New Report: It's Going to Get Hot Down Under!

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.”
—Charles M. Schulz

Findings from the latest CSIRO and BOM (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Bureau of Meteorology) report shows that Australia will be hit harder by climate change than most other countries, based on forty global climate models. This conclusion is not too surprising given that nine years ago they announced the same thing. But in the time since then, has Australia done anything about it? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Which raises the question: why does a country bother paying for such reports when it proceeds to ignore the results, often condemning the scientists as idiots when they don’t like their conclusions?

According to the report, Australia is headed for a five degree increase in temperature by 2090 if we continue with business as usual and don’t start curing our addiction to fossil fuels. That amount would cause serious injury to the Great Barrier Reef, threatening agricultural and fishing industries significantly. Last year was Australia’s third warmest ever, and the year before was its warmest, so the trend is evident. Here are a couple of highlights the Aussies can look forward to:

– Melbourne will have an average of 24 days above 35C, up from 11 in 1995. Sydney will have 11 days above 35C, up from three days in 1995.
– Australia will experience 45cm to 82cm of sea level rise, even higher if the Antarctic ice sheet collapses.
– Episodes of extreme rainfall will increase but overall rainfall will drop in southern Australia by as much as 69%.
– There will be more extreme and longer droughts with an increase somewhere between 5% and 20%.
– Hotter temperatures and dryer conditions will lead to more severe fire danger.

Sadly, this lack of political will from Australian politicians to listen to these projections made by their own scientists is nothing new. There are various ways that politicians deal with statements and recommendations made by climate scientists that we’ve witnessed all over the world. Scientists in Canada and the U.S. making similar recommendations and their politicians ignore them as well, but they take different tactics. Canadian politicians muzzle their scientists. American politicians simply claim they themselves aren’t scientists and then it seems as if it’s case closed, as if that gives them adequate permission to ignore the issue.

We all know what has to be done. Statistics show that the general public understands this issue better than politicians do—probably because we aren’t in the back pocket of the fossil fuel industry. Even conservative right-wing citizens are more accepting of the facts and the conclusions scientists make than conservative right-wing politicians are.

Perhaps the onus is on us, the voting public. Perhaps it’s time we start demanding that our politicians listen to our concerns on the issue of global warming and climate change. It’s time we start changing laws, not just light bulbs.

How Climate Change is Causing Disease

“The disease of an evil conscience is beyond the practice of all the physicians of all the countries in the would.”
~William E. Gladstone

In my book, I wrote about about malaria could spread due to its vector—the mosquito—could extend its territory thanks to a warmer climate beyond the tropics. Well guess what: another mosquito-borne virus is rearing its ugly head. Cases of mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis have risen nearly five times in the last five years in India’s northeast Assam state. The reason has been attributed to warming weather and changing rainfall.

From 2010 to 2014, the number of annual cases of Japanese encephalitis climbed from 154 to 744. Deaths from the infection in that same period rose from 41 to 160. Only six years ago this disease was seen in half of the state’s districts; now it’s seen in all of them.

Experts attribute the increase to climate change and that’s no surprise. It used to be seen between May and July, but now it’s found into November because mosquitoes are surviving longer in these warmer conditions. In particular, warmer conditions means farmers can grow crops of rice longer each year, but these rice paddies mean that standing water provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes for longer periods during the year.

Some people have been critical that the situation reached the state it has, arguing that people should have been better prepared, given that we already know that global warming is real and that such conditions were a foregone conclusion to allow mosquito-borne diseases to increase. Sankar Prasad Rai of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) put it this way:

The data from the state health department itself shows that the disease has taken a deadly turn over the years in the state. Unfortunately the state machinery waited for the disease to go out of control, whereas it should have taken steps to control the disease much earlier.

Maybe this is India and maybe that does;t mean much to you. But it’s only a matter of time before climate change will affect diseases in your neck of the woods. Along with coastal flooding and threatened sources of fresh water and food supplies, these sorts of diseases will be one of the biggest threats to our species that climate change will create.

Old Arctic Ice: Going, Going, Gone

“We need to save the Arctic not because of the polar bears, and not because it is the most beautiful place in the world, but because our very survival depends upon it.”
—Lewis Gordon Pugh

A strong piece of evidence that our planet is warming is that the large floating ice cube at the North Pole—the freely floating ice without any land underneath it—is slowly shrinking. It hasn’t been enough to convince diehard deniers, but there’s no doubt the amount of ice has been slowly shrinking in the 35 years since satellites have been able to accurately record the phenomenon.

One of the reasons skeptics are tough on the point is because each winter sea ice expands again until it reaches its peak in March. It shrinks each summer reaching its smallest amount every September. But here’s a new look at this issue: how much ice survives year to year. It has never completely disappeared any summer since we started looking at the issue (although experts are sure that’s just a matter of time). So some ice survives for years. So how much “old” ice is sticking around compared to previous years.

This animation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration makes clear just how much ice is surviving. And in recent years it’s alarmingly little. It’s best to watch this one-minute video twice: once to focus on the oldest ice in white (more than nine years old) and then again simply watching how much ice in any colour including dark blue is present.

On the first viewing, you’ll notice that the oldest ice really starts to shrink after 2000, becoming nothing but a narrow band by 2008. It turns out that ice more than four years old made up 26 percent in the 1980s, but only 10 percent last year.

Your second viewing shows the extent of all ice, and although that’s shrinking, it’s less dramatic than the amount of old ice that’s shrinking.

There’s only one thing that can do that: heat. Not a different distribution of it like the deniers would like you to think. Simply more of it, because our planet is warming.

Senate Environment Chair Explains Why Global Warming is a Hoax

Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the Senate Environment Chair tells the Senate why he thinks global warming is a hoax in this video. I’m going to let you decide what you think of his comments rather than influence you with facts that refute him. (But those facts are strewn throughout the last couple of years of my posts if you want the truth.) If only he wasn’t funded so significantly by the fossil fuel industry, then maybe he’d have slightly more credibility. (Did I mention he’s the Senate Environment Chair?)