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Seasonís greetings Tuvalu, and thank you Mr Kelly

By Jennifer Marohasy - posted Friday, 28 December 2018

This fake news has been reported uncritically by the world's media. In fact, they have reported her as wise and brave … causing two fourteen-year old girls, Harriet and Milou, from Castlemaine in rural Victoria to organize the national day of school student protest in Australia.

I was in a taxi on my way to the Melbourne airport when I heard the oh-so passionate chanting on Friday 30th November. I asked the cabbie to go around the block again … I was in disbelief at the naivety of it all. Governments can, of course, be a hindrance to various things – for example, innovation. But it is hubris and nonsense to suggest they could ever stop climate change. This is what Craig Kelly has been trying to explain all year and was a key reason he was so concerned about the NEG and its negative impact on the economy, for no environmental gain.

While denied access to the text of the draft NEG legislation, Mr Kelly has been reading key technical papers on climate change. Earlier this year he read an article in the journal Natureby Paul Kench and colleagues from the University of Auckland. He repeated the conclusions from that research at a Liberal party fundraiser, attended by Get-up activists incognito. So outraged by Kelly's claims about Tuvalu, the activists sent transcripts of his blasphemy to The Guardian and Australian Broadcasting Corporation. To the ABC's credit they did a fact check, they even got back to Craig Kelly and asked him if he could substantiate his claims.


Mr Kelly sent them the article, which explains that despite sea level rise, there have been "positive sediment generation balances for these islands" from wave deposition. In fact, to quote more from the article "environmental" rather than "anthropogenic processes" are causing an "expansion of the majority of the islands … masking any incremental effects of rising sea levels, making attribution of sea level effects elusive, as these [environmental] processes can promote high frequency and larger magnitude changes in islands that can persist on the geomorphic record".

Yet at least since Al Gore's documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' the world media has been claiming Tuvalu was lost to CAGW.

Every attempt by so-called sceptics to correct the record – until this latest by Craig Kelly – appeared to just generate more ridicule … specifically remembering Graham Young's attempt to correct the record at back in 2006.

What neither the article in Nature that Mr Kelly quotes from, nor the recent few paragraphs of concession from our ABC, explain the complexity of the situation at Pacific Islands on an Earth where climate change and also volcanism will persist … yes volcanism.

Indeed, the great majority of oceanic islands, including in the Pacific, were formed by volcanic activity. While the volcanoes are active, the islands generally rise relative to the global averaged sea-level. When volcanic activity stops, the islands will cool and eventually start to sink … though as Paul Kench et al. explain in the Nature article wave process and shifts in wave regimes can result in the growth of atolls offsetting any rise in sea levels.

But what is needed in all of this, and especially in future ABC news items, is some context. It is fact that:

  1. Since the last glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago, sea levels have risen by more than 100 metres as large ice sheets melted.
  2. Globally-averaged sea levels reached a maximum height about 2,000 years ago.
  3. Along the east coast of Australia sea levels have actually fallen by about 1.5 metres since then … to reiterate sea levels have fallen about 1.5 metres over the last 2,000 years.
  4. But over the last 100 years there has been a slight, but measurable, increase in sea levels. Considering Sydney Harbour this has added up to about a 6.5 centimetre increase over the last 100 years … based on a documented rise of 0.65 millimetres per year between 1885 and 2010: that is the official rate of sea level rise at Fort Denison (just across from the Opera House) as reported by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That is less than 1 millimetre per year.

Of course, compounded, this could add up to something catastrophic – one day. But, neither sea levels, nor temperatures, rise in a monotonic way – rather they cycle.

Considering just sea levels at any one location on this planet there is the daily tidal cycle, the monthly lunar cycle, the annual cycle associated with the sun's declination that causes the four seasons, cycle associated with El Nino and La Nina events, and then there are the longer cycles including the cycles associated with ice ages and interglacial warm periods.

We need to hear more about this from the mainstream media … not just from Mr Kelly.

There is no denying that standing for reason can be difficult, especially when the numbers and slogans are against you. But just as Craig Kelly defied a Prime Minister, and won … it is incumbent on every one of us who seeks the truth to keep asking questions and concern ourselves with the detail and most importantly to not give-up on the truth never mind the short-term consequences.

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About the Author

Jennifer Marohasy is a senior fellow with the Institute for Public Affairs.

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