• David Spratt, “Most of Australia” can expect extreme temperatures of more than 50 degrees by end of century:
Climate change is making our planet hotter and wetter on average, but also drier in some places including southern Australia, and with more extreme events as the total amount of energy in the climate system increases.
So how hot will hot be?
One answer comes from Andreas Sterl and 10 colleagues from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at Utrecht University. In “When can we expect extremely high surface temperatures?” ( http://www.knmi.nl/publications/showAbstract.php?id=5588 ), they ask how extreme would temperatures be at end of this century if the global average temperature were to increase by 3.5C by 2100 compared to 2000 (based on the IPCC scenario known as A1B).
And 3.5C (or more) is where we are heading. If all the commitments made by governments around the world to reduce greenhouse gas were honoured, and nothing further done, then temperatures by 2100 would likely be about 4 degrees warmer ( http://www.climatecodered.org/2011/03/where-are-we-headed.html ) than 1900, around 3.4C warmer than at the start of this century.
Sterl and his team project what the hottest that could be expected in a 100-in-a-hundred-year event, known at a T100 value. Or to be precise, “the annual-maximum 2m-temperature that on average occurs once in 100 years” (temperature 2 metres above the surface). Statistically, such an event may not happen in a 100 years, but it may also happen more than once, as we saw last summer in a series of “100-in-a-hundred-year” events in eastern Australia.
Sterl’s findings are displayed on the map. The deep red colouring most of Australia is the range between 48 and 52 degrees Celsius. The remainder in deep orange is 44-48C. By way of comparison, Australia highest recored temperature was 50.7C (123.3F) on 2 January 1960 at Oodnadatta, South Australia. Extreme heatwaves across southern Australia during late January/early February 2009 set a new Melbourne maximum temperature record of 46.4C, and a new State maximum temperature records for Victoria of 48.8C at Hopetoun.
As the authors note, “According to this figure, temperature extremes reach values around 50C in large parts of the area equatorward of 30 degrees. This includes heavily populated areas like India and the Middle East… projected T100 values far exceed 40C in Southern Europe, the US Mid-West by 2090-2100 and even reach 50C in north-eastern India and most of Australia. Such levels receive much too little attention in the current climate change discussion, given the potentially large implications.”
Little wonder that Prof David Karoly of Melbourne University, in addressing future fire risk in Australia at the Oxford’s “4 Degrees and Beyond” conference ( http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/4degrees/programme.php ) in September 2009, concluded that “We are unleashing hell on Australia.”
*David Spratt is a Melbourne-based climate activist, author and blogger. In 2008, with Philip Sutton, he co-authored Climate Code Red: the case for emergency action. This article was first published in June 2011 on the Climate Code Red blog ( http://www.climatecodered.org/2011/06/most-of-australia-can-expect-extreme.html ). Other climate related publications by David Spratt can be downloaded from http://www.climatecodered.org/p/publications.html here.
• Katherine Wilson, The Age: The hoax we had to have
This week Australians face an emergency so catastrophic that we have not yet imagined a name for it. It is so unprecedented that the Bureau of Meteorology has had to invent a new category for it. The 50 to 52 degrees air mass over Australia is the hottest on record, and worldwide, 2013 is predicted to be the hottest recorded.
With bushfires raging and lives and property lost, you might think that people who seek to put the prevention of such environmental catastrophes on the public agenda would be applauded. Instead, they are criminalised.
On Tuesday activist Jonathan Moylan was spectacularly successful in getting the issue of prevention on our newspapers’ front pages. Moylan pulled off an elegant hoax. By issuing a fake media release saying ANZ had pulled its $1.2 billion loan from Whitehaven Coal mines on ethical grounds, he disrupted markets and invited public scrutiny of an industry that is driving the climate change that has led to a new category of emergency.
If letters pages and social media are any indication, there is widespread support for Moylan’s hoax. At the parliamentary level, Greens senator Christine Milne has applauded his actions as being ‘‘part of a long and proud history of civil disobedience, potentially breaking the law, to highlight something wrong’‘. But officially, instead of being hailed as a hero, Moylan has been labelled an extremist. In concert with the current trend to criminalise protest of all kind, he faces the prospect of jail and crippling fines. ASIC has already seized his laptop and phone.
But to charge him with a criminal offence would be utterly immoral. For those citizens who have not given up on the conviction that taking action is ‘‘the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation”, there is little choice but to pull off hoaxes of this kind. For all the ‘‘free market of ideas’’ posturing, the media and finance marketplace that Moylan sought to disrupt is not some equal playing field operating under rules of fair play. As countless journalism academics have documented, news agendas are set by public servants, PR agents, politicians and business leaders. They are not commonly set by ordinary concerned citizens. This is why Moylan orchestrated his hoax at a time when the Australian Securities Exchange is operating at a fraction of normal levels.
In these contexts, it is difficult to sympathise with those who argue that we should condemn Moylan because of the so-called mum-and-dad investors who ‘‘lost’’ money because of the hoax. True, his action may have affected the sort of ‘‘ordinary’’ people who have blind faith that finance markets are based on trust and immutable laws. But are the people who gamble their spare funds in coal industry investments really the victims here? Moylan’s hoax asks us to consider a broader category of victims: the world’s citizens and environments who are facing the real consequence of big polluters such as coal companies.
To charge Moylan on the basis of fraud would also be disingenuous. As Fairfax journalists ...