Thursday, January 20, 2011

Man-made climate change and floods

Because the day to day weather is highly variable one cannot attribute any specific weather event (such as the current Asian, South American and Australian floods) to man-made global warming. However increased greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution leads successively to global warming, increased sea temperature, increased evaporation and thence to increased precipitation. Indeed the incidence of floods has greatly increased throughout the world over the last 60 years. Accordingly one cannot exclude the likelihood of a contribution of man-made global warming to extreme precipitation events.

The 2010-2011 Queensland, Australia, flood disaster has so far killed 16 (40 missing), forced thousands from their homes, adversely affected 70 towns and 200,000 people, flooded major parts of the capital city Brisbane, including the Central Business District, and cost circa $13 billion. [1].

This present Queensland and Eastern Australian disaster - coming shortly after the disastrous 2010 Russian heat wave (1/3 of the Russian wheat crop destroyed in fires) and the horrendous 2010 Pakistani floods (24 million homeless) and contemporaneous with the Brazil floods (500 dead, thousands homeless), Sri Lanka floods (23 dead, 1 million homeless) and Philippines floods (42 dead, 400,000 displaced) - has again raised concerns about the connection between man-made global warming from greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and extreme weather events such as floods and drought.

For advice we must turn to expert climate scientists, meteorologists and other science-informed citizens. At the outset it must be clearly re-iterated that weather is variable and accordingly one cannot say that the severity of a specific event such as the La Niña-associated Queensland floods can be attributed to climate change. However increased precipitation derives from increased sea temperature and increased evaporation and accordingly man-made global warming to a global average of +0.8C above the 1900 value is contributing to extreme precipitation events (more heat means more evaporation and hence more precipitation).

Set out below in the public interest are 51 expert, science-informed, referenced opinions about the link between man-made global warming and increased precipitation events.

Please use this as a resource and tell everyone you can.

The bottom-line message: stop burning fossil fuels and otherwise generating greenhouse gases ASAP and we must return the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration from the current dangerous and damaging 392 parts per million (ppm) to about 300 ppm for a safe planet for all peoples and all species (see ).

1. The US National Academy of Sciences (2010): “Extreme precipitation is likely to increase as the atmospheric moisture content increases in a warming climate. Typical magnitudes are 3-10per cent per degree C warming, with potentially larger values in the tropics, and in the most extreme events globally.” [2].

2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007: “Observations are consistent with physical understanding regarding the expected linkage between water vapour and temperature, and with intensification of precipitation events in a warmer world. Column and upper-tropospheric water vapour have increased, providing important support for the hypothesis of simple physical models that specific humidity increases in a warming world and represents an important positive feedback to climate change. Consistent with rising amounts of water vapour in the atmosphere, there are widespread increases in the numbers of heavy precipitation events and increased likelihood of flooding events in many land regions, even those where there has been a reduction in total precipitation. Observations of changes in ocean salinity independently support the view that the Earth’s hydrologic cycle has changed, in a manner consistent with observations showing greater precipitation and river runoff outside the tropics and subtropics, and increased transfer of freshwater from the ocean to the atmosphere at lower latitudes.” [3].

3. Queensland Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) Report. In 2010 the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) Report to the Queensland Government and the Local Government Association of Queensland advised that "a. an increase in rainfall intensity is likely; b. the available scientific literature indicates this increased rainfall intensity to be in the range of 3-10 per cent per degree of global warming; c. the SAG understands the preference for a single figure to support policy development. More detailed analysis is required to firmly establish such a figure and this work will be undertaken as part of the review of Australia’s Rainfall and Runoff [AR&R]. This document will become the authoritative source of information on the issue when released in 2014. However the SAG would consider a figure of 5% increase in rainfall intensity per degree of global warming reasonable for informing policy development in the interim... Extreme precipitation is likely to increase as the atmospheric moisture content increases in a warming climate…If this recommendation turns out to underestimate the changes (and the evidence produced to date would suggest it will) then further increases will be recommended through revision of the AR&R. Taking this first step now will make these increases more acceptable in the future.” [4].

4. Final Report of the Queensland Inland Flooding Study (2010): “ Executive summary. Flooding causes significant impacts on Queensland communities and the economy- and with our changing climate, flooding events are likely to become more frequent and more intense. Effective land use planning will ensure that our communities are ready for the impacts of climate change… Various scientific methodologies were examined to identify benchmark figures fro planning to take account of the projected impacts of climate change on flood risks. These methods were based on the theory that precipitable water in the atmosphere will increase as global temperature increases. Analysis was undertaken to determine the extent of evidence in the Queensland historical record for this physical relationship. This analysis included both land surface temperature and sea surface temperatures. The recent wok of Rafter and Abbes (2010) was also considered, which uses extreme value analyses to calculate the percentage increases of intense rainfall from a suite of Global Climate Models. The project also took into account the recently released report from the US National Academy of Sciences (2010) which concludes that: “Extreme precipitation is likely to increase as the atmospheric moisture content increases in a warming climate. Typical magnitudes are 3-10per cent per degree C warming, with potentially larger values in the tropics, and in the most extreme events globally.” [5].

5. The Queensland Government itself understands the connection between global warming and increased precipitation events while remaining notoriously committed to fossil fuel burning and methanogenic livestock production. The Final Report of the Inland Flooding Study, 2010, was released by Queensland Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones at the Local Government Association of Queensland's (LGAQ) annual environment conference on the Gold Coast. "What we're asking is that councils use this science to build into their flood risks an increase in flooding as a consequence of climate change. What we'll see is rainfall intensity increasing by five per cent, which will mean they'll need to build that into their flood planning… [ planning for a once-in-a-century flood isn't enough to protect inland areas in the future]…Instead we're recommending local governments adopt a climate-change factor for increased rainfall intensity of five per cent per degree of global warming, and incorporate this into local flood studies and planning schemes. This will increase the amount of land considered flood prone over time and enable councils to make informed decisions and provide better advice to residents. This is the first time definitive advice on how to plan for more intense flooding under climate change has been provided in Queensland."[6].

6. Australian Bureau of Meteorology (2010): " Data collected by the Bureau of Meteorology show that the Australian mean rainfall total for 2010 was 690 mm, well above the long-term average of 465 mm. As a result, 2010 was Australia’s wettest year since 2000 and the third-wettest year on record (records commence in 1900). The only month to record a national monthly total below the long term average during 2010 was June. This means that 11 months of the year experienced above average rainfall, an occurrence observed only once previously, in 1973... Based on preliminary data (to November 30), sea surface temperatures in the Australian region during 2010 were +0.54 °C above the 1961 to 1990 average. This is the warmest value on record for the Australian region. Individual high monthly sea surface temperature records were also set during 2010 in March, April, June, September, October and November. Along with favourable hemispheric circulation associated with the 2010 La Niña, very warm sea surface temperatures contributed to the record rainfall and very high humidity across eastern Australia during winter and spring." [7].

7. Professor David Karoly (Professor of Meteorology and an ARC Federation Fellow, University of Melbourne School of Earth Sciences and a lead author of the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC) commenting on the 2011 La Niña-connected Queensland floods and climate change: ''Australia has been known for more than a hundred years as a land of droughts and flooding rains, but what climate change means is Australia becomes a land of more droughts and worse flooding rains… On some measures, it's the strongest La Niña in recorded history … [but] we also have record-high ocean temperatures in northern Australia, which means more moisture evaporating into the air. And that means lots of heavy rain.'' [8].

8. Professor David Karoly (Professor of Meteorology and an ARC Federation Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, and a lead author of the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC) on Queensland floods, climate change and extreme precipitation: “What gives very heavy rainfall is high Indian Ocean temperatures and La Niña in the Pacific. This year we have both of those, and both are at record highs… (presented data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology shows a marked increase in Australian region December sea temperature: ) …This (pronounced long-term warming trend in the waters near Australia) isn’t just climate variability. This is man-made climate change… we can’t say this individual event [in Queensland] is due to long term climate change, but we can say the overall global sea surface temperature increases are due to anthropogenic [man-made] forcings.” [9].

9. Professor David Karoly (Professor of Meteorology and an ARC Federation Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, and a lead author of the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC) on Queensland floods, climate change and extreme precipitation: “"What we are seeing over the last 50 years and over the last 100 years is a change in this pattern of extremes with more hot and more wet extremes in northern Australia and more hot and more dry extremes in southern Australia and that pattern is exactly what we would expect from climate change due to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” [10].

10. Professor Ian Lowe on the Queensland floods, extreme weather events and man-made global warming: “The Queensland floods are another reminder of what climate science has been telling us for 25 years. As well as a general warming and increasing sea levels, it predicted more frequent extreme events: floods, droughts, heatwaves and severe bushfires. The decline in rainfall in south-western WA and the increasing rainfall in the tropics are exactly what the science has been telling us to expect. It is still too early to say with certainty that climate change is responsible for the strong El Nino event which brought devastating drought to eastern Australia and the equally strong La Niña event which has produced the terrible floods. But they are exactly what climate science has been warning us about. If we don’t want to see more events like the 2009 Victorian bushfires and the floods now happening, we need a concerted program of action to reduce greenhouse pollution.” [11].

11. Professor Ian Lowe (president of the Australian Conservation Foundation; Professor of Science, Technology and Society and former Head of the School of Science at Griffith University, as well as an adjunct professor at Sunshine Coast University and Flinders University) on the Queensland floods: “The Queensland floods are another reminder of what climate science has been telling us for 25 years, like the recent long-running drought, the 2009 heatwaves and the dreadful Victorian bushfires. As well as a general warming, increasing sea levels and altered rainfall patterns, climate modellers confidently predicted more frequent extreme events: floods, droughts, heatwaves and severe bushfires. The decline in rainfall in Western Australia's south-west and the increasing rainfall in the tropics are exactly what the science has been telling us to expect. It is still too early to say with certainty that climate change is responsible for the strong El Niño event that brought devastating drought to eastern Australia and the equally strong La Niña event that has produced the terrible floods. But they are exactly what climate science has been warning us about since the 1980s.’ [12].

12. Professor Neville Nicholls (an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow, Monash University, Melbourne): "Is the [current] La Nina that strong because of global warming, or is global warming exacerbating the effect of La Niña? Honestly, we don't know. But just because we don't now doesn't mean it's not happening. You'd have to be a brave person to say it [climate change] is not having some sort of effect. I can guarantee you in the next couple of years people will start looking back at this event and asking was it so unusually strong because of global warming." [13].

13. Professor Will Steffen (executive director of the ANU Climate Change Institute; Australian Government Climate Change Committee member): "As the climate warms, there is more water vapour in the atmosphere. This means that there is a probability that there will more intense rainfall events around the world. There is some evidence that we can see them now. I think the place where the best data is the US." [13].

14. Professor Will Steffen (executive director of the Australian National University's (ANU) Climate Change Institute) on Queensland floods and global warming: "What we can say about the Queensland floods is there is a strong La Niña, which tends to give this heavy rainfall, but in addition to that there are very high sea surface temperatures… "(In a US study of rainfall in a heavily saturated area over the past 100 years) there's been a significant increase (in rain in the area) since 1980 consistent with a strong warming. There's definitely a risk and a growing risk that events of this type will become more frequent as the climate warms. One-in-100-year events would become a one-in-20 or one-in-30-year event as the climate shifts ... we say with some confidence they are becoming more frequent and they will become more frequent in future." [14].

15. Professor Matthew England (joint director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW) on record high temperatures and Queensland floods: “Climate change has seen a warming of waters globally, and the waters north of Australia are an important part of the climate system for Australia's monsoon rains. They are at their warmest ever measured and we cannot exclude climate change from contributing to this warmth, (and) if it is very warm there this enhances evaporation into the atmosphere, creating moist air… Climate change projections are pointing to more frequent extreme events, that's to say more flooding events, more droughts and fires, but whether Australia as a nation sees many more flooding events or not is still a little bit more complex to pin down." [14].

16. Professor Barry Brook (Foundation Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change and Director of Climate Science at The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide) on the Queensland disaster and global warming: “The period 2010-2011 has seen record rainfall and rural flooding events in Australia. This has culminated this week with the 3rd largest city, Brisbane, being struck by severely damaging and costly urban floods, inundating the central business district and overwhelming many thousands of homes and businesses…:The point of this post is not to try to attribute these extreme weather events directly to climate change, although I think there is a real influence at work here. A major factor is one of the strongest La Niñas on record… Climate change, left unabated, will increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters. More and more energy is being trapped within the Earth system (see figure to the right), and it has to be expressed somewhere, sometime. The laws of physical science dictate nothing less. And it will, in turn, hit the Australian and World economy hard. Those economic rationalists among us should heed the reminder that these latest natural events have delivered. Avoided global heating is avoided cost (with the worst-case scenarios being incalculable). For the general populace’s opinion on climate change, what will the latest events do? I can’t be sure of course, but I suspect that it will, in many, awaken within them a deep-seated horror — “...this could happen to me”. This personal demon, fed by the graphic reporting we now get on such events, might well do more than anything else to catalyse a community consensus for real, effective and urgent action to eliminate fossil fuels.” [15, 16].

17. Ellen Sandell (national director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and joint Banksia young environmentalist of the year in 2009) re the Queensland flood disaster: “We know that any one single extreme weather event cannot be attributed just to climate change. But we can look at the climate models and predictions, which all say that in a climate-changed world extreme weather events will become more frequent and intense. The La Niña phenomenon, the major cause of the increased rain in south-east Queensland, gets stronger as sea surface temperatures increase. Warmer air also holds more water than colder air, and this water eventually has to come down somewhere. Hence increased rain and floods…I don't want to live in the kind of world we are previewing right now. We need fundamental change, and it starts with a price on pollution that rids our economy of polluting energy and creates clean energy instead. It starts with increased funding for healthy, renewable energy. It starts with a serious commitment from all political parties to do what is right and significantly reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.I hope some good can come out of this tragedy, and that we use it to have the conversation about what we are going to do this year to make these solutions a reality.” [17].

18. Parliament of Australia, Parliamentary Library (that provides carefully researched infomation to members of the Australian Federal Parliament) : “Are extreme weather events—severe storms, flooding, droughts, heat waves or extremely violent cyclones—becoming more common? The answer appears to be 'yes'. Trends towards more powerful storms and hotter, longer dry periods have been observed, according to the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, and this trend is projected to continue.” [18].

19. Professor John Holdren (Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; Director of the Woods Hole Research Center; recent Chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and President Obama’s chief scientific adviser) on climatic disruption (2008): “”Incidence of floods is up almost everywhere…(figure: Major floods per decade 1950-2000; number of events per decade on a 0 to 350 scale plotted by decade) …There’s a consistent 50-year upward trend in every region except Oceania” [note: data source Milennium Ecosystem Assessment; histograms show that 2000s/1950s ratio about 10 (Americas), 4 (Europe), 10 (Africa), 6.5 (Asia); not shown, Fiji suffered its worst floods in decades in January 2009 with 11 dead and 9,000 evacuated]. [19].

20. GRID-Arendal (a collaborating centre of the United Nations Environment Programme ,UNEP): “Number of flood events by continent and decade since 1950. Roughly 17% of all the urban land in the United States is located in the 100-year flood zone. Likewise, in Japan about 50% of the population lives on floodplains, which cover only 10% of the land area. In Bangladesh, the percentage of floodprone areas is much higher and inundation of more than half of the country is not uncommon.” [note: data source Milennium Ecosystem Assessment; histograms show that 2000s/1950s ratio about 10 (Americas), 4 (Europe), 10 (Africa), 6.5 (Asia)]. [20].

21. GRID-Arendal (a collaborating centre of the United Nations Environment Programme ,UNEP): “ Number of Disasters per Year. Trends in number of reported disasters. Much of the increase in the number of hazardous events reported is probably due to significant improvements in information access and also to population growth, but the number of floods and cyclones reported is still rising compared to earthquakes. Is global warming affecting the frequency of natural hazards? (Sources CRED Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2006, 2007) [note: Figure shows that floods increased 6 fold from 1980 to 2007 whereas earthquakes scarcely increased at all). [21].

22. Professor Vicky Pope (head of climate change advice at the Met Office, UK) explains how a warmer world is a wetter world (2011): "As the average global temperature increases one would expect the moisture content of the atmosphere to rise, due to more evaporation from the sea surface. For every 1C sea surface temperature rise, atmospheric moisture over the oceans increases by 6-8%. Also in general, as more energy and moisture is put into the atmosphere [by warming], the likelihood of storms, hurricanes and tornadoes increases." [22].

23. Australian CSIRO-Bureau of Meteorology report “The State of the Climate” (2010). The present Australian floods have been caused by the current La Niña phenomenon but have occurred in the context of an increase in sea surface temperature due to man-made global warming. Thus the Australian CSIRO-Bureau of Meteorology report “The State of the Climate” (2010) states that “Sea surface temperatures around Australia have increased by about 0.4oC in the past 50 years… Australian average temperatures are projected t rise buy 0.6oC to 1.5oC by 2030. If global greenhouse emissions continue to grow at rates consistent with past trends, warming is projected to be in the range of 2.2oC to 5.0oC by 2070… there is a greater than 90% certainty that increase in greenhouse gas emissions have caused most of the global warming since the mid-20th century. International research shows that it is extremely unlikely that the observed warming could be explained by natural causes alone. Evidence of human influence has been detected in ocean warming, sea level rise, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns. CSIRO research has found that higher greenhouse gas levels are likely to have caused about half of the winter rainfall reduction in south-west Western Australia.” [23].

24. Phillip Sutton (convenor of the Climate Emergency Network (CEN) and author with David Spratt of “Climate Code Red. The case for emergency action”: ) has commented thus on the Queensland flood disaster and man-made global warming on behalf of CEN: ““The Climate Emergency Network is calling on the Australian Federal and State governments to heed the message of the current disastrous Queensland floods and commit to urgent and effective action to end the plunge into catastrophic climate change and to restore a safe climate. Failure to do so will lead to a future of even more extreme floods, droughts and bushfires, occurring more often. Australia’s weather has always been highly variable but climate change is exaggerating the extremes. Hot weather is becoming hotter and dry weather is becoming drier. More water is taken from the land and sea into the atmosphere, so that when it does rain, it rains harder. It’s time for Australian politicians, and the public, to stop ignoring the undeniable evidence and to join the dots. Climate change is not the sole cause of these events but it is certainly increasing their devastating effects. For several decades extreme weather events have become more common and more intense – exactly as climate scientists predicted. And now across the world communities are suffering not just extreme but catastrophic weather-driven disasters. And what is really scary is that this is all happening with a global temperature increase of less than 1°C. World leaders have agreed to limit climate change to an increase of 2 degrees but have failed to take action that can achieve even that. It is generally acknowledged that the world is currently on track to an increase of at least 4 degrees, unless strong action is taken. We are facing a climate emergency now with a warming of less than 1°C and emergency action needs to be taken without further delay to cool the earth. To cool the earth we need to stop adding greenhouse gases to the air and we need to take the excess carbon dioxide out of the air. Such action will have to be taken urgently, on a national and global scale.” [24].

25. Professor Matthew England (Climate Change Research Center, University of New South Wales, Sydney): "I think people will end up concluding that at least some of the intensity of the monsoon in Queensland can be attributed to climate change. The waters off Australia are the warmest ever measured and those waters provide moisture to the atmosphere for the Queensland and northern Australia monsoon.” [25]. (cf. #15).

26. Dr David Jones (head of climate monitoring and prediction, Australia Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne): "We've always had El Ninos and we've had natural variability but the background which is now operating is different,. The first thing we can say with La Nina and El Nino is it is now happening in a hotter world…So the El Nino droughts would be expected to be exacerbated and also La Nina floods because rainfall would be exacerbated [more evaporation, more atmospheric moisture]." [25].

27. Dr Kevin Trenberth (head, Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA.): “The rapid onset of La Nina meant the Asian monsoon was enhanced and the over 1 degree Celsius anomalies in sea surface temperatures led to the flooding in India and China in July and Pakistan in August…[ about 0.5C of 1.5C above pre-1970 levels attributed to global warming]… The extra water vapor fuels the monsoon and thus alters the winds and the monsoon itself and so this likely increases the rainfall further. So it is easy to argue that 1 degree Celsius sea surface temperature anomalies gives 10 to 15 percent increase in rainfall." [25].

28. Professor Neville Nicholls (Monash University, Melbourne, president of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society): "It's a natural phenomena. We have no strong reason at the moment for saying this La Nina is any stronger than it would be even without humans. It [atmospheric warming of about 0.75C over the past half century] has to be affecting the climate, regionally and globally. It has to be affecting things like La Nina. But can you find a credible argument which says it's made it worse? I can't at the moment." [25]. (cf # 12).

29. Dr. Kevin Trenberth (head, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA): I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future." [26].

30. Dr Debbie Abbs (climate scientist, CSIRO Atmospheric Research, Melbourne): "Global climate models simulate rainfall over areas as wide as 200 kilometres. Extreme rainfall over small areas is much more than that found over large areas where results are averaged out. This means there is a need to provide extreme rainfall scenarios at regional scales so projected climate change can be factored into major infrastructure projects that are being designed to last for decades to come… [high-resolution model to focus the results from CSIRO's Global climate model down to 7.5 kilometre-wide areas over southern Queensland and northern New South Wales]… "The most extreme rainfall events we currently experience become more frequent in 2040, with the 1-in-40 year event of today corresponding with a 1-in-15 year event in future. The areas of greatest increase in intensity occur over mountainous terrain, inland from Coffs Harbour, Coolangatta and north of Brisbane… [26% increase in flooding leads to a 60% increase in damage costs]…. With projected increases in the intensity and frequency of extreme precipitation events, the community's exposure to extreme rainfall events is growing rapidly." [27].

31. Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) (2011): “"Recent scientific advice to the Queensland Government warned that the state would be threatened by higher flood levels from intense torrential downpours brought on by climate change. In 2010 the Scientific Advisory Group to the Queensland Government’s Inland Flooding Study advised that “an increase in rainfall intensity is likely” and “the available scientific literature indicates this increased rainfall intensity to be in the range of 3–10 per cent per degree of global warming”. [28].

32. Professor David Karoly (Melbourne School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne) (2011): ''Australia has been known for more than 100 years as a land of droughts and flooding rains, but what climate change means is Australia becomes a land of more droughts and worse flooding rains…[ individual events could not be attributed to climate change]…on some measures it's the strongest La Nina in recorded history … [but] we also have record-high ocean temperatures in northern Australia which means more moisture evaporating into the air. that means lots of heavy rain…in Victoria we had heavy rainfall but the run-off hasn't been as high because after 10 years of drought the ground wasn't as saturated.” [29].

33. Dr David Jones (climate analyst, Bureau of Meteorology (2011) on current floods (Australia; Brazil 500 dead, 2,700 lost houses; Philippines, 42 dead, 400,000 displaced; Sri Lanka, 23 dead, 325,000 displaced) : "There is definitely a link between our weather and eastern Brazil's. La Niña sets the atmosphere up for floods. It doesn't mean you get them, but certainly it makes the floods more likely, both in eastern Australia and in the north-east of Brazil where we do see usually above average rainfall during La Niña events…[US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 2010 was the wettest ever recorded on the planet]… That tells you the hydrological cycle is very, very active at the moment. We've seen a lot of evaporation, we've seen a lot of rainfall around the planet and as best as we can tell, the highest rainfall on record. It was also the hottest year on record, 2010. At a whole range of different levels there's certainly drivers which would support this view that the world is seeing a lot of extreme weather at the moment." [30].

34. Professor Ed Blakely (disaster expert, professor of urban policy, US Studies Centre, Sydney University) re Queensland floods: “''We shouldn't regard this [flood] as freakish…should assume they [such disasters] are going to occur because of climate change. They are becoming increasingly frequent and far more devastating… [examine need of Queenslanders to] retreat from the coast… It will take 60-75 years, so we have got to start now. It's very important for us to see not just this incident but the long-term trend and learn from it and plan for it. I warned people in Brisbane before hurricane Katrina that this could happen. I had all the CSIRO data that showed a flood that looked very much like the flood that happened. They scoffed.'' [31].

35. Dr Andrew Glikson (former Principal Research Scientist, Australian Geological Survey Organization, Earth and paleoclimate scientist. School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Research School of Earth Science, Planetary Science Institute, Australian National University) on Queensland floods [noting according to the report, that climate scientists were careful never to point to a single event as evidence of climate change but to examine medium and long-term trends] : “'Cyclones have increased twofold over the past 20 years. Floods have increased threefold. It's happening now, and it's happening faster than some of the climate-change scientists have dared to predict” [31].

36. William Cosgrove (vice president, World Water Council), 3rd World Water Forum, 2003: "Extreme weather records are [already] being broken every year and the resulting hydro-meteorological disasters claim thousands of lives and disrupt national economies," said of the Marseille-based think tank made up of users and suppliers of water for social and economic development. The big problem is that most countries aren't ready to deal adequately with the severe natural disasters that we get now, a situation that will become much worse as storms and droughts become more pervasive. Ignoring the problem is no longer an option… The increasing incidence of extreme events provides a convincing argument to continue looking into building partnerships between science, water managers and the disaster preparedness communities, including the development and dissemination of capacity development packages and methodologies. It is telling that disaster reduction has been recognized since 2000 an issue central to poverty reduction. ” [32, 33].

37. World Water Council press release from the 3rd World Water Forum re climate change, droughts and floods (February 2003): “Economic loses from weather and flood catastrophes have increased ten-fold over the past 50 years, partially the result of rapid climate changes, the World Water Council (WWC) says. These rapid climate changes are seen in more intense rainy seasons, longer dry seasons, stronger storms, shifts in rainfall and rising sea levels,. More disastrous floods and droughts have been the most visible manifestations of these changes. From 1971 to 1995, floods affected more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, or 100 million people per year, according to experts. This total includes 318,000 killed, and more than 81 million left homeless. Major floods that left at least 1,000 people dead and caused $1 billion in damages per episode have been the most destructive… According to climate experts, the expected climatic change during the 21st century will further intensify the hydrological cycle – with rainy seasons becoming shorter and more intense in some regions, while droughts in other areas will grow longer in duration, which could endanger species and crops and lead to drops in food production globally. Evidence for the link between climate change and increasing climate variability is mounting rapidly. For example, scientific research has linked the recent droughts in the USA and Afghanistan to the effects of global warming… These climate disasters stemming from climate variability include: Floods [and Droughts] - Based on data for ther period 1950 to 1998, the number of major flood disasters has grown considerably world-wide from decade to decade – six cases in the 1950s, seven in the 1960s, eight in the 1970s, 18 in the 1980s, and 26 in the 1990s. The number of significant flood disasters in the 1990s was higher than in the three previous decades combined. Overall, global precipitation is estimated to have increased by about two percent since 1900, though not on a uniform basis. This disparity in new rainfall caused some places to become wetter and others to get drier, such as North Africa south of the Sahara. In the most calamitous storm surge, the flood in Bangladesh in April 1991 killed 141,000 people. Two floods in China, one in 1996 and the second in 1998, caused the highest material losses of the decade, of the order of $30 billion and $26.5 billion, respectively. Floods also destroy the hard-won economic advances that many in the the deveklo0jg world have accomplished, such as the Mozambique floods of 2000, which left nearly 1 million homeless, and Hurricane Mitch in Central America [1998]. Comparing the economic impacts of the 2000 flood in Mozambique with the 2002 flood in Central Europe clearly illustrates the disparity in how national economies are impacted by extreme events. The cost of damages reflects the income levels of the countries. According to officials at the World Bank, the Mozambique flood resulted in a 45 percent drop in GDP in 2000, whereas in Germany, the 2002 flood is estimated to have caused less than a one percent drop in GDP…Hurricane Mitch [1998] killed 11,000 people, with thousands of others missing. More than 3 million people were either homeless or severely affected. In this extremely poor regions, estimates of the total damage from the storm surpassed $5 billion. The President of Honduras, Carlos Flores Facusse, claimed the storm destroyed 50 years of progress. As far as the geographic distribution odf the worst floods, the majority occurred in Asian countries … In addition, the impact of floods has had increasingly detrimental and disruptive effects on human health. In flooded areas, some diseases such as diarrhea, which kills 2.2 million children under th4 age of five per year, or leptospirosis (a systemic infection that can lead to meningitis and hemorrhagic jaundice) spread more rapidly… Many countries in Africa have been suffering from unprecedented droughts that may signal widespread climate change … Sea level rise is a concern in coastal and low-lying areas, including small islands. In addition to coastal flooding, saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers present a threat to water supplies. The average global sea level rise from 1900 to the year 2100 is expected to be 0.48 meters (19 inches), between twice and four times the rate of rise over the 20th century. The main effect on humans will be to confront extreme events such as storm surges. Areas of greatest danger include Small islands in the Pacific, mainly the Atolls; Coastal low-lying countries like Bangladesh and the Netherlands; Coastal mega-cities like Tokyo, Lagos, Beuenos Aires and New York.” [32, 33].

38. Hideaki Oda (director of the secretariat of the 3rd World Water Forum) (2003): “Devastating floods seem to be getting worse. In 2002, many floods ravaged part so ft he world, especially in Asia and Europe. More than 4,200 people in the world died as a result of flooding, and more than 16 million people have been affected by floods in that year .” [32, 33].

39. Greens leader and Senator Dr Bob Brown in demanding that the Federal Government should impose the original version of the Resources Super Profits Tax, and use the funds to pay for the floods clean-up: “It's the single biggest cause - burning coal - for climate change and it must take its major share of responsibility for the weather events we are seeing unfolding now. We know that the oceans around Australia are at record high temperatures, and that's causing the moisture in the air which is leading to these catastrophic floods. It is costing billions of dollars, besides the pain, the anguish, the loss of life, the destruction and it should not be left to ordinary taxpayers to bear the full brunt of that." [34].

40. The Age, Melbourne (arguably the most progressive of Australia’s mainstream media), in an Editorial on man-made climate change and the Queensland and Eastern Australia flood disaster (2011): “Calls have begun for the Queensland government to conduct a royal commission into the floods, similar in scope to Victoria's Bushfires Royal Commission. The Victorian inquiry examined the circumstances of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, including the impact of climate change. Climate scientists were disappointed its report did not sufficiently emphasise the unique weather contributing to the disaster. Victoria had never had three consecutive days above 42 degrees until January 2009, when there were three above 43 degrees. The heatwave is believed to be responsible for 500 deaths in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, but was largely forgotten after the tragic fires… Australian weather is believed to be particularly sensitive to climate change. Like Victoria's fires, floods are part of a natural cycle. La Nina, the periodic oceanic cooling phenomenon, is far more directly to blame for the weather Australia is now experiencing. But it would be shortsighted not to take into account the role of global warming in these catastrophes. Professor David Karoly, from Melbourne University's School of Earth Sciences, says while individual events cannot be attributed to climate change, the extreme weather patterns are in line with scientific predictions that a warmer world will mean more severe droughts, more fires and flooding rains… So far, our political leaders have postponed making difficult decisions about the need to tackle climate change - such as setting a carbon price - because of fears they will be punished by a sceptical electorate. A great effort is required, with no immediate return guaranteed. More investment and better planning are necessary (in public transport, in alternative forms of energy and to compensate low-income earners when energy prices rise) to take into account the effects of drought, floods and rising sea levels. The band of environmentally aware voters is growing; the major parties can make gains by tackling their legitimate concerns.” [35].

41. Professor Will Steffen (a member of the climate change and carbon pricing committee set up by the Gillard government in September 2010 and who is working on a report about the floods) stated: “"We are getting more intense rainfall events as the earth warms, but it's difficult to pin down any individual event. Rainfall events like the type we've seen in Queensland are becoming more likely as the earth warms. There is a long-term warming trend with or without La Nina…We've now got a problem on our hands [re increasing burning of fossil fuels]." [36]

42. Chris Cocklin (environmental scientist, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland) re La Nina. Climate change and the Queensland floods (2011): “You've got to be very careful about saying that ... the intensity of La Nina ... is a product of climate change. But more intense weather patterns is certainly one of the strong predictions of climate science. If you look at one of the significant predictions throughout many parts of Australia - it's that rainfall will become more intensified. So all of that will add up to patterns that we have got to get used to." [37].

43. Clem Davis ( former weather bureau meteorologist, visiting fellow at Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University) re la Nina, Queensland floods and climate change (2011): “It's the strongest La Nina episode since 1974, when Brisbane flooded the last time. It is probably within the top five events over ... 130 years of records. You've got natural variability and you've got what global warming may be impacting… The records aren't long enough [in Australia back to 1876] , so it's hard to see which is impacting on the other. [That's why] researchers are looking at paleoclimate records to see what the cycles may have been in the past." [37].

44. Long Cao, Govindasamy Bala, Ken Caldeira, Ramakrishna Nemani, and George Ban-Weiss on the importance of carbon dioxide physiological forcing to future climate change (at doubled CO2 a total 15% increase in precipitation run-off due to increased precipitation due to increased CO2 plus reduced transpiration from decreased plant leaf stomatal aperture) (2010): “An increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration influences climate both directly through its radiative effect (i.e., trapping longwave radiation) and indirectly through its physiological effect (i.e., reducing transpiration of land plants). Here we compare the climate response to radiative and physiological effects of increased CO2 using the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) coupled Community Land and Community Atmosphere Model. In response to a doubling of CO2, the radiative effect of CO2 causes mean surface air temperature over land to increase by 2.86 ± 0.02 K (± 1 standard error), whereas the physiological effects of CO2 on land plants alone causes air temperature over land to increase by 0.42 ± 0.02 K. Combined, these two effects cause a land surface warming of 3.33 ± 0.03 K. The radiative effect of doubling CO2 increases global runoff by 5.2 ± 0.6%, primarily by increasing precipitation over the continents. The physiological effect increases runoff by 8.4 ± 0.6%, primarily by diminishing evapotranspiration from the continents. Combined, these two effects cause a 14.9 ± 0.7% increase in runoff. Relative humidity remains roughly constant in response to CO2-radiative forcing, whereas relative humidity over land decreases in response to CO2-physiological forcing as a result of reduced plant transpiration. Our study points to an emerging consensus that the physiological effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 on land plants will increase global warming beyond that caused by the radiative effects of CO2.” [38].

45. Dr Richard Betts (the Met Office, UK; he and his colleagues have modelled the effect of plants opening leaf stomata less widely when CO2 is high, losing less water and hence causing increased run-off): "It's a double-edged sword; it means that increases in drought due to climate change could be less severe as plants lose less water. On the other hand, if the land is saturated more often, you might expect that intense rainfall events are more likely to cause flooding." [39].

46. Richard A. Betts, Olivier Boucher, Matthew Collins, Peter M. Cox, Peter D. Falloon, Nicola Gedney, Deborah L. Hemming, Chris Huntingford, Chris D. Jones, David M. H. Sexton & Mark J. Webb (Met Office Hadley Centre and other institutions) on projected increase in continental runoff due to plant responses to increasing carbon dioxide (2007): “In addition to influencing climatic conditions directly through radiative forcing, increasing carbon dioxide concentration influences the climate system through its effects on plant physiology1. Plant stomata generally open less widely under increased carbon dioxide concentration2, which reduces transpiration and thus leaves more water at the land surface7. This driver of change in the climate system, which we term 'physiological forcing', has been detected in observational records of increasing average continental runoff over the twentieth century8. Here we use an ensemble of experiments with a global climate model that includes a vegetation component to assess the contribution of physiological forcing to future changes in continental runoff, in the context of uncertainties in future precipitation. We find that the physiological effect of doubled carbon dioxide concentrations on plant transpiration increases simulated global mean runoff by 6 per cent relative to pre-industrial levels; an increase that is comparable to that simulated in response to radiatively forced climate change (11 plusminus 6 per cent). Assessments of the effect of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations on the hydrological cycle that only consider radiative forcing will therefore tend to underestimate future increases in runoff and overestimate decreases. This suggests that freshwater resources may be less limited than previously assumed under scenarios of future global warming, although there is still an increased risk of drought. Moreover, our results highlight that the practice of assessing the climate-forcing potential of all greenhouse gases in terms of their radiative forcing potential relative to carbon dioxide does not accurately reflect the relative effects of different greenhouse gases on freshwater resources.” [40].

47. IPCC (2001): “The most widespread direct risk to human settlements from climate change is flooding and landslides, driven by projected increases in rainfall intensity and, in coastal areas, sea-level rise. Riverine and coastal settlements are particularly at risk (high confidence6), but urban flooding could be a problem anywhere that storm drains, water supply, and waste management systems have inadequate capacity. In such areas, squatter and other informal urban settlements with high population density, poor shelter, little or no access to resources such as safe water and public health services, and low adaptive capacity are highly vulnerable. Human settlements currently experience other significant environmental problems which could be exacerbated under higher temperature/increased precipitation regimes, including water and energy resources and infrastructure, waste treatment, and transportation.” [41].

48. Global Greenhouse on climate and floods: "Meteorologic floods are by far the most common of the types of floods in the human experience, affecting parts of the globe every year. Such floods can bring good, such as the fertile soils formerly brought to the Nile Delta by annual flooding. However, large floods are mostly known for their catastrophic loss of life and property, such as in China and Bangladesh which repeatedly devastated by floods - Bangladesh lost 300,000 people in November 1970 and more than 130,000 in April 1991, from cyclone-induced flooding, and the massive flooding of the Yangtze River in China in 1931 caused more than 3 million deaths with a further 2 million in 1959 from flooding and starvation. …By 2025, half the world's population will be living in areas that are at risk from storms and other weather extremes," the World Water Council said, citing evidence gathered by U.N. and other experts. The economic cost of changes in climate and floods will be huge, especially for poor countries that are likely to bear the brunt of these events. The phrase Climate and Floods is something we will hear more of in the years ahead.”[42].

49. Dr James Hansen (top US climate scientist; Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; member of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences; 2007 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science; adjunct professor, 75-Nobel-Laureate Columbia University) on climate change and extreme floods in “Storms of My Grandchildren” (2009): “A warming atmosphere causes greater desiccation, but at other times and places it can deliver heavier rain and cause larger floods… Increased warming’s greatest impact on storms will occur through its influence on atmospheric water vapor. The amount of water vapor that the air can hold is a strong function of temperature. The fact that atmospheric water vapor increases rapidly with only a small temperature rise is the basis for the runaway greenhouse effect. But the storms of our grandchildren will begin long before the planet approaches the runaway greenhouse effect… Latent heat is the energy that water vapor acquires when it evaporates from the liquid state or sublimates from ice. To evaporate water requires a lot of energy – more than 500 calories per gram of water at normal atmospheric pressure – which is needed to break the strong forces of attraction [hydrogen bonds] between water molecules When the water vapor condenses, that latent energy is released as heat that is potentially available to fuel a storm … Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor and thus has greater latent heat, the strength of the strongest storms will increase as global warming increases. The greater moisture content of the air also increases the amount of rainfall and the magnitude of floods. Already, as we’ve seen, many places around the world have experienced an unnatural increase of “hundred-year” floods, which are occurring more often than their names would imply. In some places the effect of increased rainfall amounts is exacerbated by deforestation or other human activities that reduce the ability of the surface to retain water.” [43].

50. Julian C. R. Hunt Department of Earth Sciences, UCL, UK) , Mark Maslin (Environment Institute, UCL, UK), Peter Backlund (National Centre for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA), Tim Killeen (National Centre for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA) and H. John Schellnhuber (Potsdam Institute for Klimatology, Potsdam, Germany) on urban threat from and contribution to extreme weather events (2007): “In 2005, 50% of the world’s population lived in cities consuming over 75% of the world’s energy use; as human development (as measured by the UN index) energy use will increase faster than the increase in population. By 2030, it is predicted that over 60% of the world’s population will live in cities with this percentage continuing to rise to the end of the century. Urban areas are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global; warming, particularly extreme weather events such as floods, storm surges, drought and heat waves (Stern et al. 2006; IPCC 2007), For example, it is estimated that the 2003 heat wave in Europe killed as many as 35,000 people. With modern urban lifestyles citi4s are consuming ever more power, which is still largely generated by fossil fuel combustion; the main uses are heating or air conditioning homes and buildings and powering vehicles, with industry in cities now taking a relatively small proportion. In fact cities discharge an amount of heat comparable to that received from solar radiation. Inevitably they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion and also from waste disposal management practices. As rapidly growing cities are clearing forests and vegetated areas, they are reducing the surface absorption of greenhouse gases and thereby further increasing their concentration in the atmosphere. Therefore, cities have special responsibilities both to their own citizens and to everyone else to mitigate future climate change, at the same time helping their communities to adapt to the growing seriousness of the consequences for people’s heath and welfare. Since the planning of such policies is complex as well as politically difficult, decision makers responsible for the future of cities require the best expert knowledge available. Hence the importance and timeliness of the papers in this special issue, which are a selection from those presented at a conference held at University College London [UCL] in April 2006.” [44].

51. Professor David de Kretser (Governor of Victoria, Australia, and eminent IVF scientist) interviewed about the devastating Victorian floods coming 2 years after the January 2009 heat wave that killed 374 Victorians and the 7 February 2009 Black Saturday bushfires that killed 173 Victorians): "I'm sorry, I'm one of these believers in climate change I'm afraid and if its doesn't get that message out I don't think its going to go away. There's too many of these events, not only in Australia but throughout the whole world that are happening now, which everyone says this week (is a) one in 100, one in 200 years (event) but they are happening pretty much more frequently now.'' [45, 46].

52. Elizabeth Farrelly (Sydney Morning Herald columnist, author and architect) re responses to the Queensland floods (2011): "To blame Bob Brown [for blaming man-made global warming for extreme floods] is to shoot the messenger. As we ache for Queensland's losses and rightly look to recovery, we must also heed the cataclysm's larger lesson... Global energy demand is about 13 terawatts (a terawatt is a trillion watts; a watt is a joule per second). Eighty per cent of this is fossil-derived. For civilisation to survive, a California Institute of Technology chemist, Nathan Lewis, calculates, 90 per cent must be carbon-free by 2050. To do it with nuclear power would mean building a reactor every two days for the next four decades. Yet if we don't do it, melting ice caps will be the least of our worries. Melting the permafrost, with its vast reserves of carbon dioxide and methane, will turn global warming, and its weather extremes, exponential...The sun pours 120,000 terawatts of energy onto Earth; 10,000 times what we need. With solar technology only 10 per cent efficient, calculates Lewis (and efficiencies now are often 15 per cent or higher), the entire energy needs of the US could be generated from a 400-kilometre square of Earth's crust...Melbourne University's Zero Carbon Australia plan insists that, using only wind, solar, biomass and hydro, we could be carbon-free by 2020. Crazy not to try. Don't blame Bob Brown. This is Gaia's lesson. Children, learn your cataclysm!" [47].

53. Adam Bandt (Australian Federal Greens MP) has backed yesterday's comments from the Victorian Governor (see #51) on the relationship between climate change and flooding and has said Premier Baillieu is being irresponsible in denying the link: "The immediate task is to ensure the safety and welfare of Victorians affected by the floods. But this should not prevent us from having a discussion about the impact of climate change and the likelihood of these extreme events recurring, Scientists have been warning for some time that global warming would lead to more extreme weather events including more intense and widespread flooding. Increased ocean temperatures lead to more moisture in the atmosphere and more energy in the storms. This is basic physics."All the Governor was doing was pointing out the facts. If we don't want more of these disasters to become regular events, we have to take urgent action to combat climate change. Here in Melbourne there are reports of advice to Melbourne Water that we face an increased in area of flooding of up to 25% because of climate change.Ted Baillieu is being irresponsible in denying the link between climate change and extreme weather. And the Premier's assertion that engineers managed to set levees at the appropriate height have been proven to be untrue on the Loddon River.If he doesn't understand the climate problem he needs to get properly briefed because we will be facing this for a long time to come. He also needs to tell Victorians what he is going to do to both cut Victoria's carbon pollution and prepare for rising sea levels and more extreme weather including bushfires and heatwaves as well as floods." [48].

54. Ewan Saunders, Socialist Alliance Queensland co-convenor, January 4. The latest flood crisis in Queensland underlines the urgent need for serious action on climate change. This flood disaster is the greatest for decades, now covering an area bigger than all of NSW, and affecting more than 200,000 people. The repair bill will amount to billions of dollars. Worse still is the suffering of the people of this state, and the loss of irreplaceable belongings, heritage and livelihoods.While floods are periodic natural occurrences here and throughout Australia, the size and severity of this flood exceeds any on record in recent times. Why? There is ample evidence that the wild swings in weather we have experienced in Australia lately are linked to worldwide, human-caused climate change. How can it be an accident of nature that Queensland's most devastating floods closely follow on the worst bush fires in Victorian history near Melbourne in February 2009. Yet, the elephant in the room -- climate change -- is rarely mentioned in official reports of these events. The recent findings of the Royal Commission into the Victorian bush fires failed to mention climate change as a factor in the disaster, which cost nearly 200 lives. Climate change is causing a noticeable rise in overall ocean temperatures and levels. This will undoubtedly contribute to even worse flood disasters in future, in Australia and elsewhere. Far from being sheltered from the worst effects of climate change, Australia will be one of the countries most seriously hit -- by both fire and flood. Our governments need to heed the message, and take radical action to tackle climate change -- by rapidly phasing out reliance on coal, and urgently changing to renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind and geothermal. Moreover, federal and state governments need to urgently expand and co-ordinate national emergency action to combat fire and flood by creating a National Emergency Rapid Response Council, combining firefighting, SES, medical, police and military forces, under the control of expert officials elected by workers and volunteers in the various fields. In this way, the vast good will and energies of the dedicated people who staff our disaster relief agencies can be best mobilised to confront this growing threat to our society.” [49].

55. Don Henry
, executive director, Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF): “It’s right for the government to help people rebuild after these devastating floods, but it should use fossil fuel subsidies [circa $10 billion pa] to fund the work. There are a number of tax breaks and concessions that drain the Federal Budget, while promoting fossil fuel use and greenhouse pollution. The largest of these fossil fuel subsidies is the Fuel Tax Credits program, which costs taxpayers more than $5 billion a year, the vast majority of which goes to mining companies as credits for use of diesel fuel. Another is the Fringe Benefits Tax concession for personal use of company cars, which is set up so that if you drive a company car, the benefits increase the more you drive it and the more you pollute the atmosphere. US President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address this week, made a commitment to fund the development of clean technology by ending $4 billion a year of tax subsidies to oil, gas and other fossil fuel producers. Australia should take a leaf out of Obama’s book. While no single extreme weather event can be directly attributed to climate change, this summer’s floods are entirely consistent with what climate scientists have been warning for decades. By cutting greenhouse pollution we can reduce the severity of extreme weather events and help protect our people and our economy.” [50].

56. Greens leader and senator Dr Bob Brown: "coal barons [should be made to pay]… Burning coal is a major cause of global warming. This industry, which is 75 per cent owned outside Australia, should help pay the cost of the predicted more severe and more frequent floods, droughts and bushfires in coming decades. It is unfair that the cost is put on all taxpayers, not the culprits.” [51].

57. Greens leader and senator Dr Bob Brown: “After the hottest and wettest year in recorded history, the seas off northern Australia are also currently warmer than ever before. This heat has led to increased evaporation and so, rainfall. Sceptics and defenders of the coal industry may dispute this scientific data, but they don’t. Instead, they are arguing that there should be no debate – not, at least, until some undefined time in the future when the cataclysm has passed and its injuries are behind us. A week after the “inland tsunami” struck the Toowoomba region, with the flood crest having passed in Brisbane, and Rockhampton beginning to recover, Australia’s newspapers are now carrying letters expressing frustration at the absence of debate on the causes of the floods across the nation and, indeed, in Brazil, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Like the drought, heatwaves and bushfires, these floods are predictable calamities and worse is in store as the planet is heated by human actions. We may collectively choose to do nothing about the rapidly increasing of burning of coal, here and overseas, from coal being mined in Australia by wealthy corporations largely owned overseas. However, that choice should not be made without informed debate. If there is a later time better for this crucial debate to begin, let the critics name it.” [52].

58. Dr Gideon Polya re floods levy: “Because of weather variability one cannot attribute a specific flood event to man-made global warming. However global warming has been associated with a 4- to 10-fold increase in floods since the 1950s. The floods will cost more than Gillard's measly $1.8 billion but pro-oil, pro-gas, pro-coal, pro-war, pro-Big Business Gillard won't make the greenhouse gas polluters pay for the disasters they are causing to ordinary Australians. It will only get worse (Google man-made climate change and floods)… [submitted] We should all contribute our fair share but since income directly relates to carbon pollution and hence impact on flood disasters, the rich should pay more. Further, as stated by the Greens, we need a disaster fund in the face of worsening climate change; stop wasting money on the Afghan War (Afghan Genocide); and tax the largely foreign-owned coal, gas and oil companies who have disproportionately contributed to the floods disaster through greenhouse gas pollution and consequent global warming.” [53].

59. Dr Gideon Polya re Neil Mitchell interview with PM Gillard over levy: “A good, strong, polite interview by Neil Mitchell that could indeed have been stronger. Thus if we are looking for savings, pro-war PM Gillard spends about $1 billion annually on the unwinnable war in Afghanistan that is associated with 280,000 avoidable under-5 year old Afghan infant deaths annually (2.3 million since 2001) and 350 avoidable Australian opiate drug-related deaths annually due to US Alliance restoration of the Taliban-destroyed Afghan opium industry (3,000 such Australian deaths since 2001). Value for money?... Some good ideas on how to pay for floods reconstruction: Ewan Saunders (Socialist Alliance) says stop wasting billions on the Afghan War and bring soldiers home to help with reconstruction; Don Henry (ACF) says abolish the circa $10 billion pa in fossil fuel subsidies; Senator Bob Brown (Greens)says tax the largely foreign owned coal companies who have contributed to the floods via global warming; and Senator Christine Milne (Greens) advocates a disaster relief fund to deal with disasters in the face of climate change.” [54].

60. Gideon Polya: “Greens leader Bob Brown is essentially correct in alleging coal industry complicity in current flood disasters. We know that breathing in pollutants from the burning of coal, gas, oil and cigarettes is associated with lung disease (carbon fuel pollutants and smoking kill about 13,000 and 18,000 Australians, respectively, each year) but we cannot prove that a specific case of lung cancer is due to any of these causes. Similarly, while human-made global warming has been associated with a huge increase in extreme flood events throughout the world, because the weather is variable one cannot attribute a particular event such as the La Nina-linked Queensland floods to climate change. However, the scientific message is that to minimise both deadly lung disease and extreme weather events such as the disastrous current floods we must stop burning coal, gas and oil and remove the resultant atmospheric pollution. Top climate scientists instruct that atmospheric CO2 must be urgently reduced to about 300 parts per million from the current dangerous 392 ppm for a safe planet for all people and all species.” [55].

61. Greens acting leader, Senator Christine Milne: “Helping to rebuild shattered communities left in the wake of these devastating floods is a top priority for Australians and the Greens firmly stand behind that goal. But it does a disservice to all those tragically affected by these floods - and all those whose lives will be thrown into turmoil by more floods, fires, storms and droughts in years to come - to keep insisting that these are one off events and ignore the role of climate change. It beggars belief that the government would choose to cut climate change programs like Solar Flagships, energy efficiency and the solar hot water rebate to fund disaster relief when such disasters will be made worse by climate change. We must recognise that less than 1C of global warming is making these human, economic and environmental disasters a part of life this century. We need to start planning now for the reality of climate change and redouble our efforts to return to a safe climate, not cut back on that effort. Contrary to speculation this morning by Saul Eslake, the Greens have had no discussions with the government about the proposed flood levy as yet, but we will be seeking to start those discussions as soon as possible. The Greens have proposed deferring the top end corporate tax cuts planned for July 1 2013, while keeping the cuts for small business. This would net the government around $1.7 billion in the forward estimates, protect low income earners and small businesses and enable the government to reverse its decision to cut critical climate programs. While we are open to the idea of a levy, the Greens see establishing a long-term, well-resourced disaster relief fund as a high priority in the face of climate change. Rebuilding in the wake of a climate-related disaster presents an opportunity to make sure new infrastructure is built with climate change in mind. This means building in resilience to worse disasters to come by reviewing planning laws and building standards as well as focussing on high efficiency, low emissions options like public transport and renewable energy infrastructure. Public funds from this levy or elsewhere should not be spent on more coal infrastructure that will only make the situation worse for all of us. The Greens' final position on the levy will be considered by the party room.” [56].

62. Bob Carr (former Labor premier of New South Wales, Australia): “My sympathies are extended to all the Australian families affected by these savage floods. But I want to push the debate on climate change because most of the sources I’ve consulted over the years have discussed more serious flooding as one of the accompaniments of global warming… But savage floods are absolutely consistent with all that has been speculated about and predicted in the context of “mankind’s craziest experiment” of global warming.” [57].

63. Bill McKibben (founder of in the Preface to his book “Eaarth” (2010):Much more quickly than we would have guessed in the late 1980s, global warming has dramatically altered, among many other things, hydrological cycles. One of the key facts of the twenty-first century turns out to be that warm air holds more water vapour than cold: in arid areas this means increased evaporation and hence drought. And once that water is in the atmosphere, it will come down, which in moist areas like Vermont means increased deluge and flood… [re increased precipitation] Not gentle rain but damaging gully washers: across the planet, flood damage is increasing by five pecent a year. Data show dramatic increases – 20 percent or more – on the most extreme weather events across the eastern United States, the kind of storms that drop many inches of rain in a single day. Vermont saw three flood emergencies in the 1960s, two in the 1970s, three in the 1980s – and ten in the 1990s and ten so far in the first decade of the new century.” [57, 58].

64. CSIRO on man-made climate change and rainfall in Australia (2007): “The global climate has warmed by one degree on average since 1950. This trend is mirrored over all of Australia with the exception of the northwest corner. The global climate models find that this trend cannot be accounted for by natural variation. The global temperature trend is overwhelmingly attributed to greenhouse gases … [re SW Australian rainfall] Attribution studies of the changes suggest that natural variability, along with anthropogenic climate change caused by the Asian haze, are dominant causes with a possible contribution from land clearing as well. There is thus a signal that we are already seeing the consequences of anthropogenic climate change not just climate variability. A similar picture is beginning to emerge fro the rest of southern Australia as well… There is early evidence that the relationship between the SOI [Southern Oscillation Index] and Australian climate is changing. The tropical Pacific Ocean has warmed to historically unprecedented levels, and the SOI has dropped to unprecedented levels. There is some evidence that the amplitudes of rainfall variations have increased as a consequence… A feature of Australian hydrology is that it is more highly variable from year to year than on any other continent. The difference between a one year flood and a one in a hundred years flood is larger than anywhere else.” [59].

65. Dr James Hansen in “Storms of My Grandchildren” (2010): “Global warming does increase the intensity of droughts and heat waves, and thus the area of forest fires. However, because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour, global warming must also increase the intensity of the other extreme of the hydrological cycle – meaning heavier rains, more extreme floods, and more intense storms driven by latent heat, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, and tropical storms. I realized that I should have emphasized more strongly [in his 1988 testimony to a US Senate Committee] that both extremes increase with global warming.” [60].

67. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2006 (founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals; the AAAS journal Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million): “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now… In addition to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential that we develop strategies to adapt to ongoing changes and make communities more resilient to future changes. The growing torrent of information presents a clear message: we are already experiencing global climate change. It is time to muster the political will for concerted action. Stronger leadership at all levels is needed. The time is now. We must rise to the challenge. We owe this to future generations.” [62].

68. Omar Baddour ( chief of climate data management applications at the Geneva headquarters of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, WMO) on extreme floods and drought: "We will always have climate extremes. But it looks like climate change is exacerbating the intensity of the extremes. It is too early to point to a human fingerprint" behind individual weather events.” [63].

69. Professor Andrew Watson (a climatologist at the University of East Anglia, UK): “[extreme events are] fairly consistent with the IPCC reports and what 99 per cent of the scientists believe to be happening. I'm quite sure that the increased frequency of these kind of summers over the last few decades is linked to climate change." [64].

70. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (vice-president of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) on Pakistan floods: “These are events which reproduce and intensify in a climate disturbed by greenhouse gas pollution. Extreme events are one of the ways in which climatic changes become dramatically visible.” [64].

71. Dr Peter Stott (head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office) re Pakistan floods (saying it was impossible to attribute any one of these particular weather events to global warming alone): “ The odds of such extreme events are rapidly shortening and could become considered the norm by the middle of this century," [64].

72. Ghassem Asrar (director of the World Climate Research Programme and the WMO) on Pakistan floods: “There's no doubt that clearly the climate change is contributing, a major contributing factor… [re China mudslides, Russian fires, Pakistan floods] The connecting factor is that clearly the warming is a driver for all these events.” [65].

73. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) re China mudslides, Russian fires, Pakistan floods: “The occurrence of all these events at almost the same time raises questions about their possible linkages to the predicted increase in intensity and frequency of extreme events, for example as stipulated in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007.” [65].

74. Professor Peter Grace (Global Change, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)) says greenhouse gases and global warning are contributing factors to extreme floods: "We will have an increased frequency of quite major events similar to what we had, particularly the flooding event in south-east Queensland. It means a bipartisan approach to climate change. Without that we are not going to go much further in terms of preparing ourselves for climate change in the future." [66].

In conclusion, because the day to day weather is highly variable one cannot attribute any specific weather event (such as the current Queensland and Eastern Australian floods) to man-made global warming. However increased precipitation will derive from increased sea temperature and consequently increased evaporation and increased atmospheric moisture - and accordingly one cannot exclude the likelihood of a major contribution of man-made global warming to such extreme precipitation events. Man-made global warming has already been associated with huge increases in the incidence of flooding and other climatic disruptions around the world over the last half century or so. The message is clear: what is needed, as stated by Professor Barry Brook, is “real, effective and urgent action to eliminate fossil fuels” (see #16).


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[2]. US National Academy of Sciences, quoted in “Increasing Queensland’s resilience to inland flooding in a changing climate: Final Report of the Inland Flooding Study”, 2010: link .

[3]. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007, Climate Change 2007: Working Party 1: The Physical Science Basis, T.3.4 Consistency Among Observations, link .

[4]. Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) report “Increasing Queensland’s resilience to inland flooding in a changing climate. Derivation of a rainfall intensity figure to inform an effective interim policy approach to managing inland flooding risks in a changing climate”, November 2010: link .

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[6]. Tony Bartlett, “Climate change the new flood risk for Qld”, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 November 2010: link .

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[22]. Vicky Pope, quoted in Damien Carrington, “”Australian floods: La Nina to blame”, Guardian, 11 January 2011: link .

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[31]. Karen Kissane, “Disaster expert urges a retreat from the coast”, The Age, 15 January 2011: link .

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[35]. “Of droughts, flooding rains and climate change”, Editorial, 16 January 2011: link.

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[40]. Richard A. Betts, Olivier Boucher, Matthew Collins, Peter M. Cox, Peter D. Falloon, Nicola Gedney, Deborah L. Hemming, Chris Huntingford, Chris D. Jones, David M. H. Sexton & Mark J. Webb (Met Office Hadley Centre and other institutions), “Projected increase in continental runoff due to plant responses to increasing carbon dioxide”, Nature, vol. 448, pp 1037-1041 (2007): link .

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[56]. Senator Christine Milne, Greens press release, 27 January 2011: .

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[58]. Bill McKibben, Preface, “Eaarth : Making a Life on a Tough New Planet ”, Times Books, New York, 2010): and .

[59]. CSIRO, meeting summary, “The Australian Climate”, Hydrological consequences of climate change meeting, CSIRO Discovery Centre, Canberra, November 15-15, 2007: .

[60]. James Hansen, “Storms of My Grandchildren. The truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity”, Bloomsbury, London, 2009, pxv.

[61]. Executive summary, March 2009, International Alliance of Research Universities held an international congress on climate change, Copenhagen, “Synthesis Report from Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decision”:

[62]. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), AAAS Resolution: Statement on Climate Change”, 2006: .

[63]. Alister Doyle, “Analysis: Pakistan floods, Russia heat fit climate trend”, Reuters, 9 August 2010: .

[64]. Louise Gray, “Pakistan floods: climate change experts say global warming could be the cause”, The Telegraph, 10 August 2010: .

[65]. SciDevNet, “Pakistan floods driven by climate change, say UN officials”, 19 August 2010: .

[66]. Francis Tapim and Bruce Woolley, “More natural disasters on Australia’s radar”, ABC News, 23 January 2011: .

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