By Brenda Ekwurzel, climate scientist
5 April 2013
(UCS) – You know something really weird is happening when in a single season more than 123 records are broken. That was the news from my home country, Australia, last month. The Australian Climate Commission, a government-sponsored science group, released a report confirming that the country’s climate has changed dramatically and will change even more if heat-trapping emissions continue to pile up in our atmosphere. I can attest it was a blisteringly hot summer season – I was there experiencing days of extreme heat and seeing smoke from uncontrolled forest fires fill the skies. The oceans were warm in places where they shouldn’t be. There was an eerie sense that global warming is no longer something in the future for Australians – we’re already living with it “down under”.
Commentators are calling it “the Angry Summer.” Temperature records were broken at more than 44 locations around the continent, and January was Australia’s hottest month ever. In my home town of Hobart, which typically enjoys a pleasant maritime summer climate, the mercury topped out just above 107 degrees F, almost 2 degrees F higher than the previous high record set in 1976. The bush fire danger categories now include a “catastrophic rating” for uncontrolled wildfires and two more color bands have been added to the nation’s extreme temperature maps, both compelling indicators of fundamental changes to the region’s weather patterns.
Murdoch Paper Hosts Op-Ed that Attacks Scientists while Australia Sizzles
That’s why I was incensed when I read the response to the recent report both from the political sphere and in the ideological press this week. Opposition leader Tony Abbott has pledged that if his party takes control of the Australian Parliament, they will do away with the Climate Commission. Well, such a move won’t stop climate change. It would just stop people from having an independent, authoritative, useful source of scientific information about the issue. Read, “censorship.”
The Australian, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, published an opinion piece from James Delingpole, a well-known columnist from the UK who makes a sport of misrepresenting climate science and attacking scientists. Delingpole criticized the head of the Climate Commission and suggested he be tried by a judge in a black cap, a vile reference to a type of trial traditionally reserved for passing the death sentence. Is this a return to the days of vilifying scientists for communicating important science to the public? I had hoped those days were over. [more]