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ONA report sheds new light on climate change

A highly confidential report by the Office of National Assessments has warned the government that global warming is expected to lead to more tropical cyclones in southern Queensland, an ice-free Arctic Sea, and the possible break-up of the West Antarctic ice shelf leading to substantial sea-level rise.

The ONA warns of “potentially adverse implications from these developments … for the security of Australia’s export markets for coal” and urges the government to consider a move away from fossil fuels, although “it might be possible for raw coal to be burned in central locations, such as power stations built close to the sea, where carbon dioxide can be chemically stripped from emissions and dissolved at depth in the oceans”.

The secret report, titled Fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect, notes that the “most disturbing” feature of scientists’ predictions is that the mean global temperature could, without any mitigating measures, rise by 4-6°C by 2100.

“Given that the temperature difference between the ice ages and intermediate periods was a mere 5°C, this prediction suggest massive and unacceptable changes” including sea-level rise of six metres following the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice-sheet. The process could be irreversible, it noted, and “would flood many of the major cities of the world, as well as the delta regions of rivers such as the Ganges and Mekong, which support large populations”.

The amazing thing about this ONA report, which I mention briefly in my book Scorcher, is that it was prepared in 1981! This is one of those rare instances when it is acceptable for a writer to use an exclamation mark, because the first major conference on climate science was not convened until 1988.

The analysis predicted that an international agreement would be likely to set an upper limit on atmospheric carbon at twice pre-industrial levels. This is precisely the recommendation of Ross Garnaut and Nicholas Stern, who have recommended a target of 550 ppm.

Climate scientists now predict much more serious impacts from a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. The ONA reported an expected warming of 2-3°C, while the accepted mean value is now 3°C. But the consequences of 3°C of warming are now believed to be much more severe, including some of those canvassed by the ONA as following unchecked emissions growth, such as the collapse of the West Antarctic ice-sheet.

The astoundingly prescient author of the 1981 study, whom I am told left the organisation to pursue a successful career as an energy analyst, had a pretty good understanding of human psychology too.

He suggested that the public are unlikely to be moved by scientific predictions: “… public alarm will only be generated by manifest change, or a threat of it, such as a rise in the sea level”.

What he did not say is that, if humans must wait for their eyes to confirm the predictions of scientists, it will be far too late to do anything about it.

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  • 1
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Thursday, 30 July 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Is this like the scientists that predicted the coming ice age on the cover of Newsweek back in 1971 wasn’t it!

    By the way, why doesnt anybody also add a note in these articles to the effect that “of course a lot of climate scientists disagree with man made global warming” or has all the science been done now and any scientist coming out against this stuff is not really a scientist.

    This whole thing is about global governance and and the takeover of the world’s resources by major corporations with their consumption controlled through global taxation schemes and Sydney Airport parking pricing schemes adminstered by the banks using direct debit. Take a look at the Carbon Credits scheme if you don’t believe me. The plan is to have the banks adminster it and take commissions. Got me!

    I have a better idea. Stop destroying the rainforests and polluting the oceans. Stop destroying the atmosphere and waterways with toxic chemicals and pollutants and after those major problems have all been addressed, then you can talk about this carbon dioxide cr*p.

  • 2
    MichaelT
    Posted Thursday, 30 July 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    How many of the predictions made in 1981, or the models they were derived from, have been validated? I.e. have they acurately predicted the fluctuations in the global temperature over the last 30 years? In that time, for example, global sea-levels have gone up by about 1 cm.

  • 3
    Evan Beaver
    Posted Friday, 31 July 2009 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Yes Richard, you have answered your own question “all the science been done now and any scientist coming out against this stuff is not really a scientist”.

  • 4
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Friday, 31 July 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    A bit fascistic methinks!

  • 5
    Evan Beaver
    Posted Friday, 31 July 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    It certainly sounds it, but it’s the truth. I really tried to give the sceptic a good run, but their ‘science’ is worse than the science they’re constantly attacking. They don’t have a theory that can be tested against real world observations and make predictions about the future. Critical fail.

  • 6
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Friday, 31 July 2009 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    You might like to look over Richard Lindzen latest article entitled:

    Resisting climate hysteria
    by Richard S. Lindzen

    July 26, 2009

    A Case Against Precipitous Climate Action”

    Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology or is he just another blinkered Philstine as well Evan?

  • 7
    Posted Friday, 31 July 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    What I do know is this: When you put your foot on the accelerator (GHG emissions) and the brake (air borne particulates from rapidly industrialising India, China, SE Asia creating a Global Dimming phenomenon) at the same time, then something will inevitably break. Certainly the whole thing is likely to get overworked and wear out quicker, and yes get hotter in certain specific locations.

    Say the brake line cracks, leaks and you spin off at massive acceleration. Or perhaps the brake pads wear out and rip into the dics making a God awful noise. Or the engine over heats against the resistance and blows a gasket. It’s all likely to end in injury or certainly a serious stranding.

    And there we were thinking western civilisation was actually moving right along on some journey to some nirvana destination. Looks more like a visit to U Turn.

  • 8
    Evan Beaver
    Posted Saturday, 1 August 2009 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Okay terrific Richard, he might raise a couple of good points. But one article doesn’t overturn the whole theory. Most of the ‘sceptical’ science is not an alternate theory, but sniping at the edges, hoping that showing one small flaw in the whole theory, and assumind it will come crashing down around them.

    For example, I’ve heard a few sceptics say ‘Oh, just like Mann’s hockey stick graph, which has been discredited’. Which is a gross simplification. Sure, he had some flaws in the temp readings from the “Little Ice Age” but the recent observations have never been challenged. Further, the people who ‘discredited’ Mann were later discredited by others, and his method was found to be reasonable.

    One article proves very very little. The AGW case is built around some very sound fundamental science; the ability of CO2 to store heat and the rise in CO2 (and other gases) in the atmosphere. These fundamentals can not be disproven, it’s elementary science. None of the sceptical arguments/models offer any explanation how these 2 criteria fit our current observations, and so they offer us nothing in terms of actual science.

    I’ve had a read of the paper you reference, and it’s rubbish. He makes a lot of statements that really need to be referenced which aren’t, like this one “However, the contribution of increasing CO2 alone does not, in fact, lead to much warming (approximately 1°C for each doubling of CO2).” That’s an extroardinary statement to trot out without any backing.

    He starts by referencing his own work, then presenting the tired, but beautifully constructed sceptical argument that ‘temperatures haven’t gone up much, and they’ve been higher before anyway’. This is not and has never been the point. Like i said, the ability of CO2 to hold heat is indisputable, ditto the rise in carbon based molecules in the atmosphere. The fact that the temp hasn’t gone up yet does not disprove this fundamental, but shows that the current theory is missing something; which is different to it being wrong. As Tom suggests, airborne particulates are one suggested mechanism slowing the Greenhouse effect.

    What you need to grasp is that this is a risk mitigation exercise. The fundamentals have been observed, and there are possibly/probably bad ramifications of these fundamentals. No sane person could argue that we should pump pollutants into the atmosphere as fast as we can and wait to see what happens. How could anyone possibly predict the outcome? So we try and limit these pollutants and allow the atmosphere to chug along as it did before we gained the capacity to seriously stuff around with it. To do this we need to encourage consumers to select their products more carefully based on the cost of these pollutants to the environment. The CPRS was established as the mechanism to achieve this, yet the Rudd Govt is watering it down at every opportunity.

  • 9
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Saturday, 1 August 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    OK lets look at the current situation

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts that:

    1. It is virtually certain that the climate is warming, and that it has warmed by about 0.7 deg. C over the last 100 years.

    What instruments does the world/did the world have 100 years ago that are so precise that we can make this assertion at p <.05? What geographic spread of global observations were made 100 years ago that give us confidence they are representative of global temperatures 100 years ago given the imprecision with current observations? Or are we talking modelled outcomes here? Ask any engineer about the modelled outcomes in bridge building tisk tisk!

    2. It is very likely that humans are responsible for most of the recent warming.

    On what basis is this assertion made given we are talking less than 1 degree variation in 100 years? Have there not been greater variations in previous hundred years’s when humans were less able to be make an impact?

    3. If we do nothing to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, future warming will likely be at least two degrees Celsius over the next century.

    On what basis is this assertion made? Is it through projection of the questionable 0.7 degrees for the last 100 years?

    You know I am totally anti pollution but I am not anti human. If the panel cannot provide me with evidence about its assertions for the last 100 years I sure as heck am not going to believe them about the next 100!

    4. Such a climate change brings with it a risk of serious adverse impacts on our environment and society.

    Agreed. If it happens it would but if climate change is real it may be that man will not be able to prevent it irrespective of his actions including this ridiculous carbon taxation plan which is more about global governance than it is global warming. Can’t you see that the really rich guys get to pollute and everybody else goes out of business? But regular old pollution is something even you and me can do something about and why not make this the centre piece of a global campaign? Mmmm! I am extremely doubtful that man made climate change is in the same category and as best I can judge, carbon dioxide is not pollution.

    Evan my point is that I believe that this is a distraction from the true problems facing the planet. I am all for clean energy and 100% against some jerk making ongoing commissions from trading carbon credits.

    I believe we are in a very nasty game of monopoly where the world is being manoeuvred into giving over all of its natural resources to be traded by greedy men - not for the good of the planet but to insure their continuing domination. Why ultimately do third world countries lose their rainforests to first world developers and timber harvesters? Because they default on their first world debt and ultimately that is the price they pay.

  • 10
    jchercelf
    Posted Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t read any comments after Richard Wilson.

    Why aren’t we screaming in the streets for the Rudd government to actually do something that will make a change. Of course we will lose jobs and incomes - surely the GFC has taught us all that we can live on less - much less - jobs will be created when renewable resources are implemented. Meanwhile come on you young ones who understand that your world may disappear - make a huge concerted noise to stop the ridiculous farce happening in our Parliament. I’m 80 but I care for the future of my six grandchildren.

    Joan Croll

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