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Below are selected articles from today’s press on the (incomplete) IPCC Summary published last Friday. I have also included an extract from the US SEPP sceptical organisation, which includes a comment by US expert and sceptic Prof Richard Lindzen suggesting the IPCC analysis is “hilarious”. Unfortunately I was unable to download the excellent critique by Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun.

As expected, Fairfax’s The Age is fully supportive of the IPCC but this does not carry through to the AFR editorial. That carries a number of questions/doubts as do all the others. Bolt aside, none of the articles adopt the view that the IPCC thesis is wrong. But, by contrast with the reactions to the 2007 IPCC report, the views of sceptics can now be said to have been accepted as raising legitimate questions. The heading to the main article in The Australian – A Climate of Contention – captures the general sentiment.

I suspect that once a closer examination is made of the IPCC report, many deficiencies will emerge in public – not least the attempt to explain away the failure of the heat emanating from CO2 concentrations to increase temperatures over the last 15 years by (largely) burying it in the oceans!

It is difficult to see how the report could be portrayed by governments as strengthening the case for action to reduce usage of fossil fuels. However, the uncertainties emerging from the report do strengthen the case for an independent review of the so-called science.


Alarmism has failed the planet
(Editorial in the Australian Financial Review, 30 September 2013.)

Over-hyping the risks of climate change has not convinced most of the world’s politicians and voters of the need for quick and radical action.

The fifth assessment of global climate from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that countries such as Australia should take a deliberate but cautious approach to reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The 36-page summary of a detailed IPCC report by hundreds of scientists expresses unequivocal confidence that human activity is heating up the planet. But it also reduces the likelihood of catastrophic climate change, suggesting that the temperature above the earth’s surface may rise by between 1 and 3.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

It suggests the sensitivity of the atmosphere to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases may not be as high as previously feared. And it does not convincingly explain the stalling over the past 15 years of the trend of rising temperatures. Some of the warming may instead have been diverted into the oceans. Or it may just reflect inexplicable natural variation, or something else again.

These remaining questions do not undermine the conclusion that the major nations of the world should shrink their emissions and so reduce the likely costs of global warming.

Whatever the controversies over the IPCC’s scientific method, giving the Earth the benefit of the doubt or taking precautionary insurance against a possible catastrophe remains the rational response. But putting this into practice must account for the substantial and largely inevitable uncertainty over the scale of the risks, in both directions.

It must discount the significant costs of sharply reducing emissions now (including the diversion of resources to alleviate current sources of human misery) against the costs for future and richer generations if warming does indeed approach dangerous levels. It must balance the scope to gradually adapt to a warmer climate against the costs of trying to prevent it. And it must encourage the scope for human ingenuity to come up with technological solutions.

Australia should support efforts to galvanise a global effort to reduce emissions. But alarmist predictions of catastrophe and grand declarations about the moral urgency so far have failed to produce a solid international consensus on how to do so, highlighted by the breakdown of the UN’s Copenhagen summit in late 2009. Notwithstanding the special circumstances of its fossil fuel-dependent economy, Australia blundered into an explicit carbon price higher than adopted by our major competitors – and which its voters have just opted to dump.

Over-hyping the risks of climate change has not convinced most of the world’s politicians and voters of the need for quick and radical action. A policy response more in line with the genuine but uncertain risks is now called for.

The Australian Financial Review

Extract from SEPP, 28 September 2013

IPCC: On Friday, the IPCC released its Summary for Policymakers. The report was not yet complete, it referenced graphs that were not presented and will have to be inserted. Therefore, a side-by-side comparison of the NIPCC and the IPCC reports is premature. However, there are some disturbing omissions. As Roy Spencer points out, estimates of the sensitivity of the climate to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are missing. Yet, this is the entire political issue. Is the climate sensitive to human emissions of CO2 or not? Does an increase in the molecules of CO2 from 3 to 4 per 10,000 parts of air make a difference in climate?

Further, the report glosses over the fact that there has been no statistically significant rise in surface temperatures for over 16 years. Instead, it asserts a greater certainty in its work than prior reports. It reduced the uncertainty from 10% to 5%, with no empirical basis.

Richard Lindzen writes "The latest IPCC report has truly sunk to level of hilarious incoherence - It is quite amazing to see the contortions the IPCC has to go through in order to keep the international climate agenda going."

Prior to issuance of the approved report, Steve McIntyre presented an overview on how the IPCC put itself in a mess, rather than properly addressing the hiatus in warming and the associated discrepancy between model projections and observations. He writes: "One cannot help but wonder whether WG1 [the physical science section] Chair Thomas Stocker might not have served the policy community better by spending more time ensuring that the discrepancy between models and observations was properly addressed in the IPCC draft reports, perhaps even highlighting research problems while there was time in the process, than figuring out how IPCC could evade FOI [Freedom of Information] requests.

The purpose of a physical science is to describe nature, and to understand how it works. It is becoming increasingly evident that IPCC science does not describe nature. Yet, the IPCC intensifies its certainty in its work? For these and other comments see Climategate Continued, IPCC Report, and

War of words
(Article published in the Australian Financial Review, 30 September 2013.
No author listed but sourced from Bloomberg in the US)

Keep it down: To curb the effects of climate change most of the world’s fossil fuels must remain in the ground says the IPCC in its latest report.


Global warming has slowed since 1998, as pollution reaches record levels and rising seas became a more pressing concern, according to the United Nations report that’s hardening views on both sides of the climate debate.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said on Friday that the temperature has been increasing at less than half the longer-term average since 1951.

It also found for the first time most of the world’s untapped fossil fuels must remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic increases in storms and ocean levels.

The findings came in a 36-page summary of a report that’s aimed at guiding the work of policy makers and provided ammunition for both environmental groups pressing for stronger action on carbon emissions and sceptics who dispute that climate change is a concern. Scientists said the lull in warming shouldn’t provide any comfort.

“The global average surface temperature trend of late is like a speed bump, and we would expect the rate of temperature increase to speed up again just as most drivers do after clearing the speed bump,” Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate researcher at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a blog.

Global-warming sceptics seized on what the scientific community calls a “hiatus” in warming as evidence that the IPCC’s concerns are overblown. Pointing out mistakes in the panel’s 2007 report, which exaggerated the rate of melting of glaciers in the Himalayas and overstated the risk of floods in the Netherlands, they said the findings reduce the need to act.

It’s not clear “that scientists know enough about how the climate works to make policy-relevant recommendations to the world’s government leaders”, Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, said in a statement. The Chicago-based lobby group is pushing to repeal clean-energy policies.

Alarmism unnecessary

“This weakens the argument for widespread alarmism over global warming,” Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish scientist and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, wrote by email. “The report contains none of the media’s typically apocalyptic scenarios, no alarmism, and no demands to cut ­emissions by x per cent or to hand out lavish subsidies on solar panels.”

Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s climate commissioner, discounted the idea that the slowing pace of warming is a sign that climate change can be ignored. “The train is still gaining speed in the wrong direction,” she said in an interview.

The report probably won’t change the opinions of groups that don’t believe human activity is driving global warming, she said. “We hear what we want to hear.”

President Barack Obama’s administration echoed European leaders saying the report was cause for concern.

The report is designed to inform the work of envoys from more than 190 nations attempting to negotiate a treaty that would restrict fossil fuel pollution from 2020. They meet in November in Warsaw.

“This is yet another wakeup call,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire. Climate change is real. It’s happening now. Human beings are the cause of this transformation, and only action by human beings can save the world from its worst impacts.”

The report also found that the world already has released more than half the emissions from fossil fuels that it can without doing irreparable damage to the atmosphere. The IPCC estimated about 531 billion tons of carbon dioxide have been emitted from oil, natural gas, coal and deforestation.

50 per cent chance

It estimated that capping those greenhouse gas emissions at 840 billion tons gives the world a 50 per cent chance of meeting its target to holding global temperature increases below 2 degrees, the first time it has made such an estimate.

The report flagged an acceleration of the melting of ice caps covering Greenland and Antarctica and a retreat in sea ice over the Arctic Ocean. It said concentrations in the atmosphere of the three main gases blamed for global warming – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – are at their highest in at least 800,000 years. It also repeated a statement from 2007 that warming of the ­climate is “unequivocal”.

“We need to build resilience and seize the opportunities of a low-carbon future,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a video message to the meeting in Stockholm. “The heat is on. Now we must act.”

Temperatures on average worldwide rose at 0.05 degrees per decade from 1998 through 2012, according to the report from the IPCC. The rate was 0.12 degrees per decade from 1951 through 2012, the panel said, noting that “due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends.”

Even at the slower rate, the increase translates to half a degree of warming per century, which is more than three times the estimated speed of warming when the last ice age ended between 17,500 and 10,000 years ago. The UN has resolved to limit warming to less than 2 degrees since industrialisation began, and has charted about 0.8 degrees of warming already. “We are not on a path that would lead us to respect that climate target,” said Thomas Stocker, co-chairman of the group that drafted the UN report. Stocker is a climate professor at the University of Bern.

Nature’s impact

The lower pace of warming in recent years may be explained by natural phenomena including volcanic eruptions, a periodic drop in the sun’s warmth and natural variation in the weather, the panel said in its wider report, the UN said.

The study provides “a firm foundation for considerations of the impacts of climate change on human and natural systems and ways to meet the challenge of climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, which is charged with compiling the work of thousands of scientists.

He spoke in the Swedish capital, where the environmental group Greenpeace placed a two metre high block of ice with a model of an oil rig flaring flames onto it.

“We know that pollution from burning fossil fuels is the main cause of climate change,”Samantha Smith, leader of the climate and energy program at the environmental group WWF said in a statement. “Climate change is a gigantic and clear risk.”

Before this year’s report, envoys from the US and EU sought more details about the global-warming hiatus. In including language about the slowdown, the IPCC overrode concerns from Germany and Hungary that the 15-year period since 1998 isn’t long enough to determine trends in the climate.

Negotiations on the wording that went through the night led to the inclusion of the caveat that trends based on short periods may be affected simply by the starting and ending dates used. The panel noted that 15-year periods starting in 1995, 1996, and 1997 would have average warming rates of 0.13, 0.14 and 0.07 degrees per decade respectively. The UN World Meteorological Organisation defines climate as the average weather over a 30-year period.

The report didn’t mention another possible reason behind the slowdown in warming: that oceans may be absorbing more of the temperature increases. That was the subject of a study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in May, since the cutoff date for science in the UN report was March 15.

That study found waters deeper than 700 metres have absorbed more heat since 1999. The study said heat uptake from 700 metres to 2000 metres “likely continued unabated”, without signalling any acceleration.


The Australian Financial Review

Emissions targets to stay: Hunt
(Article by Environment Editor Graham Lloyd, published in The Australian, 30 September 2013.)

THE Abbott government remains committed to the bipartisan target of 5 per cent for Australia's carbon emissions cuts, despite the latest IPCC report saying drastic measures are needed to keep global temperature rises below 2C.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fifth assessment report -- the executive summary of which was released on Friday -- reinforced the government's support for the science and targets set for emissions reductions.

"The Coalition is committed to the 5 per cent emissions reduction target and to the conditions for any further change.

"This has been our position for over three years now and remains unchanged from opposition to government," Mr Hunt said.

But Greens leader Christine Milne said the 5 per cent target was not enough and the report -- which will be released in full today in Stockholm -- should be a priority for the new parliament.

"I will move for an urgent debate into the IPCC's confirmation that we need to drastically reduce emissions and flick the switch to renewables to have any hope of constraining warming to 2C," Senator Milne said.

The IPCC report set out a range of future temperature and sea-level scenarios, depending on the level of future human carbon dioxide emissions.

CSIRO research scientist and IPCC lead author Pep Canadell said new ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would be needed to keep future global temperature rises below the critical 2C. Most climate models showed cutting human carbon dioxide emissions completely would not be enough.

The latest IPCC report outlines a range of options to help meet the 2C target but predicts global average temperatures will rise between 1.5C and 4.5C by 2100.

The full report sets out a carbon budget linking temperature rises to increases in carbon in the atmosphere.

The summary report said Australia's temperature outlook would mirror the global average. There would be more heatwaves and less rainfall in the south and southwest of the continent but heavier rainfall in the north.

Sea levels in northern Australia were expected to continue to rise at about three times the rate of the international average.

The report predicted sea-level rises of between 26cm and 82cm by the end of the century, depending on future emissions.

Mr Hunt said the Bureau of Meteorology had advised that in 2011 Australia's average temperature was 0.13C below the 1961 to 1990 average.

Last year the average temperature was 0.11C above the 1961 to 1990 average.

This year was on track to be the second-hottest or hottest year since 1910.

A Climate of Contention
(Article by Environment Editor Graham Lloyd, published in The Australian, 30 September 2013.)

HAVING strengthened its conviction to 95 per cent certainty that human activity is responsible for changing the Earth's climate, scientists have delivered politicians a "carbon budget" road map on what to do about it.

To limit global temperature growth to below 2C - the level considered the best-case scenario and safest outcome - by the second half of the century human activity must be carbon negative.

Rather than the 10 billion tonnes of carbon human activity is pumping into the Earth's atmosphere every year, and rising, humans will have to find ways to pull it out.

For some this means devising new methods of bio-engineering to suck carbon dioxide from the air. For others it means boosting the natural order. Protecting the lungs of the Earth - forests - and making them work harder.

Senior CSIRO research scientist Pep Canadell, a lead author on the latest IPCC report, sees the future in bio-energy.

"We ran 10 models and six of the models said that by the second half of the century you actually have to have negative emissions," Canadell says.

But simply growing trees to burn for energy will not be sufficient. Once the trees have been burned the carbon dioxide given off will have to be captured and pumped underground to be stored.

It is the same controversial process envisioned for fossil fuels.

"It is the only possible, immediate thing that we can have," Canadell says.

"It involves huge expansion of biomass production that has its own issues potentially, and using unproven carbon capture and storage, which is still very expensive as of now.

"But what we are talking about is 60 to 70 years from now and the economy will be a different economy then."

Whichever way you cut it, economic change is at the heart of the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It is a document that outlines the scientific basis for concern about increased human carbon dioxide emissions.

And it has clearly been drafted in a way to encourage politicians to continue down the path already set by the UN process to negotiate a global agreement to radically cut carbon dioxide emissions. The UN timetable is for agreement for a global deal that includes China, India and the US, to be finalised by 2015 to take effect from 2020.

In headline terms, the latest IPCC report says the warming of the climate system is "unequivocal" and "human influence on the climate system was clear".

World Meteorological Organisation Secretary General Michel Jarraud says the report confirms "with even more certainty than in the past that it is extremely likely that the changes in our climate system for the past half a century are due to human influence".

The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea levels have risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases has increased.

Jarraud says multiple lines of evidence confirm that the extra heat being trapped by greenhouse gases is warming the planet to record levels, heating and acidifying the oceans, raising sea levels and melting ice caps and glaciers.

"We are also seeing a change in weather patterns and extreme events such as heat waves, droughts and floods," he says.

IPCC working group co-chairman Thomas Stocker says heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer. As the Earth warms, wet regions are expected to receive more rainfall and dry regions less, although there will be exceptions.

For Australia, the report says to expect more of the same. Temperature rise predictions mirror the global average. Sea levels will continue to rise faster than the global average in northern areas due in part to ocean currents.

Heatwaves are going to last longer and be hotter, big rain storms will become more frequent and more intense.

While northern Australia will get more rainfall, the south, southwest and Tasmania will continue to get less. A rising concern is the impact of increased acidification of the oceans, a byproduct of greater carbon dioxide absorption.

Overall, the report sets out four scenarios of what to expect.

The first scenario anticipates that global temperature rises to the end of the 21st century can be kept below 2C. To achieve it, Canadell says, no more than 300 billion tonnes of additional carbon can be put into the atmosphere.

As a measure, Canadell says humans have put 550 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere since 1770 and are currently releasing just under 10 billion tonnes a year.

The IPCC carbon budget shows that to limit the end of century temperature rise to 3C, the second scenario, carbon emissions must be kept to a total additional 800 billion tonnes.

The third scenario would limit a future temperature rise to below 4C and require carbon emissions to be kept to 1100 billion tonnes.

Business as usual, which includes a continuing steady rate of energy efficiency gains, will see another 1800 billion tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere by 2100, Canadell says. Under this scenario, the future temperature range is 2.6C to as high as 4.8C but, according to Canadell, "as you get to the highest level the probability is lower but we think it is a real possibility".

It is a similar story with sea level rises. Under the four scenarios, mean sea level rises are expected to be 40cm if the global temperature increase can be kept below 2C.

The two mid-range scenarios forecast mean sea level rises of 47cm and 48cm.

The business as usual scenario forecasts a mean sea level rise of 63cm and a worst-case scenario of 82cm.

The key factor in all of this, of course, is that the climate will react as scientists predict in response to future levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The latest report does adjust slightly the likely range for Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity - how much average global temperatures are expected to rise after a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The range is now deemed to be 1.5C to 4.5C, a revision from the fourth assessment report of 2.0C to 4.5C.

For some people, including controversial climate commentator Bjorn Lomborg, the revision is a concession that the world may have more time to act, a notion dismissed by mainstream climate scientists.

For others such as Professor Judith Curry, chair of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology, and Professor Richard Lindzen from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the revision is a small concession in the face of much bigger doubts.

Lindzen accuses the IPCC panel of sinking "to a level of hilarious incoherence", of proclaiming increased confidence in its models as the discrepancies between models and observations increase.

And in a scathing assessment of the latest IPCC report, Curry says it has been undermined by "motivated reasoning, oversimplification, and consensus seeking; worsened and made permanent by a vicious positive feedback effect at the climate science-policy interface".

Like Lindzen, Curry's primary concern has been the IPCC's rising confidence despite a departure from model predictions and the physical evidence. "As temperatures have declined climate models have failed to predict this decline, the IPCC has gained confidence in catastrophic warming and dismisses the pause as unpredictable climate variability."

Curry contends the IPCC has reached this point because both the problem and solution were "vastly oversimplified" where the problem and solution were framed as "irreducibly global".

"This framing was locked in by a self-reinforcing consensus-seeking approach to the science and a 'speaking consensus to power' approach for decision making that pointed to only one possible course of policy action - radical emissions reductions," she says.

Certainly this is the unambiguous objective of the fifth assessment report - to give a carbon emissions budget for policy-makers on which to base the hoped-for global agreement to be locked in in 2015.

Canadell does not buy the argument.

"The reality is this scientific process of synthesis is something we do all the time," he says. "This is our life.

"The only thing I can see in trying to come up with reports is they need to be backed up with documents and if anything you can become a little bit too conservative," he says.

"It is a purely scientific process, there is no interference from the United Nations or any government group.

"I have never seen anyone saying anything other than you guys have to be very comprehensive, very thorough.

"All the language we use has to be very qualified and consistent with language that has been agreed all across IPCC," Canadell says.

To the chagrin of some, the IPCC explicitly confirmed its confidence in the climate models in its latest report, saying "models reproduce observed continental-scale surface temperature patterns and trends over many decades, including the more rapid warming since the mid-20th century and the cooling immediately following large volcanic eruptions.

"The long-term climate model simulations show a trend in global-mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2012 that agrees with the observed trend.

"There are, however, differences between simulated and observed trends over periods as short as 10 to 15 years."

The IPCC report put the pause down to a combination of natural variability, including ocean heat take up, and the impact of volcanic activity and weak solar activity.

In the contentious issue of the pause, Canadell says it is not surprising that climate models had difficulty predicting short-term climate variability.

It is true that the models missed it but the reality is the models don't do very well on climate variability," Canadell says.

"Scientists cannot predict El Nino or La Nina weather patterns even one year in advance," he says.

"We can only do it six months in advance because we have buoys in the ocean telling us the temperature is going up.

"But while we don't understand short-term climate variability we do understand longer-term climate variability," he says.

"The fact the models missed the most recent pause is not particularly a failure."

Nonetheless, many still believe the recent hiatus in global surface temperature - albeit at a record high level - has more significance than it has been given in the latest IPCC report.

According to Curry, the IPCC has taken a big risk.

"The IPCC has thrown down the gauntlet," she says.

"Should the pause continue, they are toast."

Reality of global warming is screaming at us
(by Geoffrey Lean published in The Age, 30 September 2013.)

But there's still not enough action from governments.

The latest giant climate report was met with a dance and a scream.

The dance came when the governments and scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finally put the finishing touches to the most important analysis yet of its kind after a series of sessions that allowed them only six hours' sleep in the last 52. The conference manager, Francis Hayes - a former British Met Office scientist - donned a Russian hat and performed a Cossack caper in celebration.

The mass scream was part of a demonstration outside the former Stockholm brewery in which they had convened by protesters venting their frustration that governments have largely failed to act on previous warnings. They hope that will change. For this is the first in a year-long series of giant IPCC reports to prepare the ground for an attempt to forge an international agreement on tackling global warming in Paris in December 2015.

Mind you, there are those who say the IPCC has long been leading the world a merry dance. As some extreme sceptics see it, a small clique of scientists has been concocting, against all the evidence, one of history's greatest hoaxes, bamboozling governments into addressing a problem that doesn't actually exist. But the conspiracy theory fails at the briefest reality check.

The summary report published at the weekend, and the million-word full version that will follow, result from a mind-bogglingly thorough process. Together they were written by 259 top scientists from 30 countries, drawing on 9200 mostly recent scientific publications - and checked by 1089 reviewers, whose 54,677 comments all had to be taken into account. And over the past week ''every single word'' has been justified to 110 governments.

Unsurprisingly, this painstaking procedure produces cautious reports. It was not until 2007 that the IPCC straightforwardly accepted that humanity was causing global warming, nearly 20 years after leading scientists had begun publicly saying so. Even then, it grossly underestimated the resulting sea level rise, and wholly failed to a predict a dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice that year.

This latest report increased its assessment of the likelihood that humanity is warming the planet from 90 to 95 per cent. Yet it, too, errs on the side of caution on Arctic ice, and takes little account of what scientists say is one of the most alarming developments: the release of methane from melting permafrost to reinforce the gases already warming the planet.

Its conclusions are nevertheless alarming. Atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases are ''unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years''. The Greenland ice sheet is melting more than six times faster than just a decade ago. And whatever changes take place will only be reversible over many hundreds, even thousands, of years.

What it does not conclude, despite widely publicised sceptic assertions, is that the world is warming at about half the rate it previously estimated. Its actual reduction is by just a 10th of a degree, from 1.3 to 1.2 degrees a decade.

The IPCC did, however, address a much more substantial sceptical point, that the temperature increase at the Earth's surface has slowed down since 1998 to about 40 per cent of its average rate since 1951 - something it accepts it didn't predict. One reason is that 1998, the year invariably chosen by sceptics, was one of the warmest ever: if 1995 or 1996 is chosen as the starting point, the rate actually exceeds the long-term average. But, even then, the warming has been much slower than in the previous decade.

That seems partially due to rather less heat reaching the Earth from the sun, since it is going through a cooler phase in its regular cycle and dust from volcanoes is providing some screening. Even so, enough is getting though to warm the planet somehow: to deny that it is doing so is to challenge not global warming but the laws of physics themselves.

It has almost certainly ended up in the oceans, like more than 90 per cent of all the solar heat we receive, and there are some indications that it has penetrated deep down where our monitoring is poor. If that is so, it could provide temporary, if illusory, relief. The process could just as well reverse when conditions change, seriously accelerating warming. Such slowdowns have happened before, only for rapid heating to resume.

Despite the IPCC's work, however, there is so far little sign that governments will do enough to avert dangerous climate change. Looking back at its report, it seems future generations are more likely to scream than to dance.

Geoffrey Lean is environmental columnist of The Telegraph, London.

Tony Abbott's rising tide of inconvenient truths
(by Kenneth Davidson published in The Age, 30 September 2013.)

As Tony Abbott said ad nauseam during the campaign, the 2013 federal election was about three things: the onerous level of public debt, stopping the boats and abolition of the carbon tax.

Ignored until after the election was the question of whether the moderate level of debt was a major factor in Australia avoiding the recessionary consequences of the global financial crisis. Then the new government (and its media apologists) segued effortlessly and without explanation into arguing that the deficit wasn't a life-and-death issue after all. In fact, the budget couldn't be brought back quickly into balance without risking undermining the still soft recovery.

'As Prime Minister, Abbott has demonstrated his contempt for climate science by an immediate wholesale assault on the climate change infrastructure left by the previous government.' Photo: Nic Walker

All the information needed to make that judgment was publicly available by the beginning of 2013. But to recognise the economic reality would have involved a different election narrative: that there was room for expansionary budgetary policies. There was no debt crisis. But the truth didn't fit the narrative that Abbott constructed to win the election: that the Labor government was incompetent and illegitimate.

On the matter of stop the boats, it is important to remember that one area where political leadership counts in Australia is how issues involving race are framed. This was shown by the leadership shown by Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam in response to the first wave of boat people after the Allied defeat in the Vietnam war. Their leadership has proved to be of long-term advantage to Australia.

By contrast, the latent xenophobic fear and resentment of the latest wave of boat people - fanned by both major parties during the 2013 election - will have long-term costs in terms of social solidarity, national self-respect and economic opportunities forgone, as well as damaging relations with Indonesia.

But this election campaign entered darker territory. On my reading of history, this was the first post-enlightenment election in which a core policy was based on denial of fundamental laws of science.

Edward Davey, the British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, is quoted in Pushing our Luck - Ideas for Australian Progress, published by the Centre for Policy Development, as saying: ''Two hundred years of good science - teasing out uncertainties, considering risk - has laid the foundation for what we now understand. It screams out from decade upon decade of research. The basic physics of climate change is irrefutable [and] human activity is significantly contributing to the warming of our planet.''

The Centre for Policy Development notes there is bipartisan agreement between Britain's Conservative-led coalition government and the Labour opposition that global warming is both a serious challenge (Britain is committed to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, from 1990 levels, of 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050) and a major economic opportunity. (Prime Minister David Cameron said this year that: ''It is the countries that prioritise green energy that will secure the biggest share of the jobs and growth in a low carbon sector set to be worth $4 trillion by 2015.'')

In contrast, Abbott went into the 2013 Australian election falsely implying that living standards were falling and that a major component in rising electricity prices was the carbon tax. He said the effect of policy action on climate change was ''to put at risk our manufacturing industry, to penalise struggling families, to make a tough situation worse for millions of families around Australia''.

By comparison to Britain, and indeed most European countries, Australia has a climate denial government. Abbott is on the record as saying ''the science isn't settled'', the world is ''cooling'', and ''whether the carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven''.

As Prime Minister, Abbott has demonstrated his contempt for climate science by an immediate wholesale assault on the climate change infrastructure left by the previous government - closing the Climate Commission, instructing the Environment Department to prepare legislation to scrap the Climate Change Authority (which was independently responsible for allocating $2 billion a year for programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), and sacking two department heads who had been involved in development of the emissions trading scheme.

Worse, Abbott has appointed the former head of the ABC and the Australian Stock Exchange, Maurice Newman, as chairman of the government's Business Advisory Council. Newman recently complained (in The Australian Financial Review on September 17) about the former government's cavalier attitude to the carbon tax ''and related climate myths''. He went on to say: ''The money spent on agencies and subsidies pursuing these myths was wasted. Their legacy continues to undermine Australia's international competitiveness.''

Rubbish. Action by the previous government to impose a price on carbon was a small step to improve Australia's long-term viability as a wealthy country. Dismantling these measures is a futile defence of early 20th-century industrial capitalism.

Australia cannot make the transition to a low-carbon, post-industrial state when we have a governing elite that is hostile to established science and therefore prepared to back Abbott's ideological obsessions.

As David Spratt, the co-author of Climate Code Red - the case for emergency action, has pointed out, Abbott successfully used the politics of fear to win the 2013 election. ''The challenge for the opposition is to construct a narrative that recognises this apprehension and fear and provides a clear path to climate safety so that Howard's battlers become safe climate champions,'' Spratt says.

It's a difficult but essential task.

Kenneth Davidson is a senior columnist for The Age.

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