Bill Shorten Labor policy ALP 2019 election
(Image: AAP/Tracey Nearmy)

Yesterday Bernard Keane asked whether Labor was focusing too much on health in the lead-up to the federal election, and Chris Woods spoke to climate experts about projections for the future. Crikey readers share their views:

On Labor’s current focus on health

Jenny Hocking writes: The public health system is not “free” — particularly for those with cancer, as Shorten has rightly made exceptional commitments to. The out-of-pocket expenses for sufferers and families are immense and long-term. We have a wonderful public health system which needs to grow and extend its cover and I can’t believe Bernard Keane is actually criticising a Labor leader for focusing on health and pledging that a Labor government would fund vital medical tests and visits for those at a time of great need. Gough Whitlam began universal health cover, Malcolm Fraser took it away, Bob Hawke restored it and Bill Shorten is extending it. This is Labor heartland policy and I thank them for it.

Mick Donohoe writes: I think Labor is using a “weekly focus” strategy, this week it’s health — to use the boost they got from the budget reply speech. Next week the focus will be something else, given it will be a short week campaigning possibly something short and sharp. I find it interesting that the media is focused on Labor and its policies and costings, but there is very little attention being shown to the government policies and their costings — maybe because the government has so few policies and most of its costings are on the never never.

On climate change projections

Andrew Glikson writes: I wish to clarify climate projections reported in Crikey in the article “Don’t underestimate the climatic danger of ice-melt water” by Chris Woods. Rising land-air temperatures due to CO2 and methane have now reached a total of 457.5 ppm CO2+methane equivalent, just below the 500 ppm melting threshold of the ice sheets. This triggers amplifying feedback effects, including melting of the ice sheets, release of methane from melting permafrost, release of methane from clathrates and hydrates, release of CO2 from desiccated vegetation and bush fires. Another consequence is the flow of ice melt water into the oceans fringing the large ice sheets and thereby cooling of the north Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland and of fringes of Antarctica (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Global temperature projections for 2055-2060 and 2096 (Hansen et al., 2016)

Rising polar temperatures, at a rate twice as fast as that of intermediate and tropical zones lead to weakening and undulation of the jet stream which defines the polar boundary. This allows cold air masses to move out of the Arctic (such as the “beast from the east” freeze event in North America recently), and warm air masses to move north, further heating the polar region. The temperature contrast between migrating warm and cold air masses enhances the intensity of extreme weather events. Analogous temperature reversals have taken place during the last 450,000 years or so following peak interglacial temperatures. This induced major flow of ice melt water into the oceans, as was the case during the Younger dryas event between 12800-11500 years ago.

Hansen et al. 2016 modelled similar transient freeze events of approximately -2 degrees Celsius with duration of several decades for later in the 21st century (Figure 1), to be followed by resumed global warming. The probability of a future transient freeze (stadial) event triggered by the flow of cold ice melt water into the North Atlantic and sub-Antarctic oceans bears major implications for modern and future climate change trends, which needs to be taken into account in planning adaptation efforts.

Plus: a response from the Liberal Democrats

NSW Liberal Democrats Senator Duncan Spender writes: While William Bowe acknowledges the Liberal Democrats’ freedom-loving social policies, it still grates that he bundles us in with right-wing parties. More nuanced analysis would conclude that the dilemma for the Liberal Democrats is that most voters see themselves as left-wing or right-wing, and only preference parties they identify as either left-wing or right-wing.

So in the NSW state election, the preferences of Voluntary Euthanasia Party and Keep Sydney Open voters didn’t go to the Liberal Democrats, despite David Leyonhjelm’s fight for voluntary euthanasia and against lockout laws. He just wasn’t seen as left-wing. And the preferences of those who voted for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers didn’t go the Liberal Democrats either, despite David Leyonhjelm’s fight for the law-abiding shooting community and for water rights for irrigators. He just wasn’t seen as right-wing either.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign for our quirky mix of freedom-loving small-government policies, despite the political risks. Because polarised politics isn’t getting this country anywhere.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and cock-ups to [email protected]. We reserve the right to edit comments for length and clarity. Please include your full name if you would like to be considered for publication.