FThe floods and their causes are complicated and Australians are demanding answers about what role global warming may have played in the devastation left along the east coast this week.
But one thing that many Australian conservative commentators are sure of is that the climate crisis has nothing to do with it.
On Sky News, Chris Kenny said Australia ‘always has and will always have’ floods, droughts and fires and, ‘considering some records’, the country has seen the worst cases of these extremes before .
In the pages of the Herald Sun last Thursday, Andrew Bolt described how a collection of ‘green journalists’ were acting as ‘vultures’ to ‘exploit’ the floods.
“This pathetic game of climate porn happens every time we have a natural disaster, wet or dry, fires or floods,” Bolt thundered.
Almost two weeks ago, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest assessment of the impacts of climate change.
In interviews, IPCC authors in Australia said it was likely that rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere played a role in the extreme rainfall that caused the floods.
” But wait ! Just a year ago, this same IPCC suggested otherwise,” Bolt said.
Bolt said last year’s IPCC report which looked at the basic science of climate change found that heavy downpours tended to “decline in eastern and southern regions” of the country.
But that statement referred to observations from the past, not likely impacts in the future.
The same report included a fact sheet – not mentioned by Bolt – on the results for the Australian region, which said eastern Australia should expect “more extreme rainfall events” as the world is warming up.
Bolt wrote that climate change had been linked to droughts, fires and now floods – as if climate change couldn’t have multiple effects.
“We can’t afford this scam anymore,” he said.
Professor Mark Howden, director of the Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions at the Australian National University, is vice-chair of the IPCC working group that authored the latest report.
He told Temperature Check: “The fundamental relationships between air temperature and moisture-holding capacity and the link between that and extreme storms and floods are well known and have been for centuries. The projection of increased flood risk as atmospheric and ocean temperatures increase is strong.
He said it would be wrong to ignore the role of climate cycles such as La Niña and El Niño on the risk of floods and droughts, but “just like ignoring the basic physics that links the common factors between droughts and flooding. It’s climate science 101.”
Don’t ask the farmers
Bolt rarely likes people attributing anything to climate change, but seemed exceptionally confident about one thing in his column.
Highlighting a record winter harvest this year across Australia (but without showing how record rainfall in November had caused widespread deterioration in wheat quality in New South Wales), Bolt wrote: “Global warming has actually been brilliant for our farmers.
Thus, in the same column, Bolt argues both for and against attributing changes in weather patterns to climate change. Global warming is apparently only a thing when it does something good.
But to the question of whether global warming is “good for farmers”. Really?
Back to the IPCC, which said last week it had “high confidence” that hotter, drier conditions would disrupt future agricultural production.
And what about floods?
NSW Farmers managing director Pete Arkle told Temperature Check: “While there may be beneficial changes for some produce in some regions in the short term, when we look more broadly at trends and the impact of events Extreme weather makes it hard to be optimistic about the impact of climate change.
“Farmers are among the most exposed to the full impact of extreme weather conditions, be it bushfires, floods or droughts. It is essential that we take action to minimize the impact of climate on agriculture, as we will all be affected if food security is reduced.
There was a lot of conservative commentary last week on Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine, with some weaving a narrative that Europe’s pursuit of renewable energy and emissions cuts gave Putin the confidence necessary to wage war (opportunistic, a lot?).
On Radio National’s Between the Lines, Tom Switzer invited Rupert Darwall to talk about how war could change net-zero commitments.
Anyone who suggested the world could do without fossil fuels was “out with the fairies,” Darwall said, presumably including the International Energy Agency and its detailed analysis of pathways to net zero among that crowd of fantasies.
Switzer introduced Darwall as a researcher at the RealClearFoundation and twice mentioned that he was “the author of The Age of Global Warming, a History”.
This book was published in 2013 and, although the benign title may not give it away, the book has been celebrated by climate science denier groups.
Strange that Switzer didn’t mention Darwall’s 2017 book with a rather less benign title: Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex.