How an extra 2-5°C could affect the Lucky Country
For several decades climate scientists and commentators have been predicting dire consequences for the world unless climate change is controlled by curtailing harmful human activities. Australia, they predict, will not escape the eminent disaster and may even be more severely affected than many other countries.
The expected outcomes for the world’s smallest continent (largest island) include a rise in average temperature of 2 - 5°C during the twenty-first century, longer and more severe droughts, expansion of the deserts, increased bush fire risks, increased local flooding due to heavier downpours, rising sea levels causing coastal flooding, food shortages and increased deaths due to heat waves.
It’s a dismal outlook and perhaps little wonder that suicide rates and bankruptcies appear to be rising coincidental with climate change. It is little wonder that people are protesting at what appears to be a lack of government action. Little wonder too, that people are angry that President Trump has turned his back on the Paris Agreement. More about that later.
To understand the predicament, the question must be asked, how long have we known that the world no longer has a stable climatic system, and could something have been done sooner? After all, it is due to man’s activities, isn’t it? Unfortunately, we’ve only been told since about 1980 that the world was getting warmer, and that we are to blame, and even then, not everyone has agreed. Some people, including some scientists, have been opposed to the belief that the world is warming in a way that will be harmful to the planet, or that man is responsible for the change. The minority are sometimes referred to as climate skeptics and climate deniers.
The problem that man has with the weather is not new at all. Scientists have known for centuries that the world does not have a stable climatic system. Working with geologists, volcanologists, archaeologists, historians and others, climate experts have long known about the great climate events like the ice ages and warmer than now periods lasting thousands of years. They have long known about continental drift, changing land-forms and changing sea-levels, all of which are related to climate. They have also known, even longer, the effect that the sun, or lack of it, has on climate.
The trouble with scientists is that they make discoveries, convince most of their colleagues of a new theory, and then suddenly discover something else that changes everything. Science is about evolution and science itself is evolutionary. Science is always two steps forward and a step back. Scientists are clever people, but, understandably, they make mistakes.
|World rainfall distribution showing heavier |
rainfall in tropical areas
The theories expounded by a majority of climate scientists in the 1960s and 1970s are exactly the opposite to what most are claiming now. Here are some examples:
On July 9, 1971, the Washington Post published an article stating that UN Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan, based on scientific research, had told President Nixon, “In the next 50 years fine dust that humans discharge into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuel will screen out so much of the sun’s rays that the Earth’s average temperature could fall by six degrees. Sustained emissions over five to ten years, could be sufficient to trigger an ice age.” With only four years to go, the prediction was clearly wrong on every count. But it prompted Nixon to establish the Environmental Protection Agency. It was about this time that the term Nuclear Winter was coined.
The Washington Post was not alone in warning about the coming ice age. Time magazine joined in with this piece of cold comfort: "When meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe, they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age."
On April 28, 1975, Newsweek got in on the act with this: “There are ominous signs that Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically….The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it….The central fact is that…the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down…If the climate change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic.”
In 1976, author and celebrity Lowell Ponte wrote in his book The Cooling, “This cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000.”
|Not included as a disaster is the world record highest temperature recorded at Death Valley, USA, in 1913|
In the late 1980s science made an abrupt change of direction, conveniently forgetting the coming ice age in favour of Global Warming. Putting pollution and CO2 into the atmosphere would now have the opposite result; blocking out the sun would cause the temperature to rise. The one thing that appeared not to change was the global alarm they were causing.
In 1990, Professor Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University made this claim: “By 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots…”(By 1996) The Platte River of Nebraska would be dry, while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers…The Mexican police will round up illegal American migrants surging into Mexico seeking work as field hands.” A bit out on the timing there, Professor, but you could have a point about the reason for the Mexican border wall.
The British think-tank New Economics Foundation put out this prediction in 2005: “Scholars are predicting that 50 million people worldwide will be displaced by 2010 because of rising sea levels, desertification, dried up aquifers, weather-induced flooding and other serious environmental changes.” They must have been referring to Australia Island going under the waves . . . But wait. Their former convict dumping ground doesn’t have 50 million people yet, and the Snowy Mountains reach more than 2,000 metres above sea level.
It seems that almost everyone, scientists and laymen alike, are predicting the same doom and gloom that their parents did half a century ago. They just can’t agree on the method nature (or industry) will use to destroy the planet, and Australia. And talking about the planet, it seems now that some scientists have discovered that other planets in our solar system also experience temperature cycles similar to Earth. If this is going to come to a wager, my money goes on the Sun rather than General Motors as the cause of the heat.
So, let us look at the land of the General Motors Holden. During the last ice age (12,000 years ago), Australia, although not completely covered by ice, was almost devoid of vegetation. It was a much harsher land than now. It was cold and wind-swept with little precipitation. As the climate warmed, the land bridges connecting Tasmania and New Guinea to the mainland were flooded as sea-levels rose 130 metres. That equates to an average of almost 11cm a year compared with a total of 20cm since 1910. The rate of sea level rise has slowed in the last thousand years, a possible indication that the rate of warming is also slowing.
Paleoclimatic records show that the Australian deserts were extensive and only 2% of southern Australia had vegetation. Forests were limited to sheltered areas on the east coast and a small section of the southwest of the continent. But despite this evidence, many people including some scientists, believe a warmer climate will cause a loss of vegetation. They will argue that a warming climate will create new deserts and make existing deserts larger. It only requires a little desert research to dispel that misconception.
The first fallacy about deserts is the popular belief that deserts are created by high temperatures. The primary cause for most deserts is a lack of precipitation or water flowing in from high rainfall areas. Wind and soil conditions can also contribute to desertification. But nothing rivals extreme cold in the formation of deserts. Some well-known deserts like the Sahara, Gobi, Kalahari and Mojave may be famous for their extreme high temperatures, but they also have extremely low temperatures at night and in winter, and it is the cold that makes the difference. Anyone wishing to dispute this fact should look at a map of the world and look for the deserts situated at or near the Equator. Not one desert of any significance is located anywhere near the Equator. The entire equatorial region is occupied by tropical rain forests.
The Antarctica Desert is the world’s largest desert. Second largest (although some of it is frozen ocean) is the Arctic Desert. Third largest is Greenland, followed by the North American Arctic Desert and the Russian Arctic Desert (tundra). The closer one gets to the Equator the smaller and less frequent the deserts become. The land does not like extreme cold and the coldest areas are the driest areas.
If the current scientific consensus on global warming is correct, rather than the consensus of the 1970s, then Australia has little to worry about. As the climate warms, the monsoon rains will reach further south towards the interior taking the tropical vegetation with it. The east and west coasts will also receive more rainfall and the vegetation will extend further inland. A warmer Australian climate, allowing for regional differences, will have a higher rainfall with smaller deserts. Australia with 25 million people has about the same land area as continental USA with 330 million and China with 1.3 billion. In a short time, climate change could make Australia one of the world’s most populated and prosperous nations.
But the debate will go on despite former Vice President Al Gore’s May 31, 2006, statement on the CBS Early Show, “The debate among scientists is over. There is no more debate. We face a planetary emergency.” Variations of this statement are now popular and frequently resorted to by climate faith followers who fail by convincing argument to close down debate with climate skeptics. They love to strike back with, “The debate is over. The science is settled. A majority agrees. End of debate!”
The debate will not be settled anytime soon. However, it may be quietly and conveniently forgotten when the climate cools and we face famines and diseases, or the climate warms as predicted (naturally or otherwise) and we see how much better off the world is with a warmer climate. In a few centuries from now it may even be warm enough to support another Antarctic forest, or at a bit of a stretch, even Antarctic bananas.
Some things are certain. Man cannot turn back the sea all over the world or cancel the sun. Nature was here and doing its thing, going through its cycles, long before man.
To return to President Trump, some will be thinking this writer supports him and that is why this post is written. Let me explain Trumps election strategy as I see it. Trump is not an experienced politician and nor is he a particularly successful anything. But he was cunning enough to know that all he had to do was have half a dozen outrageous, die-for, impractical policies each supported by ten percent of the voters and he had it made. Most rednecks only have one thing on their minds and don’t care what else a candidate may be raving on about.
Trump has made a fool of America with the Paris withdrawal, but given time the Paris Agreement will be forgotten. It will be forgotten like the original reason for the EPA and all the wild talk of a nuclear winter.
So, you have stayed with me through this lengthy diatribe and I thank you for that. But now you are saying, this article has not been peer reviewed. Well let me say this; I am not a scientist and I take peer reviews with a grain of salt. Asking another scientist to review a scholarly paper is like asking a drunk to judge another drunk trying to walk a straight line. He is bound to say, “Well done, mate. Have another drink.” It is usually better to ask someone who hasn’t been drinking.
For some climate scientists, looking up from their computer modelling, looking outside at the real world and talking to real people will advance their cause along more realistic lines. But for those who insist, yes, this article has been peer reviewed, by a crusty old fisherman waiting for the fish to bite down at the local jetty. That is the best kind of peer review that any writer/researcher can ever wish for.
Meanwhile, Aussies, keep smiling. You live in the Lucky Country.