Friday, January 28, 2011

The Age censorship re Lib-Labs, climate change, floods, drought & bushfires

THE AGE censors comments re pro-gas, pro-coal, neocon, Lib-Lab complicity in climate change, floods, droughts, bushfires

The Age newspaper (Melbourne, Australia) is arguably Australia's foremost Mainstream medium and has a good record of presenting sensible, informed scientific opinions on the worsening threat from mad-made climate change.

However the outrageous political reality in Australia is that the extreme right wing Liberal-National Party Coalition (currently the Federal Opposition) and the Labor Party (currently the minority Federal Government) , these being collectively known as the Lib-Labs, are steadfstly inactive on tackling man-made climate change. About 84-88% of Australian voters give their first preference vote to either the Libs or the Labs.

According to top climate scientists, day-to-day weather is variable and in Australia periods of drought and wet are associated El Nino and La Nina events, respectively, but man-made global warming from industrial dumping of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere is increasing the likelihood of weather extremes such as the disastrous Queensland floods and the disastrous 10 year drought that preceded it.

For a recent cogent statement of this from Professor David Karoly (University of Melbourne, associated with the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) see "Climate expert says more extreme weather likely", ABC News, 31 December 2010: - he sensibly suggests that Australian inaction on GHG emissions is due to “vested interests” (i.e. the fossil fuel-linked corporations).

Australia is a world leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas pollution. Thus “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 54 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included).

Unfortunately, spin and rhetoric aside, Australia resolutely refuses to take effective action. While top climate scientists say that Australia must get to zero CO2 emissions by 2020 (see: ) , there is bipartisan (Liberal-National Party and Labor Party i.e. Lib-Lab) agreement for a derisory Domestic 5% off 2000 level by 2020 that is expected to be a Domestic plus Exported 149% INCREASE on 2000 by 2020 (see: ). Queensland is a major player in exploitation of coal and gas for Domestic use and Export and Australia is the World’s biggest coal exporter and ranks 4th in LNG exports.

1. The Age published an article by Coalition Deputy Leader Julie Bishop about the Queensland floods disaster entitled “Dark days in Queensland” (The Age On-line, National Times, 12 January 2010: ). Remarkably this artilce did not mention man-made climate change as a causative agent in the Queensland floods. The Age published 25 comments on the article (all but 3 anonymous) but did not publish the informed, credentialled views of Dr Gideon Polya (nor of the eminent scientists he was quoting) about the link between the Queensland flood disaster and man-made global warming).

This is what The Age Censor (whoever he, she or They were in this instance) did not want readers of The Age to read:In 2008 Professor John Holdren (Harvard University, Obama's science adviser) gave a Web-accessible lecture entitled "The Science of Climatic Disruption" in which he set out the actual, here and now, consequences of man-made global warming.

Of acute relevance to Australia were the 5-fold increase since the 1960s in the area of Western USA burned annually by forest fires and a huge increase in tropical and subtropical region floods around the world.

Leading Australian climate scientist Professor David Karoly (University of Melbourne, associated with the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC) has recently reiterated similar expert advice that while there is day-to-day weather variability and periodic La Nina and El Nino weather patterns leading to flooding and drought, respectively, in Australia, this is happening against a background of steadlily increasing sea temperature due to man-made global warming from greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution that is increasing the likelihood of extreme drought and flood events (see "Climate expert says more extreme weather likely", ABC News, 31 December 2010).

Unfortunately Australia, a world leading annual per capita GHG polluter (its annual Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is 60 times that of Bangladesh), the World's biggest coal exporter and the 4th biggest gas exporter, ignores advice from top climate climate scientists that it must reduce CO2 pollution to zero (0) by 2020 (Australia's Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is predicted to be 149% of the 2000 level by 2020).

Events such as the 10 year drought , Black Saturday and the Queensland flood disaster tragedy are occurring against a background of man-made warming and both Coalition and Labor inaction.

I have highlighted the last sentence above because this may have been what upset the Censor – thus following day in response to an article in The Age by former Coalition medico MP Dr Andrew Laming re health consequences of the Queensland floods and entitled “Our woes are just beginning” (The Age On-line, National Times, 13 January 2010: ), I sent a comment saying much the same but not mentioning Lib-Lab complicity in the disaster through inaction over man-made global warming: “Excellent, informative and highly responsible article by Dr Andrew Laming with a variety of explicit or implicit suggestions for dealing with the numerous serious health threats arising from the disastrous Queensland floods.

Rational risk management that is implicit in Dr Laming's article is crucial for public health and safety and successively involves (a) accurate data, (b) scientific analysis and (c) sensible, informed systemic change to minimize risk.

However at a more fundamental level of causation there must be cognizance of the warnings from scientists about the increasing threat of man-made global warming leading to extreme flood events such as that in Queensland and NSW and consequent attendant health threats.

Leading climate scientist Professor David Karoly (University of Melbourne, a lead author on the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC) has recently commented thus on extreme weather events such as the Queensland floods and man-made global warming: "What we are seeing over the last 50 years and over the last 100 years is a change in this pattern of extremes with more hot and more wet extremes in northern Australia and more hot and more dry extremes in southern Australia and that pattern is exactly what we would expect from climate change due to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere" (see "Climate expert says more extreme weather likely", ABC News, 31 December 2010).

Likewise, Professor John Holdren (Harvard University, Obama's chief science adviser) has described, among many major current global warming-related impositions, huge increases in flooding events around the tropical and sub-tropical world associated with man-made global warming, increased sea surface temperatures and increased evaporation (see "The Science of Climatic Disruption").”

2. The Age published an article by Dick Gross about the Queensland floods which commenced : "Catastrophes shine an unflinching light on the human condition. In Queensland, the floods have simultaneously produced acts of radiance and dark venality.This flood, of biblical proportions, has called forth all the human extremes that adorn and despoil our species" (Dick Gross, "The stuff of life and death", The Age On-line national Times, 14 January 2011: ).The Age published 109 comments on the article (all anonymous) but did not publish the serious and carefully researched comment from a non-anonymous scientist (Dr Gideon Polya).

This is what The Age Censor (who ever he or she is) evidently did not want readers of The Age to read, even when "buried" in a thread of 109 comments:

"Excellent article. Dick Gross notes "acts of radiance and dark venality" associated with the Queensland flood disaster.

The "dark venality" should include the huge Queensland fossil fuel industry for Domestic consumption and Export that continues to have enthusiastic bipartisan backing. Burning fossil fuels has caused global warming through increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and top climate scientists say we must reduce CO2 in the atmosphere to 300 parts per million (ppm) from the current dangerous and damaging 392 ppm (Google 300 ppm CO2).

Yet climate scientists tell us that while no single event such as the Queensland floods can be attributed to man-made climate change it is clear that increasing temperature increases the probability of more extreme weather events.

Thus Professor Will Steffen (executive director of the ANU Climate Change Institute; Australian Government Climate Change Committee member) echoing the 2007 IPCC 4th Assessment Report: "As the climate warms, there is more water vapour in the atmosphere. This means that there is a probability that there will more intense rainfall events around the world."

Throughout the disaster economic commentators have looked forward to the resumption of coal exports that had been interrupted by the floods. Indeed at the height of the Brisbane floods (13 January 2011) Santos announced plans for a $13 billion LNG plant in Gladstone for 7.8 million tonnes of LNG per year with exports due to start in 2015 i.e. 21.5 million tonnes CO2 to be added the atmosphere each year as well as leaked methane (72 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas on a 20 year time scale)."

The technical and moral issue I raise is so acutely serious that Mainstream media evidently don’t want to talk about it, although to give credit to The Age, on 14 January 2011 it published 2 articles (but no comments permitted) making the connection between man-made climate change and the Queensland floods, specifically Ellen Sandell, “It’s time to talk of climate change”, The Age On-line National Times, 14 January 2011: and Ian Lowe, “Drowning in a hothouse”, The Age On-line National Times, 14 January 2011: .

Greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is contributing to a huge increase in floods and other extreme events (see Dr John Holdren (2008), “The Science of Climatic Disruption” (power point lecture): ; GRID-Arendal (a collaborating centre of the United Nations Environment Programme ,UNEP): “Number of flood events by continent and decade since 1950”: ; GRID-Arendal (a collaborating centre of the United Nations Environment Programme ,UNEP): Number of Disasters per Year”: ).

For what leading climate scientists and other responsible science-informed people have to say about greenhouse gas pollution, global warming, the Queensland floods and indeed other extreme weather events see Gideon Polya “Scientific opinions, global warming & 2010-2011 Pakistan, Brazil, Sri Lanka & Australia flood disasters”, Bellaciao, 15 January 2011: and Gideon Polya, “Climate Emergency Network, La NiƱa, Climate Change & Queensland flood disaster - stop burning coal & gasBellaciao, 15 January 2011: .

3. The Age published an article by leading Australian political commentator Michelle Grattan about the Gillard Labor Government in 2011, the floods and the Levy (The Age On-line, National Times section, 4 February 2011: ) . The Age published 104 comments on the article ( all anonymous and hence uncredentialled) but declined to published the following informed, credentialled comments from Dr Gideon Polya, one supposes because it felt that its readers must be protected from such facts and such views:

Asserting that "Gillard sets her sights high" is an Orwellian turning of reality upside down, whether it is flood relief or man-made climate change action (the 2 matters being connected).

Scientists inform that because the weather is variable one cannot determine the contribution of man-made global warming to specific events such as the Queensland flood and cyclone disasters. However increased air and sea temperature means more intense precipitation and cyclone events. The incidence of severe floods has increased globally 4- to 10-fold since the 1950s and the incidence of severe cyclones has doubled in recent decades (for extensive compendia of expert scientific opinion Google "man-made climate change and floods" and "man-made climate change and cyclones"). Pro-coal, pro-gas Labor has adopted counterproductive and dangerous polices.

1. The income-related disaster levy is fair but fairer still would be abolition of the circa $10 billion pa in subsidies for climate-damaging fossil fuel burning that remain in place under pro-coal, pro-gas Labor.

2. Labor supports continued and expanding climate-damaging coal and gas exploitation that makes Australia a world leader in per capita Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution (60 times worse than warming-threatened Bangladesh).

3. While Labor subsidizes fossil fuel pollution, it is now punishing ordinary taxpayers, the renewable energy industry needed to avert disaster, and universities who research and inform about the dangers and solutions.

4. 12,000 Australians die pa from fossil fuel burning pollutants but Labor ignores the $120 billion pa cost (US EPA estimate) that is equivalent to circa $400 per tonne carbon. Instead Labor offers a derisory carbon price of circa $10 per tonne carbon.”

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