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Scientists speak out: coal-fired power stations are responsible for global warming

Today, the owners of every coal-fired power station in Australia will receive a letter from myself and six other leading climate scientists. We have made it clear that their emissions are directly responsible, in part, for the impacts of climate change being felt in Australia and abroad. (click on the letter to read in full).

Our intention is to ensure the coal industry is fully accountable for their pollution and the damage it causes.

Debate will continue on the fringes but, within the scientific community, there is wide and deep consensus that climate change is an unprecedented and urgent threat to the planet as we know it. We are at a key point in history and failure to act decisively now will have severe ramifications for generations to come.

Coal-fired power stations are incompatible with action that reflects the urgency of climate change. As such, we have asked the recipients of the letters to have the far-sighted courage to work with our government and us to urgently replace coal-fired power plants with zero-carbon energy sources and energy efficiency programmes.

As scientists, we have refrained in general from proposing policy, but when the direction we continue to take in this country is so clearly at odds with the scientific evidence, we have no choice but to speak out.

The consequences are too severe to do otherwise.

6
  • 1
    James Guest
    Posted Friday, 1 May 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    It is remarkable how much lay people are willing to take on trust from scientists. The claim that “I am a peer reviewed climate science so I must be taken as having good and sensible intentions when I make what I claim to be good and sensible suggestions” must be gravely undermined by that letter. Wheter judged against facts or the implied and actual claims in the letter there is not the slightest positive and desirable connection between the the taking of any action advocated in the letter and the future state of the world’s climate, with the policies other countries will pursue, or on the outcome for Australia’s climate and economy.

    Given that amazing lack of nous in putting a case to ordinarily intelligent sceptical people why should they be given any more credit than one lot of religious fanatics were given by another lot of believers in their being one true word of God 600 years ago?

    If you think that you, as scientists should have more attention paid to your policy prescriptions try giving reasoned answers to the case Lord Lawson makes in his book “An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming” which, as a quick inspection shows, only has about 20 per cent occupied by discussion of the science and requires intelligent argument on the other 80 per cent to deal with his cool scepticism. Try also, to give an explanation of the droughts which destroyed the oldest Indus civilisation and the Egyptian Old Kingdom, as well as drying up the Great Lakes, so as to show that the models you rely on are adequate because they would have predicted those disasters. If the models, and thus the basic elements of your case, are not up to that explanation then concede that you don’t have any basis for concern about imminent tipping points when the warmings that occurred at the time of those events didn’t set off runaway catastrophic changes. Or did they? And how then did that happen without industrial age CO2 emissions? And what was it about the Medieval Warm Period (or the Roman one before that) which allowed warming to occur to the point where Greenland, now covered in ice, was able to support grazing of cattle but still allow it to be followed by a very cold period without intervening catastrophic tipping points? Could it be that, as William Kininmonth insists, your models are missing or miscalculating so much of the important causal chains, especailly those associated with cloud, rain and evaporation?

  • 2
    RyanT
    Posted Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    To me it’s the preponderance of evidence and the prevailing view in the climate science community that counts most. Given the statements of the worlds climate agencies and scientific academies, along with the the great majority of reviewed and assessed literature (including on attribution, and a similar but slower greenhouse gas buildup in prehistory), it’s worth paying attention to.

    I’ve yet to see a successfully reviewed study that suggests rapid global-scale holocene climate change is normal and of no consequence. Or one that suggests natural factors can account for much of the trend. No serious climatologist denies there’s natural variability, particularly at regional scales (including the apparently asynchronous MWP). But the concern NOW is the potential for accelerated change in the global averages, and the impact on today’s ecology and society. And do you mean William Kininmonth the retired meteorologist (apparently not a research climatologist) who claimed the IPCC ignores equatorial heat circulation (they don’t), and seems to think he’s overturned 50 years of solid science on the greenhouse effect?:
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=William_Kininmonth
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/10/the_australians_war_on_science_23.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2004/11/lavoisier.php

  • 3
    Evan Beaver
    Posted Monday, 4 May 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    James, your whole rant is a ridiculous load of self serving carp. The skeptics expect things of scientists that they can’t explain themselves. You want a model that backwards predicts localised weather events from 400 years ago? Are you joking? What complete nonsense. No model, anywhere, could do that with any accuracy.

    I am flabbergasted by the ego’s of skeptics. The ability to sit at home, using 3rd degree reports to shoot down something produced by the UN and NASA. Further, to assume that one ridiculous little blip either side of the predictions means the whole thing is a lie. Climate change skepticism is not healthy doubt, but egotistical preening and incredible laziness.

    Answer this question please: if you’re wrong, how will you pay for your mistake?

  • 4
    Posted Monday, 4 May 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff from David Karoly and the other climate scientists!

    I think it is really useful to have coal industry executives start to feel the pain of hypocricy and social condemnation.

    It can only help them come to the right decision, how best to dismantle their industry.

  • 5
    scottyea
    Posted Tuesday, 5 May 2009 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    The climate has changed a lot over the last several millions of years. What caused that?
    Were there any interest groups ready to harness those natural phenomena for personal and professional gain, I wonder?

    You may be “extremely concerned about the state of the global climate system”, sir, but to assume a) that its human-induced, and b) that is can be human-‘ameliorated’ (assuming of course that variations in a natural system need ‘ameliorating’) is frankly ridiculous, just Hollywoodesque.

    Perhaps this is what so many other civilisations have have experienced during periods of rapid climatic change - idiotic and unproductive conflict between those bent on self-guilt and propitiation of ‘something’, and others wanting to actually get on with dealing with the actual situation, whatever the cause is.

    There are a number of measures that could be taken right now to maximise resource efficiency and so help cope with changes that will occur, whether or not our minuscule coal contribution to “global warming” ceases tomorrow.

  • 6
    liamjones
    Posted Tuesday, 5 May 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    OK “their emissions are directly responsible, in part, for the impacts of climate change”. What part? How much? The question I would like looked at is why is the entire solar system is heating up and has been for the same time Earth has heated up. Google it. We have changed things sure, but what part? How much about Climate change is due to what is heating up Venus, Mars, etc. I suspect top scientists don’t really know.

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