Thursday, October 23, 2008

Doom...coutesy of Lateline ABC lah!

Action on climate change more urgent than ever
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Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 23/10/2008

Reporter: Margot O'Neil

Scientists are concerned that the will to tackle climate change has waned in the midst of the financial crisis, with the latest data showing climate change is moving more rapidly than they ever expected.

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Well as governments remain transfixed by the financial crisis, some of Australia's top scientists are concerned that the will to tackle the potentially more dramatic global nightmare of climate change may be waning.

Well tonight they tell Lateline how the latest data shows climate change is moving more rapidly than even their worst expectations.

In a moment we'll be joined Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the world's preeminent scientific body on climate change.

But first Margot O'Neill reports on the rapidly rising levels of anxiety among some of Dr Pahcauri's colleagues in Australia.

MARGOT O'NEILL, REPORTER: Meet three of Australia's, and the world's, top climate change scientists. Each of them shared in last year's Nobel Prize for their work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And each is usually most comfortable with cautious, measured public discussion. Well, not any more.

PROF. ANN HENDERSON-SELLERS, MACQUARIE UNIVERSITY: A lot of people like myself, and I believe many, many scientists now, who are frantically, hysterically worried.

PROF, DAVE GRIGGS, MONASH UNIVERSITY: Another one of these facts comes in that catches even you unawares and you think, "Oh shit! Not another one! I wasn't expecting that."

PROF. DAVID KAROLY, MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY: The only way that I could see the climate system in 50 years time or 100 years time being cooler than at present is if the earth got hit by an asteroid and basically human civilisation was destroyed.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Australia's climate change scientists are stirring, goaded by inaction in the face of a potential cataclysm, they're picking up megaphones because they need everyone to know it's speeding up.

From the loss of Arctic sea ice to early signs of melting permafrost, to sea level rises, to carbon dioxide emissions. Many of the projections contained in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just a year ago are being overtaken.

DAVE GRIGGS: When we made predictions a couple of years ago that the Arctic sea ice might disappear by the end of the century people were sceptical. Now people think, "Well, it actually might be gone by mid-century."

And if you talk to the scientific community people are just, "Oh, yeah, yeah, we know that now. That's gone." And only a few years ago that was a really dramatic and controversial finding because it was something that was so far beyond our concept.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Dave Griggs now leads Monash University's new Sustainability Institute after heading up the British Government's Hadley Institute and the IPCC's Science Working Group.

What most of us don't understand, he says, is that no matter what we do, the planet is now locked into dramatic temperature and sea level rises by 2050 because of the greenhouse gasses already trapped in the atmosphere. A two-degree temperature rise was once projected towards the end of the century and regarded as a tipping point for dangerous climate change. It's now likely to occur in our lifetime.

DAVE GRIGGS: Maybe two, two to three degrees by mid-century.

MARGOT O'NEILL: I mean, that almost is the end for the Great Barrier Reef.

DAVE GRIGGS: Inherently scientists are very conservative, and they won't come out and make a statement in public unless they are very confident about it. But the kind of sort of thing that are going around in private, you know, oh, the Barrier Reef's gone, the Murray Darling's gone.

ANN HENDERSON-SELLERS: We should be exercising triage. We should be looking at the parts of the world that are already dead, they're just still walking around. And we just need to leave them alone, and maybe the Murray Darling Basin is one of those.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Ann Henderson-Sellers returned to Australia last year after heading the UN's World Climate Research Program in Geneva. She believes it's time for climate scientists to break ranks with the consensus science of the IPCC.

ANN HENDERSON-SELLERS: It is not true that all scientists agree with everything that is in the IPCC fourth assessment report. Some of us, including me, think that it is worse, it is more frightening, more dangerous, happening faster. And I now think that we perhaps have not done the right thing in seeming as if we're of a single mind, a single view. We did it for all the right reasons, for wanting not to open up a "Well, this scientist says one thing and this scientist says something different." But now I don't think that that's right any longer.

MARGOT O'NEILL: She also wonders how the next IPCC report can be any more persuasive.

ANN HENDERSON-SELLERS: We've now said for four reports the world is getting warmer, this is a serious concern. The world really is getting warmer. This is a quite serious concern, and the time for action has already passed. What will we say in the fifth IPCC report? I simply don't know, I have no idea how we can couch the terms anymore. What degree of anxiousness can you add to that?

DAVID KAROLY: We can't say whether this is due to climate change but it is exactly what you'd expect for some of the moral predictions for like 50 or 100 years time, but we're seeing it now.

DAVID KAROLY: David Karoly returned to Australia last year from the University of Oklahoma after working as a lead author on the 2007 IPCC Report. He says it can be difficult and exhausting continually battling governments, big business and climate sceptics, but his lowest point came during negotiations in 2007 when news reports revealed that China, Russia and Saudi Arabia tried to derail even the conservative scientific consensus of the IPCC. David Karoly says he almost walked out.

DAVID KAROLY: There were clear, vested interests from some countries that were lying, raising scientific misinformation. And I was prepared, as were a lot of other scientists at that meeting, prepared to give up. The system was so close to being broken. The system fortunately didn't break.

MARGOT O'NEILL: The current financial turmoil has proven the world can act quickly when faced with a crisis, the scientists say. The same drastic intervention is the only solution for global warming.

Margot O'Neill. Lateline.