Climate Change

Mass coral bleaching forces review of reef protection plan #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

By Tony Moore

An urgently revised plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef has been bought forward following evidence of damage from the back-to-back coral bleaching incidents in 2016 and 2017.

The Australian and Queensland governments have on Friday released the 2018 mid-term review of their long-term 2050 Reef Plan, after studies in 2017 confirmed serious damage to the reef from climate change.

Great Barrier Reef coral of Port Douglas in 2017.

Photo: Dean Legacy

“The unprecedented instance of back-to-back mass bleaching events shows that climate change is already having impacts on the reef and clearly underlines the importance of urgent action to build the Reef’s resilience and maintain its functionality,” the report says.

“Consecutive coral bleaching events and the impact of other stressors have fundamentally changed the character of the Reef. Coral bleaching is projected to increase in frequency. As corals are relatively slow growing they will have too little time to recover between events or to evolve genetically.”

The report identifies four climate change trajectories to try to keep ocean temperature warming below 2 degrees to prevent coral bleaching.

The timeline: Why has this report been bought forward?

• 2015 – The Australian and Queensland governments released the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan

• 2016 – There were major problems with coral bleaching on areas of the Great Barrier Reef

• 2017 – There were more coral-bleaching incidents happened along the Great Barrier Reef. Coral bleaching is linked to ocean warming

• March-April 2017 – There was extra damage was caused by Cyclone Debbie

• September 2017 and May 2018 – Surveys showed “sustained significant coral loss due to coral bleaching, cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish”

• July 2018 – The Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum decided to bring forward a revised Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan

What has changed in policy and direction in this new report?

There is a stronger focus on climate change in the revised report.

1. New climate adaptation actions have been added. A new policy is developing a Reef Resilience Network and working on localised restoration activities to build up this network.

2. Research will begin on climate change trajectories to judge their impact on the Great Barrier Reef. These climate change trajectories will be reviewed in 2020 in the first comprehensive review of the revised plan.

3. Water quality targets have been updated.

What is the big issue?

Water temperature increases around the Great Barrier Reef need to be kept below an increase of 1.5 degrees, according to peer-reviewed scientists, to reduce the frequency of coral bleaching, the report says.

A concerted “international effort” is required.

What are some of the key projects under way now?

This three-page table shows $600 million worth of fertilizer and sediment control projects now underway, funded by the Australian and Queensland governments.

Most of them are directed to cane farmers, banana farmers and graziers.

It includes $8.5 million for two sediment-erosion control and restoration projects run by Greening Australia to stop silt flowing down rivers and on to the reef.

Sediment flowing down the Burdekin River towards Upstart Bay near Bowen.

Photo: Tony Moore

Where is the money coming from?

The Australian government put in $500 million in the 2018-19 Budget.

The Queensland government put in $500 million to a Land Restoration Fund in its 2018-19 Budget.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has $1 billion available “on a commercial basis” for clean energy projects close to the reef.

By December 2017 it has invested $345 million to more than 280 projects including seven utility scale solar farms in central and north Queensland.

Earlier funding promises

In 2016, $1.28 billion was committed to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

That included $716 million from the Australian Government, $409 million from the Queensland government and $161 million from other sources.

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What does the Great Barrier Reef contribute to the economy?

1 Over two million visitors each year

2 64,000 jobs

3 Generates economic activity of $6.4 billion each year, largely through tourism

4 It is a “maze” of 1050 islands and 3000 reefs stretching 2300 kilometres along the Queensland coast

How will results be checked?

There are annual reports to Queensland and Australian environment ministers and updated in five-year Outlook Reports, independently monitored by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The first major review will be in 2020 before UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee reviews the health of the Great Barrier Reef in 2020.

The Great Barrier Reef has been a UNESCO protected site since 1981.

What do observers say about the revised reef plan?

Climate Council – Acting chief executive Dr Martin Rice said the revised plan failed to acknowledge Australia’s weak greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets and instead relied heavily on $500 million dollars to improve water quality and eradicate the crown-of-thorn starfish to protect the Reef.

World Wildlife Fund Australia – WWF’s Oceans campaigner Richard Leck said the plan showed more effort was needed to keep ocean warming to below 2 degrees centigrade.

He also questioned why farmers were not updating their practices to stop fertiliser run-off.

Press link for more: Brisbane Times

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Australian governments concede Great Barrier Reef headed for ‘collapse’ #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange

By Nicole Hasham

The world’s climate change path means the Great Barrier Reef is headed for “collapse” according to a plan endorsed by state and federal governments that critics say turns a blind eye to Australia’s inadequate effort to cut carbon emissions.

The federal and Queensland governments on Friday released a “new and improved” Reef 2050 Plan to save the iconic natural wonder, which explicitly acknowledges climate change poses a deadly threat to the reef.

The comments depart starkly from previous official efforts to downplay damage wrought on the reef for fear of denting the tourism industry.

Global temperature rises this century must be kept below 1.5 degrees to ensure the Great Barrier Reef’s survival, the government plan says.

Photo: E.Matson, AIMS

Based on current climate projections, the outlook for coral reefs generally is “one of continuing decline over time, and in many regions, including the Great Barrier Reef, the collapse and loss of coral reef ecosystems”, the plan says.

It concedes that consecutive coral bleaching events and other stressors “have fundamentally changed the character of the reef”, which is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

“Coral bleaching is projected to increase in frequency … those coral reefs that survive are expected to be less biodiverse than in the past,” the plan says.

Critics say the revised Reef 2050 Plan ignores Australia’s weak emissions reduction targets.

Photo: Australian Institute of Marine Science

The reef is the world’s largest living structure, covering an area roughly the size of Italy.

Coral reefs are particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change including higher sea temperatures, ocean acidification and more intense storms and cyclones.

The plan recognised that “holding the global temperature increase to 1.5°C or less is critical to ensure the survival of coral reefs”.

“Respected coral scientists have documented in peer-reviewed journals that most of the world’s coral reefs will not survive unless the global temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” it said.

However WWF-Australia head of oceans Richard Leck said Australia’s emissions reduction efforts were not even in line with limiting warming to 2°.

He cited a 2017 report by the United Nations environment program that found Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions were set to far exceed its pledge under the Paris accord. This agreement aims to limit global temperature rises this century to well below 2° and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°.

“It is simply not good enough for the revised plan to suggest the global community must work to limit warming when Australia is not doing its fair share,” Mr Leck said.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s reef campaign director Imogen Zethoven said increased recognition of climate change as a threat to the reef must be followed by action.

Fish swim among bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

Photo: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

She said scientific research soon to be published showed that if global temperature rises reached an average 2.4°, the Great Barrier Reef would suffer bleaching events twice a decade from 2041. This would occur as early as 2035 if average temperature rises reached 4.3°.

Bleaching events would be far less frequent under an average temperature rise of 1.6°, Ms Zethoven said.

“The onset of twice-a-decade bleaching will then become the onset of annual bleaching and eventually [the entire reef] will be affected,” she said.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said Australia’s Paris target was ambitious and the nation was “on track to meet and beat its 2020 target, we will also meet our 2030 target”.

The Queensland government has previously said millions of dollars in federal reef spending is essentially useless unless matched by efforts to tackle climate change

Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke said the federal government had neglected the reef by allowing large-scale land clearing in nearby catchments, which damages water quality.

Press link for more: SMH

Life after coal: South Australian city leading the way #auspol #qldpol #sapol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange

It was a coal town, predicted to be wiped out by the closure of two ageing power plants. Now Port Augusta has 13 renewable projects in train

Adam Morton

The largest solar farm in the southern hemisphere lies on arid land at the foot of the Flinders Ranges, more than 300km north of Adelaide.

If that sounds remote, it doesn’t do justice to how removed local residents feel from what currently qualifies as debate in Canberra.

As government MPs and national newspapers thundered over whether taxpayers should underwrite new coal-fired power, mauling advice from government agencies as they went, residents of South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf region have been left to ponder why decision-makers weren’t paying attention to what is happening in their backyard.

What’s happening here is going to be happening on the eastern seaboard in the next 10 years.

Sam Johnson, mayor of Port Augusta

In mid 2016, this region was on the brink, hit by the closure and near collapse of coal and steel plants.

Now it’s on the cusp of a wave of construction that investors and community leaders say should place the region at the vanguard of green innovation – not just in Australia but globally.

There has been an explosion in investment, with $5bn spread over the next five years. There are 13 projects in various stages of development, with more than 3,000 construction and 200 ongoing jobs.

The economy of this once-deflated region has been transformed and those who live here are starting to feel hopeful again.

The Port Augusta mayor, Sam Johnson, a 32-year-old former Liberal member, is continually surprised at how resistant some are to the idea that the energy environment has changed. “You might choose to ignore what’s happening here now because we’re out of sight, out of mind, but the reality is that what’s happening here is going to be happening on the eastern seaboard in the next 10 years,” he says.

In simple terms, the Upper Spencer Gulf transition story goes like this. Port Augusta was a coal town, home to the state’s only two lignite – or brown coal – plants, Playford B and Northern. Playford B, ageing and failing, was mothballed in 2012. Northern, the larger and younger of the two, closed in May 2016 when owner Alinta Energy decided it was no longer economically viable. The Leigh Creek mine that supplied it, by then offering up mostly low-quality coal, shut at the same time. About 400 workers at the plant and the mine lost their jobs. Roughly a third retired, a third found other employment locally and a third had to leave town to find work.

At the same time, further around the gulf, the steel town of Whyalla was teetering precipitously after the owner, Arrium, put the mill in voluntary administration facing debts of more than $4bn.

Nexif Energy project manager Ben Williams, inspects the interconnector under construction to service the Lincoln Gap wind farm. Photograph: The Guardian

Yet as the doom hit, there were also rays of hope as several clean power projects were mooted for the surrounding area.

Two years on, the Port Augusta city council lists 13 projects at varying stages of development. And Whyalla has unearthed a potential saviour in British billionaire industrialist Sanjeev Gupta, who not only bought the steelworks but promised to expand it while also spending what will likely end up being $1.5bn in solar, hydro and batteries to make it viable.

Gupta says the logic behind his investment in solar and storage is simple: it’s now cheaper than coal.

Johnson says he expects the Upper Gulf region to receive $5bn in clean energy investment over the next five years. “My gut feel – and I’m an optimist – is that they will all go ahead,” he says. “They are different technologies and they are playing in different markets, so they are not competing for power purchase agreements.”

By any measure, the Bungala solar power plant is vast. Once its second stage is complete, 800,000 photovoltaic modules will cover an area the size of the Melbourne central business district. The scale is neatly summarised by Chris Rowe, the plant’s operations manager and, with maintenance officer Andrew Bartsch, our tour guide around the site. Both men recently returned to Port Augusta after working away to take up positions with Enel Green Power. One day Rowe decided to stroll back from the 275MW farm’s outer edge, weaving in and out of the rows of panels as he went. By the time he got back to his office, he had covered 12km. “At that point I thought, ‘gee, this is really something’,” he says.

Bungala is nearing completion, with work on the $425m plant expected to be finished by January. Its first section started feeding into the national electricity grid in May. Further west, ground has been broken on the 59-turbine, 212MW Lincoln Gap wind farm, though progress has temporarily stalled after developer Nexif Energy discovered unexploded ordnance from historic military testing on site.

As Guardian Australia visited the region, the South Australian Liberal government gave final approval for a $600m hybrid wind-and-solar energy park on the south-eastern edge of Port Augusta that proponent DP Energy says will be the largest development of its kind in the country. A second stage with more solar and a 400MW battery is slated to follow.

At Cultana, just north of Whyalla, Energy Australia is investigating building the country’s first saltwater pumped hydro energy storage plant. It would draw water from the Spencer Gulf, pump it uphill when energy is plentiful and cheap, and convert it to hydro electricity at times of high demand. A decision on the project is expected in 2019.

All are potentially agenda setting, but none are as anticipated as the Aurora solar thermal power station. It is the culmination of a push that began in 2010. A research paper by advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions formed the basis for the creation of Repower Port Augusta, a community group that built widespread support for bringing the developing technology to the region among councils, business and unions.

US developer SolarReserve took notice. It plans to use a field of mirrors to heat a molten salt system inside a 234-metre tower. It will both generate electricity and store eight hours of energy that can be sent out when the sun isn’t shining. The company says the $650m plant, to be built at the Carriewerloo sheep station about 30km north of Port Augusta, will be the world’s largest solar tower with storage and provide 5% of the state’s energy needs.

The planned Aurora solar thermal plant will both generate electricity and store eight hours of energy that can be sent out when the sun isn’t shining.

The SolarReserve vice-president, Mary Grikas, stresses the plant will operate “just like a conventional coal or gas power station, reliably generating electricity day and night – except without any emissions”.

With the increasing emphasis on “firming” power to back up variable renewables, solar thermal is seen as a potentially major player in filling the gaps, along with other fast-starting options such as pumped hydro, lithium-ion batteries and peaking gas. The 150MW Aurora plant is underpinned by a 20-year power supply contract with the South Australian government, but the company is still to finalise a $110m concessional loan with the federal government, the result of a deal with former senator Nick Xenophon in return for his support for company tax cuts.

Dan Spencer worked on the solar thermal campaign as an activist with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Solar Citizens, relocating from Adelaide for six months to help build local support. Now a campaigner with the Australian Services Union, he is still pinching himself that it is set to become a reality. “The transition from coal hasn’t been perfect, but in a couple of years we will be seeing this incredible project that people not that long ago thought was just pie in the sky,” he says. “The local community really deserves the credit.”

Aurora is not the only solar-thermal project linked to the region. Port Augusta is already home to a small concentrated solar-thermal plant owned by Sundrop Farms that it uses to run a hydroponic greenhouse that provides Coles with tomatoes.

Also on the horizon, and just as unique design-wise, is a proposal by Solastor, chaired by former Liberal party leader John Hewson. It promises new graphite-based technology to capture solar energy and store it in a load-shifting battery. Hewson says it will be a world-class project. “Solar thermal will take the market, there’s no doubt about that,” he says.

Why are developers choosing the Upper Spencer Gulf? Investors say it has several things going for it: great sunshine; a history of electricity generation that left strong connections into the national grid; nearby industry – particularly mine developments – demanding reliable energy; strong facilitating support from the Weatherill Labor government that has continued under the new Liberal premier, Steven Marshall.

Ross Garnaut is a former Labor climate policy adviser who is now the president of Zen Energy, a solar and battery firm that has projects in the region and is 51% owned by Gupta.

“The Upper Spencer Gulf happens to be a very good place to start,” Garnaut says. “Some coal generation regions have good renewables and others don’t, and no others have them as good as Port Augusta. [But] the Port Augusta developments could be replicated in any region that has good solar and wind resources.”

The inclusion of solar thermal is crucial as it means jobs on a semi-industrial scale. Wind and solar photovoltaic plants bring plenty of jobs in construction, but few in operation. Solar thermal has more in common in operation with coal, using steam to spin a turbine. SolarReserve expects to have a 50-strong permanent workforce at the Aurora plant.

It is an important point. While enthusiasm about the new projects in the gulf is high, the shift away from coal has not been seamless – less a transition than a period of loss followed by rebirth. There remains significant disappointment, in some cases anger, about what some consider the unnecessary pain caused by a failure to plan for life after coal.

My advice is: learn from the Port Augusta experience. I wish the federal government would,’ says Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson. Photograph: Che Chorley for the Guardian

Gary Rowbottom is a case in point. A mechanical technical officer at the town’s power stations for 17 years, he joined the Repower Port Augusta campaign in 2012 and became the public face of the campaign. He was persuaded that solar thermal was the future and hopeful Alinta would be persuaded to embrace the technology to replace coal. He says he was naive about how easy that would be. When the company announced Northern’s closure earlier than expected, he was 55 and left hunting for work.

Fifty job applications and 11 interviews later, he was still looking. After about 18 months he left town to take a position on a coal plant in central Queensland. He now sees his wife, Debbie, only every couple of months.

“It’s not been ideal,” he says. “I did my best to get a job that would have kept me home. I guess it was hurting me financially, watching my redundancy steadily getting eroded away, and I had a growing sense of failure. I worry that others are going through the same thing.”

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Rowbottom is buoyed by the developments under way at home, and hopeful the Aurora solar thermal plant will provide his ticket back. “It’s great it is happening. We just wish it could have happened a bit sooner,” he says. “What is hard for many of us to understand is why the closure couldn’t have been organised as a proper transition.”

Johnson, who ran unsuccessfully for Xenophon’s SA Best party at the state election, says Port Augusta is set to be the renewable energy capital of the country, with more ongoing jobs if all proposed projects in the Upper Spencer Gulf go ahead than at the former coal plant.

But he says both the former Labor state and current Coalition federal governments failed to offer the community the support it needed when the coal plant closed. The ramifications of the rapid closure were significant. Some small businesses and shut. Dirt and coal ash continue to blanket Port Augusta when the wind blows from the south-east because the former coal plant site was not properly rehabilitated. Wholesale electricity prices across the state increased more than they would have had more significant replacement generation been readied earlier.

“I’d love for people to learn from what’s happened here [about] what not to do when you’re closing a power station,” Johnson says.

Whyalla seems to have fewer issues in the wake of Gupta’s arrival in July 2017. Seeing a business opportunity that governments and publicly listed companies did not, he promised to initially spend $1bn to double the steel mill’s production and convert it to a “green steel” model he has applied in other countries. This includes using more recycled steel and investing heavily in clean energy close to the plant. He is spending $700m building two farms of solar panels, a cogeneration plant to convert the waste gases from steel production into electricity, the country’s largest lithium-ion battery and up to three pumped hydro plants in disused mining pits in the Middlebank Ranges.

He says more will follow.

Both Gupta and Johnson say the message for the rest of the country is: embrace change.

Gupta says: “Be braver. Be more entrepreneurial. Take risks … It is very difficult to change things in Australia. Everyone is too stuck in their ways.”

Johnson says: “You can resist change as much as you like, but the reality is, if you’re in a community that has a coal-fired power station, its days are numbered. The market is dictating that change whether we like it or not.

“My advice is: learn from the Port Augusta experience. I wish the federal government would.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018

Christie Aschwanden

A man cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave in Philadelphia this month.

Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

It’s only July, but it has already been a long, hot spring and summer.

The contiguous U.S. endured the warmest May ever recorded, and in June, the average temperature was 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.0 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. Iowa, New Mexico and Texas set record highs for their minimum temperatures in June, and as of July 3, nearly 30 percent of the Lower 48 was experiencing drought conditions. And it’s not just the U.S. During the first five months of 2018, nearly every continent experienced record warm temperatures, and May 2018 marked the 401st consecutive month in which temperatures exceeded the 20th century average.

Climate change, in other words, is not a hypothetical future event — it’s here.

We’re living it. And at a major science conference this month, some of the world’s leading climate scientists said it was changing our world in ways beyond what they’d anticipated.

“The red alert is on,”

Laurent Fabius, who was president of the 2015 international climate change negotiations in Paris, told an audience last week at the EuroScience Open Forum, Europe’s largest interdisciplinary science meeting.

As of 2015, global temperatures had risen about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “It’s a race against time,” Fabius said, and the political challenge is to avoid acting too late.

A draft of a forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that leaked earlier this year concludes that global temperatures are on track to rise in excess of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by about 2040. The 2015 Paris climate agreement set limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as a sort of stretch goal, with the less ambitious target being 2 degrees Celsius.

The IPCC report, which is expected to be released in October, says that even if the pledges made under the Paris agreement are fulfilled, warming will still exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report also says that the differences between the present day and just 0.5 degrees more warming are “substantial increases in extremes,” including hot temperatures, “heavy precipitation events” and extreme droughts.

We don’t have to look to the future to see what climate change can do.

At the EuroScience Open Forum, Camille Parmesan,1 a professor and member of IPCC, discussed her research showing that 90 percent of the 490 plant species examined at two sites, one in Washington, D.C., the other in Chinnor in the U.K., are responding to climate change in measurable ways.

Some plants she’s studied require winter chilling to thrive, and that’s a problem, because winter is warming more than spring.

And temperatures aren’t rising uniformly. Areas at higher latitudes are warming faster than other places, and that has allowed outbreaks of infections from Vibrio, a bacteria genus that thrives in warm waters, to happen in places like the Baltic Sea area. “We’ve underestimated the impact of climate change thus far,” Parmesan said.

The accelerating consequences of climate disruption will be a major theme when COP24, the next iteration of the climate conference that produced the Paris agreement, meets in Poland in December. Another focus of discussion will be the progress that each country has made toward its “nationally determined contributions,” the voluntary goals for reducing emissions that nations set for themselves in Paris. Progress is not in line with these goals in many countries, Fabius said. “Germany is not fulfilling its [NDCs], and in France last year, CO2 emissions were up,” he said.

If decision-makers can’t agree on politics, they might be persuaded by economics, said Thomas Stocker, a climate scientist and a longtime member of IPCC. De-carbonizing our energy systems is “the biggest opportunity in the 21st century,” he told the EuroScience Open Forum.

Some local and state governments in the U.S. are exploring that opportunity. “The Trump White House is not just failing to do climate,” Parmesan said. “It’s doing its best to stop every advance we’ve made in the last 20 years, but what’s happening is a reaction from the ground level up that’s countering that national-level resistance.” (The White House did not respond to FiveThirtyEight’s request for comment.) As an example, she pointed to Georgetown, Texas, a city north of Austin. The electric company there is owned by the city, which has just switched to 100 percent renewable energy. “The mayor is quite conservative, and he got mad when people said it was for climate change,” she said. “He said, ‘No, no — it just makes economic sense.’”

Press link for more: Five Thirty Eight

Great Barrier Reef coral recovery slows significantly over 18-year period #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

Great Barrier Reef coral recovery slows significantly over 18-year period

Nick Kilvert

Over the last three decades the Great Barrier Reef has been hit by a series of intense cyclones, bleaching, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks and flood events that have caused well-documented, but reparable damage.

Scientists have hoped that an extended period of benign conditions would allow the natural processes of reef restoration to flourish, and many of the hardest-hit regions to return to a healthier, more colourful and biodiverse state.

But a new study of coral-recovery rates based on 18 years of data and published in Science Advances today, found the ability of many corals to bounce back after disturbance has significantly slowed down.

Although recovery rates were variable between different reef patches and coral types, the researchers found the overall recovery rate of corals across the Great Barrier Reef declined by an average of 84 per cent between 1992 and 2010.

Following acute disturbance events like cyclones, coral recovery was hindered by poor water quality and high temperature, according to lead author Juan-Carlos Ortiz from the University of Queensland, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

“We noticed that…water quality played a significant role in that reduction in recovery rate,” Dr Ortiz said.

The study looked at data from more than 90 primarily mid-shelf and offshore reefs, comparing the rate of recovery following disturbance events.

“We noticed for the first time a very large decline in the ability of the reef to recover from disturbances over those 18 years,” he said.

The research team classified corals into six groups based on their growth forms. Although all groups showed an overall decline in recovery rate, two groups — the Montipora and branching Acropora both “went into negative”.

What that means is they continued to decline even after the disturbance had ceased.

While increased disturbance events are expected as the impacts of climate change ramp up, the slowed recovery time is a concerning compounding factor.

“It is exacerbating the problem. The assumption that we were working on was that naturally reefs recover fast,” Dr Ortiz said.

Although the results paint a grim picture of the trajectory of the reef, the researchers say there are some very positive things that can be taken from their findings.

The reefs furthest offshore receive less runoff from the catchment area, and because they are generally buffered by deeper water, are less susceptible to short-term fluctuations in temperature.

Although the study only analysed data from up until 2010, Dr Ortiz said there was a period without significant disturbance to the reef following Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

“On the offshore reefs like the Swains, where they are least affected by water quality issues from land … they did recover really fast,” he said.

“Which suggests that this trend is reversible.”

Tackling climate change is vital

In short, the researchers said both improving the water quality of runoff from the reef catchment area and addressing climate change can help reverse the reef’s decline.`

But trying to improve conditions on the reef without tackling climate change is like putting “band-aids on arterial wounds”, according to James Cook University’s Associate Professor Jodie Rummer, who was not involved in the study.

“We definitely need to be controlling problems with water quality and problems with crown of thorns, but first and foremost we need to deal with the big problem,” Dr Rummer said.

“What it does come down to is warming. Everything else just makes it worse, but warming is the primary concern.”

Dr Rummer, who will be presenting some of her work at a two-day reef symposium in Brisbane this week, has been studying sharks in French Polynesia and on the Great Barrier Reef.

Although French Polynesia is a declared shark sanctuary, she said their numbers are still suffering.

“Even the best protected marine parks, shark sanctuaries, and marine sanctuaries are not immune to climate change. We saw that when the reef started bleaching in 2016,” she said.

“I was at Lizard Island, and that’s some of the most pristine parts of the Great Barrier Reef, protected from so much activity, and still, climate change killed it.”

Federal Government pledges cash for farmer ‘champions’

Key to improving the Great Barrier Reef catchment is preventing large-scale deforestation.

Deforestation destabilises soil and increases the sediment and nutrient load carried to the reef during heavy rains, smothering corals and encouraging algal growth.

But the latest Great Barrier Reef catchments report from the Queensland Audit Office shows more than 1.2 million hectares were cleared in Queensland between 2012 and 2016, and nearly 40 per cent of that was cleared in the reef catchment area.

Despite committing $500 million to protecting the reef in the budget, the Federal Government came under fire earlier this year when it granted approval for the clearing of 2,000 hectares of bushland at Kingvale Station, which drains into reef-fringed Princess Charlotte Bay in North Queensland.

This week, the Federal Government committed $3.5 million to help sugarcane farmers “improve fertiliser use and efficiency” in the catchment. That is on top of $3.7 million committed by the Queensland Government.

The investment will help minimise nitrogen-pollution runoff entering the reef, according to a statement from Assistant Minister for the Environment Melissa Price.

“Optimising the rate of fertiliser application helps sugarcane farmers to increase their profitability, while minimising nitrogen pollution run-off entering the reef,” Ms Price said.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

#ClimateChange is an existential threat. #auspol #qldpol #Longman #NoNewCoal #StopAdani

The effects of climate change are often talked about in sea level rise and worsening storms, certainly the most immediate and obvious symptoms.

There is a threat more difficult to contemplate — what happens to human civilization.

It is not just alarmist talk to speak of survival of human civilization, at least in the form people today know it. When they were here last month, climate scientists Michael Mann and David Titley warned that, as larger parts of the earth’s surface become uninhabitable, millions of people will be disrupted, in search of new places to live.

What will this do to infrastructure and trade, the way people make their living, support their families and run their countries?

Human beings are adaptable and can live in a variety of climates. But human civilization evolved with a particular set of climate patterns.

Those patterns have a certain predictability that allow for manufacturing plants, ports, electricity generation, for example. Human civilization depends on such things.

And what of the threat of scarcity — of livable land, food, shelter?

If humans don’t head off the worst of human-caused climate change, much of the land now densely inhabited by people will be under water.

Sea levels will rise such that Orlando could be the southernmost point of Florida, and Baton Rouge could be the edge of Louisiana, said Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and director of the Earth System Science Center there.

California’s inland sea would probably return, and there would be no Charleston, South Carolina. Now, factor in Shanghai, Bangkok and cities all over the globe.

Titley, a retired rear admiral and director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University, who specialized in national security, says this scenario would displace 500 million people around the world.

Consider that about a million refugees entered the European Union in recent years, fleeing climate-exacerbated problems in Syria.

“I argue that one million unplanned refugees shook the EU to its core,” Titley said. “Multiply that by 500.”

“Anybody who says they can tell you with certainty what the political impacts are, put your hand on your wallet and back away,” he said. “That is unknowable, but the chances are it will be pretty bad.”

“These are changes the likes of which human civilization — not the earth, but human civilization — have not seen before,” Titley said. “The question is how are we going to deal with them?”

This doomsday picture doesn’t have to be the future for the grandchildren of today’s adults, they both say.

When people talk about renewable energy sources or of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it is this worst-case scenario they are trying to prevent.

Press link for more: WV Gazette Mail

Who will pay to protect our cities from rising seas? #auspol #qldpol

A public nuisance

By Patrick Parenteau

Since most American state and local governments are cash-strapped, cities and counties fear that they won’t be able to afford all the construction it will take to protect their people and property.

So some communities in California are in a bid to force them to foot the bill. Recently, , when it sued 21 oil and gas companies “for knowingly contributing to climate change and the catastrophic consequences to the State and its residents, economy, eco-system, and infrastructure”.

Does it make sense to hold the industries responsible for global warming liable for the price – in dollars and cents – that everyone will have to pay to adapt to a changed climate?

I believe climate liability cases like these have merit.

The local governments asking the courts to intervene allege that higher sea levels brought about by climate change are a public nuisance.

That may sound odd at first, but I believe that is fair to say. It is also the legal basis on which similar liability lawsuits have been filed before.

The sea level along California’s coasts may have risen about 8 inches in the past century. Scientists project that they may rise by as much as 55 inches by the end of this century.

That worst-case scenario would put nearly half a million people at risk of flooding by 2100, and threaten $100bn in property and infrastructure, including roadways, buildings, hazardous waste sites, power plants, parks and tourist destinations.

Superstorm Sandy caused over $60bn in damage along the New Jersey and New York coasts. Several researchers have concluded that sea level rise and a warming ocean played a major role in making that storm so catastrophic.

The Trump administration has released a national climate change assessment, confirming that extreme weather events – storms on steroids – are becoming more frequent and intense.

If anything, characterising these catastrophes as a public nuisance is an understatement.

A question about jurisdiction

Oakland and San Francisco both sued five of the world’s largest oil companies in state court, asserting claims based on California’s own nuisance law. They are seeking billions of dollars for an abatement fund.

But Chevron, one of the five oil majors being sued, objected and sought to transfer the San Francisco and Oakland lawsuit to a federal district court, where Judge William Alsup recently dismissed the case.

Still, it wasn’t a clear win for oil companies.

Alsup accepted the scientific consensus that the defendants’ line of business is driving climate change and therefore poses a clear and present danger to coastal communities and others. But in his ruling, he also questioned whether it’s “fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded”.

And while the judge also acknowledged that federal courts have the authority “to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming”, he opted to “stay his hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches”. In other words, he said it’s up to Congress and the White House to figure out whether oil companies ought to pay to, say, move San Francisco’s airport to higher ground.

Even if prospects for federal action on this front are next to nil for the foreseeable future, given the Trump administration’s warm embrace of oil, gas and coal, this is no legal dead end. I believe that Oakland and San Francisco will surely file an appeal to the 9th Circuit, which could rule differently.

Even more importantly, there is another case pending that is taking a different course. The counties of Marin and San Mateo and the City of Imperial Beach, California, are also suing oil companies with similar climate liability claims. Judge Vince Chhabria sees things differently than Alsup and ruled that state law, not federal law, should prevail.

He has ordered that case back to state court, a move that Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and the other oil company defendants are trying to prevent.

In addition to coastal communities concerned about rising sea levels, several Colorado counties filed their own climate liability cases in April 2018. Those lawsuits allege that oil companies should be held responsible for the higher temperatures now reducing the state’s snowpack. Getting less snow is jeopardising Colorado’s agriculture, water supply and ski industry.

Several legal precedents

I maintain that these cases do belong in state court because there are many relevant legal precedents.

U.S. courts have repeatedly held manufacturers liable for the damage their products wreak, especially when those companies knew full well that their products, used as intended, would cause that harm.

The biggest precedent is the tobacco industry’s 1998 settlement with the states, which called for companies to pay out $246bn over the next 25 years.

In addition, there have been many judgments against oil companies and other corporations responsible for manufacturing a potentially cancer-causing chemical called MTBE that used to be a common gasoline additive and has contaminated public water supplies.

And a panel of California judges ordered paint companies to pay more than $1bn to help get lead out of housing that remains contaminated decades after the government banned lead-laced paint. The companies are vowing to take the case to the Supreme Court if they can.

Currently, another new kind of liability lawsuit is emerging against opioid manufacturers. Ohio and at least six other states are seeking damages to help cover the expense of dealing with widespread addiction from the allegedly irresponsible marketing of prescription painkillers – which it says the companies should have known were being abused.

Exxon knew

As for the oil industry, it has evidently known for 60 years or longer that burning fossil fuels would eventually overheat the planet, with monumental consequences.

Rather than alert the public and engage in good-faith discussions to address the problem, oil majors like Exxon sought to mislead and deny what they knew about the risks of fossil fuels. Furthermore, the fossil fuel industries have sought to block any meaningful federal climate response by donating vast sums to the political campaigns of candidates who promised to oppose the requisite policies.

In a perfect world, the nation’s elected leaders at all levels of government would be hard at work passing laws and establishing programs to confront the existential threat of climate change and to help communities prepare for the unavoidable impacts that are already baked into the system.

Alas, that is not the case. The courts are the last line of defense in this epic struggle to deal with the effects of climate change – including the astronomically expensive costs of moving housing, businesses, schools and other structures out of harm’s way.

Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School.

Press link for more: City Metric

Expanding ‘dead zone’ in Arabian Sea raises climate change fears #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive.

Image: 123RF/Allan Swart

In the waters of the Arabian Sea, a vast “dead zone” the size of Scotland is expanding and scientists say climate change may be to blame.

In his lab in Abu Dhabi, Zouhair Lachkar is labouring over a colourful computer model of the Gulf of Oman, showing changing temperatures, sea levels and oxygen concentrations.

His models and new research unveiled earlier this year show a worrying trend.

Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive and the one in the Arabian Sea is “is the most intense in the world,” says Lachkar, a senior scientist at NYU Abu Dhabi in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

“It starts at about 100 metres and goes down to 1,500 metres, so almost the whole water column is completely depleted of oxygen,” he told AFP.

Dead zones are naturally occurring phenomena around the world, but this one appears to have mushroomed since it was last surveyed in the 1990s.

Lachkar and other researchers are worried that global warming is causing the zone to expand, raising concerns for local ecosystems and industries including fishing and tourism.

‘Very scary for climate’

The discovery was made possible by the use of robotic divers, or “sea gliders”, deployed in areas researchers could not access — an undertaking by Britain’s University of East Anglia in collaboration with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University.

The findings of the 2015 to 2016 study were released in April and showed the Arabian Sea dead zone had worsened in size and scope.

And unlike in the 1996 measurements, when the lowest levels were limited to the heart of the dead zone — midway between Yemen and India — now the dead zone extends across the sea.

“Now everywhere is the minimum, and it can’t go much lower,” the lead researcher Bastien Queste told AFP.

At NYU Abu Dhabi, Lachkar explains the Arabian Sea dead zone appears to be stuck in a cycle where warming seas are depleting the oxygen supply which in turn is reinforcing the warming.

This, he says, “can be very scary for climate”.

Ports from Mumbai to Muscat look out onto the Arabian Sea, making it a critical body of water.

These coastal hubs and the populations beyond them will be affected by further expansion of the dead zone.

Fish, a key source of sustenance in the region, may find their habitats compressed from deep underwater to just beneath the surface, putting them at risk of overfishing and extreme competition.

“When oxygen concentration drops below certain levels, fish cannot survive and you have massive death,” says Lachkar.

To carry out his data-heavy modelling, Lachkar relies on a sprawling supercomputer centre which cost several million dollars to set up — a testament to local priorities to research climate change.

‘Stick to science’

The UAE in 2016 renamed its Ministry of Environment and Water as the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, further evidence of the regional desire to meet this global challenge head-on.

“I think it is an important topic for different reasons, not only scientific reasons, but also economic,” says Lachkar from his Centre for Prototype and Climate Modelling.

“Fishing is an important source of revenue and it’s directly impacted by the oxygen,” he said.

Even coral reefs and, by extension, tourism could be affected.

Down the hall from his research facility is the complementary Centre for Global Sea Level Change, where researchers like Diana Francis study the worldwide impact of the problem.

The issue was at the top of the global agenda in 2015, when the world hammered out a deal in Paris to cut carbon emissions.

But the landmark agreement received a blow last year, when President Donald Trump announced he would be pulling the United States out of the accord.

“It is very disappointing, because a major country is not putting effort in the same direction as the others,” says Francis of the decision.

“But our role is to stick to science, be pragmatic and try to advance our understanding of the climate,” she says.

“Politics change over time,” Francis tells AFP. “But science does not.”

Press link for more: Times Live

The new renewable energy bridge #India #China #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #auspol #qldpol

The new renewable energy bridge

Atul Aneja

This time, the stars could not have been better aligned. China had accumulated excess stock of renewable energy hardware.

Too many factories were churning out solar panels and wind turbines to fulfill Beijing’s clean energy dreams.

Workers installing solar panels at a floating solar plant in Huainan, Anhui province, China, in December 2017.   | Photo Credit: CHINA STRINGER NETWORK

The Chinese government had earlier declared that it intended to spend a whopping $360 billion on renewable energy wherewithal, such as solar panel and wind turbines, by 2020.

On the demand end, energy-hungry India was positioning itself to absorb a significant portion of this surplus.

Renewable energy has continued to remain one of the top items on New Delhi’s power and environmental agenda. “The driving force is the Paris climate agreement,” said Sanjay Sharma of Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), referring to the deal which set limits to greenhouse gas emissions, with 2020 as the starting point.

Speaking at a Beijing seminar on renewable energy, he stressed that India was looking at 2030, when renewables would cover 40% of the country’s total installed capacity. Consequently, clean energy targets were being revised. By 2022, India has plans to develop 100 GW of renewable energy.

China’s own plans to funnel copious doses of renewable energy into its energy mix have been rattled over the last few years. An economic slowdown has reduced overall energy demand, resulting in growing accumulation of excess capacity. Besides, the resistance from the coal lobby has also proved unusually hardy. The trade war with the U.S., which many anticipate will dry up exports of renewables to America, is adding further pressure on the Chinese energy producers, forcing them to seek new markets. “Under these difficult circumstances, India offers a natural lifeline to Chinese manufacturers of renewable energy products,” said an Indian official, who did not want to be named.

India’s fault lines

During the brainstorming in Beijing, India’s own fault lines in the renewable energy domain were also exposed. For instance, the chronic problem of land acquisition at home was forcing Indian planners to consider wider use of water as a platform for floating solar panels. “We can use reservoirs or even backwaters as in Kerala or in Lakshadweep for floating solar PV projects,” said Y.B.K. Reddy, deputy general manager at SECI. He pointed out that three months ago, a team of Indian experts had been sent to tap Chinese expertise in this field. “The team visited the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydro project, on the Yangtze river. It has a massive reservoir ideally suited for floating renewable energy projects,” remarked Mr. Reddy.

The delegation also went to a plant in China’s Anhui province, where solar floats were being built on an industrial scale. Mr. Reddy also spotlighted that India was seeking Chinese expertise for developing “hybrid projects”, where solar and wind energy would be combined. “We need to co-locate and combine wind and solar capacities on land as well as water. Complementary battery storage may be necessary to ensure uninterrupted supply of power to the grid.”

As the candid back and forth between Indian and Chinese technocrats and business people accelerated, it became evident that the mood has changed markedly over the last one year. There is now buzz that in the backdrop of the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April, the moment has finally arrived to ignite the engine of China-India trade, commerce and investments.

Atul Aneja works for The Hindu and is based in Beijing

Press link for more: The Hindu

#StopAdani & save 12,500 jobs #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

Developing new Galilee Basin coalmines will cost 12,500 jobs, analysis shows

Exclusive: Australia Institute modelling reveals the best way to protect coal jobs in other regions is to stop Galilee developments

Ben Smee

Developing new coalmines in the Galilee Basin would cost 12,500 jobs in existing coalmining regions and replace only two in three workers, modelling by the Australia Institute shows.

Job creation has long been an aggressive rallying call for supporters of Adani’s Carmichael megamine and other proposals in the untapped Galilee Basin, which combined would produce 150m tonnes of thermal coal each year.

But the Australia Institute report concludes that even if Australia’s thermal coal exports increase, and the world does not act on climate change, highly automated new mines in the Galilee would on balance cost the industry jobs.

The modelling is based on 2017 analysis by consultants Wood Mackenzie, who work closely with the mining industry. Wood Mackenzie said huge volumes of coal mined in the Galilee would curtail established operations in the Hunter Valley, Bowen Basin and Surat Basin regions.

If the Galilee was to produce 150m tonnes of coal a year, then existing regions would likely curtail production by 115m tonnes a year.

The Australia Institute has now modelled the likely job gains and losses from the development of the Galilee. The institute’s director of research, Roderick Campbell, said the level of mechanisation likely at new mine developments meant there would be an overall negative impact on coalmining jobs, even if export volumes increased.

Campbell said the best way to protect coal jobs was to stop the development of the Galilee. It’s understood that view is shared by many in the resources sector, where some existing miners believe their interests are best served by restricting supply and maintaining near-record export prices.

“Put simply, new mines, in new coal basins, destroy jobs in existing coal regions,” Campbell said.

“Existing coal regions like the Hunter Valley and Bowen Basin can continue to employ significant numbers of coalminers for some years, even as the world moves away from coal. But if governments are determined to subsidise automated new mines into new coal regions they will hasten the demise of existing coal jobs.”

The Australia Institute based its conclusions on the Queensland government’s jobs numbers for the Adani Carmichael mine, which would make it the second most efficient coalmine per tonne in Australia. It was assumed other new mines in the Galilee Basin used similar levels of automation and new technology.

“Due to automation and remote control, many of the jobs created in the development of mining in the Galilee Basin are likely to be in major cities, rather than near to the mines themselves,” the report said.

The Australia Institute discussion paper said the Hunter Valley in NSW would lose 9,000 jobs if the Galilee was developed, based on its modelling of the Wood Mackenzie analysis.

In Queensland the Bowen Basin, which is partly insulated from an increase in the supply of thermal coal because it produces a large amount of the world’s coking coal, would lose 2,000 jobs, and the Surat Basin would shed 1,400 workers. The predicted job losses were compared to a scenario where the Galilee Basin was not developed by 2035.

“Building new coalmines in the Galilee Basin would reduce the overall coal workforce by between 2,680 and 5,800 mine workers in the coming decades,” Campbell said.

It’s in Queensland’s interest not to flood the [coal] market … because the only result is it will drive down prices

Mining and gas companies have recently launched a missive against the “tofu tyrants” they say are costing Queensland jobs by opposing new resources developments.

Campbell said a “just transition” for coal workers could be best achieved by restricting the development of new highly automated mines.

The impact of those mines on the existing industry would be more severe if the world acts to curb the use of fossil fuels, as envisaged by the Paris agreement.

The International Energy Agency has predicted “the end of the boom years for coal” and a halving of global demand by 2040 under a scenario that assumed a Paris agreement baseline.

Tim Buckley, an energy market analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told Guardian Australia last month that in light of the IEA’s prediction that coal demand would halve, any moves to develop new coal resources would hurt existing miners.

“If we myopically expand new capacity, that will only inevitably mark the end of high prices,” he said.

“It’s in our national interest to have an orderly retreat from coal. Ironically, it’s in the interest of the incumbent industry too. It’s in Queensland’s interest not to flood the market … because the only result is it will drive down prices.

“That maximises the royalties to the Queensland government. It maximises the profits to coal companies. It also allows decent wages to the workers.”

Press link for more: The Guardian