I haven’t been a ‘practising journalist’ (if there is such a thing) since the 1990’s. However, you never lose that ‘nose for news’. Likewise, you should never lose your objectivity when assessing stories, what to report and what to make a big deal about. This week, I had to do some deep reflection on the first story I am bringing to you to see if I was being over dramatic.
Here’s what I saw on Mashable: “Humans are releasing planet-warming carbon dioxide at about 10 times faster than the most rapid event of anytime in at least the past 66 million years. This leaves us without a historical analogue to guide predictions for how climate change will affect the world in coming years, a new study has found.” 66 million years? Not sixty thousand years, not six million years… sixty-six million years. Editorialising here - I was gobsmacked. The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, comes about a week after news broke that the level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere spiked by the largest amount on record in 2015, and on the heels of the hottest year and mildest first two months of 2016 on record. February, for example, had the highest temperature departure from average of any month on record since at least 1880, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found. (Reporting from Mashable).
Picking up on the Mashable line, Grist reported: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported the biggest 12-month jump in carbon dioxide concentrations since record-keeping began, based on preliminary data from its Earth Science Research Lab in Mauna Loa. From February 2015 to 2016, the global concentration of carbon in the atmosphere rose a record 3.76 parts per million (ppm), to over 404 ppm. The last record-holder was 1997-1998, when carbon dioxide rose 3.70 ppm. We’ve broken other records this past year, too: The 2015 calendar year also posted the biggest-annual rise in carbon levels, while NOAA reported last May that carbon stayed above an average 400 ppm for the entire month, a first in millions of years.
Then there was this in the Guardian…. “The current rate of global warming could raise sea levels by “several meters” over the coming century, rendering most of the world’s coastal cities uninhabitable and helping unleash devastating storms, according to a paper published by James Hansen, the former Nasa scientist who is considered the father of modern climate change awareness. The research, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, references past climatic conditions, recent observations and future models to warn the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets will contribute to a far worse sea level increase than previously thought. Without a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the global sea level is likely to increase “several meters over a timescale of 50 to 150 years”, the paper states, warning that the Earth’s oceans were six to nine meters higher during the Eemian period – an interglacial phase about 120,000 years ago that was less than 1C warmer than it is today.” It was one of those weeks.
Closer to home, the Guardian reports Australian Climate Council called for urgent action as records tumble. “Record hot spells in Australia this month blurred the line between summer and autumn in another sign of rapidly advancing global warming, a Climate Council report says. The first four days of March saw maximum temperatures in much of the country 4C above average – and 8C to 12C above average in most of southeastern Australia – the report said.” Tim Flannery, the former Australian climate commissioner who helped found the Climate Council after the commission was abolished by the Abbott government in 2013, told the Guardian world heat records were an ominous sign the world had shifted from “climate change concern to climate change consequences”. “Scientists have been voicing their concerns for decades and now we are seeing the consequences,” Mr Flannery said.
Then there’s the Great Barrier Reef, which, according to most, is in real trouble. Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt says the coral bleaching threat level on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will be increased to its highest level. The ABC reported Mr Hunt saying the bleaching was not as bad as first thought. "It is not as severe at this stage as 1998 or 2002, which were both El Nino-related events, it is however, in the northern parts a cause for concern,"' Mr Hunt said. The Climate Council issued an urgent scientific alert in response to the upgrading of the coral bleaching threat to level three. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said the federal government appears to be confused about how best to protect the reef. ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy: “Burning coal is heating the globe and warmer oceans are bleaching coral. “Scientists say there were no coral bleaching events recorded before the 1970s. This is a phenomenon that is firmly a result of climate change, fuelled by burning coal. If the federal government was serious about protecting the Great Barrier Reef there’s no way it would have approved Adani’s plan to dig the biggest coal mine in Australia.”
Renew Economy reports ”Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has put his own stamp on clean energy investment in Australia, dumping Coalition plans to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, but announcing new plans to essentially de-fund the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and replace it with a new “Clean Energy Innovation Fund.” The retention of the CEFC will be welcome and signals a potential shift from the anti-renewable policy stance of the Abbott regime that preceded him. But the move to de-fund ARENA and create a “new” fund using money already allocated to the CEFC is nothing but a sleight of hand, and an elaborate ruse by Turnbull to save more than a $1.3 billion and get his new pet-word “innovation” included in a financing scheme. It may also be designed to meet Australia’s Paris commitment to invest “new money” in clean energy innovation,” Renew Economy reported.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on one of those ‘head scratchers’ when Australia's top medical research body has given two researchers $3.3 million to study the effects of wind farms on human health despite its own year-long study finding no "consistent evidence" that a problem exists.
Continuing with the ‘head scratching’, US online magazine Grist came out with this (unedited): “National embarrassment and presidential hopeful Donald Trump met with The Washington Post’s editorial board on Monday and spouted some nonsense about climate change, among many other topics. The takeaways: He’s “not a big believer” in human-caused climate change; instead, he believes “our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons.”
FRED HIATT, WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: You think climate change is a real thing? Is there human-caused climate change?
DONALD TRUMP: I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer. There is certainly a change in weather that goes – if you look, they had global cooling in the 1920s and now they have global warming, although now they don’t know if they have global warming. They call it all sorts of different things; now they’re using “extreme weather” I guess more than any other phrase. I am not – I know it hurts me with this room, and I know it’s probably a killer with this room – but I am not a believer. Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.
I can hear you now… give me some good news… anything… anything good to finish on. Give me some hope! OK, you got it. Climate Change News reports: “Germany is drawing up an action plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 95% from 1990 levels by 2050. Drawing on a public consultation launched last year, the environment ministry expects to present the proposal to cabinet before the summer recess. It is a “mammoth task with profound implications,” environment minister Barbara Hendricks said at a conference in Berlin. “No sector will be excluded from this transition.” The long term target is at the higher end of the 80-95% range agreed across the EU, based on holding global temperature rise to 2C. Hendricks stressed the importance of the aspirational 1.5C limit on global warming agreed at last year’s UN climate talks in Paris.“There are places in the world where the extent of global warming can mean the difference between survival and destruction,” she said. Germany is a world leader on clean energy and climate change action. Many will follow its lead.
Note: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.
This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm