December 2, 2011
NSW Labor blamed for non-publication of selected climate papers. Terrorgraph twists and turns on climate change, but does it sell newspapers?
So an ex-bureaucrat has seemingly spilled the beans that the NSW Department of Environment Climate Change and Water (not Labor directly but they were in government after all) has chosen not to publish either of 6 or 5 (take your pick, it’s a bit unclear if 1 of 6 was published) internal reports contrary to public policy. Were they weak reports, good reports, flawed or just uninteresting? Irrespective. the Terrorgraph suggests just that they were suppressed. So there may be a story there. or not. We just don’t know yet.
But from what is presented it’s a weak argument anyway. The tone of the article and the comments is somewhat denialist, and you could be forgiven for believing that the ex-bureaucrat Doug Lord is, too, denying anthropogenic climate change. Indeed the Terrorgraph has slapped this in the middle of the article: “Do you believe the science of climate change, or is it all one big con job? Tell us below“. Yet in the article itself he documents rising sea levels. And in his published work and on his own company’s website he admits to a belief that climate change is both real and that it has a human origin. What Mr Lord draws attention to in particular here is an apparent linear, constant rate of mean sea level rise at one site in Sydney Harbour, whereas many other sites show an accelerating rate. Which is one reason why the accepted sea level rise predictions have a range of values, from low to high. Mr Lord’s position as stated is at the lower end of that range. But it’s still happening, and if other factors fall the wrong way it may well accelerate.
So do we sit on our hands and just deny, or do we take action to address a clear risk?
It’s worth noting that whilst having longitudinal data for one site is good, we have to accept that it may also be atypical. It’s in Sydney Harbour after all – and Sydney Harbour has changed a lot in the dataset’s 120 years. Whilst I am sure some correction has been made for hydrological changes (it’s Mr Lord’s area, after all) it’s still just one site. Drawing global conclusions from one dataset would be contrary to good science. But it does make for good press, apparently.
SENIOR bureaucrats in the state government’s environment department have routinely stopped publishing scientific papers which challenge the federal government’s claims of sea level rises threatening Australia’s coastline, a former senior public servant said yesterday.
Doug Lord helped prepare six scientific papers which examined 120 years of tidal data from a gauge at Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour.
The tide data revealed sea levels were rising at a rate of about 1mm a year or less – and the rise was not accelerating but was constant.
“The tidal data we found would mean sea levels would rise by about 100mm by the end of the century,” Mr Lord said yesterday.
“However the (federal) government benchmark which drives their climate change policy is that sea levels are expected to rise by 900mm by the end of the century and the rate of rise is accelerating.”