Correction: This is not “Mother Nature”

“Bushfire emergency”? Why not “Climate emergency?”

Reporting on one climate-driven tragedy after the other, rather than referring to these catastophes and calamities as the work of “Mother Nature”, why is literally no one in mainstream media willing to state the necessary, “So this is the reason we urgently need to stop the burning of fossil fuels”?

You just lived through history’s hottest-ever October. Large parts of Queensland are 5°-10°C degrees above average. A deadly blaze west of Brisbane has destroyed more Queensland homes than the 2019 Black Summer fires, amid fears even more will be lost. Firefighters are battling extreme conditions. The Prime Minister warns of a “difficult summer” ahead.

But no one – not the reporters and media people, not the politicians and community leaders, not the meteorologists and weather presenters – not one of them is willing to say, “So this is the reason we urgently need to stop the burning of fossil fuels. This is why we need to close down our coal fired power stations and stop the development of new fossil fuel export projects. This is why we need to abandon our petrol cars and invest in new electric ones. This is why we so urgently need more wind turbines and transmission lines.”

In the media everyone is talking about “bushfire emergency” – no one dares to mention the appropriate expression “climate emergency”. When reporters and weather presenters talk about “why”, we hear them saying “This fire is being supercharged by…” followed by variations over the common “Mother Nature” explanation: “Mother Nature has hit again.” Not “climate change”. Not “the fossil fuel-driven climate breakdown”.

You’ll hear the meteorologists and reporters stating “And, this is why:” which then if followed by an explanation about the so-called “surprising” record temperatures, and then nothing more.

No one explains the full story to the population what is really going on here – let alone which collective actions are so badly needed now. Not a single word about that this situation has been anticipated and predicted by scientists in more than a century, and has been well-known in public and in governments at least in the 35 years since the U.S. congressional testimony of NASA climate scientist James Hansen, a global climate conference in Toronto, and two CSIRO climate conferences in Australia were held in 1988.

Humanity has now used effectively all of its atmospheric carbon budget for keeping global warming at or below 1.5°C since preindustrial levels – and that story, and the story about the consequences of this, needs to be told by everyone, everywhere, every day. 

What does it mean to us that Antarctica lost 7.5 trillion tonnes of ice since 1997? How has climate change-driven extreme weather led to 43 million child displacements in past six years? What happens when climate change begins to bring long periods of lethal heat and humidity by the end of century, even under 2°C of global heating? The list of yet untold media stories goes on and on.

2023 is on track to be hottest year in history as the world sees ‘anomalous’ temperatures every month. 41 per cent of amphibians are threatened with extinction because of climate change and habitat loss. The world is entering ‘uncharted territory‘ as it moves closer to bringing multiple tipping points, a new climate report warns.

These are the kind of stories we need to see prioritised and explained on our tv screens and in social media – in particular by our public broadcasters, who have an inscribed responsibility and duty to educate, inform and alert the people that fund them. In their reporting on the fires, floods and destruction, they completely fail to educate everyone on the actions that need to be taken in all sectors of society, and by all individuals just as well.

→ 9 News:
Queensland in the grips of fire emergency

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We need a source of truth

Centre for Climate Safety ran this petition in 2017 which unfortunately turned out to be completely ignored by the management of ABC and SBS. Maybe it is time for a petition-reboot – with new updated wording? A lot has happened in the five years that have gone, yet the fundamental asks of the petition in 2017 are as relevant as ever.

Unfortunately, the lack of action and understanding within the public broadcasters’ management remains appallingly irresponsible and slack. Allegedly it has to do with that certain members of both boards have strong vested interests in the fossil fuel industry.

Werner Theinert wrote on
“Its because of people like this:”

→ The Guardian – 1 November 2023:
Former Australian PM Tony Abbott says climate warnings are ‘ahistorical and implausible’
“Speaking in London, Abbott criticises the ‘emissions obsession’ of a ‘climate cult that will eventually be discredited’.”

…to which Belinda Noble replied:
“Exactly. The government must pre bunk this nonsense en masse. We need a source of truth.”

→ The Conversation – 1 October 2023:
Too hard basket: why climate change is defeating our political system

How bad is it?

“Potential for full chaos.”
~ Johanna Nalau, adaptation scientist, Griffith University, ABC News on 25 October 2023

→ ABC – 25 October 2023:
UN warns humanity facing threats from space, climate change, but it’s not too late to act

Worrying acceleration in the rate of warming

The weather service newsletter Currently wrote on 3 November 2023:

Dr. James Hansen is synonymous with climate science. His testimony to the US Congress in 1988 first brought mainstream attention to the issue, and his predictions and advocacy throughout the years have catalyzed meaningful action.

His newest paper, published on 2 November 2023, is an engaging and readable chronicle of what’s happened to make 2023 the odds-on favorite for the hottest year in recorded human history — and why this year may just be the start of a worrying acceleration in the rate of warming over the coming decades.

The paper is controversial, if only because it is so direct in its conclusions. It also directly argues for a global carbon tax, something climate scientists aren’t typically willing to say. Other scientists have responded to the paper by reiterating the scientific consensus.

The paper estimates that the warming trends of the past few decades, when referenced back to the massive atmospheric changes during the ice ages, strongly suggest that the world will warm by about 4.8ºC were atmospheric carbon dioxide to double from pre-industrial levels — a much higher estimate than the gold-standard IPCC’s 3ºC.

As a side note: It’s honestly shocking to me that we don’t know this number better than this by now. It’s literally the fate of the world within those error bars. And if we should be expecting more warming than we already are, we need to massively ramp up our attention to this issue.

Dr. Hansen and his co-authors held a press conference after the paper’s publication, if you’d like to listen to them explain the implications of the paper in more detail. It runs about an hour and it’s worth listening to.
Eric Holthaus

What is happening with Antarctic sea ice?

Alarming decline in Antarctica’s sea iceat lowest annual level on record
Newsletter from New Horizon on 31 October 2023:

Antarctica has set a troubling record with the lowest annual maximum sea ice extent, dropping one million square kilometres below the previous low. This alarming trend, attributed to global heating, has significant implications for climate and sea levels. With a primary cause being the warming of the ocean’s upper layer (the surface), this loss of sea ice raises concerns for global climate and ecosystems.
Why it matters: The alarming decline in Antarctica’s sea ice, with a record-breaking low in 2023, has profound consequences for the planet, and human welfare and safety. The low sea ice level can be primarily attributed to global warming, presenting challenges for climate regulation and sea-level rise.

For many years, while the Arctic lost sea ice, the Antarctic did not. Then, in the spring of 2016, Antarctic sea-ice coverage dropped dramatically. Over two years, the Antarctic lost as much sea ice as the Arctic had lost in three decades. Since then, Antarctic sea ice has been below average almost constantly. 
Edward Doddridge and Ariaan Purich, via The Conversation

Antarctica’s sea ice plays a crucial role in reflecting solar energy back into space and safeguarding land-based ice from entering the ocean. As sea ice diminishes, it accelerates warming, setting off a dangerous cycle that affects the entire world. The Antarctic ice is also habitat for a large number of species, including penguins.

Sea ice extent from satellite data, showing an anomalous pattern for 2023, via the Conversation
Antarctica has set a record low for its annual maximum sea ice extent, falling one million square kilometres below the previous lowest record.

Scientists attribute this decline to global heating, particularly the warming of the ocean’s upper layer. The loss of sea ice can lead to significant consequences, including elevated sea levels and increased ocean warming.

Emperor penguin colonies have already experienced breeding failure due to sea ice loss, with over 90% of colonies predicted to “become quasi-extinct by the century’s end”.

The Antarctic sea ice plays a stabilising role for the entire sub-continent and on the distribution of global heat.

Regardless of the degree to which the current decline of Antarctic sea ice is due to human-induced warming, this extreme event demands urgent action. The most urgent and important step is to urgently reduce carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The dramatic decline in Antarctic sea ice represents a critical climate challenge with far-reaching consequences, demanding global attention and concerted efforts to address the underlying causes.

Join the conversationLeave your comment

→ SBS – 24 October 2023:
The collapse of this Antarctic ice sheet is now ‘unavoidable’, even if emissions are controlled
“A study has found melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will continue to accelerate this century, at a speed three times faster than during the 20th century.”

Just Have A Think:

The heat may not kill you, but the global food crisis might

“A super strong El Niño and record high global sea surface temperatures are set to deliver devastating extreme weather events all over the planet in 2024. They will be extremely costly and traumatic for many millions of people around the world. But the real concern is what the consequences of those events will show us about the fragility and vulnerability our global food supply network is.”