“Climate Emergency and Sustainability Emergency” – Submission from Dr Gideon Polya to the Garnaut Climate Change Review Garnaut Climate Change Review, Level 2, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne, VIC 3002
This submission by a senior scientist is in response to a general invitation for submissions made on the Garnaut Climate Change Review Website.
The Garnaut Climate Change Review is an independent study by Professor Ross Garnaut, commissioned by Australia’s State and Territory Governments on 30 April 2007. A new Australian Government under Labor Party Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was sworn in on Monday 3 December, 2007 and the newly-elected PM Rudd has confirmed the participation of the Commonwealth Government in the Review.
The Review will examine the impacts of climate change on the Australian economy, and recommend medium to long-term policies and policy frameworks to improve the prospects for sustainable prosperity. The Review’s final report is due on 30 September 2008, with a draft by 30 June 2008. A number of forums will also be held around Australia to engage the public on various issues relating to the Review.
This submission to the Garnaut Change Review is by a senior scientist committed to Rational Risk Management that successively involves (a) accurate data, (b) scientific analysis and (c) systemic change to minimize risk (for a detailed, expert exposition see Professor James Reason, “Human error: models and management”, British Medical Journal, vol. 320, 768-770, 2000: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/320/7237/768 ).
Indeed as a responsible pubIic service I have committed a lot of time and effort to informing governments, media and fellow citizens about important matters, of which the most critically important are Australia’s involvement in the ongoing Aboriginal Genocide (90,000 excess Indigenous deaths under 11 years of Coalition rule) , the Iraqi Genocide (1.5-2 million post-invasion excess deaths, 4.5 million refugees), the Afghan Genocide (3-6 million post-invasion excess deaths, 4 million refugees) and prospective Climate Genocide through Global Warming that threatens 6 billion avoidable deaths this century (see: The Prophet of Climate Change: James Lovelock; for detailed and documented analyses see Rudd Australia Report Cards #1, #2 and #3:; Iraqi Genocide; Climate Genocide; Afghan Genocide).
16 million people die avoidably in the world each year (see “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/1375/247/ and http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com) but global warming is already impacting human excess mortality and eminent atmosphere scientist Professor James Lovelock FRS estimates that 6 billion will die this century due to unaddressed global warming (see: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/16956300/the_prophet_of_climate_change_james_lovelock ).
The world is facing a potential catastrophe due successively to industrial profligacy, greenhouse gas pollution, global warming and declining per capita sustainable resources. This potential problem of environmental pollution and impacts on biological sustainability has been familiar to scientists since the 19 th century research of John Tyndall; was addressed by the Club of Rome in circa 1970; and which was further addressed by successive Assessment Reports of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change since 1990 (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intergovernmental_Panel_on_Climate_Change ).
As a chemistry-based scientist for 4 decades, I was aware of the finiteness of the atmosphere, the oceans, arable land and fossil fuel reserves from the start of my career. I was made aware of the mounting atmospheric problems back in 1972 as a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow in the department of one of Australia’s top hydrologists and biophysicists who later went on to be Chief Scientist of Australia.
In 1998 I published a book entitled “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History. Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ). In short, I argued that history ignored yields history repeated, holocaust ignored yields holocaust repeated and that the ignoring of successive Bengali Holocausts under the British – the 1769-1770 Bengal Famine (10 million deaths) and the 1943-1944 Bengal Famine (4 million deaths) – will permit a horrendous disaster in the 21st century due to industrial profligacy, man-made global warming and destructive inundation of mega-deltaic Bengal. My predictions of holocaust ignoring and irresponsible industrial profligacy are already being realized – recently formerly densely populated Bengali islands permanently disappeared under the waves, and the last major Bay of Bengal hurricane was the worst for several decades.
Indeed at the height of the “forgotten” 4 million excess death WW2 Bengal Famine (experienced and studied by 1998 Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen of Cambridge and thence Harvard universities) millions of tons of wheat were used to run the railways in Argentina due to the WW2 shortage a coal (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) – an obscenity now mirrored in the current huge diversion of US grain production to biofuel production with (together with other factors) a consequent steep increase in food prices, the lowest number of food supply days for decades and looming famine for the 2 billion people ALREADY suffering food deprivation.
Climate change is already contributing to the 16 million avoidable deaths (including 9.6 million of under-5 year old infants) that occur each year on Spaceship Earth with the profligate First World in charge of the flight deck (2003 figures; see “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ). Worse is yet to come due to DECLINE in agricultural sustainability, potable water, fisheries, tropical and sub-tropical agricultural productivity, drought, developing world nutrition and even safe living space for mega-delta communities subject to sea level rise, storm surges and salinization.
A must-read document for policy makers is the 2007 “Summary for Policymakers of the Synthesis Report of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)” (for a Summary of the Summary see: http://green-blog.org/ and http://green-blog.org/2007/11/21/summary-of-the-summary-of-the-2007-ipcc-ar4-synthesis-report/ .
Sir Nicholas Stern his authoritative Stern report on the economics of climate change states that it will be cheaper to act now rather than later. For example, in a recent lecture Sir Nicholas Stern states: “For $10-15bn (£4.8-7.2bn) per year, a programme could be constructed that could stop up to half the deforestation” (which contributes 10-15% of greenhouse pollution) and after describing climate change as the “world’s worst market failure”, he says that there must be an 80% reduction in rich nations’ greenhouse gas pollution by 2050 if the world is to avoid “destructive” consequences of global warming (see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/nov/30/climatechange.carbonemissions ).
Indeed the draft recommendation at the December 2007 Bali Conference was for a developed country 25-40% reduction on 1990 levels of greenhouse gas pollution by 2020 – a position opposed by climate criminal countries the US, Canada, Japan and Rudd Australia (see:
Unfortunately Rudd Labor, while having secured an urgently needed victory in the elections over the greenhouse sceptic and greenhouse unresponsive Bush-ite Coalition, is simply not green enough (see: link ). While Rudd Labor has ratified Kyoto, it is using the otherwise sensible need for “evidence before policy change” as an EXCUSE not to commit to short-term greenhouse reduction targets until the final form of the Garnaut Report in late 2008. With due respect to the eminent and respected Professor Garnaut and his Report-in-Progress we ALREADY have the Stern Report (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stern_Review ) from a former Chief Economist of the World Bank (endorsed and indeed criticized as too conservative by former World Bank Chief Economist and 2001 Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University) and the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (see: http://www.ipcc.ch/ ) endorsed by leading climate change scientists from essentially all countries.
Indeed the likely target of Stern (500-550 ppm atmospheric CO2 ) is a catastrophe for the planet – according to Professor James Lovelock FRS at 500 ppm atmospheric CO2 the Greenland Ice Sheet goes and so does the ocean phytoplankton system that is crucial for cloud formation (through dimethyl sulphide production), planetary temperature homeostasis (through CO2 sequestration) and oceanic food chains (J. Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia”, Penguin, London, 2006).
PM Rudd has stated that before making a decision on short term targets his Government needs to have the “facts”. Well, the World has had the “facts” for a dozen years and what follows is a scientist’s assessment of the “facts” drawn from authoritative American and European technical sources. Unfortunately in the Australian Murdochracy, the politically correct racist (PC racist) Land of Lies and Flies, Australia’s world #1 coal exports that contribute over 50% of Australia’s total annual greenhouse gas pollution are not even a matter for public discussion (except for the ethical and responsible Australian Greens) (for how a mature society regards the matter see George Monbiot’s “The real answer to climate change is to leave fossil fuels in the ground”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2225387,00.html ).
Indeed any specifically “economic impact” research in 2007-2008 by the eminent Professor Ross Garnaut Climate Change Review will be instantly trashed if the Rest of the World (i.e. other than the US-Australia-Canada-Japan quartet opposing 25-40% reduction in CO2 pollution by 2020) decides officially or unofficially to impose Sanctions, Boycotts or Green Tariffs on the goods and services of climate criminal countries.
Further, what we are facing is a Climate Emergency and a Sustainability Emergency as revealed by the eminent American atmosphere scientist Dr James Hansen who has recently stated that 300-350 ppm atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is the safe, sustainable level for the biosphere and human survival – whereas it is actually 383 ppm now and increasing by 2.5 ppm every year. Dr Hansen is effectively calling not for ZERO EMISSIONS but NEGATIVE CO2 EMISSIONS (see the Friends of the Earth’s ”Climate Code Red – the case for a sustainability emergency”: http://www.climatecodered.net/ and http://climatecodered.blogspot.com/ ).
Australia and the World are already experiencing mass flora and fauna extinctions. Qualitatively, this huge destruction of what we can never replace is utterly unacceptable. This economic barbarism is dramatically illustrated by the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
A recent paper in the prestigious journal Science reveals that at 450 ppm CO2 world coral reefs will start dying from ocean acidification (see: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2007/2115399.htm ). The coal industry (that is helping to destroy world coral reefs) is worth about A$25 billion pa to Australia (A$2 billion to 25,000 workers and at 30% company tax, about A$8 billion to the taxpayer) – as compared to A$7 billion pa from tourism and 63,000 jobs associated with the Great Barrier Reef (Access Economics: http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/22661/rp_87-GBRCA-economic-contribution-2005-06-final-report.pdf ).
However what is INESTIMABLY more important than a mere circa 1% of Australia’s annual GDP is the prospective destruction of organisms that have been around for half a billion years, the destruction of complex coral ecosystems that have been around for tens of millions of years and the attendant devastation of the ecosystems crucially required for numerous other marine organisms and crucial, humanity-sustaining fisheries.
A crucial paper in the top scientific journal Science of major importance for the Garnaut Review is the seminal, multi-author paper by Balmford et al entitled “Economic reasons for conserving wild nature” (Science, 9 August 2002, 950: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/297/5583/950.pdf ; http://www.envirosecurity.org/conference/working/ReasonsConservWildNature.pdf ). These authors estimate that for a number of ecosystems (biomes) studied the total economic value (TEV) is about 50% greater if the natural resource is used sustainably as opposed to irreversibly and destructively. They have further found that the economic benefit from preserving what is left of wild nature exceeds the cost of doing so by a factor of over 100 (one hundred).
The outstanding Australian bioethicist Professor Peter Singer (Princeton University and University of Melbourne) has stated that: “We are responsible not only for what we do but also for what we could have prevented… We should consider the consequences both of what we do and what we decide not to do.”
(Singer, P. (2000), Writings on an Ethical Life (Ecco Press, New York; ppxv-xvi ). Accordingly we must act NOW in the face of what can be reasonably decribed by sober, informed, economically conservative scientists as a Climate Emergency and a Sustainability Emergency.
Dr Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 4 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds” (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003). He has just published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/1375/247/ and http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contribution “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007): http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ).
Truth, Reason and Words having failed in the Western Murdochracies, as an artist as well as a scientist he has painted several huge paintings relating to the Climate Emergency, namely “Terra”: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/15671/42/ and “Apocalypse Now”: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/17652/42/ .
The people have spoken. And they have clearly chosen Barack Obama as the next President of the United States of America. Hopefully the election outcome will result in USA moving away from its current destructive climate and environmental politics and … Continue reading
German scholar Wolfgang Sachs talked about sustainable development versus economic growth in Copenhagen on invitation by The Ecological Council, The European Environment Agency and the Danish newspaper Information. Wolfgang Sachs is a former professor, former chairman of Greenpeace Germany, author … Continue reading
DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 30JAN05 – Al Gore at the Annual Meeting 2005 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 30, 2005. Photo by Severin Nowacki. Last week, during the Clinton Global Initiative, Al Gore encouraged young people to use civil … Continue reading