Wednesday, 10 October 2018

What Peter Mailler is doing must be encouraged generally

With Melbourne yesterday receiving no rainfall despite a predicted 90 percent chance of showers and a practical certainty of:
  1. a rainless October, with the previous record low 7 millimetres in 1914 easily smashed
  2. a record dry spring, with the previous record low of 68 millimetres from 1967 cut to a third of that figure or less
  3. a record dry three months, beating 23.9 millimetres from February to April 1923
  4. a record dry October to December, beating 52 millimetres from 2006 and 67.7 millimetres under natural climate cycles from 1896
  5. much more critically, a radical shift in the Hadley circulation producing a reduction of between 50 and 80 percent under the virgin mean annual rainfall of around 660 millimetres of 26 inches
In corresponding latitudes of South America, the entire region of Central Chile between Santiago and Concepción has seen a reduction of 40 percent in mean annual rainfall since 2009, on top of past reductions since 1967. This is almost certainly entirely a product of due to man-made greenhouse pollution shifting the descending limb of the Hadley Cell into the region during its former winter rainy season (e.g. Hochman et.al 2017, Liu et.al 2012, Seidel et.al 2008). Because extreme positive IOD events that have caused the droughts in 2002, 2006 to 2008, 2014 to 2015 and 2018 are likely to become vastly more frequent (Ng et.al., 2015; Chie et. al 2004), a 50 to 80 percent reduction in annual rainfall over Southern Australia vis-à-vis virgin means is an entirely reasonable prediction for 2019 and beyond. With continuing increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, one needs to err on the dry side, as it is known that during the Mesozoic with CO2 concentrations over 1,000ppmv the Hadley Cell extended to at least 45˚ from the equator (vis-à-vis 25˚ preindustrially).

In this context, the admission by former farmer Peter Mailler of Goondiwindi on the Darling downs on yesterday’s 7:30 Report that:
“You can’t keep arguing that this is just a cycle,”
“Yes, there are dry periods and, yes, there are wetter periods, yes, there are warm periods, yes, there are cool periods, but we have shifted the averages.”
 “The baselines have moved to the point now where we are unable to manage the impacts of those extreme events in that set.”
“We’re running out of tricks”

 “Agriculture is a gamble and every time temperatures rise and the impacts of climate change rolls down, the odds keep moving in favour of the house. My bet is that high temperatures are here to stay and that is a serious threat to how we farm and how we manage that lack of rainfall.”
What Mr. Mailler is doing is to build a solar farm on his property and sell the electricity. According to the 7:30 Report, Mailler is producing enough electricity for the entire town of Goondiwindi. The report said that, despite the government’s inaction and deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, Mailler is actually making money.

There is a deep lesson here. Mailler’s work possesses simple logic, yet I had never previously thought of solar power stations as an alternative use for the vast majority of Australian farmland that is unsustainable both in terms of biodiversity loss and runaway expansion of the Hadley circulation.

If, in an area which lies near the boundary of the humid western side of the subtropical anticyclone and is not nearly so vulnerable to runaway poleward spread of the Hadley Cell, farmers are nonetheless struggling, what could be done if we could cut Australia’s politicians’ subservience to the coal industry and pay farmers in the former winter rainfall zone to make a change to solar power and large-scale revegetation of their properties?? Large-scale power for communities much larger than Goondiwindi is certainly not implausible with the certainty of Melbourne’s rainfall and cloudiness from 2019 being consistently below historical averages in Tibooburra. Changing farming to native flora and solar power constitutes a double jackpot is reducing Australia’s uniquely bad greenhouse emissions via:
  1. reversing large-scale emissions of greenhouse gases from extensive and continuing clearing of native vegetation by agribusiness
  2. vastly reducing, even eliminating emissions from coal-fired power stations
What Mailler is doing needs to be demanded of all Australian farmers.

References:

  • Hochman, Zvi; Gobbett, David L.; and Horan, Heidi; ‘Climate trends account for stalled wheat yields in Australia since 1990’; Global Change Biology (2017); published by CSIRO Agriculture and Food
  • Chie Ihara; Yochana Kushnir and Mark A. Cane; ‘Warming Trend of the Indian Ocean SST and Indian Ocean Dipole from 1880 to 2004’; Journal of Climate, vol. 21 (2008), pp. 2035-2046
  • J. Liu, M. Song, Y. Hu and X. Ren; ‘Changes in the strength and width of the Hadley Circulation since 1871’; Climates of the Past; vol. 8 (2012); pp. 1169-1175
  • Ng, Benjamin; Cai, Wenju; Walsh, Kevin and Santoso, Agus; ‘Nonlinear processes reinforce extreme Indian Ocean Dipole events’; Scientific Reports; volume 5, Article 11697 (2015)
  • Seidel, Dian J. Qiang Fu; Randel, William J. and Reichler, Thomas J.; ‘Widening of the tropical belt in a changing climate’; Nature Geoscience, vol. 1 (January 2008), pp. 21-24

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