Academics Australian Climate Update 2021


Professor Mark Howden from ANU zoom broadcasted this excellent hour and a half presentation. It is an expert and comprehensive overall view of the current global warming processes, and what we should be doing now. Three other speakers followed, giving valuable insights into the responses of government, people and environment in NSW. This was all recorded along with responses and questions. My summary of the points made is not verbatim, and my own personal response below this, is what I feel are implications for everyone. Listening to the speeches, pictures and graphics shown in the youtube video can tell us much more than just the words.

The rate of adding carbon emissions fell 6.7% in 2020, due mainly to the COVID outbreak, but this made very little difference to the rates of rise in accumulated atmosphere carbon dioxide, because we are already adding so much each year.

There are also record levels of methane, nitrous oxide and other green house gases. These drivers of warming continue to rise, and force global temperatures to rise faster.

2020 was overall a record year for global average temperatures. NSW managed to be a little bit cooler due to the effect of "La Nina", which brought on a very wet year, which helped NSW avoid another record hot year.

As global temperatures rise to 2 degrees C of warming and beyond, frequency and duration of heatwaves will oppress over a billion people living in sub-tropical zones.

Extreme droughts are going to more common, and there are going to be significant decreases in total water storage over the land.

Sea level rise predictions continue to rise, faster with higher temperatures.

Even if economies operated as they do now according to population size, without assuming resource depletions, global warming is going to produce large drops in GDP.

One current trends, the probability of staying below 2 degrees of warming is only five percent (5%). Even if all nations met there national emissions reduction goals.

Net zero emissions is one part of the goal, but getting emissions down fast enough is just as important. Considering the Carbon Budget, for any temperature goal, already have to consider stopping well before reaching that temperature, because of "locked-in" warming, and non-CO2 greenhouse gases, and accounting for natural tipping points and positive natural emissions feedbacks.

After doing the calculations for the above factors for the global remaining CO2 budget, the estimates are the world can emit less than 390Gt of CO2, for limiting warming to 1.5 C. As current emissions of all green house gases are equivalent to 42 Gt per year, we already have 9 and a bit years or less of global fossil fuels burning, at the current rates of production, before net zero could be met.

For limiting warming to 2 degrees C is a much more risky proposition, and maybe about 27 years at current emission levels remain. The risks are worse global climate impacts, and positive warming feedbacks that predominate in the longer term even as we drop our fossil fuel and industrial Green House Gas emissions.

Of course emissions can be only reduced gradually. The drastic behaviour and economic changes, with pain and losses from global COVID managed a 6.7% reduction. More than this reduction needs to be repeated every year. Halving emissions in the next 10 years, in order to transition to low carbon , much lower energy usage societies, but still provide food, water shelter clothing to most of their populations. This could be done, and developed nations have so much energy use that can be cut.

For 1.5 degrees as a target, every 10 years the world cut emissions in halve again. This is a reversal of the old paradoxes of Motion of the ancient greek philosophor Zeno. Zeno declared that motion from one place to another thereby seemed impossible. This is much like the political positions of the Australian Government. To them, even a little part-way seems impossible. Unlike Zeno, if we fail to slow down fast enough, we risk an overshoot of extended long term global warming, beyond our capacity for global recovery. Every year of delay before undergoing large-scale emission reductions, makes overshoot more likely.  

We are already in overshoot of many other planetary boundaries and rates of non-renewable resource consumption. Slowing down is the only way that the human species can create the possibility of some reversal of global natural systems decline. Similarly, fast reductions now of resources use and pollution creation, allow the limit dates for net-zero emissions, which occurs when the amosphere is "saturated" with accumulations of greenhouse gas emissions.

Matt Kean, NSW minister for energy, gave a recorded video after the climate science presentation. Matt Kean has legislated a road-map of building renewable energy infrastructure. His government has at least acknowledged some of the challenges to be met in preserving nature, and changing behaviour  and technology use of our society.

Georgina Woods gave a very detailed regional view of the Hunter Valley region in NSW, which is more diverse in agricultual and industry than most people might realize. When the global price and demand for coal has dropped, large numbers of coal producers laid off workers. There is a general failure to anticipate and prepare for such a rapid transitions.  Eighty percent of the coal is exported, and owned by foreign companies, so the decisions get made overseas. Governments give more power and trust to the corporations than the public. The people are aware that structural decline of coal is coming.  In order to forge a new path, many trade unions, local businesses and workers, people in civil society, are getting together to form a Hunter Valley Jobs Alliance. There is a strong cultural identity still built around mining and aluminium smelting. There are 150 million tonnes of pollution Coal Ash to be handled, as remainders of the era of Coal Power Stations. Cleanups, and investments in new industries and low carbon technologies are neccessary in the region.  "Environmental Action is Job Creation".  Investment is ultimately in people and local community, to do new sorts of work. 

Prof. Jakelin Troy has some of her own Aboriginal Heritage. She spoke of the damage of the Snowy Hydro Electric Scheme, and how futher work approved for "version 2.0" as a giant gravity energy storage battery, which will cause more ecosystem damage. The Kosciuszko Galazias small fish, was probably made extinct by all the ash carried into rivers after the recent massive bush fires. We can't live without an intact environment around us. All life depends on all other kinds of life. The heavy ash and smoke badly affected all the creatures which had to breath it in, including Prof Troy. Maybe 70,000 years of more of human occupation and working with the living systems of Australia, has produced cultural knowledge and practices best suited to survive and thrive in Australia. Until of course European civilization has pushed out and damaged Australian Country, in its ignorance, growth and inappropriate technology. Pictures of the aftermath of the fires show that the now improperly managed lands, combined with climate change enhanced drought, have led to wide areas of ecosystem devastation, much of which looks unlikely to recover in the short term. Outside of Australian, faster melting glaciers in the Himalayas combined with deforestation have caused floods and landslides.

I saw the first parts of the presentation live, then I had to watch the rest on playback later on youtube.

Answers to Questions:

Mark - Australian federal government has to get its act together on climate. Trade relations in future may include carbon tariffs for nations like Australia which are not pricing carbon appropriately and not taking sufficient mitigation actions.

Georgina - The Jobs Alliance involves a lot of getting out and talking with people. To get community concensus , awareness and feedback. Lots of meeting events. Getting workers and the environment. No big money on the table, no public process about it yet created, like a Transition Authority. Foundation to invest in new enterprises. Diversity of sub-regions, lower and upper Hunter Valley. Unions looking for good working conditions, secure jobs, and improved and environment.

Georgina: Opposition to the "Gas-led recovery".  Not what the public thinks of as recovery, more subsidy for the big corporates, decisions not made in the areas that are effected by them.

Jackie:  On the "Gas-led recovery".  Indigenous communities are badly consulted. Local environment and places are best understood by the people that live there, not by people "brought in " from elsewhere. Clever solutions for renewable energy. Old mining pits, Aboriginal people tend to still live around the areas of old mines, and have ideas on  how they could be used. 

Mark: Comment on gas. Often sold as a cleaner fuel. May be true at the point of combustion. Add in the value chain transmissions, may be just as dirty as coal. Carbon Capture and Storage, is energy intensive, and isn't profitable. No commercial operating CCS working now, not even with subsidies or enhanced oil recovery benefits.

Georgina: On the battery.  Site chosen was a critical habitat for a bird species. Planning is needed to chose proper balance and safeguards for social, environment and economic success. A battery won't have many jobs in ongoing operations. Difficulty in that labor intensive jobs require manufacturing, not just renewable energy. Circular economy and Sustainability concerns. 

Transition said to be a much broader process of interlinked environment, communities, economic sustenance.

Mark:  A long way and big gap between public expectations of climate change action, energy transition, and where and what century is  government still living in.

Georgina: People have to be talking more about it, be honest, actually seek to understand better, in order to collaborate, and to adapt to our changing future.

This presentation by concerned subject experts exposes many existential Issues for all of us

The difference between the frankness, future awareness and narratives of the speakers, and the messages we get from our governments, could not be more stark.

This cliff gets only steeper as we keep avoiding it. Some fear we will not choose to descend until the required drop is vertical.

I found the Anderson and Bows graphic claiming our chances are dissappearing for a 2 degree limit on a "Collapse of Industrial Civilisation" blog page, where it has been annotated a little bit from the original. Tim Garrett, physicist, admits we will not choose to decarbonize. The original graphic is from a climate science paper published in 2008. The steepening cliff we now face has been known about for at least the past few decades. We need to have started the descent long before we are going to get pushed off. When the final shove comes, it will by your government and your lying political parties that find it necessary to do the shoving.

What COVID may have actually achieved is somewhat less than the first of many steps for developed nations to go down the descent. Note that the units are different. The 2008 graphic shows all greenhouse gases as CO2 equivalence. Total CO2 emissions are about 75% of this.

From the ANU presentation. We need to rapidly get down below 20 Gt CO2 per year. It doesn't get any easier. The apparent paradox is we get more time for later descent the faster we descend initially.

Our one and only world is warming at 0.25 - 0.3 degrees C per decade, due the increased global greenhouse effect caused by our saturation of our atmosphere with our industrial systems gaseous production. This evil will be limited by making our world a much harsher and more dangerous place to live in, until our life support systems collapse. The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming is only 2 decades. Natural variability in global temperatures, may breach the zone of average 1.5 degrees warming within another 5 years, by 2025, so the 1.5 C limit should be considered an already done deal. Our global life systems crash is already in progress.

Net zero human emissions in time, can only be achieved by the world cutting its emissions rapidly. Australian government needs to be planning for a power down in both domestic and exported greenhouse gas emissions, including gas.  The consequences for jobs and community economics in transition should be being talked about, by us, the people who will be impacted, and survival plans for economics and climate should be formed now, by every region and community.

Fight the Corruption in Government, fight Corporations

Our governments are limited centers of big money corruption and vested interests, and their forging of new understanding, attitudes and legislation is extremely slow. Governments are a very blunt instrument of control of large nation states, no matter what social means is used legitimize their power.  Even in the best and most fortunate situations, they tend to use their bureaucracy for tight fisted means of oppression. The Robodebt debacle was by no means the worst of this.

We also have Governments unable to admit having made mistakes and incompetance, like a bunch of lawyers representing wealthy clients, which is exactly what governments are.  I don't know whether I should call this the "Kunning Druger" effect, or the "Angus Taylor" syndrome, but it is bare faced representation of private money interests. There is a preponderance of belief in image over substance. NSW minister Matt Kean was able to say in general that there have been some bad decisions in the past. Typcial politicians tend to refer mistakes always to the "other party" when it was in office doing exactly the same sort of things.

After the most recent bushfire disaster, the Australian government is still withholding promised funds from needy Australian communities, while still helping their best mates in businesses and foreign corporations carry out exploitation and environment destruction for profits. When pressed the government will claim it is representing the interests of all people, but the only once that seem to count are those that supply large amounts of ready cash, which is the major factor in deciding what is "market fitness". Without the bribe there is no political hearing.

This should help people see through the lies and PR spin distributed by media and politicians who are supported by big money. If you are not part of the exploiting 1% , then you are already being abandoned by government, bureacracy and corporate capitalism. Government sees community needs as their enemy. We should return our anger at this attitude at election times, and be collaborating against the government at all other times. Take back politics by forming and working for our own "Life and Community" party.

We don't live in a democracy that we control. Our local political participation is mostly distracted or dead. Our culture of money systems that value status, wealth, possessions and power are in control.  Your apathy and lack of political organising skills is from a long standing Coup. Your government amd its money-favoured representatives need to be considered as the enemy of just about everyone's future. They are not interested in the environment and your future personal survival, any more than these things can help make money for their mates. This is a result of 300 years of European capitalist development and growth. Any other view tends to promote the fairy tale of nationalism and progress that is incepted by the ever present curriculum of schooling, jobs and media.

The government plans to lose its responsibilities by inaction, neglect, prays and waits for instructions from only "market forces". Even the conversion to large renewable energy projects by states, local governments, and individuals, is more of signal from "market forces" rather than that of climate mitigation necessity. Our love of domestic solar power stations is because we hope it saves us money as well as emissions.

"Market Forces" in its wider remit, should include preserving our climate and environment, because humans cannot live without the contributions of all other living creatures maintaing a safe biosphere and climate. This truth is not costed into our present big corporate and government money systems of exploitation, whose organisation and behaviours do not include the well-being of everything that really matters, which is only the living world.

The only way out is for people to combine, talk and plan, and take into account their own regions community and environment needs, make their own plans, set their own terms, and block out the forces of bad government and exploitation, including the invasions and occupations by the federal governments and their corporate friends "Gas-led" climate relapse.

Killing off the messengers and the research from our Universities

Matt Kean praised the Universities for their work in organising the knowledge and providing advice about the technical, social and educational dimensions of our problems, but all of our Universities are in dire financial straits, due to decades of government funding cuts, adaptation to commercialization of education and research, over-bureaucratization, and now the collapse of student intakes due to COVID. Staff layoffs are the result. In general our government political parties no longer even appear to listen to scientific and social advice from publicly funded experts. Loss of funding for public media, public education, public health, and public anything, along with growing inequality of wealth and power, are primary signs that our civilization is collapsing as cheap energy supply and other resources decline. What we have left is ourselves and our abilities to organize and work together, should we decide to do so.

author:
Michael Rynn
description:
Global life systems crash in progress. 1.5 degrees C of global warming is a done deal. Only rapid phase-out of fossil fuels can save us from worse.
keywords:
Green house gases are still rising. Our greenhouse emissions need to fall.
og:title:
Academics Australian Climate Update 2021

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