tags:

Iraqis under ISIS control say their lives have gotten better and other news and views for Sunday 22 June

June 22nd, 2014 Comments off
  • Iraqis under ISIS control say their lives have gotten better – “Perhaps the most important victory so far by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the extremist group tearing through Iraq, was not overwhelming the much larger Iraqi military or even seizing vast areas of northwest Iraq, including the major city of Mosul. It was convincing regular Iraqis that have come under ISIS rule to trust them. … ISIS looks like it might be winning the battle for Iraqis’ hearts and minds in the Sunni areas it has seized, and this could be enormously bad for Iraq’s crisis. It could make ISIS more powerful and more resilient in the mostly-Sunni northwest. Maybe worse, it could increase the possibility of the crisis spiraling into all-out civil war.”

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  • Down Under – a New York Times review of ‘The Reef,’ by Iain McCalman – “By the end of McCalman’s transformative book, we feel the full force of this slow-motion emergency. In story after story of fascination and trepidation, in revelations and in requiems, this passionate history brings to life the Great Barrier Reef’s magnificent mutability. McCalman’s closing appeal is well earned: We have seen the splendor and now we need to act to slow the vanishing.”
  • Slavery and the Shrimp on Your Plate – Thai Seafood Is Contaminated by Human Trafficking
  • US sets up honey bee loss task force – “The White House has set up a taskforce to tackle the decline of honey bees.”
  • A Job Seeker’s Desperate Choice – “The story of Shanesha Taylor, a mother who had a job interview but was unable to find child care, shows the harsh realities of today’s economy.”
  • World Cup feels China’s strong presence despite its absence from pitch – “A bevy Chinese companies are serving as the event’s official corporate sponsors and suppliers, symbolizing the growing economic power of a country whose leader is an avid soccer fan. … Besides the World Cup, another factor behind the current soccer mania in China is Xi Jinping, the country’s president. …  Xi is scheduled to watch the World Cup final on June 13 at the stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The official purpose of Xi’s visit to Brazil is to attend the BRICS summit on July 15-16 in Fortaleza, Brazil, with the leaders of five major emerging countries, including Russia, India and South Africa as well as Brazil and China. Brazil, which hosts the conference, originally proposed to hold the summit around April, according to diplomatic sources. But the date was pushed back to immediately after the World Cup as Xi expressed his desire to watch the final. Xi’s long-cherished dream is to bring a World Cup to China and watch the Chinese national team win the title. Xi has been putting pressure on China’s soccer community to make efforts to realize this vision.

Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets and other news and views for Wednesday 18 June

June 18th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets – “If listed fossil fuel companies have a pro-rata allocation of the global carbon budget, this would amount to around 125 – 275GtCO2, or 20 – 40% of the 762GtCO2 currently booked as reserves. The scale of this carbon budget deficit poses a major risk for investors. They need to understand that 60 – 80% of coal, oil and gas reserves of listed firms are unburnable. … Capital spent on finding and developing more
    reserves is largely wasted To minimise the risks for investors and savers, capital needs to be redirected away from high-carbon options. However, this report estimates that the top 200 oil and gas and mining companies have allocated up to $674bn in the last year for finding and developing more reserves and new ways of extracting them. The bulk of this expenditure was derived from retained earnings – pointing to the duty of shareholders to exercise stewardship over these
    funds so that they are deployed on financially gainful opportunities consistent with climate security.”

18-06-2014 foreword

  • Tweeting progressive politics into oblivion – “If you want to know how the left in Australia thinks, check out Twitter. It will also explain the slow degradation of political reporting into gotcha exposés and personal slurs.”
  • Google and Facebook can be legally intercepted, says UK spy boss – “UK intelligence service GCHQ can legally snoop on British use of Google, Facebook and web-based email without specific warrants because the firms are based abroad, the government has said.”
  • A Balancing Act on Iraq – “President Obama has, so far, struck the right note on Iraq, where Sunni extremist militants are seizing territory and threatening the existence of the state. He has been cautious — emphasizing the need for political reform in Iraq and reaching out to other countries that could have an impact on its fate.”

18-06-2014 wagecosts

  • German Labor Costs – “German labor is very expensive … Yet Germany is a very successful exporter all the same. How do they do it? Not by producing the latest trendy tech product, but by maintaining a reputation for very high-quality goods, year after year.”
  • IMF in warning over Argentina ruling at US Supreme Court – “The IMF said it was concerned about ‘broader systemic implications’.”
  • Eurozone mired in recession pause – “The simplest business cycle dating algorithm declares recessions over after two consecutive quarters of positive GDP growth. By that metric, the Eurozone recession has been over since 2013Q1. This column argues that growth and improvements in the labour market have been so anaemic that it is too early to call the end of the Eurozone recession. Indeed, if this is what an expansion looks like, then the state of the Eurozone economy might be even worse than economists feared.”
  • Van Gaal may actually be as good a coach as he thinks he is – “When I wrote before Holland-Spain that the Dutch were a rubbish team who would try and fail to play boring defence, obviously what I meant was that they were going to hammer the world champions 5-1.Holland’s coach Louis van Gaal cautions: “We still have nothing.” Even a repeat performance against Australia in Porto Alegre on Wednesday would amount to nothing more than near certain qualification for the second round. Yet “the miracle of Salvador”, as the Dutch have dubbed the Spain game, does prompt a re-evaluation of Holland’s prospects. The main conclusion: Van Gaal may actually be as good a coach as he thinks he is, which is nice for Holland and his next club, Manchester United.

Sea ice – the differences between north and south

June 17th, 2014 Comments off

In the Arctic the sea ice coverage keeps going down. In the Antarctic sea ice cover is reaching record heights.

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(Click to enlarge)

A team of UK scientists are predicting that this year will see Arctic sea ice cover around the same level as last year.

The team published its ideas in a recent edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. Now, it has put out its first open forecast for this September of 5.4 million square km, give or take half a million.It compares with 5.35 million square km averaged across September last year.

17-06-2014 arcticextent

Down south the Antarctic is currently showing an alternative trend, with the winter maximum extent growing to record levels.

17-06-2014 antarcticmap

Categories: Environment Tags:

Pacific Ocean remains primed for an El Niño in 2014

June 17th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reported today that warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean over the past several months has primed the climate system for an El Niño in 2014. However, said the BOM, in the absence of the necessary atmospheric response, warming has levelled off in recent weeks. Positive Southern Oscillation Index values and large areas of warm water in the western Pacific and off northwestern Australia are also counter to typical El Niño development.

Despite recent observations and some easing in the model outlooks, climate models surveyed by the Bureau still indicate El Niño is likely to develop by spring 2014. The Bureau’s ENSO Tracker remains at El Niño ALERT, indicating at least a 70% chance of El Niño developing in 2014.

Most international climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate that SSTs in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are likely to warm further over the coming months. Despite some easing in the predictions of how much the equatorial Pacific will warm by, the majority of the surveyed models indicate that sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are likely to exceed El Niño thresholds before or during the southern hemisphere spring.

Most international climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate that SSTs in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are likely to warm further over the coming months. Despite some easing in the predictions of how much the equatorial Pacific will warm by, the majority of the surveyed models indicate that sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are likely to exceed El Niño thresholds before or during the southern hemisphere spring.

For Australia, El Niño is often associated with below-average rainfall over southern and eastern inland areas and above-average daytime temperatures over southern parts of the continent.
The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral. Model outlooks suggest the IOD is most likely to remain neutral through winter and spring. Positive IOD events often coincide with El Niño and are typically associated with large parts of southern and central Australia experiencing lower rainfall than usual.

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Greenhouse gas emissions fell in December quarter and other news and views for Friday 13 June

June 13th, 2014 Comments off


13-06-2014 australiangreenhousegases

  • Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: December 2013 – Australia’s National Greenhouse Accounts – “Emissions decreased in the December quarter 2013, with trend emissions falling by 0.4% while seasonally adjusted emissions were unchanged. … Annual emissions for the year to December 2013 are estimated to be 538.4 Mt CO2-e. This represents a 0.8% decline in emissions when compared with the previous year. … Over the year to December 2013, there was a decline in emissions from electricity, reflecting lower electricity demand and changes in the generation mix. Emissions from industrial processes also declined over the year. These declines were partially offset by increases in the fugitive emissions and agriculture sectors.


Understanding global warming

June 11th, 2014 Comments off

xkcd’s drawing is worth a thousand words

11-06-2014 xkcd

“The good news is that according to the latest IPCC report, if we enact aggressive emissions limits now, we could hold the warming to 2°C. That’s only HALF an ice age unit, which is probably no big deal.”

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With minimum wages catching up with inflation is not enough and other news and views for Saturday 7 June

June 7th, 2014 Comments off
  • Seattle Leads the Way – “The new $15-an-hour minimum wage approved this week in Seattle does more than guarantee a raise to tens of thousands of workers in the city. As the highest minimum in the nation, it changes the terms of the minimum-wage debate and expands the realm of the possible in setting new minimums. In recent decades, proposals to lift the minimum — whether on the federal, state or local level — have been presented as a way to restore purchasing power lost to inflation during long stretches with no raises. Seattle lawmakers have said, clearly and correctly, that catching up with inflation is not enough. To be adequate, a minimum wage also has to reflect real economic gains as measured by average wages and productivity growth.
  • Privatisation and government debt – Simon Wren-Lewis economics professor at Oxford University: “Possibly the worst argument for privatising part of the public sector is a supposed ‘need’ to reduce public sector debt. … Privatisation is one of a number of devices that flatter the short term public finances with no impact (or worse) on the long term position. (Considerably worse if the asset is sold far too cheaply, as in the most recent UK case for example.) “


  • Linkages Between Arctic Warming and Mid-Latitude Weather Patterns: Summary of a Workshop (2014) – “The Arctic has been undergoing significant changes in recent years. Average temperatures are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. The extent and thickness of sea ice is rapidly declining. Such changes may have an impact on atmospheric conditions outside the region. Several hypotheses for how Arctic warming may be influencing mid-latitude weather patterns have been proposed recently. For example, Arctic warming could lead to a weakened jet stream resulting in more persistent weather patterns in the mid-latitudes. Or Arctic sea ice loss could lead to an increase of snow on high-latitude land, which in turn impacts the jet stream resulting in cold Eurasian and North American winters. These and other potential connections between a warming Arctic and mid-latitude weather are the subject of active research.”
  • Former Boxer Steps Up As Kiev Mayor, Spars With Remaining Activists – “Former world heavyweight boxing champ Vitaly Klitchko is now set to become mayor of Kiev. In his first major move, Klitchko is asking activists in Independence Square to pack up their tents and allow the square to return to normal. Some activists are resisting, warning that one presidential election doesn’t guarantee the success of their revolution — or do justice to the martyrs who were killed there.”
  • Early Exposure To Bacteria Protects Children From Asthma And Allergies -“Babies who are exposed to both bacteria and allergens in the first year of life are less likely to develop asthma and allergies, a study finds. … But what’s interesting about this study is that it gets specific; not just any old germs or allergens will do.”
  • Upset at UN climate talks as ministers go missing – “Negotiators and campaigners have reacted angrily to the failure of many environment ministers to attend UN talks in Bonn. They say governments gave an undertaking last year to come here and update plans to cut emissions. But so far, around 50 ministers have turned up, with representatives from the UK, France and Brazil notably absent. Over 130 turned up in Warsaw for the last major talks session.
  • Climate change helps seas disturb Japanese war dead – “Rising sea levels have disturbed the skeletons of soldiers killed on the Marshall Islands during World War Two. Speaking at UN climate talks in Bonn, the Island’s foreign minister said that high tides had exposed one grave with 26 dead.”
  • The Climate Domino by Paul Krugman – “Maybe it’s me, but the predictable right-wing cries of outrage over the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules on carbon seem oddly muted and unfocused. … the attacks on the new rules mainly involve the three C’s: conspiracy, cost and China. That is, right-wingers claim that there isn’t any global warming, that it’s all a hoax promulgated by thousands of scientists around the world; that taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions would devastate the economy; and that, anyway, U.S. policy can’t accomplish anything because China will just go on spewing stuff into the atmosphere.”
  • EPA’s Proposed Greenhouse Gas Regulation: Why are Conservatives Attacking its Market-Based Options? – “Not so long ago, cap-and-trade mechanisms for environmental protection were popular in Congress. Now, such mechanisms are denigrated. What happened? Professor Richard Schmalensee (MIT) and I recently told the sordid tale of how conservatives in Congress who once supported cap and trade had come to lambast climate change legislation as “cap-and-tax.” Ironically, in doing this, conservatives have chosen to demonize their own market-based creation.”


A very politically sensitive Bureau of Meteorology – record temperatures but don’t mention global warming

June 4th, 2014 Comments off

“An exceptionally prolonged autumn warm spell,” is what the Bureau of Meteorology calls it in a Special Climate Statement released today on the extended warm spell in May 2014 that affected most of Australia. These special statements are reserved for weather/climate events which are unusual in the context of the climatology of the affected region. Their purpose, says the Bureau,  is to document major events. In doing so, they serve as a historical record, inform the public on the broader historical and climatological context for events, and give easy access to data and information which is in high demand from the media and the public.

So what’s the data that made May special?

4-06-2014 keypoints

Maximum temperature anomalies (from 1961–1990 average) for period 8 to 26 May 2014.

Maximum temperature anomalies (from 1961–1990 average) for period 8 to 26 May 2014.

And the broader historical and climatological context for these events? Nothing in this explanation, relegated to page nine just above the appendices, that should upset a global warming sceptical Prime Minister:

The warm spell has been driven by persistent blocking in the Tasman, resulting in northwesterly winds over the southeast of the continent. While all exceptional climate events are driven by antecedent and concurrent weather
conditions, long-term trends also very likely play a role when significant climatological records are broken.
Australian annually averaged temperature has warmed by 0.9 °C since 1910, and the month of May has warmed by a similar amount. The annual warming trend is consistent with that observed for the globe.
The current warm event is the latest in a sequence of prolonged or intense warm spells that have affected a large part of the continent roughly every six weeks since the end of 2012. This coincides with record-breaking or well-above-average temperatures that have persisted across Australia for the past 22 months. The 12 months ending January 2014, February 2014, March 2014, April 2014 and May 2014 have all been record-warm for Australia. The year-to-date (January to May) temperature anomaly for Australia at 31 May 2014 was +0.84 °C. This will mean that 2014 ranks in the top five warmest starts to a year on record behind 2005 (+1.17 °C), 1998 (+1.05 °C), 2013 (+1.04 °C) and 2007 (+0.96 °C).



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Moving steadily on towards El Niño

June 3rd, 2014 Comments off

Today’s update from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology indicate the tropical Pacific Ocean is likely to continue warming over the coming months. Most models, reports the Bureau, indicate sea surface temperatures in the central tropical Pacific will be above or close to El Niño thresholds by August, with all but one exceeding the threshold by October. Four models show NINO3.4 values considerably higher than the El Niño threshold by the end of the forecast period.

The range in forecast values of NINO3.4 is quite wide when considering individual ensemble members (forecast scenarios) from each model with values ranging between 0.0 °C and +3.0 °C by October. (See the ‘Models’ tab for links to individual model output for NINO3.4).

The most recent NINO3.4 value is +0.5 °C for the week ending 11 May 2014. Sustained NINO3.4 values above +0.8 °C indicate El Niño conditions.

The following graph shows the average forecast value of NINO3.4 for each international model surveyed for the selected calendar month. If the bars on the graph are approaching or exceeding the blue dashed line, there is an increased risk of La Niña. Similarly, if the bars on the graph are approaching or exceeding the red dashed line, there is an increased chance of El Niño.

3-06-2014 ninojun3-06-2014 ninoAug3-06-2014 ninoOctThe BOM does note that several of the surveyed climate models have eased their predictions slightly since the last update but around half continue to indicate that the equatorial Pacific is likely to exceed El Niño thresholds before or during the southern hemisphere spring. An El Niño ALERT remains in place, indicating at least a 70% chance of an El Niño developing in 2014.

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Public interest in climate change declining and other news and views for Sunday 25 May

May 25th, 2014 Comments off
Princeton University and University of Oxford researchers found that negative media reports seem to have only a passing effect on public opinion, but that positive stories don't appear to possess much staying power, either. Measured by how often people worldwide scour the Internet for information related to climate change, overall public interest in the topic has steadily waned since 2007. To gauge public interest, the researchers used Google Trends to document the Internet search-engine activity for "global warming" (blue line) and "climate change" (red line) from 2004 to 2013. They examined activity both globally (top) and in the United States (bottom). The numbers on the left indicate how often people looked up each term based on its percentage of the maximum search volume at any given point in time. Credit: William Anderegg Read more at:

Princeton University and University of Oxford researchers found that negative media reports seem to have only a passing effect on public opinion, but that positive stories don’t appear to possess much staying power, either. Measured by how often people worldwide scour the Internet for information related to climate change, overall public interest in the topic has steadily waned since 2007. To gauge public interest, the researchers used Google Trends to document the Internet search-engine activity for “global warming” (blue line) and “climate change” (red line) from 2004 to 2013. They examined activity both globally (top) and in the United States (bottom). The numbers on the left indicate how often people looked up each term based on its percentage of the maximum search volume at any given point in time. Credit: William Anderegg

Animals, such as pet hamsters, really do enjoy exercise wheels, suggests a new study that found most small wild creatures voluntarily use the wheels when they encounter them. The study, published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to look at wheel running in the wild.

Animals, such as pet hamsters, really do enjoy exercise wheels, suggests a new study that found most small wild creatures voluntarily use the wheels when they encounter them. The study, published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to look at wheel running in the wild.

Carbon loss from tropical forests ‘underestimated’ and other news and views for Thursday 22 May

May 22nd, 2014 Comments off


  • Carbon loss from tropical forests ‘underestimated’ – “The amount of carbon lost from tropical forests is being significantly underestimated, a new study reports. In addition to loss of trees, the degradation of tropical forests by selective logging and fires causes large amounts of “hidden” emissions. The slow moving process has remained almost invisible to satellite observations in the Amazon. Researchers say degradation in Brazil causes additional emissions equivalent to 40% of those from deforestation. The research is due to be published in the journal Global Change Biology.”
  • The party’s over – A review by Jan-Werner Müller of Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy by Peter Mair – “Mair’s most original argument is that the decline of parties, of party government, and hence of party democracy as a whole can’t be blamed on either the people or the politicians. It’s been a matter of mutual withdrawal, with politicians and citizens sharing equally what Mair calls an ‘anti-political sentiment’.”
  • Pakistan: Worse Than We Knew – “For forty years Pakistan has been backing Islamic extremist groups as part of its expansionist foreign policy in Afghanistan and Central Asia and its efforts to maintain equilibrium with India, its much larger enemy. Now Pakistan is undergoing the worst terrorist backlash in the entire region. Some 50,000 people have died in three separate and continuing insurgencies: one by the Taliban in the northwest, the other in Balochistan by Baloch separatists, and the third in Karachi by several ethnic groups. That sectarian war, involving suicide bombers, massacres, and kidnappings, has gripped the country for a decade.”
  • Why pet food isn’t people food – “The Food and Drug Administration released an update Friday on those jerky treats imported from China that appear to be killing and sickening pets, and the news is disturbing in more ways than one. The total number of illnesses now includes “5,600 dogs, 24 cats and three people“ (emphasis mine), according to an FDA bulletin issued late Friday afternoon.”


  • Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep – “Instead of eating vegetables in their simple, unadorned state, Americans often eat vegetables prepared in ways that add calories and sodium. They also tend to eat vegetables in forms that remove dietary fiber.”
  • The 1,000-Year-Old Schism That Pope Francis Seeks To Heal – “Pope Francis travels this weekend to the Middle East, the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, and will meet with Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders. But the official purpose of the visit is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox and to try to restore Christian unity after nearly 1,000 years of estrangement.”

Edging further toward El Niño

May 20th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reports today that the tropical Pacific Ocean continues a general trend toward El Niño. Just over half of the climate models surveyed by the Bureau suggest El Niño thresholds will be exceeded by August. An El Niño ALERT remains in place, indicating at least a 70% chance of an El Niño developing in 2014.

20-05-2014 alert

The tropical Pacific Ocean surface has warmed steadily since February, with sea surface temperature anomalies increasing by 0.5 to 1.0 °C. For El Niño to be established and maintained, the sea surface needs to warm further, and be accompanied by a persistent weakening of the trade winds and a consistent increase in cloudiness near the Date Line. In the past fortnight, trade winds have generally been near normal, though have weakened once again in recent days.

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The Arctic ice heading towards a low and other news and views for Monday 19 May

May 19th, 2014 Comments off


  • Charctic Interactive Sea Ice Graph – It is heading towards another low one if the early months are anything to go by.
  • Democracy causes economic development? – “Many analysts view democracy as a neutral or negative factor for growth. This column discusses new evidence showing that democracy has a robust and sizable pro-growth effect. The central estimates suggest that a country that switches from non-democracy to democracy achieves about 20% higher GDP per capita over the subsequent three decades.”
  • The Right Way to Control the Banks
  • Food should be regulated like tobacco, say campaigners – “The food industry should be regulated like the tobacco industry as obesity poses a greater global health risk than cigarettes, say international groups. Consumers International and the World Obesity Federation are calling for the adoption of more stringent rules. These could include pictures on food packaging of damage caused by obesity, similar to those on cigarette packets.


An index of anti-semitism and other news and views for Friday 16 May

May 16th, 2014 Comments off

14-05-2014 adlsterepotypes14-05-2014 adl114-05-2014 holocaust14-05-2014 oceania

  • Climate Change Debate: A Famous Scientist Becomes a Skeptic – “I have full respect for the scientific work behind the IPCC reports but I do not appreciate the need for consensus. It is important, and I will say essential, that society and the political community is also made aware of areas where consensus does not exist. To aim for a simplistic course of action in an area that is as complex and as incompletely understood as the climate system does not make sense at all in my opinion.”
  • Inflation Targets Reconsidered by Paul Krugman – Over the course of the 1990s many of the world’s central banks converged on an inflation target of 2 percent. Why 2 percent, rather than 1 or 3? The target wasn’t arrived at via a particularly scientific process, but for a time 2 percent seemed to make both economic and political sense. On one side, it seemed high enough to render concerns about hitting the zero lower bound mostly moot; on the other, it was low enough to satisfy most of those worried about the distortionary effects of inflation. It was also low enough that those who wanted true price stability — zero inflation — could be deflected with the argument that official price statistics understated quality change, and that true inflation was in fact close to zero. And as it was widely adopted, the 2 percent target also, of course, acquired the great advantage of conventionality: central bankers couldn’t easily be accused of acting irresponsibly when they had the same inflation target as everyone else. More recently, however, the 2 percent target has come under much more scrutiny. The main reason is the experience of the global financial crisis and its aftermath, which strongly suggests that advanced economies are far more likely to hit the zero lower bound than previously believed, and that the economic costs of that constraint on conventional monetary policy are much larger than the pre-crisis conventional wisdom. In response, a number of respected macroeconomists, notably Blanchard (2010) and, much more forcefully, Ball (2013), have argued for a sharply higher target, say 4 percent. But do even these critics go far enough? In this paper I will argue that they don’t — that the case for a higher inflation target is in fact even stronger than the critics have argued.”
  • Hockey’s ‘Honest John’ budget routine – “In the past week, Treasurer Joe Hockey has been fondly quoting Howard’s first budget as treasurer in 1978 as a precedent for governments abandoning election promises and increasing taxes in the national interest. … If he had a closer look, he might be a little more reluctant to quote it as a precedent.”
  • Absurdities of Copyright Protection – “As a starting point, the fundamental purpose of copyright is not to help authors gain a reward in the market. The fundamental purpose is to advance science and the arts, which means encouraging others to build on pre-existing work. For this purpose, copyright protection must strike a balance between protecting the ability of authors to earn a reward, on one side, but also assuring that what they have created enters into the public domain so that it can be used by others, on the other side.”

The odds of a coming El Niño keep increasing

May 10th, 2014 Comments off

Further evidence that there will be an El Niño weather even later this year comes from the latest joint report from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society. These US bodies have joined Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology in moving their prediction to an Alert with the chance that El Niño increases during the remainder of the year now exceeding 65%. Their summary says:

The model predictions of ENSO for this summer and beyond are indicating an increased likelihood of El Niño compared with those from last month. Most of the models indicate that ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5oC and 0.5oC) will persist through part of the remainder of the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, most likely transitioning to El Niño during the summer. There remains uncertainty as to exactly when El Niño will develop and an even greater uncertainty as to how strong it may become. This uncertainty is related to the inherently lower forecast skill of the models for forecasts made in the spring. While ENSO-neutral is favored for Northern Hemisphere spring, the chance of El Niño increases during the remainder of the year, exceeding 65% during the summer

10-05-2014 consensusenso110-05-2014 consensusenso2See earlier stores by the Owl on this subject at The El Niño danger that the politicians and the media are ignoring and Finding a new excuse for English soccer failure – blame it on El Niño


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Finding a new excuse for English soccer failure – blame it on El Niño

May 10th, 2014 Comments off

The teams aren’t even in Brazil yet but in England they are already coming up with new reasons for their team’s failure. The latest is from researchers at the University of Reading who are blaming the coming El Niño.

Saying there is a 60% chance of an El Nino event hitting Brazil, the Reading scientists say the complicated meteorological system is likely to cause extremely dry and sunny weather in June and July. Teams from the British Isles, they say, have traditionally struggled to cope with these types of conditions.

“If it does occur, it would increase the risk of uncomfortably hot and dry conditions in Brazil during June and July,” Dr Nick Klingaman told the BBC.

Especially in the southern and eastern parts of the country, where England are playing their second and third group games…

“If players and coaching staff were hoping for milder and more favourable conditions for their remaining matches, it looks more likely that they could be disappointed,” said Dr Klingaman.

He estimates that temperatures around Rio could increase by around one degree C.

“While a one degree increase may seem insignificant, not all days will be affected equally,” Dr Klingaman said.

“Extreme temperatures often change by much more than the monthly average. A one degree increase in the monthly average is equivalent to half of all days warming by two degrees, or one-third of all days warming by three degrees.”

See also: The El Niño danger that the politicians and the media are ignoring

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The El Niño danger that the politicians and the media are ignoring

May 9th, 2014 Comments off

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology this week gave us a warning about the immediate future that could severely affect us all. And the politicians and the mainstream media don’t seem to take the slightest notice,

The BOM forecast:

Tropical Pacific continues to warm; El Niño likely in 2014

Issued on Tuesday 6 May 2014

The tropical Pacific Ocean has warmed steadily in recent months, with large warm anomalies in the ocean sub-surface (5-day values up to +6 °C) and increasingly warm sea surface temperatures. Climate models surveyed by the Bureau suggest El Niño development is possible as early as July. These factors indicate that while El Niño in 2014 cannot be guaranteed, the likelihood of an event developing remains at least 70% and we are at El Niño ALERT level.

ALERT level?

9-05-2014 elninoalert

And what the heck does that mean?

El Niño likely in 2014

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Tracker status is at El Niño ALERT level, meaning that there is at least a 70% chance of an El Niño occurring in 2014. Current observations and model guidance indicate an El Niño is likely to develop by spring, with some models indicating a transition to El Niño as early as July.

El Niño conditions generally result in below average winter/spring rainfall over southern and inland eastern Australia, while southern Australia typically experiences warmer days.

So what? Well the editorial in the latest edition of Scientific American puts it this way:

It now seems that the world will have a chance to rehearse for the future as early as the end of this year. A major El Niño is massing in the Pacific Ocean and is likely to cause cyclones, tornadoes, droughts, floods and sea level changes across the world.

Many leading scientists say the approaching El Niño looks similar in magnitude to the huge one that started in 1997 and went on to kill tens of thousands of people and cause tens of billions of dollars of damage. But you won’t hear that sort of warning from official forecasters. They agree that an El Niño is likely, but are saying little about its potential strength.

Why is that? One of the key reasons for the devastation of 1997 was excess caution among forecasters. A major UN study published in 2000 revealed that for forecasters, an incorrect prediction is more embarrassing than no prediction at all. We may be seeing the same failings today.

One factor that leads to skepticism about forecasts (and, therefore, to inaction following the release of an El Niño forecast) is related to contradictory signals. For example, it is difficult for most decision makers to believe forecasters that a drought will be coming, if the country is in the midst of a rainy period, or vice versa.

As another example, in the midst of a good commercial fishing season, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to convince fishermen and fishmeal processing plant owners that fish catches will drop drastically some months in the future because an El Niño episode might be emerging.

Making such projections in the absence of visible signs of change is as risky for the forecasters as it is for users to take such projections seriously enough to act on them.

In many countries forecasters fear that they will have to bear considerable personal responsibility for incorrect actions that decision makers might take if the forecasts are off the mark and disaster ensues. From the perspective of a forecaster, it may be safer in many instances to avoid making assertive forecasts that might prove to be controversial later. This brings to mind the adage, “take a position, take a risk,” and most forecasters try to avoid taking such risks with their jobs.

Perhaps it is that fear of being wrong that explains the low-key way in which the BOM has released its latest forecast. We do have, after-all, a government that takes little notice of its predictions about global warming.

So what is the past record?

9-05-2014 ensolegend

9-05-2014 ensorecordetracker

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Scientists race to develop farm animals to survive climate change and other news and views for Sunday 4 May

May 4th, 2014 Comments off
  • Scientists race to develop farm animals to survive climate change – “When a team of researchers from the University of Delaware traveled to Africa two years ago to search for exemplary chickens, they weren’t looking for plump thighs or delicious eggs. They were seeking out birds that could survive a hotter planet. The researchers were in the vanguard of food scientists, backed by millions of dollars from the federal government, racing to develop new breeds of farm animals that can stand up to the hazards of global warming.”
  • Trailer Parks Lure Wall Street Investors Looking for Double-Wide Returns – “With more of the U.S. middle class sliding into poverty and many towns banning new trailer parks, enterprising owners are getting rich renting the concrete pads and surrounding dirt on which residents park their homes.2014-05-04_who
  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. … Very high rates of resistance have been observed in
    bacteria that cause common health-care associated and community-acquired infections (e.g. urinary tract infection, pneumonia) in all WHO regions.
  • Putin’s Not Post-Communist, He’s Post-Fascist – “Some like to idealize Vladimir Putin as the ideological successor to the left-wing Soviet leaders, but that’s sheer nonsense. His speeches offer clear evidence that his points of reference originate in fascism.”
  • Organic Farming Factions Spat Over Synthetic Substances – “… organic purists like Mark Kastel, co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute … fear that the organic label is being taken over by large companies that care more about profits than organic ideals and are willing to blur the line between organic and conventional agriculture. The critics accused the USDA of ‘capitulating to corporate interests’.”

Summer Arctic ice coverage well below the average for recent years

April 24th, 2014 Comments off

The seasonal Arctic sea ice melt is well and truly underway and the early indications are that 2014 will be another one with summer ice coverage well below the average for recent years.

The latest figure from the National Snow and Ice Data Center shows the area of ocean with at least 15% sea ice is less (solid purple line) than in what turned out to be the record low year of 2012 (the dotted line).

24-04-2014 recenticecover

The pattern for the whole of the summer period (from which the graph above is taken) is shown below.

24-04-2014 arcticseaiceextent

Click on graph to increase to a readable size

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El Niño looking a little more likely

April 23rd, 2014 Comments off

A hotter and drier summer than normal in eastern Australia is looking a little more likely with the Bureau of Meteorology reporting today that the likelihood of El Niño remains high, with all climate models surveyed by the Bureau now indicating El Niño is likely to occur in 2014. Six of the seven models suggest El Niño thresholds may be exceeded as early as July.

23-04-2014 elninooutlookSays BOM:

The Pacific Ocean has been warming along the equator over recent weeks, with continued warming in the central Pacific likely in coming months. Another burst of westerly winds is presently occurring in the western Pacific, and is likely to cause further warming of the sub-surface.

El Niño has an impact across much of the world, including below average rainfall in the western Pacific and Indonesian regions, and increased rainfall in the central and eastern Pacific. For Australia, El Niño is usually associated with below average rainfall, with about two thirds of El Niño events since 1900 resulting in major drought over large areas of Australia.

In Western Australia, where the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is a major influence, the Bureau suggests, but not as strongly as for the eastern states, that lower rainfall than usual may be on the way.

Model outlooks currently suggest the IOD is likely to remain neutral through late autumn and early winter, with two of the five models surveyed suggesting a positive IOD may develop by early spring. Positive IOD events often coincide with El Niño and are typically associated with large parts of southern and central Australia experiencing lower rainfall than usual.

A couple of earlier stories by the Owl this month on El Niño:

An El Nino on the way? A hot year to come for the planet?

El Niño Could Grow Into a Monster


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El Niño Could Grow Into a Monster

April 9th, 2014 Comments off

The US websites Slate and Mother Jones have used evidence from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology to publicise, as the Owl did earlier this week, the increasing likelihood of an El Niño developing later this year. In a rather more dramatic fashion than the Owl they warn to “expect soaring global food prices, monsoons in India, drought in Indonesia, and bush fires in Australia.”

The author Eric Holthaus writes:

As I wrote last fall, the coming El Niño could be enough to make 2014 the hottest year in recorded history, and 2015 could be even warmer than that. The 1997-98 super El Niño was enough to boost global temperatures by nearly a quarter of a degree Celsius. If that scale of warming happens again, the world could approach a 1ºC departure from pre-industrial times as early as next year. As climate scientist James Hansen has warned, that’s around the highest that temperatures have ever been since human civilization began.

Indeed, even the forecast is already having an effect: An index of global food prices reached a 10-month high in March, blamed in part on shortages an El Niño may exacerbate. Here’s what else we could expect:

  • A severe drought continues to rage in and around Indonesia, which an El Niño would likely worsen.
  • Australia’s ongoing battles with bush fires may be intensified once its dry season resumes later this year.

But perhaps the strangest impact so far has been in India, where monsoon forecasting is at the heart of national politics. The meteorology department there has accused US weather forecasters of “spreading rumors” and colluding to ruin the Indian stock market by forecasting a return of El Niño.

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An El Nino on the way? A hot year to come for the planet?

April 8th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology believes it is now likely (estimated at a greater than 70% chance) that an El Niño will develop during the southern hemisphere winter. “Although the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral, surface and sub-surface ocean temperatures have warmed considerably in recent weeks, consistent with a state of rapid transition” the Bureau reported this week. “International climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate continued warming of the central Pacific Ocean in coming months. Most models predict sea surface temperatures will reach El Niño thresholds during the coming winter season.”

8-04-2014 elninomodels

The ENSO Wrap-Up of the current state of the Pacific and Indian Ocean says:

 El Niño is often, but not always, associated with below normal rainfall across large parts of southern and inland eastern Australia during the second half of the year. The strength of an El Niño does not always indicate how much it will influence Australian rainfall. Historically there are examples where weak events have resulted in widespread drought across large parts of Australia, while at other times strong events have resulted in relatively modest impacts. It is too early to determine the strength of this potential El Niño. Daytime temperatures tend to be above normal over southern Australia during El Niño.

8-04-2014 ninoupdate

The BOM report says the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently in a neutral state. Model outlooks indicate the IOD will remain neutral through late autumn and early winter. The chance of a positive IOD event occurring will increase if an El Niño develops. Positive IOD events are typically associated with lower than normal winter and spring rainfall over parts of southern and central Australia.

8-04-2014 meaniodAt a world wide level El Ninos are associated with globally warm years.

8-04-2014 tempanoma;lieswithelnino



Categories: Environment Tags:

Harvest more trees to slash fossil fuel burning

April 1st, 2014 Comments off

1-04-2014 tallwoodIt is a piece of academic research that is sure to go down well with the new Tasmanian government. Yale university academics argue that using more wood and less steel and concrete in building and bridge construction would substantially reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. The scientists, from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, challenge an established forest conservation theory holding that tree harvesting should be strictly minimized to prevent the loss of biodiversity and to maintain carbon storage capacity. Their study, published March 28 in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry (behind paywall), argues that sustainable management of wood resources can achieve both goals while also reducing fossil fuel burning.

In a summary of the article “Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation with Woods and Forests”, the authors calculated that the amount of wood harvested globally each year (3.4 billion cubic meters) is equivalent to only about 20 percent of annual wood growth (17 billion cubic meters), and much of that harvest is burned inefficiently for cooking. They found that increasing the wood harvest to the equivalent of 34% or more of annual wood growth would have profound and positive effects:

•    Between 14% and 31%  of global CO2 emissions could be avoided by preventing emissions related to steel and concrete; by storing CO2 in the cellulose and lignin of wood products; and other factors.

•    About 12% to 19% of annual global fossil fuel consumption would be saved including savings achieved because scrap wood and unsellable materials could be burned for energy, replacing fossil fuel consumption.

Wood-based construction consumes much less energy than concrete or steel construction. Through efficient harvesting and product use, more CO2 is saved through the avoided emissions, materials, and wood energy than is lost from the harvested forest.

A press release published on the Yale News website continues:

“This study shows still another reason to appreciate forests — and another reason to not let them be permanently cleared for agriculture,” said Chadwick Oliver, the Pinchot Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies, director of the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry at F&ES and lead author of the new study. “Forest harvest creates a temporary opening that is needed by forest species such as butterflies and some birds and deer before it regrows to large trees. But conversion to agriculture is a permanent loss of all forest biodiversity.”

The manufacture of steel, concrete, and brick accounts for about 16 percent of global fossil fuel consumption. When the transport and assembly of steel, concrete, and brick products is considered, its share of fossil fuel burning is closer to 20% to 30%, Oliver said.

Reductions in fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions from construction will become increasingly critical as demand for new buildings, bridges and other infrastructure is expected to surge worldwide in the coming decades with economic development in Asia, Africa, and South America, according to a previous F&ES study. And innovative construction techniques are now making wood even more effective in bridges and mid-rise apartment buildings.

According to Oliver, carefully managed harvesting also reduces the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires. 

And maintaining a mix of forest habitats and densities in non-reserved forests — in addition to keeping some global forests in reserves — would help preserve biodiversity in ecosystems worldwide, Oliver said. About 12.5% of the world’s forests are currently located in reserves.


Categories: Environment Tags:

Global warming funding ‘irresponsible moral exhibitionism’ and other news and views for Tuesday 1 April

April 1st, 2014 Comments off
  •  NZ global warming funding ‘irresponsible moral exhibitionism’ – “Act Party leader Jamie Whyte says New Zealand shouldn’t be footing the bill for measures to try to reduce the impact of climate change while our contribution to global carbon emissions is so small… he believes the Government shouldn’t be leading the pack in efforts to try to ease the possible consequences of global warming as part of an ’empty moral gesture’ when other countries with bigger emission footprints won’t follow.”


  • Premier slams coverage of Koutsantonis – “Premier Jay Weatherill claims News Corp’s treatment of new Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has been racist. The Premier said headlines in a recent edition of The Advertiser demeaned Koutsantonis.
  • Checking The Claim: A Wireless Network That Streams A Thousand Times Faster? – “As wireless data networks face more congestion, will entrepreneur Steve Perlman’s latest idea be the ultimate fix?”
  • Rewriting the gloomy headlines – “The scorched earth of the journalism industry suddenly is providing fertile ground for reinvention.A series of ventures have emerged in recent months, each with different models seeking to reinvent the benighted news business – most without the legacy costs of publishing a printed newspaper.”
  • Exxon warns global warming targets ‘unlikely’ to be met – “ExxonMobil, the US oil group, said it was “highly unlikely” that the world would cut greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to keep global warming within the internationally agreed limit of 2C.”
  • Does Economics Make You a Bad Person?
  • Too Many Salmon in the Sea, Pacific Study Hints – “Burgeoning numbers of pink salmon may threaten the food supply of young seabirds.”
  • Half of China’s GDP Comes From Major Cities2014-04-01_noah
  • He who has ears to hear, let him buy a ticket to Darren Aronofsky’s extraordinary movie. – “In his flawed, fascinating and altogether extraordinary “Noah,” this ever-audacious filmmaker has given us a bold and singular vision of Old Testament times — a picture that dares to handle a sacred text not with the clunky messages and stiff pieties we’ve come to expect from so much so-called “Christian cinema,” but rather with a thrilling sense of personal investment and artistic risk. Crucially, Aronofsky approaches Scripture not with a purist’s reverence but with a provocateur’s respect, teasing out the hard, soul-searching questions that the Word of God, if you take it as such (and I do), was always meant to inspire. He has made a gravely powerful, fully committed, sometimes blisteringly angry film that will fit few Christians’ preconceptions of what a biblical epic should look, sound or feel like, and believe me when I say that this is cause not for condemnation, but for honest rejoicing.”

An El Niño looking more likely reports Australian Bureau of Meteorology

March 11th, 2014 Comments off

International climate models surveyed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology indicate that warming of the tropical Pacific is likely in the coming months, with most models showing temperatures approaching or exceeding El Niño thresholds during the austral winter. In its latest review of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) released today the Bureau said that while current conditions remained neutral – neither El Niño nor La Niña, “recent observations indicate that warming of the tropical Pacific is occurring.”

The tropical Pacific Ocean sub-surface has warmed substantially over the past few weeks, which is likely to result in a warming of the sea surface in the coming months. A recent burst of westerly winds over the far western Pacific is the strongest seen since at least 2009 – the last time an El Niño developed.

El Niño is often, but not always, associated with below-average rainfall during the second half of the year across large parts of southern and inland eastern Australia. Daytime temperatures also tend to be above average over southern Australia.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is typically too weak to have a significant influence on the Australian climate from December to April. Current model outlooks indicate a neutral IOD through late autumn and early winter. However, the chance of a positive IOD event is elevated during El Niño.

Temperatures world-wide tend to rise considerably under the influence of an El Niño so climate change studiers will be following developments over the next few months with considerable interest.



That graph is from the Skeptical Science website (“Getting skeptical about global warming skepticism”) which makes this comment about the El Niño/La Niña influence on global temperatures:

Climate change “skeptics” sometimes claim that global warming has somehow magically stopped in recent years based on their “cherry picking” short time periods of reduced temperature increase.  However, in reality there was a preponderance of El Niño events in the 1990s and a preponderance of La Niña events since 2000, where the former cause short-term surface warming and the latter cause short-term cooling.  Accounting for the El Niño/La Niña influence clarifies that human-caused global warming continues unabated.

Some other information on the likelihood of an El Niño developing:

2014-03-10_outlook1(Click to enlarge)

2014-03-10_outlook2 (Click to enlarge)

2014-03-10_outlook3(Click to enlarge)

Categories: Environment Tags:

The climate change disaster that is the Marshall Islands

March 8th, 2014 Comments off

Tidal flooding in the Marshall Islands this week – the third time this year for the capital of Majuro atoll – rated a brief mention on the overseas services of Australia’s ABC but was ignored by local mainstream media. Small natural disasters just aren’t newsworthy even if they do provide evidence of the damage being caused by rising sea levels.

The Marshall Islands Foreign Minister, Phillip Muller, pointed to the damage global warming is doing to his collection of Pacific Islands when he warned his country will be ‘wiped off the map’ unless global efforts to cut greenhouse gases accelerate.

This is the most serious king tide we have seen in the Marshall Islands for some 30 years, and the third flooding of Majuro atoll, our capital, in the last year alone.


(Click on map to enlarge)

There is no question that these events are increasing in their seriousness and regularity, consistent with the clear scientific information that sea levels are rising faster in the Central-West Pacific than nearly anywhere else in the world…

While we are doing what we can, even the most conservative estimates of sea-level rise, including from the latest US National Climate Assessment, suggest that RMI will literally be wiped off the map some time before the end of the century, given the appalling lack of effort by big emitters to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions…

While king tides are not new to the Marshall Islands, their frequency and ferocity are clearly intensifying.  For those of us in the Pacific, silly discussions about scientific truth are futile.

We know what we see with our own eyes, and our tide gauges prove that the oceans are rising.  We know there is only one explanation for this unprecedented phenomenon:  climate change has arrived.


Categories: Environment, International politics Tags:

Prime Minister Abbott gives the Greens a boost

March 8th, 2014 Comments off

After last September’s federal election it was possible to think that the Green vote in Tasmania was about to sink away. The party’s Senate share fell to 11.1%, down from the 20.3% recorded in 2010 and its lowest this century. Perhaps the state election would see the Greens reduced to a meagre rump.

Not so it seems now. A ReachTel poll for the Hobart Mercury this week puts the likely Green vote at 18.2%. That is down on the 21.6% recorded at the last Tasmanian state election in 2010 but represents a minor decline compared with the complete collapse being forecast for the Labor Party it partnered in government until last months political divorce. Labor’s figure in 2010 was 36.9% and the ReachTel estimate with a week to go is 23,6%.


The Mercury commentary this morning observed:

2014-03-08_commentary Increasing the chances of the Greens actually emerging with as many or more seats than Labor surely is the crass attempt of Prime Minister Tony Abbott to back the repeal of parts of the Tasmanian forest put onto the World Heritage list. Being able to concentrate on trees rather than matters of social justice tends to maximise the Green vote and concentrate on trees in the closing days of this campaign the Greens are:

Climate change talk not causing Warren Buffett to change his insurance odds

March 5th, 2014 Comments off

When you run an insurance company you put your money where your mouth is so Warren Buffett is a man to take notice of when he comments about the impact of climate change. He does, after all, run one of the world’s biggest reinsurance companies. Assess the risk incorrectly and a reinsurance company loses its money.

So what does Warren Buffett think about the impact of climate change? He was asked just that question this week when appearing on CNBC in the United Sttes:

2014-03-05_askwarrenAnd the answer?

The effects of climate change, “if any,” have not affected the insurance market, billionaire Warren Buffetttold CNBC on Monday—adding he’s not calculating the probabilities of catastrophes any differently.

While the question of climate change “deserves lots of attention,” Buffett said in a “Squawk Box” interview, “It has no effect … [on] the prices we’re charging this year versus five years ago. And I don’t think it’ll have an effect on what we’re charging three years or five years from now.” He added, “That may change ten years from now.”

He said the U.S. has been “remarkably free of hurricanes” in the past five years with only slightly more tornadoes.

“The public has the impression that because there’s been so much talk about climate that events of the last 10 years from an insured standpoint and climate have been unusual,” he continued. “The answer is they haven’t.”



Categories: Environment Tags:

Obama’s new petrol pollution rules – will Australia follow?

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

America’s Environmental Protection Agency has announced new rules that will require oil refiners to reduce the amount of sulphur in gasoline. The rules require oil refineries, beginning in 2017, to produce petrol with just 10-parts-per-million of sulphur. That;s a reduction of two-thirds on existing limits.

USA Today reports that advocates, including environmentalists, public health officials and automakers, welcomed the news, but the U.S. oil industry said the rules will increase its costs and gasoline prices. “These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment and a win for our pocketbooks,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in the announcement. Her agency estimates they will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths each year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, saving $6.7 billion to $19 billion annually in health care costs. Once fully implemented in 2025, it says they’ll add $72 to a car’s sticker price and two-thirds of a penny to per-gallon gasoline costs.

In Australia regulations allow 50ppm of sulphur in petrol.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Searching an ABC site unsuccessfully for a correction to comments affecting Clive Palmer

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

My morning Twitter glancing led me to this:


A perfectly civil correction and without the lawyer’s mumbo-jumbo in which such things are normally written. It made me wonder how the ABC presented it on its Gold Coast station website.

2014-03-04_nicoledyerI can’t tell you because I could not find it.

Ah well, it will at least give that ABC’s correction column in next Monday’s Australian something real to report on


Categories: Environment, Lobbying and PR, Media Tags:

Will free-rider problems sabotage any hope of an international agreement on climate change?

March 2nd, 2014 Comments off

Back in my Crikey days I wrote several times of my apprehension that despite all the evidence about the damage to come from global warming that the international community would prove incapable of reaching an agreement on what to do about it. The main task of an Australian government should thus, I argued, be about preparing for what we should be doing about it at home rather than wasting all the effort and energy on pretending that we could contribute to a world-wide solution.

My reading today of a paper by Derek Kellenberg, Department Chair & Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Montana and Arik Levinson Professor, Economics Department, Georgetown University has reinforced my pessimism. Their paper “Waste of effort? International environmental agreements” looks at the economic theory predicting that international environmental agreements will fail due to free-rider problems and previous empirical work suggesting that such agreements do not in fact reduce emissions.

The specific subject of the two professors is the Basel Convention and Ban on trade in hazardous waste. The Convention, they note, was adopted to address concerns about so-called ‘toxic trade’ – waste shipments from industrialised countries to parts of the world where disposal is presumably less safe.

Although hazardous waste disposal is a local issue and might not appear to require international cooperation, if some countries cannot appropriately regulate disposal or prevent importation on their own, trade restrictions may be a second-best policy. As a consequence, the Convention’s Ban Amendment prohibits all exports of hazardous waste from countries listed in Annex 7 (all OECD and European Union countries plus Liechtenstein) to all other countries not listed in Annex 7.

Their examination of import and export data reached the sad conclusion that there was “no evidence that Annex-7 countries that ratified the Ban slowed their exports to non-Annex-7 countries as the agreement requires.”


In a concluding summary of their study soon to be published in the forthcoming inaugural issue of the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists they write:

Might these results have implications for other international environmental problems, such as climate change? At one level the issues seem quite different. Climate change involves a global pollutant emitted at the place where goods are used or produced, whereas hazardous wastes are local pollutants separated from their place of generation and shipped globally. That difference means that the world’s hazardous waste problems are potentially solvable without international agreements, because the pollution does not typically span international borders. In that respect, the fact that the Basel Convention and Ban appear ineffective is disheartening, and suggests that alternative policy mechanisms and strategies that go beyond voluntary IEAs [International Environmental Agreements] may be needed to solve large global problems like climate change.

Categories: Environment, International politics Tags:

A freezing North America not helping the Arctic ice

February 17th, 2014 Comments off


There might be extra snow and ice in the United States but go north and this winter is shaping up as being one where the area covered by the Arctic ice cap is at another of its low points.

From the Snow and Ice Data Center:



Categories: Environment Tags:

Neither El Niño nor La Niña and other news and views for Friday 31 January

January 31st, 2014 Comments off

Previous ministers are responsible. This week  the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority approved a project to dump dredged sediment in the Great Barrier Reef marine park as part of a project to create one of the world’s biggest coal ports at Abbot Point south of Townsville. The approved disposal site for the dredged sediment is located approximately 25km (16 miles) east-north-east of the port, GBRMPA said in a statement. The disposal operation would be “subject to strict environmental conditions”, it said.

Also this week the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment, commissioned commission an independent review into the leaking bund wall at the Port of Gladstone.

The independent panel will:

  • examine and report on information relevant to the design and construction and functioning of the outer bund wall of the western basin reclamation area that has become available since the Independent Review reported on its findings;
  • provide advice as required to assist with the department’s current review of the outer bund wall leak incidents in 2011 and 2012;
  • consider the adequacy of monitoring requirements and operations; and
  • seek submissions from relevant stakeholders on the design, construction and other matters relating to the subsequent leaking of the bund wall.

The highlight of the Hunt statement was the deft way he pointed out that the Port of Gladstone Western Basin Dredging Project was approved under national environment law on 22 October 2010 by the previous government. No mention that the public servants who advised the previous minister are the same ones who have given the go-ahead for Abbot Point.

Neither El Niño nor La Niña. It might be hot over much of Australia but this time we cannot blame El Niño. The latest World Meteorological Organisation El Niño/La Niña Update issued this week says that the tropical Pacific continues to be ENSO-neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña).

“Model forecasts and expert opinion suggest that neutral conditions are likely to continue into the second quarter of 2014. Current model outlooks further suggest an enhanced possibility of the development of a weak El Niño around the middle of 2014, with approximately equal chances for neutral or weak El Niño. However, models tend to have reduced skill when forecasting through the March-May period. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and other agencies will continue to monitor the conditions over the Pacific and assess the most likely state of the climate through the first half of 2014.

Since the second quarter of 2012 El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indicators in the tropical Pacific (e.g., tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures, sea level pressure, cloudiness and trade winds) have generally been at neutral levels, indicating that neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions have been present.

The latest outlooks from climate models and expert opinion suggest that oceanic conditions and atmospheric anomalies associated with El Niño or La Niña are most likely to remain neutral into the second quarter of 2014, with virtually all models maintaining average conditions. However, by around the middle of 2014, model forecasts generally indicate the chance of El Niño increasing to a similar level as that for ENSO-neutral. For the June to August period, nearly one-half of the models surveyed predict a weak El Niño situation to develop, while the other one-half predict a continuation of neutral conditions. It must be noted that model outlooks that span March-May period tend to have particularly lower skill than those made at other times of year. Hence some caution should be exercised when using long range outlooks made at this time for the middle of the year and beyond. Of the one or two models that predict the development of La Niña, such conditions are reached only briefly during the next couple of months.

Overall, while there is a very slight chance for La Niña development in the next one to two months, ENSO-neutral is considered the most likely scenario into to the April to June period, followed by roughly equal chances for neutral or weak El Niño during the third quarter of 2014.”

An international view. News coverage from outside Australia seems to be getting less and less so if you are interested in an international view may I recommend my regular daily features on this blog – Asian newspaper front pagesEuropean front pages and American (north and south) front pages? Not tht I can’t be parochil too – there’s always my morning coverage of the Australian papers

Some other news and views noted along the way.


  • Beer Drone Can Buzz The Skies No More, FAA Says – “Lakemaid Beer is brewed in Stevens Point, Wis., and distributed to several states in the region. But it was a very local delivery that put the company out of favor with the Federal Aviation Administration. The Minnesota-based company is receiving a flood of support and condolences after the FAA ruled that its beer delivery drone, which had only recently taken flight, had to be shut down. Lakemaid calls itself the fishermen’s lager. It had hoped to use drones to deliver its beer to anglers in thousands of ice shacks, from the frozen northern lakes’ combination bait and beer shops. But the government says the brewer’s next test — which Lakemaid managing partner Jack Supple says was tentatively set for Minnesota’s Lake Mille Lacs and the Twin Pines resort — cannot proceed.’We were a little surprised at the FAA interest in this since we thought we were operating under the 400-foot limit,’ Supple says via email. He adds that the beer-makers ‘figured a vast frozen lake was a lot safer place than [what] Amazon was showing on 60 Minutes’.”
  • UK floods: January rain breaks records in parts of England
  • Amazon wants to send stuff before you order it. Are other retailers doomed? A couple weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal happened upon a 27-page patent for what calls “anticipatory” or “speculative” shipping, which sounds insane. Here’s how it works, in a nutshell: The company crunches its streams of data to forecast generally where a certain item might be wanted, sends it on its way, and remotely directs it to the right address as soon as someone actually orders it. On the off chance that the item doesn’t actually get ordered, Amazon might discount it to the person at the place it arrived, or even give it away for free. It’s all based on probabilities: What people are likely to want at what time, based on user signals like wish lists and past purchases, and the cost/benefit calculus of time saved vs. packages erroneously delivered.
  • Thai polling stations might have to close if trouble on election day

And from the Owl’s review of the Asian newspapers




Abbott copies the wooden Gillard style and other news and views for 19 January

January 19th, 2014 Comments off

From this morning’s Australian papers.

  • Tony Abbott becomes a slow-talking PM – “Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks 100 words a minute slower in media interviews now than in opposition and is also speaking in a more monotone voice, according to a study of his speech patterns. The speech delivery of the nation’s leader resembles that of a puppet and is equal to the wooden communication style ridiculed in former prime minister Julia Gillard, says the director of the Voice Research Laboratory at the University of Sydney’s faculty of health sciences, Cate Madill.” – Fairfax Sundays
  • Battles in the Liberal ranks – “Preselections herald a period of uncertainty as the state Coalition heads into an election year.” – Sunday Age
  • Forestry high on agenda in election lead-up – “Just when you thought we were rid of the interminable debates about Tasmania’s forests, our state politicians have dragged forestry issues back to centre stage.” Hobart Mercury
  • Education authority denies that curriculum pushes Gaia worshipFairfax Sundays
  • Order out to arrest PNG opposition leader – “The country’s top cop, Tom Kulunga, on Saturday ordered the arrest of Belden Namah on allegations the former deputy prime minister threatened him in a letter. In the letter Mr Namah allegedly demanded Mr Kulunga reinstate four policemen who were suspended after a warrant was issued for the arrest of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. ‘Failure to accede to my request will result in me taking unprecedented measure to have you arrested and charged under Section 128 of the Criminal Code,’ Mr Namah is alleged to have said in a letter to Mr Kulunga on Friday. Mr Kulunga said the statement amounted to a threat.” – Fairfax

Some links to other things I’ve found interesting today.

19-01-2014 fickleocean


  • Climate change: The case of the missing heat – Sixteen years into the mysterious ‘global-warming hiatus’, scientists are piecing together an explanation. – “Now, as the global-warming hiatus enters its sixteenth year, scientists are at last making headway in the case of the missing heat. Some have pointed to the Sun, volcanoes and even pollution from China as potential culprits, but recent studies suggest that the oceans are key to explaining the anomaly. The latest suspect is the El Niño of 1997–98, which pumped prodigious quantities of heat out of the oceans and into the atmosphere — perhaps enough to tip the equatorial Pacific into a prolonged cold state that has suppressed global temperatures ever since. ‘The 1997 to ’98 El Niño event was a trigger for the changes in the Pacific, and I think that’s very probably the beginning of the hiatus,’ says Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. According to this theory, the tropical Pacific should snap out of its prolonged cold spell in the coming years.’Eventually,’ Trenberth says, ‘it will switch back in the other direction.’ “19-01-2014 ironore
  • Iron prices take belated fall – “Iron prices have fallen to a six-month low, confounding analysts who are used to a run up in prices before Chinese New Year but had expected prices to tumble in the second half of 2013 when they stayed steady. The drop below the $130 a dry ton level floor that held last year could gather speed. Chinese steel mills are the world’s leading customers for traded ore and their production growth looks set to dip on official resolve to tackle overproduction that has contributed to horrific air pollution in northern China. Adding to the pressure on iron prices, new ore supplies are coming into the market from lower-quality Chinese mines as well as from Australia and India.”
  • You’ve Got Mail: Chinese Communist Party Received Almost Two Million Complaints in 2013 – “In 2013, China’s Communist Party disciplinary organs received an eye-popping 1.95 million citizen complaints about officials. This is a 49.2 percent jump from 2012, according to a Jan. 13 report from state-run website China News Online — but surprisingly, the article did not evince displeasure with the total, calling 2013′s anti-corruption efforts “the strongest in 30 years. Why did China News Online trumpet such a high number of complaints? In September 2013, finding itself on the defensive end of what it called a ‘public opinion struggle,’ the Chinese government began to crack down on social media chatter aimed at Chinese leaders. Around the same time, it rolled out a new website allowing users to report crooked bureaucrats directly to the party. Aggrieved netizens may now feel safer using official avenues of complaint rather than kvetching on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter.”
  • The problem for Christie isn’t what his aides did. It’s what they thought he wanted them to do.
  • Turkey purges regulators, state TV in graft probe backlash – “Turkey has extended a purge of official bodies to the banking and telecoms regulators and state TV, firing dozens of executives in moves that appear to broaden Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s backlash against a corruption investigation. The authorities have already reassigned thousands of police officers and about 20 prosecutors, and fired some state television officials in response to the corruption investigation, the biggest challenge to Erdogan’s 11-year rule.”

The front pages of this morning’s Australian newspapers.

Saturday front pages from North America.

Belief in global warming – going up and down

January 16th, 2014 Comments off

There are a couple of things about global warming we can be pretty certain about: in Australia where it’s hot belief in it is going up and in the United States where it’s freezing it is going down. An article How warm days increase belief in global warming published in the journal Nature Climate Change explores the local warming effect shown in earlier research such as the 2010 paper Local Warming – Daily Temperature Change Influences Belief in Global Warming which established that although people are quite aware of global warming, their beliefs about it may be malleable;

specifically, their beliefs may be constructed in response to questions about global warming. Beliefs may reflect irrelevant but salient information, such as the current day’s temperature. This replacement of a more complex, less easily accessed judgment with a simple, more accessible one is known as attribute substitution. In three studies, we asked residents of the United States and Australia to report their opinions about global warming and whether the temperature on the day of the study was warmer or cooler than usual. Respondents who thought that day was warmer than usual believed more in and had greater concern about global warming than did respondents who thought that day was colder than usual. They also donated more money to a global-warming charity if they thought that day seemed warmer than usual.

The abstract for How warm days increase belief in global warming argues that although previous research has demonstrated that the local warming effect occurs, studies have yet to explain why or how temperature abnormalities influence global warming attitude.

A better understanding of the underlying psychology of this effect can help explain the public’s reaction to climate change and inform approaches used to communicate the phenomenon. Across five studies, we find evidence of attribute substitution, whereby individuals use less relevant but available information (for example, today’s temperature) in place of more diagnostic but less accessible information (for example, global climate change patterns) when making judgements. Moreover, we rule out alternative hypotheses involving climate change labelling and lay mental models. Ultimately, we show that present temperature abnormalities are given undue weight and lead to an overestimation of the frequency of similar past events, thereby increasing belief in and concern for global warming.

Categories: Environment Tags:

A Green-Movement Website Shakes Up The Debate Over GMOs – News and views noted along the way Sunday 12 January

January 12th, 2014 Comments off

Some links to things I’ve found interesting today.


  • A Green-Movement Website Shakes Up The Debate Over GMOs – “A 26-part series on genetically modified food was not Nathanael Johnson’s idea. And he didn’t realize it would take six months, either. Last year, Johnson was hired as the new food writer for Grist, a website for environmental news and opinion. Grist’s editor, Scott Rosenberg, was waiting with an assignment: Dig into the controversy over GMOs. GMOs ‘were a unique problem for us,’ says Rosenberg. On the one hand, most of Grist’s readers and supporters despise GMOs, seeing them as a tool of corporate agribusiness and chemical-dependent farming. On the other hand, says Rosenberg, he’d been struck by the passion of people who defended this technology, especially scientists. It convinced him that the issue deserved a fresh look…. Where he ends up, in fact, is the final surprising thing about this series. Instead of preaching to the deep-green choir, Johnson questions its faith. He challenges many of the anti-GMO views that Grist’s readers are used to seeing.”
  • Pink batts royal commission could rebound on Abbott
  • The Robin Hood trap – “Americans are angry about inequality, but that may not help Democrats much.”
  • GDP and life satisfaction: New evidence – “The link between higher national income and higher national life satisfaction is critical to economic policymaking. This column presents new evidence that the connection is hump-shaped. There is a clear, positive relation in the poorer nations and regions, but it flattens out at around $30,000–$35,000, and then turns negative.”

12-01-2014 whatthefork

The New York Daily News

I only read it for the articles – Playboy on the politics of climate change

January 11th, 2014 Comments off

Time to adapt – Climate change is here to stay. We have no choice but to get used to it – From Playboy

When it comes to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, the inability of governments to make long-term plans is perhaps the most crucial obstacle. Elections come every few years in Western democracies, where much of humanity’s emissions occur. Any politician who implements long-term reform will pay a price at the ballot box as soon as the reform begins to cause economic pain. And that politician won’t be around to see any political benefit when the reform bears fruit. Meanwhile, the state-capitalist regimes of East Asia, the planet’s other big carbon emitters, rely on consistent economic growth to perpetuate their authority. They don’t make structural economic changes easily either. With short-term thinking dominating politics in countries with the highest emissions, meaningful regulatory efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions—such as a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax—are rare.

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Indonesian corruption at heart of people smuggling – News and views for Friday 10 January

January 10th, 2014 Comments off

There’s some good news for Australia this morning on the people smuggling front. The Indonesian government has deported some would-be travellers to Australia and that country’s major English language paper has acknowledged that corruption of Indonesian officials is at the heart of the boat people problem.

First the deportations as reported by Kompas (and translated courtesy of Google):

10-01-2014 deportations

Three foreign nationals were deported from Nepal through Sentani Airport, Jayapura, Papua, on Thursday (09/01/2014). They originally wanted to Australia through Papua. “After coordination (with the Embassy of Nepal), we then take administrative action, namely deportation to the country of origin, and put in the banned list,” said Soenaryono, Head of Immigration Office Class 1 Jayapura, Thursday. Nepalese are three Prashain Prabhakar, Kamal Kumar Khadka, Thapa and Rabindra Chhetri. Soenaryono said three people were arrested when Nepal will extend permission to stay in Indonesia. moment that they claimed to have sought work in Australia. According Soenaryono, three men entered Indonesia via Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and then fly to Bali.Next they headed Lombok, and enter through the Merauke Papua and ends in Jayapura. Nepal One of these resident, said Soenaryono, admitted that he had often come to Indonesia. He was married to Indonesian workers from Blitar, East Java, who met in Hong Kong. One of Nepal’s citizens are often admitted to Blitar to visit his son. third was flown to the Nepalese Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Tangerang, Banten, on Thursday, and then sent back to Nepal via Kuala Lumpur on Friday (10/01/2014) night. Soenaryono said, during 2013, the institution has detained nine foreign nationals are problematic. “(Of that amount), 8 people have been deported while 1 again, a citizen of Nigeria, was still in immigration detention awaiting deportation after serving his sentence in prison Abepura,” he said.

And the Jakarta Post editorial on Indonesian-Australian relations:

10-01-2014 editorial

Taken together this pair of items present quite a different picture to that presented by the Melbourne Age this morning which on page one has taken the egg-beater to the relationship:

10-01-2014 agepageone

The story contained this version of the views of the Indonesian military chief:

It has also been reported on Friday that General Moeldoko claims his words have been ”twisted” on the boat turn backs issue.

The Indonesian military chief is arguing that after talking to General Hurley, he merely understands the tactical steps around Australia’s turn back policy. This does not mean he approves of it, as has been reported earlier this week, he says. This comes amid reports that as many as five asylum seeker boats have been towed or turned back to Indonesia over the past month.

And here’s the slightly fuller version of the general’s remarks as reported by the Jakarta Post on pzge two this morninga

10-01-2014 militaryman'sstatement

You can judge for yourself.

 Some links to other things I’ve found interesting today.

A Ford to save 4 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas a year- News and views for Saturday 4 January

January 4th, 2014 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

3-01-2014 ford

  • Ford Debuts New Car That Saves Each Driver Four Metric Tons Of Greenhouse Gas Per Year – “At next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Ford will be displaying a solar-powered concept car that the company says can get the same performance from using a day’s worth of sunlight as the plug-in hybrid gets in a four-hour battery charge.According to Ford, the vehicle’s estimated combined city-highway mileage is 100 mpg, and an average driver will be able to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by about four metric tons. With a range of 620 miles, including 21 electric-only miles, Ford said that three-quarters of all trips made by normal drivers could be powered by the sun.”
  • Kerry Quietly Makes Priority of Climate Pact – “His goal is to become the lead broker of a global climate treaty in 2015 that will commit the United States and other nations to historic reductions in fossil fuel pollution.”
  • Casinos’ worrying knack for consumer manipulation
  • Manmohan Singh rules out another term as India PM – “Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday ruled out serving another term after an election due by May and threw his support behind Nehru-Gandhi dynasty scion Rahul Gandhi to lead the country if their party wins the vote.”
  • India’s beef battleground sizzles ahead of election – “Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata party, recently announced plans to open a sanctuary for more than 10,000 cows, close to the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi in the state of Gujarat.What at first sounds like a bizarre pet project was actually the latest salvo in a surprisingly heated debate over the animal’s future – and thus the fate of India’s $2.8bn-a-year beef export industry – as the nation limbers up for a closely-fought national election.”
  • Copper climbs to seven-month high
  • Italian navy rescues more than 1,000 migrants sailing to Europe

Sharing the cost of climate change – some charts showing why Warsaw talks are stalled

November 21st, 2013 Comments off

Little progress, it seems, between nations meeting in Warsaw about who is responsible for the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for global warming and even less about which countries should be paying and doing what to stop things getting worse.

A just released series of charts prepared by the Global Carbon Project help explain why.

That relying on the developed world to take action is no longer enough is shown by the latest figures on who the biggest emitters now are.


 (click to enlarge this and other charts)

Even when looked at in per capita terms the growing role of countries like China and India is clear.


Emissions from countries that signed up to the Kyoto protocols (Annex B countries in the following chart) have actually slightly declined.


Developing countries at the conferences organised by the United Nations have always argued that the developed world was responsible for most of the current CO2 levels but that argument is getting less convincing to developed nations as the years go by.






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Doorknobs banned due to safety and accessibility concerns

November 21st, 2013 Comments off

This is a serious story.

The Canadian city of Vancouver has banned doorknobs.

If you think I’m joking then have a look at today’s National Post.

2013-11-21_doorknobsFrom March next year all new single family houses and town homes built in the city must have handle levers instead of the traditional round door openers.


The doorknob prohibition comes as part of an amendment package to the city’s Building By-law, legislation which the city claims is already “unique in the Province and also unusual in the rest of Canada.” If not the entire world.

The National Post reports:

Like a lot of initiatives put to council, the latest cluster of Building By-law amendments “went through very quietly” says Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs, the mayor’s close ally. There is no hidden agenda, he insists. The by-law amendments aren’t reflective of some “lunatic interventionist” strategy or “red tape run amok,” he says.

“This is all about [enhancing] accessibility, and it’s something we’re going to keep doing. I’m not going to apologize for that,” says Mr. Meggs.

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Maybe the world has got warmer this century – gaps in the Arctic temperature measurement

November 20th, 2013 Comments off

An article soon to appear in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society suggests that fewer measurements in remote areas of the poles are behind the global “pause” in the rising trajectory of global temperatures. In Coverage bias in the HadCRUT4 temperature series and its impact on recent temperature trends the authors Kevin Cowtan and Robert G. Way point to incomplete global coverage as a potential source of bias in global temperature reconstructions if the unsampled regions are not uniformly distributed over the planet’s surface. They note that the widely used HadCRUT4 dataset covers on average about 84% of the globe over recent decades, with the unsampled regions being concentrated at the poles and over Africa. Three existing reconstructions with near-global coverage were examined, each suggesting that HadCRUT4 was subject to bias due to its treatment of unobserved regions.

The abstract of the article continue:

Two alternative approaches for reconstructing global temperatures are explored, one based on an optimal interpolation algorithm and the other a hybrid method incorporating additional information from the satellite temperature record. The methods are validated on the basis of their skill at reconstructing omitted sets of observations. Both methods provide superior results than excluding the unsampled regions, with the hybrid method showing particular skill around the regions where no observations are available.

Temperature trends are compared for the hybrid global temperature reconstruction and the raw HadCRUT4 data. The widely quoted trend since 1997 in the hybrid global reconstruction is two and a half times greater than the corresponding trend in the coverage-biased HadCRUT4 data. Coverage bias causes a cool bias in recent temperatures relative to the late 1990s which increases from around 1998 to the present. Trends starting in 1997 or 1998 are particularly biased with respect to the global trend. The issue is exacerbated by the strong El Niño event of 1997-1998, which also tends to suppress trends starting during those years.

An article on the Scientific American website gives an explanation of how Messrs Cowtan and Way went about their temperature reconstruction.

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Forests in flux – 2.3 million square kilometers lost in 12 years

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

A new study published this week in the journal Science shows in detail how the earth’s forests have changed and disappeared since 2000 . The research team, led by the University of Maryland, examined global Landsat data at a 30-meter spatial resolution to characterize forest extent, loss, and gain from 2000 to 2012.

Globally, 2.3 million square kilometers of forest were lost during the 12-year study period and 0.8 million square kilometers of new forest were gained. The tropics exhibited both the greatest losses and the greatest gains (through regrowth and plantation), with losses outstripping gains.

Brazil’s well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms.


(Click to enlarge)

While the Science article is behind a paywall, a series of images from the study are available HERE


(click image to enlarge)


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