CSIRO climate change update

I’m from Sydney. High among my reasons for intending not to return is the heat (seriously). Which is something I discuss quite a bit, here.

From today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Sydney could face an annual temperature rise of up to 4.3 degrees by 2070, and a tripling of the number of days a year when the thermometer soars above 35 degrees, if global greenhouse gas emissions are not cut steeply, a new report has found.

It is too late for the city to avoid a warming of about 1 degree by 2030 as well as a 3 per cent reduction in annual rainfall because of polluting gases already in the atmosphere.

More droughts, fires, and severe weather events, and less rain and snow across the country are also on the horizon, according to the report, Climate Change in Australia, which contains the most detailed and up-to-date climate projections produced by the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology.

Its findings, released at the Greenhouse 2007 conference in Sydney this morning, include projections of up to 20 per cent more drought months over most of Australia by 2030.

By 2070 this could rise to 40 per cent more drought months in eastern Australia and 80 per cent more in south western Australia.

The report’s website is quite good.

So, score? This gets back into my obvious pessimism when it comes to agriculture in Australia: we shouldn’t be planning on that much rain. Same for electricity and water for Sydney. I just don’t see them as sustainable enterprises. Like climate change, generally, I sincerely hope I’m wrong – I just don’t believe that I am.

Getting back to Jason’s ongoing agency gripe:

It is based on conclusions of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released earlier this year, and climate research conducted on the Australian region since the last CSIRO projections were released in 2001.

Co-ordinator of the CSIRO’s climate change science program, Paul Holper, said improvements in computer modelling of climate meant the new projections were more accurate than the last ones, which warned national temperatures could rise as much as 6 degrees by 2070.

“Over the past five or six years we have learnt so much more about the atmosphere and the oceans, and our ability to use super computers to simulate climate has improved immensely,” he told ABC Radio.

“The science”, as it were, of this sort of work, is continually improving (that link is a .pdf). The two sides (of the after-science debate) disagree upon how much bias exists in this work. My colleague will tell you that these people are making money off the issue, and have a vested interest in, while improving the precision of their estimates, having those estimates agree with previous ones. I agree with this assessment, don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe it is sufficient to make us doubt the estimates themselves (certainly not, when compared to the greater, clearer and proved bias and dodgy work done by the ‘other’ side).

As I said, though, opinions differ.

What I do like about people like the CSIRO and BoM – besides their pedigree as scientists – is the absence, in their work, of policy implications. This report is about climate and rainfull: not coal, or electricity, or who owns the rivers.

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