The question that I asked last Thursday (18th August) – might it get wetter as it gets warmer – was not answered.
There was comment made that this question can’t be answered. There was comment made that the question is irrelevant.
Phil Done has said he will do a summary of that long thread as it progressed the climate change argument/our understanding of the science of climate change, in particular by listing points of agreement. I look forward to this summary.
But I am also interested in moving beyond the detail of the argument about the science and the impact/potential impact of greenhouse gases on global temperatures and consider how we might/can adapt to climate change.
As part of the thread of the 18th August David Brewer provided a link to a talk given by Brian Tucker in October 1986 on the ABC radio program “Ockham’s Razor”. Tucker said:
“And finally there is an assumption that the total cost to society of such a drastic reduction of Greenhouse gas emissions, including social as well as economic consequences, will be less than the cost of adapting to any change in climate, for if it is not, then adaptation is the major sensible policy.”
As I see it adaptation must be a component of any policy, anyway.
Yet there seems to be so little real discussion about adaptation – including how much easier it might be for the developed as opposed to developing world to adapt.
What are the issues? What are the risks? How might we adapt?
peter mueller says
One big issue is not how we adapt but how nature adapts. Climate change (human forced or not) will move suitable habitat for species dramatically. The requirements one species have will be found in 50 or 100 years maybe a couple of 100 km away from where it occurs now. This will be especially important in countries like Australia.(You have no big mountains, where suitable habitat will be found close by, just a couple of 100m higher or lower). So it is necessary for species to move, what is for a lot of species not possible in a fragmented landscape. Therefore the system of protected areas (isolated in a total modified landscape) in Australia is not adequate in a long term. To ensure Biodiversity (and all the benefits for us humans) you will need to connect these isolated protected areas (and not by 10m corridors)
Neil Hewett says
Peter makes an important point, even though it is folly to regard humankind as separate from nature.
Reservation of ‘protected areas’ robs Australians of environmental propriety through a confidence deception with no chance whatsoever of achieving the designated objective.
Respecting our natural environment is a responsibility that belongs to all Australians. Delegating arbitrary authority for the principle care of only 30% merely creates the illusion of protection so that the vast majority may be unconscionably developed.
Louis Hissink says
Life has always adapted to the changing environment – I am told this is called evolution.
Is it possible to break it down into a more basic analysis?
Lets just say, for a second, that the effort required to adapt to a particular level of climate change is the same as the effort to reduce emissions and avoid that level of climate change. Which should you do?
I would think that the best bet is to reduce emissions and avoid climate change.
If you put effort into avoiding climate change, you have used human resources (time, money), but at the same time, you have reduced the future advancement of climate change.
If you put effort into adapting, then again human resources have been used (time, money), but then climate change is still an issue for the future. Maybe its even a compounding issue. Same amount of resources spent to solve the current problem, but in one case there is still a future problem.
My simple analysis gets thrown out of whack if you assume that the effort that goes into adaptation yields additional benefits. For example, if you have to breed GM crops to deal with volatile climate, but those same crops are also resistant to disease, and their development has furthered our understanding of genetic manipulation (including an understanding of impacts of GM and safety) and assisted in combating famine in the 3rd world.
And again, to slowly add more complexity, surely it is possible to get additional benefits from taking action to avoid climate change too. This is what some countries are already doing, by making a market out of carbon credits, by finding new improved ways to save energy and increase productivity, by discovering new forms of power generation.
Starting off simple and slowly getting more complex can sometimes help to cast light on difficult problems.
One thing that occurs to me in considering this simple analysis is that innovation, growth, and improvement can all happen whether we decide to do something to avoid climate change or not. What is important is that we minimise the dithering.
Excessive dithering is what stifles innovation and hampers growth. A clear, unambiguous signal from govt to deal with climate change might hurt some industries, but it would give great signals to new industries and new markets to spring up. Maybe an economist could convince me how this will be an economic negative in the long run. Even the electricity supply association was calling for a long term greenhouse target for Australia last year, for this very reason.
Instead, we have an Australian govt giving mixed signals, trying to walk a tightrope between its coal/aluminium industry friends and the wider world of public and international opinion – bad news for everyone really.
Phillip Done says
But it doesn’t have to be this life or intelligent life for that matter … cockroaches are fine if that’s what evolution delivers … however we humans may now have a view …
And as humans we spend a fair bit of our time changing our environment to suit our own purposes.
And if intelligence has an evolutionary advantage it might be that we might predict changes that may be a threat to our long term prosperity.
6.3 million humans all living in the one atmosphere …
Phillip Done says
errr … yes … billion … ahem…
I think I have just been selected against !
Attitudes will also have to adapt to climate change; the once clean and green Kiwis who had enthusiastically embraced Kyoto (thinking they had a carbon credit) now find themselves less enamoured; in June NZ admitted they made a $1B error and were now in the red; in July they estimated a carbon tax of $308M; in August in the face of a payout of $14B calls are being made to scrap Kyoto entirely and sign up with the Asia/Pacific Pact.
Phillip Done says
Of course the atmosphere doesn’t recognise Kyoto or the APP. It also doesn’t recognise the economy nor George Bush.
It will do what ever the products of its physics are (aided by the Sun and our CO2 contributions)
I think (predict/forecast) that once the actual costs of Kyoto measures are calculated it will be dumped like the proverbial hot potato.
I think (predict/forecast) that once the costs and pitfalls of attempting (and quite possibly failing) to pick winners with a technology-based (ie clean coal) approach such as proposed by the Asia-Pacific Climate Pact, Kyoto, with its technology neutral approach to least cost reductions will look great in comparison.
When the climate changed in the past, species could adapt by moving or slowly changing their feeding patterns or behaviour.
2 things are possibly going against them now.
One is simple – fences. Much of what used to be natural habitat is now farmland and fenced off or reserves that are also have fences. Some of the worst animal casualties in bushfires are not caused by the fire but by animals that usually run or move away from the fire prevented from doing so by cultivated areas or fences. Species adapting to climate change will have to contend with human changes to the environment as well as the changing climate which may prove beyond them. Plants also react by moving – not in a literal sense but by growing in areas that previously were to warm or cold and in effect moving their growing areas. This is already being observed. The problem here is if their growing area ajoins large areas of cultivation then they cannot move in response to change and can become extinct.
Secondly if we continue to pump the atmospheric system with extra heat and stresses and do nothing to moderate this, the resulting climate change could well be very violent and very fast. Not movie fast, but within decades or even in the extreme case years. This may not give time for species, including us, to adapt again resulting in mass extinctions. There is evidence that the Younger Dryad event happened over a decade time period.
Nowadays any development no matter how trivial is required to furnish an Environmental Impact Statement.
About time environmentalists were made to furnish an Economic Impact Statement, one that will stand up in court.
EIS are not required for trivial development, only for large development.
Aside which, your clever sounding statement doesn’t make any sense. Environmentalists don’t make legislation and regulation, govt does. And new regulation often either requires a regulatory impact statement (which would include economic impacts) or else it at least needs to go through cabinet and parliament to be approved. You might be more skeptical than me, but I don’t think most politicians in the major parties would be for a new law to improve the environment without considering cost.
Phillip Done says
Jen – your original questions:
What are the issues? What are the risks? How might we adapt?
If we’re skeptical I guess we could do nothing at all and sleep very well sound in the knowledge that it’s all nonsense – spend our hard earned on health, education and police or whatever…
But we do have a thing called climate variability – Australia is a drought/flood on/off environment – and we know something about half our rainfall variation come from the El Nino-Southern Oscillation phenomenon. And there are some other oscillations out there that might help us as well – Madden-Julian, quasi-biennial, things whizzing around Antarctica, Pacific Decadal … And we do have weather forecasts (now to 10 days) that have “some” skill. Louis might say “none”.
Of course a number of posters to this hallowed site have condemned the efforts of those attempting to forecast these phenomena and there have been harsh words traded on probabilistic systems vs deterministic etc.
But if the El Nino predictions do have some skill then they can help many land, crop, graziers and water managers do a better job – even future traders of agricultural commodities (well potentially if they influence real world decisions for the better). What would you do if you knew droughts or floods were coming 5-7 out of 10 times?. It won’t be 10 out of 10 or someone is pulling your leg.
So one way of adapting to climate change is to do a lot better responding to the variation we already have. A much more nimble, opportunistic land, agriculture and water management that is continually refining its next steps.
But if you don’t believe this stuff works – well flip a coin or just carry on “persistently”.
We could be really mischievous and open up a couple of threads on cloud seeding and turning the waters inland – Bradfield scheme, divert the Clarence into the Gwydir or pipe Lake Argyle (Ord River) to Perth. But gee those threads would at least go 100 posts in themselves. Go on – see if get some bites !
(4) Well climate change skeptics can stop reading here and wander off.
Looking at Australia – we have the rainfall maps and rainfall and temperature trend maps on the Bureau’s site. http://www.bom.gov.au/silo/products/cli_chg/
And the much discussed (and lambasted) CSIRO reports on climate change.
So I’ll be brave and predict that the future is warmer, drier with more intense deluges when rain occurs and more intense tropical cyclones (but not more in number). And that the pattern of rainfall we now have at a decadal level will stay (drier where people and cropping is – i.e. eastern and southern Australia – with north-west and central WA wetter).
Biodiversity: – real issue for conservationists, ecologists and greenies. Lots of interesting biodiversity is ecological islands called national parks. If you have a species on its climate limit – are you going to translocate it into another area (surely a no-no) or let it go extinct (shock horror if charismatic mega-fauna or who cares if creepy crawly). We will talk a lot about improving the resilience of our parks – but what does this mean. We might have species of tree in montane forests that look OK but are not setting seed. Cryptic ecological issues – in 100 years the tree dies but no offspring. Boo hoo ?? I think biodiversity is a very difficult issue under climate change. Good for the zoo business and museums ?
Water – lots of emphasis on water use efficiency – if not already – irrigation scheduling, minimising evaporation from storages, preventing seepage losses, drip irrigation, use of weather and seasonal climate forecasts. In suburbia – mandated water efficiency on new homes – shower roses, rain water tanks, more costly water, recycling and water reuse. AND it all probably won’t be enough – so enter new dams (shock horror) and desalination (more greenhouse gas).
Cynics might say that NFF and irrigators are only interested in climate change if it means new dams?! And bigger fights between irrigators and environmental flows. Did that wetland dry up from climate change or was it Cubbie Station?
Grazing – need to have much bigger properties and lower stocking rates. Need to be able to shut the farm gate in drought. Need to be able to move animals around when resources are flogged out. More corporate properties. Economic diversification outside agriculture will be critical for survival in extended drought periods. Need tax averaging over a 5 year period … and move tax year to Xmas not when animals need to be sold for El Nino (May, June). Perhaps global diversification into South America which will be “on” when El Nino is “off” for us in Australia. What to do about South America disease status ? Do we need new international agricultural co-operatives to save the family farm’s income against the climate extremes ?
Big problems in northern Australia as regrowth and woodland thickening increases choking out pasture under low fire (from higher grazing) and high CO2 environment (C3s vs C4 plants).
Agriculture and horticulture.
Need to be much more opportunistic. Opportunities from less frost and better temperature (if you get the rain to go with it). Retreat from marginal areas. Be very careful on long term investments that need vernalisation – apples, pears, stone fruit, and olives. Pests like fruit fly expanding their range into southern Australian orchards. Cotton growers get more spring Heliothis pests from migrations from a wetter central Australian desert ? Will insect pest seasons be extended generally from warmer weather – worse bush fly problems, cattle tick further south. Winter normally wipes out many of our insect pests.
Build it back from the beach and out of storm surge reach – some new work from guys up north at
Increase building strengths (wind loadings) on coastal zones in particularly marginal areas like Hervey Bay.
Work out current vulnerability from storm surge and evacuation plans – GIS job.
Gold Coast Shire council looking at extreme events under climate change and return periods to work out where houses should not be built for flood risk.
Anyone doing drainage engineering works on the east coast should look at return periods for high rainfall events.
Thanks to Harvey Norman and China’s mass manufacturing we’re moving to a fully air-conditioned society. Houses need mandated insulation and passive solar design for cooling but in heat waves it won’t be enough – enough for greenies to go the shopping centres – what happens to the power grid when everyone leaves their systems on 24 x 7 in heatwaves – also in association with some possible storm damage – the grid won’t handle it. So need backup systems in place. We’re building 10,000s of homes a year with pathetic energy and water use standards.
Tourism – benefits from warmer fine weather but scares from faster cyclones and dengue fever in north Queensland ? Melting snow fields – reduced snow season.
Human health – unlike USA Australia doesn’t generally have heat wave strategies. Air-conditioning for schools. Duty of care obligations for sports days in heatwaves. Older people in heatwaves – how to minimise losses with improved alerts and public assistance.
Of course you could thread mobile energy cost problems with a Peak Oil argument into all this as well – for some double trouble …
Phew –time for a Bex and lie down.
Louis Hissink says
The last catastrophic climate change was the extinction of the mammoths, so some Quaternary researchers suggest.
While the conventional explanation for the demise of the mammoths remains the blitzkrieg theory when 12,000 years ago Clovis people exterminated the American Mammoth, supporters of this theory ignored the survival of the African and Asian elephants, as well as the survival of the Musk Ox. So the theory is basically full of holes.
The cause of this catastrophy according to some scientists was that the earth’s rotational axis changed its orientation, moving past temperate climate zones into arctic and arctic or antarctic into temperate or tropical climes.
The principal objection to this theory is the earth’s inertia but that relies on the prior assumption that gravity is the sole cosmic force – it isn’t – Electricty is and is 10^39 times stronger than gravity.
However this raises the spectre of geological catastrophism which remains a scientific heresy; Unfortunately this is because geological catastrophism has been incorrectly associated with religious fundamentalism and “creationism”.
Do a google on Grinnell and Geological catastrophism to read what actually transpired at the time of the Great Reform Act of 1832 and geology as a nascent science.
For example, the Egyptians were familiar with Mammoths, or so their artwork suggests, leading to the highly speculative hypothesis that the mammoth extinction event occurred 3,500 years ago.
politicians react to political pressure and the prevailing political pressure has been clean green and wet.
Australia has an abundance of uranium for a clean source of power but a rock star stopped that one.
Take NSW, funds raised from water rates have been diverted to treasury for other purposes, Sydney now has an ailing leaking reticulation system with insufficient storage capacity for a growing population.
NSW has insufficient power in reserve, the move to privatise the industry was blocked by the Unions who whilst they represent a minority in the industry remain a powerful unelected force in the ALP govt.
NSW has plenty of National Parks, that must be good for something, bushwalkers maybe – who bushwalks nowadays?
The public are unable to apportion blame to the govt for its failings, instead they blame Harvey Norman, GWB, and others.
Louis Hissink says
I should add that the Moa Extinction, asserted by the Maoris due to a terrible fire from the sky, was actually the most recent one, probably due to the impact of a bolide between Australia and New Zealand circa 1400 AD.
Read Menzie’s 1421, Ted Bryant’s “Tsunami, the hidden disaster”, or similar.
The little ice started in Europe around this time, and Greenland became very cold. Pole shift?
As I asked elsewhere some time ago here, no one has offered an explanation why Greenland became cold and icebound.
I must add that professionally I have had to become very interested in Quaternary geology for exploration purposes, and rely on expertise like Dr Hugh Pringle of Curtin Uni (formerly WA AG department), geomorphologist and ecologist, amongst other scientific sources. I also rely on Aboriginal memories of the recent past (last 200 years) and what happened to the landscape.
It is highly controversial area of science with much acrimony. Climate changers think their issues are difficult. Hah hah. You collectively are babes in the wood.
Phillip Done says
We seem to have diverted from Jen’s question a tad … but let’s have a stoush …
A rock star stopped Australia’s use of uranium – that’s not wet – that’s rich – come on ? And besides what’s wrong with the Oil’s songs – evocative and good Aussie rock. Bet even Jen has a copy …
I don’t have a problem with uranium as power on balance. But most of the country is unconvinced on the waste issue. That’s the reason. At least have a shot at Dr Helen Caldicott and get the activists right. I can personally handle a modern nuclear reactor.
And on EIS and responsibility – well after asbestosis and Exxon Valdez and Bhopal -well excuse my cynicism about corporate is good Rog.
This theory that greens control the country and the govt is fanciful- it’s the middle class – has been since Menzies – greenies hardly make any difference to our way of life. If interest rates are low and house prices are high everyone is happy. Environment comes second.
And problems with Sydney water go back to the Rum Rebellion. Yours for the Askin etc. Flush them out – who that Nick Greiner guy anyway ? You can change the govt and sort it ?
And I don’t think it was greenies that shot up the Middle East and has now made the whole world unsafe…
And you think all National Parks would look better under a plough or a car park – jeez – that’s barbaric… You would like to clear fell Lamington ? have a marina in the Coorong. Graze Kakadu with yaks ? come on … what a rant…
Louis Hissink says
Our Phillip Done is, of course, an indifferent, unbiassed commentator here, with no axe to grind.
Phillip DOne says
Hey Louis ? What’s all this about mammoths and big dead NZ chooks? What did kill them all anyway ?
And why did Greenland become cold ?
Don’t keep us in suspense…
Its more to do with resource management and political influence that has corrupted proper resource management.
Diverting money intially paid to an authority for a service into other sectors is mismanagement, at the least.
Money is a limited resource which has been mismanaged for spurious cultural activities leaving essential services resource poor.
>For example, the Egyptians were familiar with Mammoths, or so their artwork suggests, leading to the highly speculative hypothesis that the mammoth extinction event occurred 3,500 years ago.
Louis, this is facinating. Do you have any evidence for such a fantastic hypothesis?
Phillip Done says
So we have some residual populations on Wrangel Island contemperaneous with Egyptian civilisation, and on an island in the Bering Sea. Climate change and associated vegetation changes probably got most of them and hunters finished the rest off slowly.
The point though for Aussie farmers in drought and cities running out of water is what ? Let’s do a Jurassic Park DNA resurrection and we can have Kentucky Fried Moa.
Philip – do not feed the trolls.
Rog – why is nuclear power clean? The bushland is good for the animals that inhabit it – do you think only human use adds value.
NP was stopped because without huge subsidies it is simply to expensive. Unless you are prepared to pay the subsidies most other forms of power are cheaper. Sweden is paying 12 billion dollars to dispose of its waste. Are you prepared to fork out this sort of taxpayers money?
Yes Ender, I think human use adds value to bushland. I dont think that the bush had gained much in value once the aboriginal population had been removed. I think the aboriginals have gained for being out of the bush.
Human use shaped the bush to what it is, or was. Now we have non indigenous elements moving in and shaping the bush, without too much human intervention.
Davey Gam Esq. says
Nobody has yet told me what effect a shrinking earth crust, tectonic shifts, fumaroles, submarine volcanic eruptions etc. might have on El Nino, warming of the Antactic Peninsula etc. And where did all those fugitive species go during the Medieval Warm Period, and the Little Ice Age?
Via John Ray, a piece placing the blame of land degredation and water pollution fairly at the feet of farmers, the prime polluters, and not industry
Phillip Done says
“I think the aboriginals have gained for being out of the bush.” – pretty provoactive stuff when you look at mortality rates, wealth and social/drug problem issues… is it really necessary to get into this …
We don’t have to make this debate into a left vs right wing established positions argument. We’ll only just parrot our biased views. In contrast, I have for what some might view as unusual as a AGW protagonist stated that I think nuclear is worth the risk over global warming. I believe we can techno-fix the waste problem now.
Anyway troll feeding …
Why don’t we get back to the question Jen has posed…
Davey Gam – what fugitive species ? seriously just asking …
El Nino behaviour is fairly well understood – not involving things volcanic (but subsurface and surface oceanography and meteorology) and you only have to look at sea surface phenomenon to explain Antartica. Where’s any evidence in the literature of volcanic activity being implicated??
Of course there is some debate about the “global extent” of the Warm period and little Ice Age. (am now battening down in bunker mode for the anticipated shelling).
Why doesn’t anyone care about what’s happening with climate in our own Australian back yard NOW !! There’s a lot of drought out there – some for eight years now that people are wondering about …
Phillip Done says
If Dave Brewer is still out there in Blogland – previous thread on warmer/wetter – on CO2 growth being exponential- or not. Some information that has come to hand.
The South Pole CO2 has only a small annual cycle which makes the trends clearer. http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/sio-spl.htm. From the graph one can see that the growth rate 1995-2005 is larger than 1985-1995. So rates are growing !!
For the future, CO2 is expected to be the dominant contribution to the radiative forcing. e.g. from 2000 to 2050 SRES A2 has CO2 going from 370 to 531 ppm and CH4 from 1793 to 2836 ppb. The respective radiative forcings are 1.93 W/m^2 and 0.36 W/m^2.
Philip – my position is that nuclear is better than coal however to me it is a bit being given a choice about how you want to be murdered. Is being killed by a knife better than a gunshot?
Both nuclear and coal are bad ways of generating power. Nuclear pollutes the future however coal pollutes now.
Energy efficiency does not pollute and can save more greenhouse emissions for the same money as building a nuclear plant.
Wind/solar pollutes neither and should be the second choice after energy efficiency especially in Australia with its abundant renewable power resources.
Adapting to climate change means moving away from dinosaur methods of generating power. Huge centralised power plants and their distribution networks are vunerable and fragile and if anything happens to them millions of people are without power. The future of electricity is smaller, local and intelligent distributed systems based on renewable resources where a failure of a node only affects the local people. These people will have backup systems to tide them over – something we do not have now.
NP is just more of the same backward thinking that got us into the mess we are in now.
Are you assuming control of the debate?
Phillip Done says
Mr Rog – Ans to your question – no – just suggesting you were drifting a tad off-topic …
Dear Ender – Yes in some respects I agree there are risks and that solar /wind would be a better alternative but our dear esteemed leaders are taking us down the techno-fix Asia Pacific path which I bet will give us the extra CO2 with the sequestration issue getting sorted.
Is APP really about delivering us reliable sources of mobile energy from coal sources. It’s about coal oil gasification to replace our dwindling reserves of petroleum and for a modernising China and India.
I at least think the disposal of waste in repositories established in geologically stable formations in central Australia and new safer reactor designs needs some debate to a 3x or 4x CO2 world. For all our angst nuclear technology has been relatively very safe.
Properly managed … nuclear power may not pollute at all…. however we all fear – (perhaps irrationally) that the genie might somehow get out of the bottle.
Philip – yes our dear esteemed coal mining government is taking us down this track however when they are replaced at the next election (fervent hope) maybe somwthing will change.
I do agree that a well managed nuclear progam can be reasonably safe. Coal pollutes in so many ways. I do not think that there are many well managed programs – Sweden seems to be the exception. I still hold grave fears for the long term storage of waste as we are a very short lived species and are totally unused to dealing with time periods longer than 100 years. Also the uranium will only last a limited time so we are just putting off the problem rather than solving it.
Renewables will last as long as the sun shines with no disposal problems.
Phillip Done says
Well Howard will still win the next election so Rog shouldn’t worry.
If we have low interest rates and good house prices, and Harvey Norman and KMart stacked to the ceiling from our new Chinese mates – we’re happy. With my new work contract I’ll be really really happy.
This is all at risk if you don’t go with the Asia Pacific Pact.
So happy that the bush has better broadband than I have …
Who cares about the environment – didn’t we do our bit with yellow wheelie bins and dolphin free tuna. Surely you don’t want more ? Gee I turn the water off when I brush too.
And all those left wing types look very unhappy and so poorly dressed too. They all need a big shopping day at Myers and big T-bone steak.
Um, you two, ender & done, (or is it Done+Ender) are more than just a tad off topic.
But what the heck, its all fun, given that spring has sprung and the saps are running.
Do you do weddings?
Phillip Done says
ooooo nasty insinuations …. you norty boy …
Are you proposing then Rog ?
Jen – help – we’ve all become trolls !!
The blog vortex has got us … implement some order before it’s too late. Call Louis – this is an emergency…