Climate Change: how can we adapt?

On Monday, the Crawford school at the ANU ran a symposium on whether or not the government policy on carbon emissions was good policy. The video of the event should shortly appear here.

The main surprise for me was to see how clearly some of  the other economists speaking there, like Warwick McKibbon, David Pierce, and Henry Ergas, were skeptical about the prospects of serious coordinated international efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The message of my presentation was that it is time to get more serious about adaptation. The synopsis of my presentation is over the fold.

 

The world is getting warmer and wetter, almost undoubtedly due to the fact that we are burning up fossil fuels at an incredible rate. Whilst this change in our climate will lead to some positive opportunities, such as wine growing in Tasmania, our natural and social habitat is not accustomed to changes that are this rapid and we should hence expect a significant loss of biodiversity and human infrastructure if we cannot halt climate change.

There are those that believe that we can avert climate change by repenting of our sinful energy-guzzling ways. They advocate an increased cost of activities that lead to carbon emissions in the expectation that this will gradually become normal throughout the world, eventually leading us to new technologies that will make humans more carbon neutral. They expect small-step policies, like the one the Australian government is planning to implement in 2012, to be instrumental in getting towards long-term changes in our use of energy.

Then there those like myself who see no hope whatsoever in reducing emissions. Most of the rest of the world simply doesn’t worry enough about the climate in coming decades and centuries to make the radical adjustments asked for. The scenario I see unfold is for the world to more or less go through the cheapest means of energy first, only using the cleaner energy as the more polluting but cheaper forms have run out. For sure, I also hope for technological breakthroughs, but having seen no major new technology in the last 50 years that comes close to out-competing coal and oil, I am not holding my breath that the magic technological fix is around the corner.

So if you fully expect the climate to change and think of policies surrounding carbon emissions as feeble symbolic gestures, does this mean you want to do nothing? The answer is no. If you are desperate enough, you try geo-engineering fixes that do not require massive and sustained coordination. Otherwise, what you do if there is a problem you can’t fix is that you learn to live with it and adapt to it such that you minimize the loss and maximize the gain.

Let us remind ourselves what we are adapting to. As a rule of thumb, in the course of 10 years we are talking about a warming of 0.1 degree Celsius, an increase in sea levels by 5 centimetres, and about a 0.5% increase in rainfall per 10 years. Ocean acidification and the melting of the ice caps make up even slower changes in our climate. On reflection, these anticipated changes in climate are very fast from a geological point of view, but from a human point of view they are painstakingly slow. You would be forgiven for not noticing any changes in your lifetime, which is of course precisely why I deem it folly to expect the world to really get anxious about this.

For any investment that is usually written off in a matter of decades, which includes most existing housing and nearly all business investments, the slow change in climate means that taking account of climate change is irrelevant since there will be plenty of time in the future to redirect such investments when the climate is actually noticeably different. One can think of making building codes take account of a greater likelihood of floods and storms, but that is about it.

The things to really worry about are public investments with payoffs measured in centuries rather than decades. Where governments have a particular role is in fishing stocks, biodiversity, nature parks, coastal lands, and other public goods that get given down via the generations.

How can governments react to the collapse in the stocks of those fish that would disappear due to acidification of the oceans? That acidification is a serious problem, to the extent that if it goes on unchecked, we’d be in the situation in a century or so time that the shell of many marine animals would dissolve, which means the end of them and things that feed on them.

One question is whether acidification can be reversed by pumping more alkaline substances into the ocean or churning alkaline rock beds in the ocean itself. Given the amount of fossil fuels we dig up, one would need an awful lot more chalk into the oceans to balance the acidity. My understanding is that this is an active area of research where we don’t yet know if acidification can be countered by things like mixing up shelves of chalk under the seabed.  A ‘coalition of the willing’ could try to churn enough calcium in the oceans to prevent further acidification and Australia could lead research and international efforts that way.

If it turns out that acidification is unavoidable, we should think of ways of preserving the biodiversity. Governments can extend the conservation areas in the oceans, can set up ‘artificial reefs’ on land that preserve some of the current marine diversity, can set up gene banks for the many current marine life species, and in various other ways can preserve as much of the marine life diversity as possible in the cheapest way possible. Some of these things, like in-land reefs, could be tourist attractions.

Apart from conservation, governments can also be more pro-active: if you take the warming and acidification of the oceans as inevitable, you can turn to the question how to re-stock the ocean with fish and other organisms that do well in warmer and more acid waters. Of course, nature itself will experiment with this, but governments can give nature a helping hand. We can try to genetically engineer new fish species or mass-raise those species which we know are more suited for the new climate. Such initiatives would of course greatly benefit from having a database of ocean life conserved somewhere. And it of course will be a case of hit-and-miss as the long history of introducing new species in Australia has shown. Learning how to engineer the fish and other marine life we want is not something we can do overnight and there is a government role in coordinating a knowledge base in that area.

Analogue to how governments have a role to play in maintaining and increasing the stock of fish, there is a role for government in maintaining biodiversity and nature parks on land. Gene banks, artificial species, artificial habitats, etc. are obvious things governments can get involved in. To some extent, we already are involved in such thing. The Australian National Botanic Gardens for instance already stores seeds of over 5000 different  plants and such programs would seem worth expanding.

The main areas in which active government intervention specific to Australia would seem desirable are hence in terms of our unique natural habitats and waters. One would want to invest in our ability to re-stock habitats and to engineer species and plants capable of thriving in the new conditions. The two tasks, habitat conservation and habitat experimentation, are both long-term enterprises where the 10 billion dollars currently spent on symbolic measures would go a long way to helping us prepare for the climate changes ahead.

 

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Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
10 years ago

“in the course of 10 years we are talking about a warming of 0.1 degree Celsius …”

My non-expert understanding is that median estimates in the more moderate IPCC “scenarios” are around 3 degrees C warming over the next century i.e. about 0.3 degrees C per decade. No doubt it would be slower at first then accelerating as the century progresses, but it’s still a fair bit larger than what you’re suggesting. You seem to be basing your estimate on the historical record, in that global mean temperature rose by around 0.8 degrees C through the twentieth century. Modelling indicates a rather faster pace of warming through the 21st century. I’m not arguing against your case, which sadly may well be spot on, just pointing out that the picture is probably gloomier than you’re suggesting and the adaptation effort required correspondingly greater.

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
10 years ago

Ken,

A month-by-month account of the world temperature can be seen here:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_current.gif

starting from 1850, the temperatures have risen between 0.5 and 0.9 degrees, translating to 0.04 per decade. If we look at just the last 50 years, you get the mentioned 0.1 degrees per decade. There are indeed a whole set of possible temperature increases bandied around for the next century and I took the one closest to actual real experience in living memory.

No need to be only doom and gloom about these changes though. The IPCC expects agriculture to improve with a 1 to 3 degree increase in temperature, which means in terms of food this century will be a winner of climate change. Stern similarly expects benefits of 2 degrees warming so in our lifetime and that of our grandchildren the clouds have silver linings. It is an odd aspect of this debate that doom in gloom scenarios dominate the public debates whilst a lot of good things are projected during the next 2 generations’ lifetime.

wilful
wilful
10 years ago

Why on earth would you be looking at the past to anticipate the future? And, if you’re not a climate scientist, why wouldn’t you look at the authoritative voices in climate science, such as the CSIRO or IPCC, rather than a professional contrarian? Unless you’re actually pushing some non/anti-science barrow, in which case you’re not being an economist, just an ideologue.

paul frijters
paul frijters
10 years ago

wilful,

what a question!
The IPCC reports have many scenarios, ranging from 1.1 degrees increase to 6.4. I choose the lower bound because it relates to the upper bound of what we have been recently experiencing and it thus puts it in context as to what the last 2 generations have experienced. If you want to exchange 0.1 with 0.2 or even 0.6 in your own mind, be my guest.

wilful
wilful
10 years ago

Paul, you are essentially advocating “A1F1”, which is more like 2.4 – 6.5 degrees (from memory), with a median consensus around 4 degrees. if you accept that, then your statement

“from a human point of view they are painstakingly slow. You would be forgiven for not noticing any changes in your lifetime, which is of course precisely why I deem it folly to expect the world to really get anxious about this.”

is invalidated. And I don’t accept that there is plenty of upside in the meantime, in a slightly warmer world. Sure, if you live in Siberia you might enjoy a longer growing season But compare that to drought in the horn of Africa, to flooding the Gangetic delta, it’s pretty clear which way the scales are weighted.

rog
rog
10 years ago

The proposition is flawed if you have to rely on Roy Spencer for evidence.

paul frijters
paul frijters
10 years ago

rog,

you want to explain what is wrong with the linked graph? The temperatures there overlap almost perfectly with other available temperature series. Is this some kind of fetish whereby you have no right to use the pretty pictures of X?

wilful,

you seem to pick and mix your prefered scenarios and implications. On the whole, I was picking the ones that made my main argument less salient. As Ken pointed out, if I pick a quicker pace of change the rationale for adaptation only strengthens.
Care to explain to me whether and why you disagree with the mainstream line on the (agricultural) benefits of warming 1-3 degrees?

rog
rog
10 years ago

Paul, the very fact that you referenced Roy Spencer indicates that you are out of depth.

paul frijters
paul frijters
10 years ago

rog,

ah, you are a fundamentalist. Once someone is tainted, anything they do or make available is shunned, whether the particular item in question is actually useful or not. No wonder you hide behind a pseudonym.

hc
hc
10 years ago

Apart from some factual errors the basic claim here is logically sound. If no one will act to mitigate their emissions by reducing their carbon emissions then the only thing left is to adapt to climate change or rely on some geo-engineering option. But Paul offers no support for his premise and there is clear evidence that the politicians of almost all countries are interested in addressing climate change. Certainly Europe but also developing countries like China and India where the drastic effects of climate change are being felt. The US is having problems now with the GFC but its current President wants action on climate change as to many Americans. So too did George Bush 1. So too apparently does the Australian Liberal Party.

Paul you cannot reconstruct natural environments from seed banks and it is clearly better to try to mitigate carbon emissions than to adopt an unproven defeatist attitudes that only permits leaves the adaptation option.

If as many now suggest we do experience catastrophic climate change then the dangerous options of geo-sequestration and neutralising the acidity of the oceans might be employed as last ditch efforts to avoid oblivion but why raise these issues now when with moderate carbon pricing, and plausible policies we can certainly at least limit the extent of warming.

Social scientists like to be different and to sound radical – most academics (I don’t exclude myself) crave recognition. But when there are important issues of public policy at stake – and there seem to be few more important than the potential survival of the human and other species – then it is important to also be sensible even if it is all a bit boring. Saying that we should give up on climate mitigation on the basis of the unproven premise that policy will fail does not seem sensible. The stakes are too high.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

“but having seen no major new technology in the last 50 years that comes close to out-competing coal and oil, I am not holding my breath that the magic technological fix is around the corner.”

I’ll bet against you here — I reckon we’ll have nuclear fusion in 20 years (of course then would come the process of changing over, which would take another 30), since the market is gargantuan and you have lots of really smart people working on it, getting somewhere. Of course, that doesn’t mean we will get it, so I still think it is worthwhile trying to think about the things HC mentions.

rog
rog
10 years ago

Paul, you appear to be keen on referencing economic authorities but when it comes to climate change the choice appears to be one of a DIY adaption.

Climate change is complex and the IPCC attempt to describe the range of options. No one really knows how it will affect an individual in a particular location at a certain point in time but the consensus is that the overall trend will generate significant and costly damage. The considered scientific opinion is that carbon emissions are the major contributor to climate change and it is the economists task to meet the challenge of reducing carbon emissions in a cost effective manner.

wizofaus
wizofaus
10 years ago

“You would be forgiven for not noticing any changes in your lifetime”

I gather someone born in Hobart today, expecting to live a good 80 years, assuming BAU, is probably going to see something close to 3 degrees warming in their lifetime – enough to change its climate to something closer to Sydney’s. One would think they’d notice that.

Peter Patton
Peter Patton
10 years ago

I simply do not understand what all the bed-wetting WAS – and let’s face it, popular ‘concern’ over global warming has come and gone like the pet-rock fad – all about it. If it gets too hot, then just MOVE. If your bed really is a wetlands, why don’t you buy land in Tasmania, or Alaska, or Finalnd, or Siberia?

wizofaus
wizofaus
10 years ago

Peter, polls from earlier this year showed over 50% of Americans worrying “a great deal or a fair amount” about global warming. In Europe and Australia the figures are somewhat higher. I fail to see how that compares with a ‘pet-rock’ fad. Yes there has been a slight downturn in support for action since a couple of years ago, but given the economic woes in the intervening period that’s hardly surprising.

Peter Patton
Peter Patton
10 years ago

As I did not connect my post to any of your “polls”…

Peter Patton
Peter Patton
10 years ago

And your polls are either completely fucked, or misunderstood by you. You seem very gullible to so quickly conflate ‘concern’ with support for ‘action’. I notice your silence on whom that alleged 50% expects to ‘act’, that is, ‘pay’. Not them.

JJ
JJ
10 years ago

Paul

Firstly, thank you for posting on this very important subject. Given that human’s interaction with the environment is the greatest challenge facing our species’ survival, contributions to this debate should all be welcomed.

Secondly, economics carries great weight in our society and it is very important that discussion between economists and relevant experts contributes to increasing our chances of survival. I have been waiting for more discussion of this subject on economics websites (after all the economy is part of the environment).

That said, I am definitely noticing warming changes in my life-time (I’m 47) and while I’m no expert, from my understanding of what relevant experts say, the scenario you portray would appear to be very optimistic.

I propose that Club Troppo invite people with expertise in relevant areas (weather, changes in complex environmental systems etc) to discuss this topic.

JJ

observa
observa
10 years ago

How can we adapt? By getting rid of this toxic Gillard and her lunar future ETS to ultimately enrich the Morgan Sachs MacQuarie crowd or Nigerian businessmen and achieve nothing. Then we have to piss off the entrenched watermelon mentality (including Abbott’s direct intervention sop) and go for a level playing field market based approach the world has to follow or else!

As I’ve said before we need total reliance on straight level playing field fossil fuel taxing plus resource taxing to drive an environmentally smart marketplace and the country needs a circuit breaker before Gillard locks Labor into self destruct mode. The MRRT is popular for the obvious so that’s a no-brainer but Labor need to put the toxic ETS to bed and quickly. That means Crean as leader and his first announcement as PM that he’s ditching the ETS for a straight British Columbia model of fossil fuel taxing, with offsetting income and company tax cuts and the offer to work with Abbott on the details of that. The perfect wedge and circuit breaker for Labor and an offer Abbott can’t refuse now. It also sidelines the Greens without getting their noses out of joint. Of course in doing so Labor has to abandon the notion of raising more taxes and building their evil empire, for reliance on level playing field price to promote better environmental outcomes. That bedded down, border security could be addressed in a bipartisan way and then a broader shift to environmental pricing and resource taxing can be addressed, without the need for any other Govt intervention at all.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

Certainly Europe but also developing countries like China and India where the drastic effects of climate change are being felt.

Like what, Harry?

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

Yobbo,

I think you’ll find that apart from a small number of countries, most governments actually accept climate change exists and is happening. A quick search of the government controlled and censored Chinadaily suggests even the Chinese government does: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-06/18/content_8296959.htm .

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

I think you’ll find that there is an overwhelming massive consensus that climate change is mad bad and real. This view was first promulgated by Al Gore and he has successfully converted a large percentage of the world.

I know you’ll find a crushingly dominant consensus that it is SEP – somebody else’s problem. This view was also first promulgated by Al Gore and he has also successfully converted an even larger percentage of the world.

I too have serious concerns about HC and wiz if those comments about public opinion and global political leadership were made other than in jest.

wizofaus
wizofaus
10 years ago

Patrick I can’t help but wonder if there’s been any time recently that you’ve actually understood me correctly in almost any post on this blog. You know perfectly well my post wasn’t in jest – but nor was it claiming anything particularly controversial. As it is I largely agree with Paul that there simply isn’t sufficient public and political support for global action for mitigation measures to be likely to achieve much any time soon – I’m just slightly more optimistic that this might change in the coming decades than he and others are.

observa
observa
10 years ago

The main areas in which active government intervention specific to Australia would seem desirable are hence in terms of our unique natural habitats and waters. One would want to invest in our ability to re-stock habitats and to engineer species and plants capable of thriving in the new conditions.

Paul you don’t need central planners in Canberra to do that, nor a heap more in Brussells doing more of the same. Central planning has failed the environment on every measure and all we need to do is unleash a heap of John Walmesley Earth Sanctuary types with a free market. Watermelon policy-making is on the nose everywhere and Sportsbet have just suspended betting on Crean as Labor Leader. QED

wilful
wilful
10 years ago

you seem to pick and mix your prefered scenarios and implications. On the whole, I was picking the ones that made my main argument less salient.

how do I do this? The scenario you outline will have grave, easily discernable impacts, as described in IPCC AR4. These effects will be felt soon.

As Ken pointed out, if I pick a quicker pace of change the rationale for adaptation only strengthens.

And the rationale for mitigation too.

Care to explain to me whether and why you disagree with the mainstream line on the (agricultural) benefits of warming 1-3 degrees?

care to provide any evidence that that is the mainstream line? From my wide reading, there will be some areas that will benefit, but overall (globally) the impacts on agriculture and food production will be severe.

Oh, and your understanding of ecological restoration is quite apparently non-existent.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

Yobbo,

I think you’ll find that apart from a small number of countries, most governments actually accept climate change exists and is happening.

I’m not interested in what governments “think” is happening, I want to see examples of the “Drastic Effects” of Climate Change that Harry says are already happening in China and India.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

“I’m not interested in what governments “think” is happening”

I imagine that governments (and the people) referred to in the China Daily article think that the things like flooding and so on are pretty drastic. They do kill people, wipe out villages etc. after all. Those that get relocated probably think that is pretty drastic also, despite the government’s ridiculous claims of giving them a better life (haha!).

wizofaus
wizofaus
10 years ago

I hate to say it, but I’d’ve thought whatever effects climate change has had on China’s environment so far would be lost in the noise of far more direct impacts from its rapid industrialisation. If anything the aerosol pollutants generated by China in the last decade or so have probably done more than anything else to reduce the degree of warming we would have experienced otherwise. But ask the average resident of Beijing or Shanghai when was the last time they saw a blue sky or clear water. There’s surely far more direct motivation to clear up the generation of aerosol pollution, and I’d certainly expect to see that happen in the next couple of decades, with consequent impacts on global temperature averages.

hc
hc
10 years ago

Yobbo, Severe long term droughts in northern China, acute water supply issues in Beijing. Similar water supply issues in India.

The Chinese themselves attribute these phenomena to climate change and are serious in their attempts to combat it. they recently achieved their 20% energy intensity reduction target and target a 40 % reduction intensity reduction target by 2020 which they will achieve.

The Chinese have huge renewable programs and large numbers of CCS research plants.

The Indian government is also serious about climate change and says it will not exceed per capita emissions of western countries.

Neither China nor India will cut absolute emissions while their per capita emissions and their per capita energy consumptions are so low relative to the developed world but they are addressing climate change. Developed countries should take the lead in cutting emissions and in offering technology and aid to developing countries.

Peter Patton
Peter Patton
10 years ago

Developed countries should take the lead in cutting emissions and in offering technology and aid to developing countries.

Shorter hc:

Take up the Developed World’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

How is drought possibly a result of increasing temperature Harry? Even schoolchildren know that warmer temperatures result in more rainfall, not less.

You are full of it. You just assign anything bad that happens to Climate Change, the same way that primitive people blamed everything on evil spirits.

JC
JC
10 years ago

Harry,

No kidding but are you running propaganda for China? China is doing nothing to address climate change other than cosmetics.

If they were serious, they would have signed the Copenhagen Accords, which expected a 4% annual reduction in carbon intensity, while the sky was the limit for absolute emissions projected then to rise 4.5 times US base levels by 2050. The US was prepared to give them an 80% cut in absolute emissions with one proviso. The US wanted inspection and verification. The Chinese walked.

So that raises two questions.

If China walked from the trust but verify agreement, why would you trust any of their stats? Secondly if absolute emissions are going to 4.5 times US 2006 baseline why does it really matter what their carbon intensity is.

they recently achieved their 20% energy intensity reduction target and target a 40 % reduction intensity reduction target by 2020 which they will achieve.

Really? Where is your starting point to determine the 20% cut in intensity? How is this number verified and by whom? The 40% cut is a compound reduction of 4& per annum from 2007 to 2020. There is nothing startling about this. However what is more startling is they didn’t sign the accord that simply asked for the same with verification.

Meanwhile, absolute emissions are exploding to the upside for both China and India.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

“Even schoolchildren know that warmer temperatures result in more rainfall, not less.”

Well I’ll look forward to more 45c days in Melbourne then and the rain it brings.

JC
JC
10 years ago

Well I’ll look forward to more 45c days in Melbourne then and the rain it brings.

Funnily enough it does follow that pattern, Conrad. But why is micro climate even up for discussion when AGW is a long term global event.

wizofaus
wizofaus
10 years ago

It follows that pattern in some regions sure…specifically at high latitudes and in the tropics. Pretty much everything in between (including Melbourne and much of China) is expected to experienced less precipitation, a trend that many would argue has already started.

wizofaus
wizofaus
10 years ago

Not just Melbourne of course – most of Australia falls in the region expected to receive less precipitation. Which has in fact been the trend over the last 50 years, despite (as per Yobbo’s schoolchildren theory of climate) the associated warming in the same period:

http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/extremes/trendmaps.cgi?map=R__1&period=1950

hc
hc
10 years ago

I hesitated in responding to Yobbo’s question because I expected a moronic response and that was exactly what resulted. Not just from Yobbo but from his co-cretin, moronic Catallaxy mates. Pathetic, imbecilic and wrong.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
10 years ago

Why are you being so tentative Harry? Tell us what you really think.

hc
hc
10 years ago

Sorry Ken, I’ll try to make my position clearer in future.

JC
JC
10 years ago

I don’t believe that’s the case wiz. There may have been changes in seasonal patterns but most of Australia over a long term period has not received less rainfall. Also from what i recall reading, our rain patterns seems to operate in 30 to 40 years cycles. The guy at niche modeling blog more or less made that claim and essentially refuted the CSIRO’s some years ago actually using the CSIRO data.

Even if our rainfall is lower, it is impacted through a global event and there is nothing we can do about it.

Lets be open eyed here. The two giga economies, China and India have basically taken a strategic view that they will accept AGW as a cost of industrialization against higher living standards. They do not see AGW costs outweighing a large rise in living standards for their massive populations. Their decision is made and seeing that India and China will account for perhaps 9 times (each 4.5 times) the US 2006 level by 2050 (add in the rest of the emerging world as equal to one China/india) and the growth in emissions over the next 40 years is an emerging economies tale.

The entire western world could go to zero and wouldn’t be meaningful by 2050 in terms of what these dudes will be cooking up and dumping in the atmosphere.

JC
JC
10 years ago

Harry

I’m sorry, but I’m not wrong about the claims I’m making. You are. You are simply incorrect and don’t seem to know the difference between carbon intensity and absolute emissions.

1. My claim that China walked away from Obama’s deal is correct.

2. My claim that if China walked away from the verification deal and is now suggesting they will meet those intensity guidelines is suspect is also valid.

3. My claim that China/India absolute emissions will be around 9 times US 2006 levels is probably right if they continue growing at a fast pace- even if slower from their current pace. Add is the rest of the emerging world as equal to one of those.

If you think these claims are moronic, then refute them one by one, however your abuse doesn’t equal refutation.

This a chart that shows various nation’s intensity and absolute emissions. China is and will continue to be a laggard. Mind you for all the bluster that Australia is a huge polluter, we’re at the extreme top end of carbon intensity, which means the industries we have are extremely efficient in terms of carbon intensity (carbon per unit of GDP), as we look like the US in those charts.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

I hesitated in responding to Yobbo’s question because I expected a moronic response and that was exactly what resulted.

Moronic response in this case meaning “not accepting my fairy tales”.

Please Harry, link us to something that defends your ridiculous claim that droughts in China are caused by global warming.

wizofaus
wizofaus
10 years ago

JC, it may not be what you *believe*, but it’s what every chart I can generate from the BOM site shows. If you pick your dates carefully it is possible to find a few spots (mostly in the tropics) that have experienced a slight uptick in rainfall over a particular multi-decadal period, but the overall trend in precipitation for Australia as a whole is indisputably downward.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

“Funnily enough it does follow that pattern, Conrad.”

Well I’ll look forward to El Nino then, and the extra rain that it must bring.

wizofaus
wizofaus
10 years ago

Hmm, I guess I have to retract that…using another page on the site (http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/trendmaps.cgi?map=rain&area=aus&season=0112&period=1900) it does appear that it’s really only if you measure since 1970 that there’s a clear downward trend in rainfall patterns for most of Australia, though for the eastern seaboard (from about Cairns downwards) it’s been true since 1950. If you go back to 1900 it appears rainfall has increased slightly for most of Australia. So maybe 1950-70 was just an unusually wet period.

From my layman’s perspective it would seem to the only definite conclusion is that there’s no reason to suppose that rainfall will either decrease or increase as temperatures rise. But I’m quite prepared to defer to the expertise of climate scientists with far more understanding than I, who appear to be in agreement that the south-eastern parts of Australia will generally become drier in the coming decades.

rog
rog
10 years ago

Putting things into perspective

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

Conrad, we are once again on la nina watch, which is not surprising as they are more common during the current phase of the 20-30ish year cycle of the PDO. Wiz, the last time we were in the current PDO phase ended in the mid 70s.
http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast15sep_1/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_decadal_oscillation

And just for rog! http://www.drroyspencer.com/global-warming-background-articles/the-pacific-decadal-oscillation/

There either is or is not evidence of a long term increase in drought in India or China, so anybody making that claim should just provide a link. Water shortages are not the same a drought, especially in places with high population growth and fast rates of industrialisation and other development.

The claims about more and worse cyclones have proved to be a fairy tale, that has been disavowed by the relevant scientists yet still gets run by pollies and pundits.

Tel
Tel
10 years ago

I imagine that governments (and the people) referred to in the China Daily article think that the things like flooding and so on are pretty drastic. They do kill people, wipe out villages etc. after all.

Well there’s your answer to the adaptation problem right there: good quality drainage systems, maybe a well-built dam, don’t use mud as the primary foundation for your house (especially if you live on a steep hillside). Given the way China can build sky scrapers, coal power plants, nuclear power plants, fast rail, bridges, etc. etc. you would think that they could spare a bit of concrete for shoring up some of these villages… that’s what central planning is supposedly good for? Helping the guys at the bottom of the heap?

wizofaus
wizofaus
10 years ago

Pedro, what specifically are you referring to with regards to cyclones?

Tel
Tel
10 years ago

Mind you for all the bluster that Australia is a huge polluter, we’re at the extreme top end of carbon intensity, which means the industries we have are extremely efficient in terms of carbon intensity (carbon per unit of GDP), as we look like the US in those charts.

I’m reasonably sure that all the statistics showing Australia as a huge polluter allocate our coal exports to China against the Australian per-capita carbon quota. That was the way the Kyoto Protocol did its accounting, and the reason was to force exporting countries to buy emission certificates from other countries, and thus push up the price of fossil fuels on the international market.

Australian householders are on the whole, fairly wealthy by international standards, so we buy more stuff. We could prevent this by making ourselves poorer, and if we blocked all of our coal exports to China we would simultaneously solve both “problems”.

But it seems kind of strange to be on an economics blog figuring out how to make ourselves poor. Anyhow nothing a bit of gree jobs stimulus money can’t fix. Block the coal exports, and plant a couple of trees in your yard — job’s done!