Climate models do not overestimate long-term effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations

January 29th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

The apparent “pause”, i.e. a smaller than predicted increase in air temperature over the last years in spite of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations has led some to believe that climate models are incorrect and that we should not worry too much about global warming. An important study by two leading climate researchers just published in Nature has now shown that the so-called pause is due to short-term chaotic fluctuations and that predictions for long-term trends are correct. We must expect serious global warming in future years. Abstract of the paper, published online 28 January 2014, below:

Jochem Marotzke & Piers M. Forster

Nature
517,
565–570
(29 January 2015)
doi:10.1038/nature14117

Most present-generation climate models simulate an increase in global-mean surface temperature (GMST) since 1998, whereas observations suggest a warming hiatus. It is unclear to what extent this mismatch is caused by incorrect model forcing, by incorrect model response to forcing or by random factors. Here we analyse simulations and observations of GMST from 1900 to 2012, and show that the distribution of simulated 15-year trends shows no systematic bias against the observations. Using a multiple regression approach that is physically motivated by surface energy balance, we isolate the impact of radiative forcing, climate feedback and ocean heat uptake on GMST—with the regression residual interpreted as internal variability—and assess all possible 15- and 62-year trends. The differences between simulated and observed trends are dominated by random internal variability over the shorter timescale and by variations in the radiative forcings used to drive models over the longer timescale. For either trend length, spread in simulated climate feedback leaves no traceable imprint on GMST trends or, consequently, on the difference between simulations and observations. The claim that climate models systematically overestimate the response to radiative forcing from increasing greenhouse gas concentrations therefore seems to be unfounded.

The State of the Earth and the Reaction of France and the Western World to Terrorist Attacks

January 18th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (about 2.2million cu.km, 10% of the total ice mass of Antarctica) has begun to collapse and may already have passed the point of no return. If all the ice in it will melt, sea levels will rise by about 4.6 m, and this may happen within the next few hundred years if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, flooding large coastal areas, coastal cities and even some cities far inland, such as Washington D.C. For details see here:

http://time.com/96173/antarctic-glacier-loss-is-unstoppable-study-says/

Overfishing, effects of climate change such as acidification, pollution particularly by plastics, etc., threaten the health of our oceans. Effects will be on the world’s food supply, air quality, climate stability, etc. The Global Oceans Commission has outlined a “rescue package” including a limit to gas and oil exploration, capping subsidies for commercial fishing, and creating MPAs, marine protected areas. For details see here:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/06/24-2

What is largely responsible for all the mess? Our present economic system, in other words neoliberal capitalism with its overexploitation and little consideration of environmental impacts. See here:

“That Was Easy: In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth”

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/16/was-easy-just-60-years-neoliberal-capitalism-has-nearly-broken-planet-earth

However, why worry about all this, humans apparently cannot wait and are trying to speed things up even more.

Consider the recent attacks by some Muslim fanatics on the French satirical magazine Charlie and the reaction of Western governments to it. It seems that the proper reaction of the French government would have been to play things down and not up. But it did exactly the opposite, it played things up thus demonstrating “strength” to the electorate (President Hollande’s ratings went up by about 15%!!) and demonstrated to potential terrorists how to successfully challenge the west. It seems that the reaction was exactly what the terrorists wanted. Things were made even worse by millions of copies of the magazine with a cartoon of Mohammed on the front page distributed in various languages, causing uproar among muslims in many if not all countries (see attacks in Niger, planned attacks in Belgium, and the reaction of governments of various Muslim countries). Even the Pope, in strong terms, objected to the obvious insults against the Prophet and indeed any religion. – We are seeing, it seems to me, an ever increasing disregard for the rights of others, of the future of mankind, all in the name of short-term gains for the few who own the riches, and the political class which is trying to hold on to power whatever the long-term costs.

Australia has one of the worst extinction records of any country

January 15th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

A team of scientists recently went to Bramble Cay off northern Australia to search for the Bramble Cay melomys, a small rodent recorded only there and not seen for about seven years. They failed to find any trace of the species, suggesting that it is extinct. Since European colonisation, 30 mammals (more than 10% of Australia’s mammal species) have become extinct, demonstrating that Australia has one of the worst extinction records of any country.

“More than 1,850 animals and plants are listed as threatened under Commonwealth legislation (the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act).”

Full article here:

https://theconversation.com/another-australian-animal-slips-away-to-extinction-36203?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+15+January+2015+-+2303&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+15+January+2015+-+2303+CID_cdc9a19de26c1a4b01b7c8b0360cf71f&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Another%20Australian%20animal%20slips%20away%20to%20extinction

In the global context (from a recent article in Science:http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/01/14/science.1259855)
About 10 species per million species a year are lost even without human influence. At present extinction rates are 100-1000 times higher. Which means that we may be undergoing one of the great mass extinctions of Earth just now.

Hundreds of Professors of Stanford University sign an open letter urging the University to fully divest fossil fuels

January 13th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

About 300 professors of Stanford University, one of the most prestigious universities in the US, including two Noble prize winners (physics and chemistry) and a winner of the Field medal (mathematics) signed an open letter to the President and Board of their University urging them to fully divest fossil fuels. “The letter notes that in order to stay beneath the scientifically designated 2-degree warming threshold, beyond which we face cataclysmic climate disruption, scientific consensus says we must cap fossil fuel emissions at 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Current fossil fuel companies claim holdings sufficient to produce 2795 gigatons.” Similar letters were earlier signed by 226 members of Harvard University, and members of the University of California, Berkeley.

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/12/something-momentous-happening-hundreds-stanford-professors-call-full-fossil-fuel

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/interactive/2015/jan/11/stanford-fossil-fuel-divestment-letterHundreds of professors of Stanford University sign letter to urge

The end of the university?

January 13th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

This is what Terry Eagleton, the noted Catholic-Marxist literary critic, has to say about the university today in an interview in Times Higher Education http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/interview-terry-eagleton/2017733.fullarticle

“What I would say about the university today,” he says, “is that we’re living through an absolutely historic moment – namely the effective end of universities as centres of humane critique, an almost complete capitulation to the philistine and sometimes barbaric values of neo-capitalism.”

He sums it up in a nutshell!

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a Pending Disaster

January 8th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

There are worrying trends towards an ever increasing concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a few. The negotiations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) point in the same direction. Here are excerpts from a relevant article in Commondreams, January 7, 2015, by Robert Reich, one of the USA’s leading experts on the economy, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, who has served in three US administrations. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century.
Full article here: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/01/07/why-trans-pacific-partnership-agreement-pending-disaster

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a Pending Disaster

“For three decades, free trade worked. It was a win-win-win.
But in more recent decades the choice has become far more complicated and the payoff from trade agreements more skewed to those at the top.

Tariffs are already low. Negotiations now involve such things as intellectual property, financial regulations, labor laws, and rules for health, safety, and the environment.

It’s no longer free trade versus protectionism. Big corporations and Wall Street want some of both.

They want more international protection when it comes to their intellectual property and other assets. So they’ve been seeking trade rules that secure and extend their patents, trademarks, and copyrights abroad, and protect their global franchise agreements, securities, and loans.

But they want less protection of consumers, workers, small investors, and the environment, because these interfere with their profits. So they’ve been seeking trade rules that allow them to override these protections.

Not surprisingly for a deal that’s been drafted mostly by corporate and Wall Street lobbyists, the TPP provides exactly this mix.

What’s been leaked about it so far reveals, for example, that the pharmaceutical industry gets stronger patent protections, delaying cheaper generic versions of drugs. That will be a good deal for Big Pharma but not necessarily for the inhabitants of developing nations who won’t get certain life-saving drugs at a cost they can afford.

The TPP also gives global corporations an international tribunal of private attorneys, outside any nation’s legal system, who can order compensation for any “unjust expropriation” of foreign assets.

Even better for global companies, the tribunal can order compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation’s regulations. Philip Morris is using a similar provision against Uruguay (the provision appears in a bilateral trade treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland), claiming that Uruguay’s strong anti-smoking regulations unfairly diminish the company’s profits.

Anyone believing the TPP is good for Americans take note: The foreign subsidiaries of U.S.-based corporations could just as easily challenge any U.S. government regulation they claim unfairly diminishes their profits – say, a regulation protecting American consumers from unsafe products or unhealthy foods, investors from fraudulent securities or predatory lending, workers from unsafe working conditions, taxpayers from another bailout of Wall Street, or the environment from toxic emissions.

The administration says the trade deal will boost U.S. exports in the fast-growing Pacific basin where the United States faces growing economic competition from China. The TPP is part of Obama’s strategy to contain China’s economic and strategic prowess.

Fine. But the deal will also allow American corporations to outsource even more jobs abroad.

In other words, the TPP is a Trojan horse in a global race to the bottom, giving big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits.

At a time when corporate profits are at record highs and the real median wage is lower than it’s been in four decades, most Americans need protection – not from international trade but from the political power of large corporations and Wall Street.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is the wrong remedy to the wrong problem. Any way you look at it, it’s just plain wrong.

Unusually heavy flooding in parts of Malaysia not due to illegal logging, according to the Kelantan government. Australian bush fires not due to climate change

January 6th, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

The recent flooding in large parts od Southeastern Asia (Sri Lanka, southern Thailand, Malaysia, western Indonesia) were unusually heavy, although floods are common during the monsoon season. In Malaysia, more than 250,000 people were displaced and about two dozen killed. ‘The National Security Council (NSC) confirmed the massive flood that hit Kelantan (in the Northeast of peninsuar Malaysia) was the worst in the history of the state.’ – See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/worst-floods-in-kelantan-confirms-nsc#sthash.4jtKhJEI.dpuf

A number of reasons have been given, illegal logging,”God’s wrath or climate change or PAS or Umno Baru”……. “neglect and under-investment by the government – both state and federal. It is also the people’s lack of will to force Putrajaya to provide the badly needed national funds to build flood defences and develop the state.”

According to http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2015/01/04/shahidan-says-uncontrolled-logging-in-kelantan-the-cause-of-flooding/, uncontrolled logging is the major cause of the excessive flooding. However, according to http://www.mysinchew.com/node/104775?tid=4

“KOTA BAHARU, Jan 4 (Bernama) — The Kelantan government has denied uncontrolled logging in Hulu Kelantan as a major cause of the massive flooding in the state.

Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob said the disaster was due to continuous heavy rain in Gua Musang from Dec 21 to 23.

“I firmly refute the allegation as logging has been frozen in the Lojing Highlands since 2006.

“The unusually heavy rain for three days which recorded the highest rainfall distribution at 1,295mm was equivalent to the distribution of rainfall for 64 days,” he said in a statement, here, today.

“It is the power of Allah to bring such heavy rain in such a short time.

“I am calling on the people in the state to take this as a sign from Allah,” he said.

Ahmad said at the present stage, all parties should help to restore all areas destroyed and assist the flood victims who lost their homes and belongings.”

It seems that the Kelantan authorities use the same logic as the Australian Prime Minister, who said that particularly strong bush fires in Australia were not due to climate change but the Australian way of life. Did it occur to the Kelantan authority who made above claim that particularly heavy rains might be a consequence of logging? Concerning the reference to Allah, there are disturbing similarities with some Australian reactions as well. Cardinal George Pell, as Archbishop of Sydney (a good friend of the Prime Minister and self-declared climate expert), wrote in one of Murdoch’s tabloids that “some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness…belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect…In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans to placate capricious and cruel gods.Today they demand reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.” (for further details see K. Rohde ed. 2013: The Balance of Nature and Human Impact. Cambridge University Press).

A footnote, unfortunately not from a comic strip: the Australian government has replaced “climate change” by “climate variability” in its official terminology.

Two ways to mislead the public

January 3rd, 2015 by Klaus Rohde

Australian media are highly concentrated, two thirds of the printed media are controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Cop. (of America’s Fox News fame), about one quarter by Fairfax. TV channels and radio also are heavily biased towards the political right, balanced to a small degree by the public broadcasters ABC and SBS. Murdoch media are almost ridiculously one-sided, favouring the Abbott government (Liberals/Nationals coalition). For example, it is almost impossible to find scientifically correct information on climate change in The Australian and The Daily/Sunday Telegraph, two of Murdoch’s principal newspapers, but a lot on the views of so-called climate change sceptics/deniers, such as Lord Monckton, which reflects the views expressed by the prime minister and various ministers. The Sydney Morning Herald, one of Fairfax’s main newspapers, gives more balanced views, which means that it publishes some excellent articles on economics, current political events, the science of climate change, etc., but also the views of right-wing ideologues.

The way how regular contributors to the Daily Telegraph, such as Piet Akermann (formerly a Vice-President of Fox News in the USA), and Amanda Devine, both climate sceptics, present their “information”, is straightforward, they ridicule the science of climate change as “socialism in disguise”, and propagate political issues from the angle of extreme right-wing economics, i.e., measures that favour the rich at the expense of the poorer. – The Abbott government acknowledged the contribution made by these right-wing commentators to its winning the election, by inviting them to a tête-à-tête soon after their election victory, and by doing its best to reduce the influence of ABC and SBS by cutting their funding and threatening direct interference in their political direction.

But there is another – more indirect and seemingly more persuasive – way, such as that taken by Paul Sheehan in the Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax). An example in the Sydney Morning Herald January 1, 2015: “It’s high time to put aside bad news and focus on the good”. He points out that average household wealth in Australia is now close to $ one million, that Australia has “one of the world’s most stable, transparent and sophisticated financial sectors”, the “eigth largest share-market in the world despite having the 53rd largest population”, and among large economies with more than 10 million people, the third or fourth highest per capita income. My comment: All this, and the fact that the previous Labor government left a budget in much better shape than that of most other advanced economies, shows that the government’s claim that we are in an emergency situation and urgently require severe cuts to various welfare programs, foreign aid etc., is a lie. Nevertheless, Paul Sheehan goes on to make a comparison with Europe and Angela Merkel: “…..Angela Merkel…..likes to offer a set of basic facts to those constantly calling on government to do more, and thus spend more, in the name of fairness….Europe has 7 per cent of the world’s population. It produces 25% of the worlds economic output. But it represents 50 per cent of the world’s spending on social welfare. – In other word’s, Europe is on an unsustainable path, already reflected in high unemployment rates, stagnant growth, pervasive youth unemployment and demographic decline.”… Sheehan then continues that Australians do not “want to heed Merkel’s warnings.” They are “not willing to halt the growth in social spending….Australians are clearly willing to rip off their grandchildren,……”

In toto, Sheehan justifies the present government’s attempts to introduce budget measures that harm the less well off, although he does not mention specific ones (no unemployment benefits for a certain period, introduction of fees for seeing a doctor even for the poor, deregulation of university fees, etc.etc.). He does not mention that the rich are already heavily favoured by capital gains discounts, negative gearing, and other rules. He does not mention that the government’s could easily bring the budget back to surplus if the richer would be only slightly more heavily (but not only nominally) burdened, and he also forgot to mention that the government did not follow up on the rule introduced by the previous Labour government to cut down on tax avoidance schemes by large multinational companies which would have earned the government about $600 million. Last not least, he forgot to mention that Merkel’s comments refer to a much higher “starting point”: in Germany education from Kindergarden (preschool) to University is free, Germany does not send refugees including (until recently) children to camps on small islands overseas (Nauru, Manus Island) or to Cambodia, which has no facilities to absorb large numbers of refugees, but spends enormous funds to accommodate them decently, etc.

Perhaps even the poor would be willing to accept cuts in order not to rip off their offspring, if the rich would be asked to do the same. One should not forget, eminent economists have shown that an increase in inequality reduces economic performance!

World events and economics from a socialdemocratic perspective

December 31st, 2014 by Klaus Rohde

With this post I wish to draw attention to a blog by Professor John Qiggin. Professor John Qiggin is an economist in the School of Economics and the School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Australian Research Council Federation Fellow, Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government. You will find interesting discussions on current world and particularly Australian political events in his blog. Among other topics, he argues that nuclear energy is not viable (in Australia) and that we need more efficient energy use and development of renewable energies: http://johnquiggin.com/2014/12/15/tell-em-theyre-dreaming/

http://johnquiggin.com/

Destructive changes to shareholder rights

December 31st, 2014 by Klaus Rohde

Josh Frydenberg, a former Federal Court Judge, has blasted as “destructive” the Abbott government’s intention to remove rules that force companies to hold extraordinary meetings of shareholders if requested by at least 100 shareholders. Reasons given by the government are to remove red tape, supposedly “abused” by unions, environmental and advocacy groups such as GetUp! which stand up for labour standards and protest against logging and the abuse of poker machines, etc. (SMH 31 December 2014).

Another step in concentrating economic and political power in the hands of a small elite.