Monday, 11 March 2013

It ain't half hot, Mum - In Australia

In 1990 I traveled to Australia to spend a year helping to develop a computer system to keep politicians, civil servants and the public aware of the possibility of climate change. On the way there I drafted my thoughts about the future of the planet - To Australia in a box - and have published the text on this blog, together with my later thoughts.

Did the work I was supposed to do succeed in preparing the Australians for what was to come - as revealed by the   recent report, The Angry Summer, published in Australia a few days ago. Of course it didn't - as within a couple of months of starting work familiarising myself with the scientific literature on the subject I was told the project was being axed. The reason was never clear to me - but it is clear that there was not enough interest to justify a project for something "that would never happen".

On the 1990 trip my wife came with me and warned me that "If it gets too hot I'm going straight back to England" and everything was fine until just after Christmas when we we holidaying in Melbourne (in a student flat with no air-conditioning) and the official shade temperature rose to 42c. Thinking this excessive we simply jumped in to our car (which had air-conditioning) and set off back to Sydney. My wife then spent a month to cool off in New Zealand while I spent an unpleasant few days at a summer conference at Brisbane University with temperatures in the high 30s and high humidity. If I had found a home for my research in Australia we would almost certainly have stayed - but I am sure we would have though about coming back to England when the maximum temperatures started to rocket. Of course air-conditioning can make life bearable in the short term - but running the air-conditioning means generating more carbon dioxide - making the problem worse. Definitely the latest news from the Hawaiian monitoring station on carbon dioxide levels makes grim reading 

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