The Jolly Snowmen of Climate Change

14 March 2012
Today sees the release of a CSIRO report warning of the dire state of our changing climate; atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the highest in 800,000 years(!), the last decade was the warmest on record in Australia, and the average daily maximum temperature in Australia has risen 0.75 degrees since 1910. If these changes continue, we will be in dire trouble by the middle of this century. This should inspire all of us to take immediate steps to halt such a calamity. It won't though. The climate change deniers are already on the case, spinning the report to suit their purposes. This morning right wing shock jock Ray Hadley opined that, as a CSIRO scientist fumbled his words during an interview, everything said could be disregarded; and anyway, he's noticed the climate is always changing; "some days it gets hot and some days it's bloody cold". Surely this isn't what climate change deniers believe climate change is? Let's take a look at what climate change deniers actually believe. The group behind the carbon tax rallies, the "Consumers and Taxpayers Association" (an AstroTurf organisation with links to the Liberal party and few actual members) publishes this handy guide on its website, including:

Carbon Dioxide CO2 is a clean, clear trace gas essential for plant life, without it mankind would not be able to survive, it is 100% beneficial. 

It is true that CO2 is essential for life. But you can have too much of a good thing. Water is a clear, clean liquid essential for life and I doubt that climate change skeptics would enjoy having their heads held down in buckets of it. Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat. The more CO2, the hotter it is. CO2 levels have always fluctuated along with the Earth's temperature. But rises in one are causing rises in the other; it's a delicate mechanism we don't want to screw with.

According to climate scientist David Archibald "we are now in a period of cooling since 1998 and our CO2 levels are too low for prime plant life" Now that makes sense just look at North Korea at the moment, too cold & low CO2= no food, cant grow, so would a carbon tax help them if implemented.[sic]

David Archibald is a former mining company and oil exploration CEO and head of the far right climate skeptics group Lavoisier Society. He promotes the theory that temperature fluctuations are due to solar flares, and is not a climate scientist (his field is geology). The "temperatures have been cooling since 1998" claim come up a lot from skeptics. It's about five years out of date - temperatures have risen since then. It so happens that 1998 was a statistical anomaly, an unusually hot year due to El Nino weather pattern. From a one-eyed and distorted reading of the graphs, it could be argued that temperatures were "falling" since 1998. We have since had hotter years. Today's CSIRO release said that whilst temperatures in Australia were rising, 2010 and 2011 were unusually cool due to the La Nina pattern; I'm sure skeptics will now claim "the last two years showed temperatures are cooling in Australia!".

So it doesn't make any sense. The claims about North Korea are no more sensible. It is true that North Korea has very low CO2 emissions due to their crippled economy. But the carbon emissions of a particular nation don't just hang neatly over that nation's airspace. Air moves. I can't believe that needs explaining to a grown up. It's hard to get an accurate picture of what's happening in North Korea, but it appears as though current crop shortages are due to catastrophic flooding events.

That's just one of the tissue-thin arguments on their page; I won't insult all everyone's intelligence by going through the rest (it's hard enough just to read - couldn't they attempt at least a little copy editing? I'm sure my blog is riddled with typographical errors, but I'm a casual blogger, not asking to be taken seriously on the national stage). Anyway, the CATA's latest protest is a fun "snow-themed" carbon tax protest in Canberra on March 22. The information page suggests booking a bus for you and your friends to attend, which seems rather against the spirit of the thing - surely if you're serious about this you should travel in your own Hummer limo or at least your personal car with very poor petrol consumption? They also advise participant to bring "Wet weather gear, but only if forecast looks like rain" (love that people need to be told this. I imagine attendees anxiously calling the organisers on the morning of the rally and saying in an anxious voice "there are blue patches but clouds on the horizon, now what?"). Talkback radio hosts are busy firing up the troops, ensuring at least a few hundred attendees from the majority of Australians they claim to have on their side. Amongst the festivities, they're planning to cover the lawns outside parliament house with white sheets to represent snow and have an 8ft tall snowman (no word on a jumping castle). I suppose that's the mentality of those who believe carbon dioxide in "100% beneficial" and that climate change means some days it's hot and some days it's cold. The CATA website promises " an uplifting experience and you will meet many like minded people" at the rally. They got that right.

1 comment:

  1. There's a lot of money in mining etc (or cars, or agribusiness), people don't want to feel guilty for making that money, or like they're part of the destruction of the future of our children. The companies they work for are happy to prop up pseudointellectuals to offer meaningless noise to help people cast aside any feelings of guilt.


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