Category Archives: Extreme Weather Events

Feb 19, 2014 – Climate change and suicide rates – a link?

On this day in 2014, a Queensland University of Technology press release advertised the following –

Climate change linked to increase in Australia’s suicide rates, study shows

“A researcher is predicting suicide rates will rise as a result of climate change after finding a link between high and varied temperatures and people taking their own life. “Based on Australia’s climate the high risk seasons for Brisbane and Sydney are spring and early summer, so it is therefore necessary to strengthen current monitoring systems on attempted suicide especially in areas with high unemployment rates. As global climate change and financial recession continue, it is vital to develop local interventions to reduce suicidal risk,” states the lead author of the newly published article.”

Just watching Scott Morrison and Barnaby ‘100 dollar roast’ Joyce is enough to have me reaching for my favourite noose…

Feb 7, 1995 – Treasurer points to ‘let out’ clauses in the UNFCCC

On this day  in 1995, during the peak of the carbon tax battles,  Treasurer Ralph Willis old Parliament that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which Australia had ratified in late December 1992, contained ‘let-out clauses’ and that the government might decide that a less ambitious target was appropriate Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 7 February 1995, 582 (Ralph Willis, Treasurer).

“Those are not unimportant clauses (and) they have to be taken into account when considering whether we need absolutely to tie ourselves to achieving the (targets)… `(But) we are concerned with ensuring that Australia does everything in its power to try to live up to its obligations to the convention.”

Meanwhile,five of his Cabinet colleagues were taking part in the first of two roundtables about the proposed carbon tax. The environmental and community groups were on the 7th, the business groups on the 8th.

By total coincidence, the Business Council had sent out press releases on the 6th February warning of massive job losses if a carbon tax were instituted…

Thomas, C. 1995. Business Council Hits Plan For Carbon Tax. The Age, 7 February, p.50.


Also on this day –

In 2009 the  Black Saturday bushfires  around Melbourne.  These were also the spur for Philip Chubb to write his book “Power Failure.”

Jan 22, 1992 – “greenhouse action will lead to poorhouse” warning

On this day 25 years ago, as business interests fought a fierce battle to ensure that Australia’s negotiating position at the June ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio would be suitably timid,  the then chief executive of the Australian Institution of Engineers, Mr John Enfield, told a Canberra Times journo that

Australia would be sent to the poorhouse by the Federal Government’s attitude towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions … it would be “grossly wrong” for Australia to do this at the expense of living standards in a time of recession….

He criticised the Minister for the Environment, Mrs Kelly, for acting “prematurely” on the issue, before further research confirmed or disproved predictions on the greenhouse effect.

Chamberlin, P. 1992. Green govt warned of poorhouse effect. Sydney Morning Herald, 23 January, p.3.

This focus on (alleged) financial costs of action, without focusing on the financial benefits of action (new industries, new employment) and the financial costs of inaction is, well, typical.  Nothing has really changed on this in the last 25 years….


Also on this day –

2008 – even extreme weather events are helping the mining boom (or at least, raising prices)…

Chaos at central Queensland coalmines as a result of heavy rains is set to exacerbate supply disruption, send coking-coal prices higher and play into the hands of BHP Billiton as it tries to take over rival Rio Tinto.

Flooding has forced mines across the Bowen Basin to shut as staff rush to move equipment to higher ground, affecting companies such as Xstrata, Macarthur Coal and Ensham Resources.

Wisenthal, S. and Garvey, P. 2008. Coal washout has bright side for BHP Australian Financial Review January 22

Jan 21, 2014 – Government legislates against further temperature increases

On this day in 2014 a reliable and surely-not-satirical news source2014-01-21 reported that

With 2014 confirmed as the hottest year globally, and the third hottest in Australia, the Government has taken a decisive step to prevent further increases – introducing a new bill which would make future temperature rises illegal.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office said the law, if passed, would lock temperatures in at 1996 levels.

“This is direct action, this is strong action, and we hope the Senate will do the right thing and pass this important bill,” she said.

Also on this day-

A year later,this report, for real, hits the world.  #lifeartwhoknowsanymore

Kirsten Tona’s article on – Government ignoring climate change while the planet burns (and published on The AIMN as Canberra fiddles while Australia burns) – contained a number of links to the CSIRO website where climate change data and modelling were available to the public.

Within a week of her article being published the links to the CSIRO website were taken down.

Jan 14, 2006 – Scientist asks IPA if it supports *any* regulation…

On this day 11 years ago Australian climate scientist Barrie Pittock had an opinion piece in the Melbourne Age newspaper.  In the piece, titled In global warming war, may market forces be with you“, Pittock observes that

“The Institute of Public Affairs supports, as far as I know, road rules and safety standards, for example for automotive design, medical procedures and drugs. Sensible regulation, with carrots and sticks for people to do the right thing, is necessary in an imperfect world. The same must apply to environmental damage caused by human activities that threatens future human health and welfare.”

Pittock, B. 2006 “In global warming war, may market forces be with you“, The Age, January 14.

The IPA, for those not in the know, is a ‘think’ tank that has been around since the early 1940s.  It used to be conservative, but has now gone full-libertarian.  By its own admission (as in, boast) it has played a key role in denial of climate change in Australia.

Also on this day-

WWF Australia released a report tying global warming to the 2002 drought (which continued until the late 2000s, but more on that another time…

SYDNEY, Australia, January 15, 2003 (ENS) – Human-induced global warming was a key factor in the severity of the 2002 drought in Australia, the worst in the country’s history, according to a report issued Tuesday [14 january] by WWF Australia. The report is part of an effort by Australian environmental organizations to convince the Liberal Government of John Howard to reverse its policy and sign the Kyoto climate protocol.

newswire. 2003. Human Actions Blamed for Worst Australian Drought. Jan 15.

Jan 10, 2011- flooding hits Queensland

On this day in 2011 torrential rain in the Lockyer Valley region of South East Queensland, Australia causes severe flash flooding, killing 19 people. [wikipedia]

As is often the case in these sorts of events, there were controversies about warnings and actions that may or may not have exacerbated matters.  See here for an overview.

For the personal aftermath, see this

Tetsuya Okada, Katharine Haynes, Deanne Bird, Robin van den Honerta, David King2014. Recovery and resettlement following the 2011 flash flooding in the Lockyer Valley. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction Volume 8, June 2014, Pages 20–31

The Lockyer Valley region in southeast Queensland, Australia experienced extreme flash flooding in January 2011 that resulted in the loss of 19 lives including 12 in the township of Grantham. In order to reduce future risks, the Lockyer Valley Regional Council (LVRC) immediately committed to an innovative community resettlement project, despite an environment of political resistance and bureaucratic turmoil. From a local government perspective, this paper provides an overview and examination of the unique disaster recovery and resettlement process undertaken by the LVRC. A mixed methods approach was used to assess the resettlement project in terms of political, cultural, social and financial factors that act to sustain and improve people׳s lives and livelihoods. Methods included field observations, documentary analysis, focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with key LVRC officers. Integrating the interview data sets and a variety of source materials, this paper assesses the early-stage outcomes of the resettlement and recovery process in Grantham and discusses the challenges and issues identified in the process so far. The paper addresses the significance of collaboration between all sectors involved including community members; governments; and land-use planning and emergency management practitioners. This research highlights the importance of community participation and the need for ongoing assessments in the resettlement and recovery process.

Yes, attribution.

Jan 8, 2013 – Prime Minister Gillard connects heatwave and climate change

As the website Climate Citizen puts it

On Tuesday January 8 [2013] the Bureau of Meteorology released an interim special climate statement on the Extreme January heat Australia is currently experiencing. Record temperatures both day-time maximum and night-time minimums continue to be broken. The extraordinary heatwave has also been the scene for catastrophic fires, especially in Tasmania. The Prime Minister Julia Gillard saw the devastation in Dunalley and among her many interviews and press conferences made a brief statement connecting the intensity of bushfires with climate change.

But of course, you’re not supposed to be able to link weather phenomena to climate.  That would be a fundamental attribution error…  Except, of course

See also the Guardian‘s take on it.

Also on this day-

Peter Walsh, finance minister under Hawke, and later to be a founding member (president?) of the Lavoisier Group takes an early pop at climate science (he’d been at it for a while already) in the Fin.

BACK in 1989 a proposal to spend $6 million on an Australian response to the greenhouse effect and climatic change was being considered. The 1990 Budget Papers identify another $17 million for climate change core research and “multifaceted programme initiatives” – which presumably includes funding various national and international greenhouse conferences so beloved by greenhouse activists.

He also in this article cites approvingly John Daly’s ‘The Greenhouse Trap’…

Walsh, P. 1991. Credibility Gap in Greenhouse Gabfests. Australian Financial Review, 8 January, p.7.