2010: It's time for safe solutions to our climate emergency

This paper was written by Walter Jehne in early December 2009

As we approach 2010 and the Copenhagen Climate summit we must face reality - the reality that climate change and global warming is real, serious and happening now.

The science is clear and inescapable. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased abnormally due to human activities. These increases have contributed to the greenhouse effect - warming the planet 1.6 watts/m2.

However science is also clear that the CO2 component of the greenhouse effect contributes less than 5% to the global heat dynamics and balance that governs its warming and climate.

By contrast for the past 4 billion years it is water that has governed over 90% of the global heat dynamics balance and regulated the climate of the ‘blue planet’ via a range of processes.

It follows that changes to these water based processes may be significant in both contributing to climate changes but also provide us with options to safely and naturally regulate its effects.

Although (a) more complicated than the simplistic common assumptions about the relationship between fossil fuel use - CO2 emissions the CO2 greenhouse effect and global warming - and (b) difficult to model quantitatively due to their high variability in time and space, any valid understanding of the causes and solutions to climate change must consider these processes.

These water based processes act mostly independently of any minor CO2 greenhouse effect, and are influenced greatly by biotic and land management factors including changes to:

Individually these processes can influence local climates by up to 100 watts/m2, reinforcing the dominance of their combined effects in governing the global heat balance and climate.

Although they have been ignored in our simplistic models of climate change (a) on the assumption that, being so dominant, humans could not possibly have altered them, and (b) because they are temporally dynamic (like daily monsoonal downpours) and vary at the local and regional levels (and thus not amenable to incorporation in existing global computer models), this may be unwise.

For, as we approach 2010 we must face the scientific reality and our responsibility that:

These warming effects may raise mean global temperatures well over 2°C by as early as 2030.

Should this degree of warming occur, it won't stop there: it will inevitably further accelerate climate feedbacks, resulting in dangerous further warming, aridification, bushfires, sea level rises and water and food crises - risking the collapse of many existing bio-systems and the societies dependent on them.

We also have to face the scientific reality that no level of future CO2 emission reductions, let alone the hopes of 5 % reductions by 2020, can now prevent these dangerous climatic impacts. We have talked while we increased our CO2 emissions for 20 years too long since the Rio Earth Summit for any emissions reduction response to be effective.

However we must avoid this advancing warming, aridification and climate disruption to secure our safe climate. Fortunately avoidance is still possible - not by individuals changing light bulbs or national governments agreeing to marginal CO2 reductions in the future - but by urgent practical local actions to safely:

Highly effective, safe, natural, even profitable solutions are available to achieve such:


These two measures can prevent the further acceleration of the dangerous positive climate feedbacks that risk climatic, bio-system and social meltdown by 2030 under our governments' "business as usual" paradigm.

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Australia must lead in catalyzing such changes; not because it is affluent, has the highest per capita carbon emissions and a major supplier of carbon fuels but because it is one of the first and most seriously impacted countries by climate change such as via the aridification of southern Australia and the risk to the Barrier Reef and Murray Darling Basin bio-systems.

Furthermore Australia has the skills, technology as well as the unique opportunity and the freedom to effect the essential restoration and transition changes in its own self interest. However we can not waste a further 20 years on more talk, denials, delays or deceptions such as the Carbon Pollution Reinforcement Subsidy. We must act strategically, effectively, now.

2010 will be critical if we are to face the scientific and practical realities before us and implement the policies and incentives, like a carbon externality levy, to effect this transition. Australian industry, be they farmers, the energy or manufacturing sectors as well as most of the community are well aware of the need for this urgent transition to a bio-sensitive future.

However to get there they need a clear, fair carbon price signal and incentive to make the essential investment to secure their competitive advantage, our safe climate and their future.


1. For more of Walter Jehne's research on climate change follow the links from this page    Back to text

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Last up-dated 3 December 2009