An open letter to climate sceptics

by Gareth on May 9, 2010

Alert readers may have noted my absence over the last few days: Bryan’s been doing all the hard work while I swanned off to Sydney (wedding anniversary, 25th, for the celebration of). And so I’ve been reading the Sydney Morning Herald. Saturday’s edition featured this “interesting” take on the state of denial in Australia, in which a key player — John Roskam, executive director of right wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs — chortles about the success of his denial campaign. It’s a long article, but the thing that really caught my eye was this succinct poem by John Bryant on page 37 of the Spectrum section:

An Open Letter to Climate Sceptics

Among your loved ones choose
– when the sweet airs fail,
when the rivers run dry –
the hand of whom to hold
until the last breath,
until the last cry.

Sometimes balance is not measured by the number of words.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

bill May 9, 2010 at 10:27 am

Firstly, congratulations, Gareth!

Ah, the IPA. Not too long ago they were telling us that the Murray Darling river system had plenty of water, and had never been healthier; they'd even managed to find a handful of gauging stations – out of several hundred – where salinity levels were declining in order to prove it!

This was certainly good practice for the expert cherry-picking requisite for moving into the forefront of climate denialism.

Anyone who wants to tour the Murray, and particularly the lower lakes here in South Australia – whose now-dry beds are currently the targets of massive planting schemes (1 million seedlings over 2300 hectares) designed to limit the spread of acid-sulphate soils – can see for themselves the impact of adhering to such sage advice.

(Translate this to the global level, wait a few decades, then do as the poem suggests…)

But didn't John Howard love them? So much so he gave them the task of preparing a report for him on how self-appointed special-interest-groups ( which, of course, we were to understand as being The Wilderness Society, Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace and the like, with their mere tens of thousands of members) were having a deleterious impact on Australian democracy, and the means by which might be wished away. Yes, these people are not hot on recognising irony!

Frankly they disgust me beyond measure.

Macro2 May 10, 2010 at 2:36 am

It really bewilders me just how ostrich like those in political leadership roles in Australia are. I had the opportunity to watch a session of your Parliament a year or so back when there was a general debate on Climate Change. Whilst Rudd and the Govt benches seemed to take a firm stand on Climate Change and the need for action the pathetic outcomes since show that all their words were but HOT AIR! And yet the weather pattens of recent years in your continent are firmly suggestive of a the changes in climate to come. The drought has sent hundreds of farmers to NZ.. And those of us with ears to hear, know about the drying of the Murray. (Good to hear that something is being done.) So how come with all the signs around them, Political Leaders still think that they can fiddle while Australia burns?

At least your govt has has the balls to stick with the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs!

Richard Christie May 10, 2010 at 11:50 am

Macro, if you think Compact Florescent Light bulbs are "greener" than incandescent i invite you to read these articles. http://sound.westhost.com/lamps/index.html
My household uses them, because I save money on the power bills, but in terms of manufacturing processes and the effect they have on the generation and distribution grid CFLs are anything but a green solution.
LEDs on the other hand are the way of the future.

bill May 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

What I'm never going to forgive Rudd for is saving us from Howard only to deliver us to Abbott (aptly described by former PM Keating as Canberra's 'resident nutter' ) through his pusillanimous, unprincipled cowardice. I hope the backbenchers kick his arse.

Not that the ETS was great – but at least we'd have established the principle of setting a price on carbon, and might even have endeavoured to get it right. I really fear whatever idiocy the denialist Coalition might throw at us. Oh well, we carry on…

Too late on the light globe debate. Here in SA we've banned disposable plastic bags in shopoing centres (which hasn't caused the end of civilization, though apparently it was going to) and recently upped our beverage container refund to 10c, after decades set at 5c (the imposition of these also failed to end civilization, you'll be mildly astonished to hear.)

On this last – the fate of all those endless plastic thingies – see possibly the most depressing slide show you'll see all year, all the way from the Pacific gyre. (Apologies if this is a repost)

We have 20% of our power from windfarms, a current installed capacity of 865 MW, (more than the rest of the country together) and a projected capacity of 1.5 – 2 gigs by 2015.

Plus we're the 'Saudi Arabia of uranium' as our NZ-born premier puts it. Interesting times…

Tom Bennion May 9, 2010 at 11:21 pm

John Bryant's poem comes to mind when looking at this recent study:

"An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress" PNAS http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/04/26/0913

Summarised here:http://bit.ly/cFdfE4 under the heading "Odds of cooking the grandkids".

The gist is that under Business As Usual there is about a 5% chance that large chunks of the planet will be uninhabitable to humans because of the risk of illness and death from extreme heat stress or hyperthermia. Over about 35 degrees celsius and 100 percent humidity with little wind, the human body cant remove excess heat.

My recent post Travel industry imagines a world with far fewer flights

Gosman May 10, 2010 at 2:27 am

Are you stating that there are currently no countries which have 35 degrees celsius and 100 percent humidity with little wind? I find that very hard to accept if that is the case . Surely many nations along the equator match these criteria.

David Cohen May 10, 2010 at 2:31 am

Sounds like a winters day in Dubai

ctg May 10, 2010 at 4:53 am

Hmm. Average daily max temp in Dubai for February is about 25ºC, with RH of 80%. So no, it doesn't really sound like a winter's day in Dubai.

Nor does it sound like a summer's day in Dubai, either. Average daily max in Jul/Aug is 39ºC, but the RH is still only around 80%. The wet bulb temperature will be several degrees below that – i.e. low 30s. It is only at 100% RH that the wet bulb temperature is the same as the dry bulb temperature.

It only takes a few minutes to look this stuff up, you know.

Gareth May 10, 2010 at 2:34 am

Instead of pontificating from ignorance, why not read the report under the link bill provides? You'll find such conditions are uncommon — at the moment.

Gosman May 10, 2010 at 3:40 am

I'm sorry but all Tom's detail is averages. Somewhere on this Planet must have reached 100 percent humidity and 35 Degree Celcius with little wind at some stage prior to now. Even if only for a day or so. What happened in that situation?

ctg May 10, 2010 at 4:54 am

What happens is that people die of heatstroke…

bill May 10, 2010 at 5:06 am

Well, in Dubai they turn the air-conditioners up and turn down the thermostat on the under-sand beach cooling system! Probably not an option for most of us.

So, now we're going to quibble about whether expanding torrid environments are really going to be a problem because x number of people might live in them already?

By that logic Auckland becoming like, say, the Simpson Desert wouldn't be a problem because, hey, look at all those people who live and work – and get paid heaps – in Moomba! Hell, anyone who dies is a wimp!

Remember all those French people who keeled over in the last big European heatwave? By my lights those temps were nothing!

"Large chunks becoming" torrid strikes me as meaning just that – areas that weren't torrid become torrid. Some mere mortals may fail to grasp that this isn't really a bad thing.

(And anyone tempted to contradict their own argument – that big changes in climatic conditions don't matter if someone somewhere already experiences them regularly – by suggesting that cold snaps kill more people than heat-waves [ therefore AGW is 'good' ] needs to read this – the US EPA doesn't agree with you!)

Having sweltered through 15 consecutive days over 35 (with overnight minima in the high 20s – 30) in 2008 and last year's November record I find this temperate latitude nit-picking rather irritating…

dappledwater May 10, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Some real funny comebacks there Bill & CTG.

bill May 10, 2010 at 5:06 am

Well, in Dubai they turn the air-conditioners up and turn down the thermostat on the under-sand beach cooling system! Probably not an option for most of us.

So, now we're going to quibble about whether expanding torrid environments are really going to be a problem because x number of people might live in them already?

By that logic Auckland becoming like, say, the Simpson Desert wouldn't be a problem because, hey, look at all those people who live and work – and get paid heaps – in Moomba! Hell, anyone who dies is a wimp!

Remember all those French people who keeled over in the last big European heatwave? By my lights those temps were nothing!

"Large chunks becoming" torrid strikes me as meaning just that – areas that weren't torrid become torrid. Some mere mortals may fail to grasp that this isn't really a bad thing.

(And anyone tempted to contradict their own argument – that big changes in climatic conditions don't matter if someone somewhere already experiences them regularly – by suggesting that cold snaps kill more people than heat-waves [ therefore AGW is 'good' ] needs to read this – the US EPA doesn't agree with you!)

Having sweltered through 15 consecutive days over 35 (with overnight minima in the high 20s – 30) in 2008 and last year's November record I find this temperate latitude nit-picking rather irritating…

Gosman May 10, 2010 at 3:40 am

I'm sorry but all Tom's detail is averages. Somewhere on this Planet must have reached 100 percent humidity and 35 Degree Celcius with little wind at some stage prior to now. Even if only for a day or so. What happened in that situation?

Macro2 May 10, 2010 at 5:42 am

http://www.bigsiteofamazingfacts.com/where-is-the-hottest-place-on-earth
gives:
"Dallol, Ethiopia, is the warmest place on earth with an average yearly ambient surface air temperature of 307.55 kelvin (34.4°C = 93.92°F)." this recorded over a 6 year period. and the RH is surely much lower than 100%.
So I don't think your assertion "Surely many nations along the equator match these criteria." is valid.

RW1 May 10, 2010 at 6:04 am

You hereby demonstrate that you know next to nothing of current global climatology – quelle surprise. World record dewpoints, recorded at Dubai and possibly other locations, are about 34-35C. Such conditions are impossible to mitigate for survival and acceptable living conditions unless very expensive measures are taken.

Macro2's comments about the ostrich (emu?) mentality are spot on. It's a wonderful demonstration of human stupidity and arrogance to visit Australia's Weatherzone forums – highly tolerant of climate cranks and very hostile to scientific opinion.

Tom Bennion May 10, 2010 at 5:01 am

For those inclined to do some reading, you can go to the link below for a discussion of how the wet bulb approach works in determining workplace safety standards today:http://earlywarn.blogspot.com/2010/05/heat-stress

Also provided there is an illustration of how people in the third world already work in life threatening conditions on a daily basis.

Below is my father's comment from his experience in the Kaimai Tunnel in the 1970s. Simply put, heat can kill, and there is lots of heat coming:

"We had a lot of experience in working in high temperatures in the Kaimai Tunnel.We used a measure called 'effective temperature' which took into account wet bulb and dry bulb temperatures and also air velocity. We cut down working hours from 8 to 6 at 27 degrees effective and then progressively to 3 hours at 30.5 degrees above which we were prohibited from working without permission from Mines Dept. Note that the effective temperature is at 100% humidity and zero airflow or the equivalent. A more typical situation for us would have been 29 degrees wet bulb and 60 metres per minute airflow giving an effective temperature of 27 degrees rising to 32 degrees wet bulb and 60 metres per minute airflow giving an effective temperature of 30.5. Bear in mind that we are talking about people working, not lying in a darkened room during siesta time. Our actual temperatures got well above this, of course, which is why we had to refrigerate. The figure quoted in the article of 95 degrees F (35 degrees C) wet bulb makes sense as a level above which there is a potential for distress and possible heat stroke. Fortunately, the condition of 100% humidity and zero airflow is extremely rare. Dry bulb temperatures in excess of this are quite common even now."
My recent post Travel industry imagines a world with far fewer flights

ctg May 10, 2010 at 5:33 am

I lived in Gibraltar for 18 months. They have an unusual weather condition driven by the wind known as the Levante. Moist, warm wind comes from the east over the Med., then hits the 430m high Rock, and condenses into a cloud that sits over the town, in an otherwise cloudless sky (the Spaniards on the mainland say, "See, the Brits even brought their weather with them when they stole the Rock…").

On the west side of the Rock (where the town is) this results in low wind, RH in the high 90s, and temperatures in the high 20s. At 29ºC with 98% RH, it gets bloody uncomfortable, I can tell you. If it lasts for a few days, everyone gets really narky and stressed out – and that's even allowing for the fact you spend most of your time indoors with A/C (everyone stops work at 2pm).

35ºC at 100% RH would be Hell on Earth.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: