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Issue #1751      October 5, 2016

Hot Earth

The power outage in South Australia was not the result of too many solar panels or wind turbines, as pushed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the climate change deniers in his government. This orchestrated, apparent knee-jerk reaction to a major weather event is the sound of the vested voice of the coal mining and gas industries.

That the federal government used the natural disaster to push the fossil fuel agenda when the blackouts across the state were in fact caused by unprecedented storms that flattened power pylons and hit other infrastructure, reflects the depth of political influence of those vested interests: follow the money and see how much coal and gas generators are losing to renewables. Last year, for example, a fossil fuels lobby group, the Energy Supply Council – representing the major power generators – set out to label SA an “accidental experiment”.

The campaign’s objective was to cause alarm and plant doubts in people’s minds about the introduction of policies promoting and implementing renewable energy targets, currently set by South Australia (50 percent by 2030), Victoria (40 percent by 2025) and Queensland (50 percent by 2030). This is in contrast to Turnbull government’s national target of 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Jobs and change

Climate change, jobs, and corporate profits are interconnected. Unless environmental damage and climate change are brought under control, global catastrophe will result from a collapse of the planet’s ecosystem. Millions of lives and jobs will be lost. Australia is not immune to the impacts of global warming. We are already experiencing changes in weather patterns, extremes of droughts and flooding, and bush fire conditions of an unprecedented nature. Strong action on climate change that meets the findings of science is imperative.

Decisive action will inevitably affect jobs. The question is how it is done. Workers’ rights must be protected; they should not be disadvantaged as a result of environmental protection measures. The Political Resolution adopted by the Communist Party of Australia at its 11th Congress in 2009 emphasises:

“Workers whose jobs are at risk from measures to protect the environment must be offered employment in environmentally friendly occupations and new green industries without loss of wages or any conditions and with full involvement of workers and their unions … It is necessary to promote jobs growth in the sustainable energy sector and to ensure that job creation is equitable and targets geographic areas and economic sectors disadvantaged by the transition to a sustainable energy future.”

Climate change should not result in the destruction of rural and regional communities, but enhance opportunities there.

“Job creation and good employment opportunities are central to sustainable development because workers and workplaces are at the centre of production and consumption in society and have a key place in transforming production at all levels,” the CPA Resolution says.

The science

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, leaves no doubts as to the impact that human activity is having on the climate and the rapidity of that change.

The IPCC is an intergovernmental body with 194 member countries, sponsored by United Nations Environment Program and World Meteorological Organisation. The report is the product of 209 Lead Authors and 50 Review Editors from 39 countries and more than 600 Contributing Authors from 32 countries.

The IPCC was established in 1988, and from time to time publishes reports on topics relevant to the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since then there have been four Assessment Reports, the last one in 2007.

The function of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.

The full report, some 2,500 pages of text, draws on millions of observations and over two million gigabytes of numerical data from climate model simulations. Over 9,200 scientific publications are cited, more than three quarters of which have been published since the last IPCC assessment.

The authors have gone to great lengths to be as objective and accurate as possible in estimating possible scenarios based on the outcome of different levels of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition it has been subjected to extensive reviews by experts and member governments.

The report draws the conclusion that it is extremely likely (95 percent) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

It is happening

“Warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia,” the report states in its 36-page Summary for Policymakers. (

The report’s findings are alarming and require urgent action on the part of all nations. They include the following:

  • Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.
  • The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40 percent since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30 percent of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification.
  • Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
  • Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2°C for the two high scenarios.

Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.

Heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer. As the Earth warms, expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions.

It is very likely that the Arctic Sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin and that Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover will decrease during the 21st century as global mean surface temperature rises. Global glacier volume will further decrease.

As the ocean warms, and glaciers and ice sheets reduce, global mean sea level will continue to rise, but at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 45 years.

The report finds with high confidence that ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90 percent of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010.

At the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales – the only Indigenous leader at thhe summit - in his address, summed up the essence of the struggle: “We are dealing here with two cultures; the culture of life and the culture of death – the culture of death that is capitalism. We the Indigenous peoples say it has lived well for too long. Lived well, at the cost of others.”

Next article – Editorial – The politics of hate and division

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