Wallowing in military history. Nationalism is bubbling along nicely as the Labor Government continues with the policy of its Coalition predecessor in taking every opportunity to glorify the past experiences of Australians at war. On Sunday a Royal Australian Air Force Hawk 127 aircraft from Number 76 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown, near Newcastle, flew over the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. It was part of the Australian War Memorial Bomber Command Commemorative Ceremony in recognition of the men and women who served and were lost during World War II. The Fleet Air Arm and its home, the Royal Australian Navy establishment, HMAS Albatross near Nowra in NSW, had their diamond jubilee celebration the previous week with an open day at its museum. Over in France the Australian Army, under the auspices of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and in conjunction with British and French Governments, was digging away trying to identify the burial place of World War I diggers killed at Fromelles. Activities to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the battles of Coral and Balmoral in South Vietnam during May and June of 1968 which, says the Defence Department, “played a significant role in securing Saigon from further attack, continue. A National Commemoration Ceremony was held at the Australian War Memorial last month and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hosted a reception at Parliament House attended by veterans, dignitaries and guests. The Governor General Major General Michael Jeffrey, AC, CVO, MC, presented the Army’s 102 Field Battery with the Australian Military’s first ever Honour Title in recognition of its actions during the Vietnam War. Veterans of the 2nd D&E Platoon who also served in the Vietnam War as part of the Australian Task Force (ATF) got some belated recognition too although at a lower level than that accorded to the Field Battery. The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support, Dr Mike Kelly did the honours for a group who the Defence Department until last week insisted had never existed! The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement, Greg Combet, made his contribution to remembering the history of warfare with a tribute at a memorial service in Sydney on Friday to the memory of 21 sailors who were killed in the World War II attack on Sydney Harbour. Not to forget the continuing fascination with the fate of HMAS Sydney which now has its own Royal Commission under way to keep that event in the headlines for many months to come.

Strange thing this global warming – more ice in Antarctic. To the non-scientist like me — a failure in matriculation physics 60 years ago is not a great recommendation as an expert – there is scope for a glass half full or a glass half empty approach when it comes to global warming. Recently we have had a welter of stories taking the gloomy view of impending disaster, if not for mankind, at least for polar bears. Calculations by the University of Colorado at Boulder in the USA earlier this year indicated the record low minimum extent of sea ice across the Arctic last September had a three-in-five chance of being shattered again in 2008 because of continued warming temperatures. This gloomy assessment was despite the extent of Arctic sea ice (measured as the area of ocean with at least 15% ice) in April at 14.49 million square kilometers being 0.61 million square kilometers greater than April 2007. The boffins at Colorado, you see, were taking into account a preponderance of younger, thinner ice which saw the average decline rate through the month of April being 6,000 square kilometers per day aster than last April. To my admittedly untutored eye, the jury is still out on how much polar bear habitat will be left come the start of the next northern winter with measurements throughout May still showing more ice than in that month last year.

When you look at the sea ice in the southern hemisphere the evidence for damage from global warming is certainly much harder to see. The coverage during April just gone was 8.6 million square kilometers – higher than at any time during the last 30 years. Not that that will satisfy a pessimist. You will note from the map that there is one section where the ice coverage is less than the media of the last few decades. That no doubt is caused by global warming with the increase elsewhere probably just an aberration.

SEA ICE EXTENT

In millions of square kilometres

Year Arctic Antarctic
Apr-08 14.5 8.6
Apr-07 13.9 6.8
Apr-06 14.0 6.6
Apr-05 14.1 7.5
Apr-04 14.1 7.8
Apr-03 14.6 7.7
Apr-02 14.4 7.0
Apr-01 14.9 7.5
Apr-00 14.6 7.8
Apr-99 15.1 7.3
Apr-98 14.9 7.6
Apr-97 14.6 7.1
Apr-96 14.2 8.0
Apr-95 14.6 7.8
Apr-94 15.0 7.7
Apr-93 15.2 7.2
Apr-92 14.7 7.4
Apr-91 14.9 7.5
Apr-90 14.7 7.5
Apr-89 14.4 6.8
Apr-88 15.2 6.8
Apr-87 15.3 7.4
Apr-86 15.1 6.9
Apr-85 15.3 7.1
Apr-84 15.1 7.0
Apr-83 15.3 7.1
Apr-82 15.6 8.3
Apr-81 15.1 6.3
Apr-80 15.5 5.9
Apr-79 15.5 8.2

Richard Farmer’s “Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage”, “The most read stories on Australian websites” and analysis on “Politics and economics on the international newspaper sites” are now available first thing every weekday morning on Crikey’s website. So if you’re drowning in a sea of morning paper and too tired to trudging the web in search of the juiciest of the commentariat then Crikey is here to help with a daily serving of the best in Australian and International media.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.