The Conversation now has a policy of publishing articles which promote the false notion that extreme weather is virtually synonymous with climate change and in particular that vulnerable, low-lying island and coastal communities are climate change victims because of sea level rise and/or extreme weather.
Their most recent fake news article has apparently attracted a lot of criticism as numerous comments have been removed by the moderators and they have closed comments a day after publishing apparently because there is a “high risk of comments breaching our standards”. I bet. What they mean is there is a “high risk of comments exposing our shameless, unscientific climate change propaganda”.
The article is written by academics from the University of Queensland and University of the Sunshine Coast. When I say ‘academics’, it’s the usual science-lite dippy subjects: human geography/social sciences/environmental science/sustainability/climate change adaptation. These people wouldn’t know proper science, hard science, if it walked up to them and slapped them hard in the face. Yet, here they are, bold as brass, making grand claims that an increase in global atmospheric CO2 concentration has forced the re-location of two villages in Fiji via its effects upon sea level and via the impact of one cyclone in particular.
The original Fijian village of Vunidogoloa is abandoned. Houses, now dilapidated, remain overgrown with vegetation. Remnants of an old seawall built to protect the village is a stark reminder of what climate change can do to a community’s home.
Vunidogoloa is one of four Fijian communities that have been forced to relocate from the effects of climate change. And more than 80 communities have been earmarked by the Fiji government for potential future relocation.
There is no misinterpreting this introduction to the article: climate change caused the relocations (man-made climate change). Because:
Low lying coastal communities like these are especially vulnerable to threats of sea-level rise, inundation of tides, increased intensity of storm surges and coastal erosion. Extreme, sudden weather events such as cyclones can also force communities to move, particularly in the tropics.
They then talk about their (no doubt fully funded) ‘research’:
Our research documents the experiences and outcomes of relocation for two of these Fijian communities – Vunidogoloa and Denimanu.
The relocated villages
My colleagues and I visited Vunidogoloa and Denimanu, villages in Fiji’s Northern Islands, at the end of 2017 and spoke to village leaders and community members to learn how they felt about the relocation process.
No doubt they also packed the Hawaian tropic sun cream, bikinis, trunks and beach towels and soaked up some rays on the Fijian white tropical beaches before making their way back to Oz to write up their ‘thesis’ – no doubt via fossil-fuelled transportation owing to a lack of solar powered electric planes and boats at the time. No doubt they stayed in one of the villagers’ modest huts rather than at some swanky 5 star tourist resort whilst carrying out this vitally important research.
The bullshit then becomes more powerful and concentrated. So concentrated, it made me feel a bit faint to be honest (I recommend having strong coffee handy, or smelling salts when reading Con articles):
Vunidogoloa is a classic example of the slow creep of climate change. For a number of decades the residents have fought coastal flooding, salt-water intrusion and shoreline erosion. The village leaders approached the Fijian government, asking to be relocated to safer ground.
In contrast to Vunidogoloa, Denimanu experienced sudden onset effects of climate change.
While the village had been experiencing encroaching shorelines for years, it was Tropical Cyclone Evan, which hit in 2012 destroying 19 houses closest to the shoreline, that prompted relocation.
So, we learn from three of the Con’s expert contributors that, where symptoms are concerned, there are two variants of the planetary disease which they call ‘climate change’: ‘slow creep’ and ‘sudden onset’! I’m giggling whilst I’m reeling. It’s hard to describe really. Imagine if you’d been attacked by somebody armed with Ken Dodd’s climate change tickling stick (if he’d ever had one). It’s kind of like that, reading this constant stream of unscientific garbage emanating from the mainstream media and climate activists. They just churn it out day after day and it wears you down just seeing it, in your face, pretending to be authoritative commentary on a very serious issue, on a supposedly respectable website combining “academic rigour and journalistic flair”, when in fact it would be more appropriately published at The Onion.
Let’s get down to the facts shall we. Firstly, sea level rise in Fiji. Here’s what the Fiji Meteorological Service, Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have to say:
Satellite data indicate sea level has risen in Fiji by about 6 mm per year since 1993. This is larger than the global average of 2.8–3.6 mm per year. This higher rate of rise may be partly related to natural fluctuations that take place year to year or decade to decade caused by phenomena such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.
They then show this graph of observed (tide gauge and satellite altimetry) sea level rise, along with an estimate of the natural range of variability in that region. You can see immediately that the estimated natural range of variability dwarfs the 90% envelope of the climate model projected sea level rise, that the natural rise and fall of sea level in Fiji since 1970 exceeds even this estimate. There is a trend, but only since about 1980 and a large part of that appears to be large fluctuations associated with the powerful El Nino of 1982/83, 1997/98 and 2015/16.
“The dashed lines are an estimate of 90% of the range of natural year-to-year variability in sea level.”
And then there’s cyclones – “sudden onset climate change impacts” according to our erudite scholars at the Conversation.
Large interannual variability in tropical cyclone frequency, from 0 to 5. A decreasing trend, if any, in tropical cyclone frequency since 1969/70. Doesn’t look much like ‘sudden onset climate change’ to me! Back in the day, when the Con was at least making an effort to report on actual science, this is what author Kevin Walsh said about Winston, a cat 5 which struck the Fijian islands in 2016:
In the South Pacific, typically around nine tropical cyclones are recorded on average each year, but there’s a lot of variability year to year. They are most common in January through to March, but can occur as early as November or as late as May.
In the past 30 years or so, several severe tropical cyclones have affected Fiji, so it’s not unusual for Fiji to experience severe cyclones.
Is climate change affecting cyclones?
It’s difficult to say what the trends are in cyclone intensity in the South Pacific, as only limited data are available since the 1980s. Trend analyses in this region have given ambiguous results. Frequency of cyclones in the Australian region has been decreasing in recent decades. In the South Pacific region as a whole, trends appear weak.
We have just seen the peak of one of the strongest El Niño events on record. El Niño is related to the movement of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, so it’s not surprising that it has an influence on cyclones.
Contrast this with the garbage being put out in defence of climate action and ‘climate justice’ by our three geographers/sustainability experts/environmental ‘scientists’. The most absurd thing is, if you read the authors’ study, it is rather less certain that climate change is to blame for weather events in Fiji:
The first case study describes how relocation was driven by slow-onset climate change impacts while the other study site is an example of sudden-onset impacts, in this case driven by cyclonic storm surge activity. While not uncritically attributable to anthropogenic climate change, the increased strength of cyclonic and storm activity has a level of climate change attribution (Walsh et al. 2016).
So they’ve hyped up even their own study to present it as climate change propaganda on the Con website. The fact is, ENSO activity plays a huge part in tropical cyclone variability in the Fiji islands and natural sea level rise and fall, observed and estimated, also driven by ENSO activity, dwarfs the short term observed trend in sea level rise. Climate change impacts are projected. There is no unequivocal evidence that ‘sudden onset’ or ‘slow creep’ impacts are happening right now, creating ‘climate refugees’ in their wake. This is pure alarmist hype from the Con with the undoubted intention of promoting political action.