Month: May 2018

The Maryland Flooding Is a Warning: The Danger Is Rain, and We’re Making It Worse #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

The Maryland Flooding Is a Warning: The Danger Is Rain, and We’re Making It Worse

Henry Grabar May 29, 20182:56 PM

The Slatest

The Maryland Flooding Is a Warning

Flooding is seen in Ellicott City, Maryland, on Sunday in this still image from video from social media.

Todd Marks/Reuters

Two years ago, Ellicott City, Maryland, was hit by a debilitating flash flood that turns the town’s historic Main Street into a raging muddy river. Scientists said the July 2016 rainstorm was a once-in-a-thousand-year event.

But on Sunday it happened again: 7 to 9 inches of rain fell in the area, 10 miles west of Baltimore, and another torrent swept cars and trees through town. More than 1,000 911 calls were recorded on Sunday afternoon, more than 300 residents were evacuated, and a National Guard sergeant died trying to rescue someone.

This is worse,” said Howard County executive Allan Kittleman, compared with the 2016 storm, which caused tens of millions in damages and lost business.

Ellicott City isn’t some post-war boomtown built inside a reservoir or a vacation community playing chicken with the ocean waves. It’s a 250-year-old river town, and like many river towns, it’s known flooding, chiefly from the rising waters of the Patapsco, the river at the foot of town that drains into Baltimore Harbor.

But these past two storms—as well as September 2011 flooding from Tropical Storm Lee—have worked differently. Instead of the water rising from the river at the base of the town, it’s come roaring in down two tiny tributaries, the Tiber and the Hudson, which merge just before entering the Patapsco. According to a Baltimore Sun investigation, prior to 2011, it had been 60 years since runoff on the Tiber stream produced a flash flood. Now it has happened three times in seven years.

It’s a reminder that heavy rain, rather than rising seas, may be the earliest severe consequence of climate change. We’ve prepared for it in the worst way possible.

Between 1958 and 2012, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, the amount of rain falling in “very heavy events”—those at the top 1 percent of all rainstorms—has risen by 27 percent in the Southeast, 37 percent in the Midwest, and a whopping 71 percent in the Northeast. The most extreme downpours are getting more extreme. (Coincidentally, this weekend also saw just the ninth classified storm to make landfall before hurricane season since 1851 when Alberto hit the Florida panhandle, and a virtually unprecedented Category 3 Tropical Cyclone in Oman.)


The sprawling, asphalt-based model of American post-war planning has permanently altered the way the landscape drains water. FEMA bases flood maps on elevations and channels but ignore the impact of the built environment. Doing so, Texas A&M professor Samuel Brody told me a few months ago, is a critical mistake. “The bigger issue is that we’ve completed misconceptualized what flood risk is,” he argues. “We’re not baking in the human element that’s driving some of these flood problems.” How urban floods form and move owes as much to parking lots, soundwalls, highways, railroad tracks, and sewer backups as to natural topography.

Going back to 1972, about half of all flood insurance claims in Harris County—home of Houston—have been made outside the FEMA flood plain, according to Brody’s research, and the rate was even higher after Hurricane Harvey dumped dozens of inches of rain there last summer. That’s in part due to the increased severity of modern storms, but also to the category error by which FEMA plans without accounting for the postwar landscape. In Cook County, Illinois, more than $773 million was paid out for urban flooding damage between 2007 and 2011.

There was no correlation between ZIP codes with FEMA floodplains and those with damage payouts.

To further complicate matters, new development can change flooding patterns miles away. In the 1960s developers built Meyerland, one of the Houston neighborhoods that flooded for the third year running during Hurricane Harvey last year. At the time, only a sliver of it was in the flood plain along the bayou. Since then, the booming exurbs of Harris County have thrust more and more of the neighborhood into flood territory, leading to hundreds of millions in federal insurance payouts. Three-quarters of the absorbent Katy Prairie grassland has been paved over, sending water rushing downstream through obsolete infrastructure. “You get flood plains moving into people, not just the other way around,” says Brody.

That is what seems to have happened in Ellicott City, too: An old downtown in a new flood plain.

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Artists deliver #climatechange message that time is running out #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

They are increasingly sounding the alarm on global warming, through new works and collaborations with scientists

Helen Stoilas

Alexis Rockman’s Pioneers (2017) Courtesy of the Artist and Sperone Westwater, New York/Chicago Cultural Center.

A sense of urgency is at the heart of a number of climate change-themed exhibitions and projects in the US and Canada. Mel Chin, Douglas Coupland and Edward Burtynsky are among the many artists behind current and forthcoming works that look at environmental issues, and the pictures they paint of the future are stark. “We are fucked,” says Alexis Rockman, whose Great Lakes Cycle series of paintings is now touring the US. “You can’t even imagine what is headed our way in terms of fresh water.”

SeaWalls art in Cairns Australia

Rockman, who has been creating ecologically minded work since the 1990s, often using materials such as soil and plants from the landscapes he depicts, says he is concerned that environmental problems are “unsolvable”. But, he adds: “I can’t think of anything more important to make work about.” As well as creating his Great Lakes Cycle, which shows both the richness of the fresh water ecosystem and the threats it faces from industry and climate change, Rockman has co-organised The Solace of Amnesia, a group show in Vermont that obliquely references the subject, based on works from the Hall Art Foundation’s collection (until 25 November).

Other shows take a more straightforward view. Indicators: Artists on Climate Change opened at the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York last month (until 11 November), with works by 17 artists including Mark Dion, Maya Lin and Mike Nelson. And in July, the final part of Mel Chin’s New York City-wide exhibition All Over the Place comes to Times Square with Unmoored, an augmented reality piece that presents a flooded vision of the site. “When you’re dealing [with] social [issues], it’s best to try to deliver something,” Chin told us before the opening of the show at the Queens Museum, which includes a work on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. “Being aware and informed is not enough.”


Artists such as Justin Brice Guariglia, who is also in the Storm King’s show, take this engagement a step further by working directly with scientists. This summer, he is joining a group of climate scientists from the Woods Hole Research Center on a trip to study permafrost in Alaska as an artist-in-residence. The resulting work will be shown at the Anchorage Museum, which aims to send the show on tour through the lower 48 states. “We’re interested in more than social impact, we’re interested in social change,” says Julie Decker, the museum’s director. “Artists have the [research] mentality to connect with scientists, do deep dives into things and create high-profile projects that can start to create change.”

For scientists, bringing along an artist can help their research reach a wider public. “We’re always looking for different ways to communicate the science, because not everyone is out there reading scientific journals or New York Times articles,” says Alison Smart, the vice president for strategy and advancement at the Woods Hole Research Center.

“Artists are modulators of attention,” says Christine Shaw, the director and curator of the Blackwood Gallery at the University of Toronto Mississauga, who is organising a year-long festival in the Ontario city called The Work of Wind: Air, Land, Sea. Along with public programmes and publications starting this month, the festival will feature an exhibition of 13 artists projects opening in September, including a hot-air balloon made of community-sourced plastic shopping bags by the Argentine Tomás Saraceno and an installation by the New Zealand- born, Berlin-based Julian Oliver that has a wind turbine producing energy to mine cryptocurrency that is then used to fund climate research. “There is a narrative potency in the way artists are telling stories about climate change,” Shaw says.

Tomás Saraceno’s Museo Aero Solar (2007), which is made from plastic bags photo: Janis Elko; © Museo Aero Solar

This power has become more important as the administration of US President Donald Trump works to dismantle federal regulations on industrial pollution, and the head of the country’s Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, denies that climate change is caused by humans. (Pruitt is currently facing a dozen federal investigations into his spending and management, including his ties to energy lobbyists.)

“Our interest is in advancing scientifically sound climate policy, and right now that’s not happening on the federal level in the US,” says Dave McGlinchey, a spokesman for Woods Hole. “We have a very small window of time in which we can take effective action on climate change, and we are wasting that with an administration that doesn’t take the problem seriously.” Through their work, artists are making it clear how quickly time is running out.

Press Link for more: The Art Newspaper

#ClimateChange is bringing the oceans to the brink of collapse. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #Yearsproject

Climate change is bringing the oceans to the brink of collapse.

The problem is so big, it can seem overwhelming.

In Chapter 7 of Collapse of the Oceans, Joshua Jackson meets with Dr.Sylvia A. Earle, one of the world’s foremost ocean’s experts, to learn how we can solve it. #YEARSproject

How Much The World Could Save if We Halted Global Warming at 1.5 Degrees? #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

This Is How Much The World Could Save if We Halted Global Warming at 1.5 Degrees

Climate inaction costs a lot.

The Paris climate accord’s goal is to keep global temperatures “well under” 2 degrees Celsius, and 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible.

Now, a new study reveals that if we can achieve that lower target, it could save the world tens of trillions of dollars over the next 80 years.

These savings take into account things like the price of storms becoming more intense and more frequent, the price of agricultural yields beginning to slip and the price of negative public health consequences.

“Achieving the more ambitious Paris goals is highly likely to benefit most countries—and the global economy overall—by avoiding more severe economic damage,” said the study’s senior author Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor at Stanford University.

In fact, over the course of the century, a world where temperatures are kept to 1.5 degrees would generate $20 trillion more in GDP than a world where temperatures are kept to 2 degrees.

Even better, the economic benefits from fighting climate change will be felt the world over. The study has found that four-fifths of all countries and 90 percent of the global population will benefit from avoiding the costs of higher temperatures.

However, there are some economies that could suffer. These include the economies of Russia, Canada, the Nordic and Baltic nations, and central Europe.

The researchers were able to calculate this by studying how economic performances have been linked to global temperatures historically.

They then used climate models to predict how economic output would likely change in the future if the global temperature was 1.5 degrees warmer, 2 degrees warmer or 3 degrees warmer.

On our current trajectory, the world is headed towards the 3 degree mark by 2100. If nothing is done to stop this scenario, the study found it will likely lower economic output by up to 25 percent come the end of the century.

But as groundbreaking as this study is, there are limitations.

“GDP is a useful metric to assess the benefits of limiting global warming,” said Wolfram Schlenker, a professor at the Columbia University’s Earth Institute, who was not involved in the study.

Still, predicted impacts of global warming would be even greater, he said, “if the non-market benefits of reduced fossil-fuel use—for human health and ecosystems, for example—were considered.”

In other words, this study is a conservative estimate because it does not comprehensively consider the money that would be saved from improved global health and healthy ecosystems.

The study’s estimates are made even more conservative by the fact that it does not take into account the acceleration of melting ice sheets or sea level rise in the coming years.

Furthermore, the study may also underestimate the costs associated with shifting to a low-carbon global economy that would be needed to actually achieve the 1.5 degree target.

After all, scientists are skeptical that we can even achieve the 2 degree target let alone the 1.5 degree target. To achieve 1.5 degrees, we might have to pull excess CO2 out of the air – a technology that has still not yet been developed.

“The results should be interpreted with caution,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London.

“They have not taken into account the additional costs of reducing emissions to meet the stronger [1.5 degree] target, which could be substantial, particularly if negative emissions technologies are needed.”

The study has been published in Nature.

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Climate Change-driven Flooding in China Will Hurt the U.S. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Climate Change-driven Flooding in China Will Hurt the U.S., Study Warns

The U.S. depends heavily on Chinese manufacturing and trade, but those are likely to suffer if Chinese flooding increases by 80% in the next 20 years, as is now predicted

By Ruth Schuster May 28, 2018

Cargo ships moored under cranes as shipping containers stand at the Qingdao Qianwan Container Termina Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

They say a butterfly flapping its wings in China can cause a hurricane in the U.S. weeks later. That’s a tenet of chaos theory. What that pretty image means is that a very small change in initial conditions can create an enormously different outcome. Now a new study published in Nature Climate Change warns that intensifying river flooding in China caused by climate change is likely to have serious effects on the American economy.

That’s just one example of how a local catastrophe can have a global ripple effect in today’s interconnected world, and global warming is expected to bring more and more local catastrophes.

Butterfly \ REUTERS

There is consensus that anthropogenic climate change is happening. There is no consensus on how bad it will get. Nor can we predict, given the vast number of parameters, what the Earth will be like in 100 years, or how climate change will influence human life and civilization.  But before butterflies go extinct because of heat passing survivable levels, if it does, some effects are already happening and some can be predicted. One is intensifying weather extremes, hampering regional production.

In general, flooding in the superpowers won’t just hurt local manufacturers but the whole global network of trade and supply chains. In the case of China, a particular casualty of the predicted 80% increase in river flooding over the next  20 years  is expected to be the United States, predict Sven N. Willner and colleagues of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Why? Because despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats of a trade war with China, and the U.S. is (still) running a tremendous trade deficit with the Asian giant. It depends on Chinese mega-factories and goods and cannot just supply its needs for the same prices from other sources. China in turns depends on its rivers for transport.

Flap, flap, FLAP

Even the Chinese themselves have, after years of denial, admitted that climate change isn’t a hoax by the west trying to dishearten the tigers of the east (funny, Trump thought it was a Chinese hoax), the Economist reported in a recent review.

Not only has Beijing vowed to crack down on climate changing emissions. It’s even contemplating taking the world lead in saving the planet, as the U.S. reverses into denial and even Germany’s green fades, as attested by the imminent collapse of wind farms as 20-year subsidies expire.

Meanwhile, until Chinese or other efforts bear fruit, Willner and colleagues warn that America is specifically vulnerable to flooding in China due to their unbalanced trade relationship. They suggest Trump might consider forgoing his dream of tariff sanctions and a more balanced trade relationship with the Dragon, not for some gauzy general good but to mitigate American economic losses.

Fluvial flooding in China is expected to hit the rest of world through impacting trade. Bloomberg

“Climate change will increase flood risks already in the next two decades – and this is not only a problem for millions of people but also for economies worldwide,” said Anders Levermann, project leader from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Columbia University.

Worldwide, they calculate that unless climate change is curbed, which hasn’t been happening yet, economic losses worldwide due to river flooding will increase by more than 15 percent to more than $600 billion within the next 20 years.

The paper combines two new lines of work: global risk assessment for natural hazards and network theory, to describe how local shocks can propagate in time and space, explains World Bank economist Stéphane Hallegatte (who was not involved in the study). In this world, risk management is more than each country’s responsibility, Hallegatte stresses: “It has become a global public good.”

China was singled out in the study because it is expected to suffer the biggest direct economic losses from river flooding: the economists calculate losses passing $380 billion in the next 20 years, about half of which is expected to arise from “normal” flooding – unrelated to global warming. That is a cool 5 percent of Chinese annual economic output. And that doesn’t factor in economic losses from other horrors of the weather, such as heat waves, cold snaps and hailstones the size of goose eggs. Both the U.S. and European Union will suffer if Chinese exports collapse, but the researchers point out that the EU and China have an even trade balance, for the time being.

As an ironic aside, rapidly developing India is expected to be the worst source of climate-changing emissions in the future. But it could pick up business opportunities from water-soaked China. And for a final note, again, all these scenarios are based on emissions so far. But emissions are expected to increase yet more, explains Christian Otto. “Our study rather underestimates than overestimates the production losses,” co-author Christian Otto from the Potsdam Institute and Columbia University, adding: “Things could eventually turn out to be worse.”

Press link for more: Haaretz

Great Barrier Reef survived five climate change ‘death events’ but may not bounce back this time – #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani

Great Barrier Reef survived five climate change ‘death events’ but may not bounce back this time – Science News – ABC News

Joanna Khan

Over thousands of years, the Great Barrier Reef slowly shuffled around, depending on the sea level.

(Supplied: Queensland Museum – Gary Cranitch)

The Great Barrier Reef survived five “death events” over the past 30,000 years, but might not be resilient enough to bounce back from current climate pressures, according to a new study.

By drilling into and extracting fossilised coral at the edge of the continental shelf, a team of scientists reconstructed how the reef shifted and evolved over the past 30,000 years.

In the journal Nature Geoscience today, they report that the reef migrated out to sea and landward again as sea levels rose and fell with changes in glaciation.

Key points:

• The Great Barrier Reef migrated seawards and landwards depending on sea levels over the past 30 millennia

• Fossil cores drilled from the edge of the continental shelf suggested reef faced four “death events” from sea level changes, and a fifth due to increased sediment from rising seas flooding the land

• Researchers warn modern reef is unlikely to bounce back from current pressures despite being resilient in the past

During these swings, the reef faced death events, but survived the ups and downs by shifting and growing at different depths.

Today, though, with a faster changing climate, the Great Barrier Reef simply might not be able to keep up.

Ice age left reefs exposed

Coral reefs might seem like stable, immobile systems, but they can shuffle around when conditions change (albeit slowly).

During ice ages, sea levels gradually fall. As the shoreline recedes, the reef follows suit, according to study co-author Jody Webster, a geoscientist at the University of Sydney.

“As the sea level fell in the last ice age, that exposed and killed the reef in some locations,” Dr Webster said.

“What was underwater became the land, the shoreline migrated to the east, and a new reef started growing.”

Dr Webster and his colleagues found the reef faced two of these exposure death events in the past 30,000 years.

One struck 30,000 years ago, and another 8,000 years later, right before the last glacial maximum, which is marked by the maximum extent of ice and the lowest sea level around the world.

On the Great Barrier Reef, the sea level was at its lowest about 21,000 years ago — 118 metres below the present sea level.

During exposure from falling sea levels, the reef migrated up to 1 kilometre seaward to stay underwater.

Drowned reefs

The other type of reef death event is caused by sea level rise. This occurred around 17,000 and 13,000 years ago as the world’s ice sheets started to melt — a period known as the “deglaciation”.

“The sea level started rising rapidly back across the shelf, and in a couple of instances the combination of sea level rise and we think increased sediment flux actually led to the decline of the reef,” Dr Webster said.

By looking at the different corals and algae in the fossil cores, the researchers worked out that there had been a decline in reef growth rates.

“We could see the growth slowed to the point where the [coral] community changed and switched completely from shallow water fast-growing forms to now deeper water forms,” Dr Webster said.

The most recent death event took place around 10,000 years ago and made way for what scientists call the “Holocene reef” — the modern Great Barrier Reef.

It wasn’t just the sea level rise, but the potential influx of sediments from the land as the shelf flooded that led to the demise of this reef, Dr Webster said.

“It was once a fluvial plain — with grass and trees and rivers and probably mangroves — then started to flood, potentially mobilising massive amounts of sediment,” he said.

University of Wollongong marine palaeoecologist Tara Clark was not involved in the study, but said that it was a significant and comprehensive look at how the reef developed over millennia — not only how the reef responded to changes in sea level, but also to the associated environmental changes.

“Looking at water quality, coral community changes and growth rates is an added benefit to show how these reefs have changed through time,” she said.

“It’s one of the first descriptions of this, which is crucial at this point in time with all the environmental changes and changes in land use that are taking place at the moment around the Great Barrier Reef.”

Going deep into the past to understand the present

This study is the first to piece together what happened to the Great Barrier Reef during times of low sea level over the past 30,000 years, Dr Webster said.

By sonar mapping the seabed at the edge of the continental shelf, he and his team saw ridges and structures along the sea floor which they thought could be the remnants of drowned reef systems.

“We took the drill ship out to the edge of the continental shelf in front of the modern reef, and then drilled a whole series of cores through the seabed beneath which is the record of where the reef once grew,” he said.

Once they collected fossil reef cores, the team scrutinised them for organisms to “paint a picture of what the environment was like when the coral reef was growing”, Dr Webster said.

“Was it a shallow or a deep reef? Was it a sheltered reef?”

The coral and algae embedded in the cores were carbon-dated, and their chemical signatures let the team reconstruct the sea surface temperature and the water depth at the time they were alive.

Reef resilience not forever

Dr Webster said that understanding the reef’s survival threshold over the past 30,000 years is important for predicting and protecting the reef’s health down the track.

“There’s strong evidence that since European colonisation there has been a massive increase in sediment and nutrient flux to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, so that is an ongoing issue of concern,” he said.

Dr Clark hopes that large baseline studies spanning huge spatial and time scales, like Dr Webster’s research, will lead to improvements in reef management.

“The fact that they’ve shown a decline in coral, not only attributable to changes in sea level but also to poor water quality, could hopefully give management an idea of where they should target improvements,” Dr Clark said.

While the Great Barrier Reef has shown remarkable resilience to respond as an ecosystem to sea level changes and sea surface temperature rise, the changes the reef is currently facing are more extreme and faster than ever before, Dr Webster warned.

“From the last ice age to about 10,000 years ago, the temperature rose a couple of degrees over tens of thousands of years, and if we compare that with the sorts of rates we see now, the rate of temperature rise is much faster now,” he said.

“It’s a depressing state of affairs.”

Dr Clark agrees that the past ability of the reef to bounce back cannot be taken as a sign it will recover from its current woes.

“The reefs may have been resilient in the past, but going into the future with the number of bleaching events we’ve had and the land-use change that’s going on,” she said.

“It’s a bit worrying, I think.”

Press link for more: ABC.NET

Maryland community heartbroken after second flood in 2 years #ClimateChange is catastrophic #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Provided by

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. – After flash floods sent cars floating down Main Street in historic Ellicott City, Maryland, local officials said they were heartbroken to see the community so severely damaged again less than two years after a devastating flood killed two people and caused millions in damages.

As the flood waters receded late Sunday, officials were just beginning the grim task of assessing the destruction.

During an evening news conference, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said authorities aren’t aware of any fatalities or missing people. But first responders and rescue officials were still going through the muddied, damaged downtown, conducting safety checks and ensuring people evacuated.

Kittleman said the damage was significant and appeared to him to be worse than the flooding two summers ago.

Residents and business owners, Kittleman said, “are faced with the same daunting task again.”

“We will be there for them as we were in 2016,” he said.

Gov. Larry Hogan also toured the area and promised “every bit of assistance we possibly can.”

“They say this is a once every 1,000-year flood and we’ve had two of them in two years,” Hogan said.

The flooding Sunday swept away parked cars in Ellicott City, set along the west bank of Maryland’s Patapsco River and about 13 miles (20 kilometres) west of Baltimore.

Jessica Ur, a server at Pure Wine Cafe on the city’s Main Street, told The Baltimore Sun that she watched as gushing waters swept three or four parked cars down the street.

“It’s significantly higher than it was before,” she told the newspaper, comparing the floodwaters to those of 2016.

Mike Muccilli, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia, said it’s too early to make comparisons between the two floods. But he said both were devastating.

In July 2016, Ellicott City received 6.6 inches (17 centimetres) of rain over a two- to three-hour period. On Sunday, the community received nearly 8 inches (20.32 centimetres) of rain over a six-hour period, but most of it fell during an intense, three-hour period, Muccilli said.

“In a normal heavy rain event, you wouldn’t see this amount of flooding, where you see cars floating down the road,” Muccilli said. “This was a true flash flood.”

Some people reported hearing a blaring alarm during the flooding. Others said they gathered in the second story of a building to anxiously watch the seething waters. One sight during the flood: a handmade, white flag hung from an upper story of a Main Street building bearing the letters SOS.

“If you are trapped, we are coming,” the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services tweeted at one point.

Ellicott City has been rebuilding since the 2016 flooding damaged and destroyed businesses. Local officials recently said that 96 per cent of the businesses were back in operation and more than 20 new businesses had again opened in the Main Street area.

Just two weeks ago, Hogan announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had awarded the state and county more than $1 million to pay for projects aimed at reducing the flood risk in areas around Main Street.

Some are already asking questions about whether enough was done after the last flood to prevent a similar catastrophe.

Hogan said temporary improvements were in place and more things were in the works to reduce the community’s vulnerabilities. But he said big changes take time, and no one expected such a huge flood so soon after 2016.

Press link for more: MSN.COM

Coral Reefs could be gone by 2050! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

If we continue down our current path, coral reefs, the lifeblood of the ocean, will cease to exist by midcentury.

In Chapter 3 of Collapse of the Oceans, Joshua Jackson embeds with the dedicated scientists who are racing to save what’s left. #YEARSproject

Healthy coral reefs are alive with the pops, snaps and clicks of the invertebrate creatures that inhabit them. And many newly hatched fish species use these sounds to guide them towards new habitats.

But now scientists have found reefs damaged by coral bleaching and cyclones are much quieter than intact reefs, and are failing to attract as many new juvenile fish, which are crucial for reef recovery.

An international team published its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, and study co-author Mark Meekan from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) said the results were worrying.

“During bleaching, corals lose their zooxanthellae, they starve to death, they die and live coral cover is replaced by algae,” he said.

“Those young fish graze the reef and keep the algae down. Without the fish suppressing the growth of algae, the corals have essentially no space on the reef and can’t get through.”

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

#ClimateChange The doubters and believers aren’t even talking about the same thing. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Inspiring Terms Are Simple. ‘Climate Change’ Isn’t.

The doubters and believers aren’t even talking about the same thing.

More stories by Faye Flam

Some global warming is caused by Jupiter. But most of the blame belongs on the third rock from the sun.

Source: Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

As scientific terms go, “climate change” is failing.

Good terms are specific, descriptive and help people to understand complex concepts. Climate change is ambiguous, referring perhaps to the most pressing human-generated environmental problem of the century, or to other kinds of changes that happen through natural forces and have been going on since long before humans arose.

Last week I chatted with Columbia University paleontologist Dennis Kent about some new work he and his colleagues published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about the surprisingly big influence of Venus and Jupiter on the climate of Earth. The gravitational tug of the second and fifth planets from the sun act to stretch Earth’s annual orbit like a rubber band, pulling it into a more oblong ellipse and then back to something very close to a perfect circle over a cycle of 405,000 years. And that leads to big changes in our climate – or the climate of whatever creatures lived here.

The ambiguity of “climate change” plays into the problems that a Wall Street Journal op-ed identified last week in a piece headlined “Climate Activists Are Lousy Salesmen.” This is science, not advertising, and the terms that scientists come up with aren’t decided by public-relations experts using focus groups. Most of the burden of explaining climate changes, past and present, has fallen not to “activists” but to scientists, whether or not they have an interest in or aptitude for persuasion.

According to historians, the same people who were fascinated by dramatic natural climate changes were the ones to discover that burning up lots of fossil fuel was likely to cause a short-term spike in the global temperature. The start of that spike is already measurable. Research on human-generated and natural climate changes are related, and many of the same people still study both kinds in order to get a better handle on where things are headed in the coming decades, centuries and millennia.

Back in the 19th century, scientists started to investigate signs in the geologic record that dramatic ice ages had been occurring every 40,000 years or so, during which glaciers crept over much of the Northern Hemisphere. Eventually, they realized that these are driven by what Kent calls an ice age pacemaker – the interplay between the tilt of the planet’s axis and our planet’s distance from the sun. Those factors change the way sunlight is distributed, concentrating more or less over the Northern Hemisphere, where there’s more land and the potential to build up glaciers. Glaciers reflect sunlight, absorbing less of its heat energy than dark surfaces would, which makes the cold periods colder worldwide. Similarly, warmth releases carbon dioxide, which acts as a greenhouse gas traps solar heat and amplifies warm periods.

Adding to all this complexity is the subject of the new paper – a 405,000-year-long cycle caused by our fellow planets. Kent said that basic Newtonian physics shows that Venus and Jupiter actually change Earths’ orbit significantly. At its most oblong, the long axis of the orbit is five percent longer than the shorter one. During that more oblong part of the cycle, the Earth strays farther than normal from the sun and also flirts closer to the sun than usual. So other natural changes reach greater extremes – the ice ages colder and the periods in between warmer.

What Kent and his colleagues did was expand the record of those cycles by digging out cores of Earth hundreds of feet long from Arizona and Northern New Jersey. They used the natural clocks provided by radioactive materials and signs of reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field to figure out when and how the climate changed. The cycles, he said, go back more than 200 million years, to the time when dinosaurs first appeared.

We are currently in the rounder, more even phase of our orbital cycle, Kent said, meaning the ice ages should be relatively mild. We’re also in between ice ages and could go into a new one in a few thousand years, though some think that human-generated global warming will be enough to offset it.

And herein lies the confusion. People hear “climate change” and think, what’s the big deal?

The climate has been changing for millions of years.

Or they note that scientists used to think we were headed into another ice age. But the time scales matter.

Fossil fuel burning and other human-generated changes are likely to warm the overall planet’s temperature by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit over the coming decades.

The next ice age isn’t expected for a few millennia. That’s a long time to wait for a potential cooldown.

One could distinguish the current, more rapid climate change by calling it “anthropogenic climate change,” but that term makes people trip over their own tongues, so it’s understandable that people shorten it. There’s also the term “global warming,” which is a little more descriptive, but scientists say it fails to capture changes in rainfall patterns, wind and currents that go along with the general trend of warming.

The Wall Street Journal piece was right about a sales problem. It’s too bad there isn’t a catchy term or acronym — such as WMD or GMO — to describe the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning, deforestation, domestic cattle and other human activities.

The complexity of climate science may always be at odds with the simplicity that’s key to inspiring action.

Remember the hole in the ozone layer? It was more of a thin spot, but in the 1980s, that dramatic term may have helped spur a global movement to reduce certain pollutants staved off disaster.

It’s too late to prevent anthropogenic climate change, or unnatural climate change, or global warming — call it what you will. But it isn’t too late to slow the warming, and perhaps even reverse it. If only someone could sell the idea.

(Clarifies relative position of Earth to the sun during elliptical orbit, in sixth paragraph of article published May 11.)

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:

Faye Flam at

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Rachael Carson environmental hero. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

Rachel Carson, the long green line and our environmental heroes – past and present

Rachel Carson knew she would be criticized for connecting pesticides to the death of songbirds when Silent Spring was published in 1962.

As a scientist, though, she didn’t expect to be vilified by an entire industry, or to be called an alarmist and Communist.

Despite the attacks, she had the courage to keep going, all the way to the White House where she met with President John F. Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee, and to Capitol Hill where she testified before senators.

That determination is what ultimately made Carson the most significant American environmentalist of the past century, and why she’s been an inspiration to me since I was a teenager.

Carson opened our eyes to the harm we were doing to the environment, ultimately making our nation a better steward of our natural heritage. Everyone in the environmental community follows in her footsteps.

It’s been nearly 50 years since Environmental Defense Fund was founded on her legacy. We, like so many of our peers, are part of a long green line that started with her signal work, relentlessly following the science, even when it leads to unexpected places.

We work every day to open eyes – just like Carson did in the early days of the environmental movement.

“Who can carry on my work?”

In 1985, I found myself in a magnificent villa perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the central California coast. It belonged to Margaret Owings, an EDF trustee, and great protector of wild animals.

We sat in her living room with a spectacular view of the ocean when Margaret told me a moving and humbling story. More than two decades earlier, before Carson’s untimely death from breast cancer, the two women had met in New York City when Carson received the Audubon Medal.

After the ceremony, they had talked about the future of environmentalism and how to keep the fledgling movement alive. Carson, who was very ill, told Owings she didn’t know who would carry on her work.

Her words made a big impression on Owings. Recounting their meeting to me, she said she had since felt almost a personal responsibility to continue the fight, to take the baton.

Her story helped me see the power of continuity. It was as if Carson was still there with us, telling us to keep going.

We’ve come a long way since Silent Spring, but we also know our work will always go on.

With a vote in Congress or the rap of a judge’s gavel, protections for which our activists worked years can be weakened or eliminated.

We know that in an instant, environmental progress can be reversed, and that requires vigilance by all of us. With a vote in Congress or the rap of a judge’s gavel, protections for which our activists worked years can be weakened or eliminated.

When that happens, we just get back up, dust off and continue the fight. Because we know that environmental stewardship is good for the economy, for business and for people.

Unlike Carson in her day, we can now mobilize the support of hundreds of thousands, even millions, and we have the backing of a new generation of leaders.

Executives calling for a price on carbon

The founder of Moms Clean Air Force, with half a million activists, Dominique Browning is one such leader working for a clean and healthy environment. It makes her a fitting recipient of Audubon’s Rachel Carson award later this month.

By enlisting parents and educating others about what’s happening to our air and climate, Browning and her organization have made a real difference for America’s children and grandchildren. This is in the best tradition of Rachel Carson.

She, too, is part of that green line running from one decade to the next, and from one courageous leader to another, as we continue our work, day in and day out, to defend our environment.

Join us today

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