John Menadue. Get ready for El Nino, Tony

Jun 2, 2014

The late Senator Moynihan from New York famously said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to their own facts. Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt along with Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt have strong opinions on climate change that are not based on facts.

If El Nino develops as presently indicated, Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt will tell us that its severity has nothing to do with global warming. Yet the facts tell us otherwise about the relationship between El Nino and global warming.

In their political opportunism over the carbon tax, Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt have done our children and our planet a great disservice. The carbon tax is good policy but handled in a most politically inept way. But when will Messrs Abbott and Hunt tell us that they have got in wrong on global warming – that it is a serious problem and must be addressed with strong leadership and courage. And by the way, where is Malcolm Turnbull on climate change and global warming? He is nowhere to be found.

On May 8 the Climate Prediction Centre and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society in their monthly report said that the chance that El Nino will develop in Australia has a probability of 80%. It is likely to occur during our late autumn and early winter this year. This group of scientists remained non-committal on the strength of El Nino, preferring to wait for another month. They did suggest however that the next El Nino could be severe.

Previous El Ninos, particularly the Super El Ninos in 1982 and 1997, led to major disruptions of fishing and agriculture, severe bushfires and high death rates. And science tells us there is a link between global warming and El Ninos.

  • On 28 October last year the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) said

 “Our research suggests in a warming world we are likely to see more extremes of El Nino and La Nina events which over the past decade in Australia have been related to extreme flooding, persistent droughts and dangerous fire seasons.”

  • On 11 November 2013, CCRC said “Unusual El Ninos, like those that led to the extraordinary Super El Nino years of 1982 and 1997 will occur twice as often under even modest global warming scenarios.”
  • On 20 January this year, CCRC said “Extreme weather events fuelled by unusually strong El Ninos such as the 1983 heatwave that led to the Ash Wednesday bushfires in Australia are likely to double in number as our planet warms.”

It is a case of ‘watch this space’. According to the experts, there is an 80% chance of El Nino occurring later this year. It may be a very severe El Nino. It is also clear that global warming is increasing the risk of severe El Ninos.

Are Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt ready to explain the next El Nino and its relationship to global warming? The Coalition budget is premised on a set of optimistic economic assumptions concerning growth, trade and employment, which are based particularly on our agricultural and mineral production.

We should keep a close eye on El Nino and what scientists tell us in the next few months. They tell us that El Nino could fizzle, but the probability of that occurring is low. We already know that at present Eastern Australia is drier and hotter than usual.

El Nino may put global warming and climate change back on the political agenda in a way that Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt never expected.


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