The 2018State of the Climate report, released yesterday, again highlights the risk to human wellbeing from our love affair with fossil fuels. Coal, oil and gas have underpinned the incredible advances in affluence, population size, and health since development of the steam engine. But fossil fuel use has an optimum dose, which is now well past.
We are metaphorically drowning in carbon dioxide, the invisible, odourless waste product of burning fossil fuel. As the report notes, this is increasing heatwaves, acidifying the oceans and raising the sea level. It is also lowering themicronutrient concentrationsof food.
The report cites growing effects on human and animal health, including from increased fires and flooding, and says extreme heat days are rising alarmingly. This month, dozens of Australians were rescuedfrom the Hume Highway, stranded by intense rainfall. Record heat and fire ravaged north Queensland. A third of the spectacled flying fox populationdied from heat, possibly exposing animal rescuers to viral diseases.
In November, San Franciscoairwas worse than Delhi, due to fires that ruined the Californian city of Paradise, recently home for 30,000 people.
Earlier this month, at the Katowice conference, held in the heartland of Polish coal seams, David Attenborough called climate change the greatest threat to humanity in thousands of years. He warned that, without action, “the collapse of our civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world, is on the horizon”.
Attenborough’s warnings have a distinguished pedigree. In 2010, Frank Fenner, the great Australian scientist who helped eradicate smallpox,warnedthat humans risked total extinction due to overpopulation, resource over-consumption, environmental destruction and climate change. Martin Rees, a past president of the world’s oldest scientific organisation, the Royal Society, has warned this century might be ourlast.
It might be comforting to dismiss these warnings as the fantasies of old men, and some wise old women, such asJane Goodall. Optimists might argue that a rise of even 2 degrees in average global temperature is trivial, or point out that you could walk to Tasmania during the Ice Age. The sea-level rise of 10 thousand years ago was easily adapted to, and today our technological and social capacity is immeasurably greater. A fever of 2 extra degrees is uncomfortable, but we have paracetamol.
Such responses are deceptive and dangerous. The unprecedented complexity, connectivity and power of modern civilisation is also its weakness.Sea-level rise on the US east coastis already depressing the market value of homes and could help trigger a future financial crash. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation is increasingly concerned about climate change, conflict and future food security. The 2010 heatwave and drought in Russia, which led to the temporary banning of Russian wheat exports,helped sparkthe Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war. The Australianwinter harvest of 2018was poor, especially from the eastern states, due not only to drought, but heat, reduced soil moisture and a lengthening frost season.
But the collapse of civilisation is not inevitable. Collapse might be avoided by a strong dose of preventive medicine, such as replacing coal with wind and solar, anelectric bus revolutionand reduced meat consumption (also good for health).
As with a real vaccine, which requires a tiny dose of something potentially harmful (technically known as an antigen) we seem to need a dose of poison (in this case fear) before we act; but too much fear is paralysing. We also need hope, such as provided by the NSW government’s recognition of ouroverdoseon fossil fuels.
The physical climate is changing, so fast that more and more people, including manychildren, can now recognise it. If we can harness the internet, new technology, and the common sense of ordinary people then we will we at least have a reasonable chance. Recognising the validity of these warnings is a vital step if we are to survive.
It was once touted as Australia’s biggest coal mine and a mega project that would create 10,000 jobs but the oft-promised construction of Adani’s Carmichael mine still seems unlikely despite recent announcements.
Last month there seemed to be a breakthrough. After struggling to secure finance to build the mine, Adani announced it would self-fund a scaled-back version andsuggested work could begin this year.
This week a spokeswoman for Adani Australia told news.com.au that “preparatory works at the mine site are imminent”.
“We are working with regulators to finalise the remaining required management plans ahead of coal production, some of which have been subject to two years of state and federal government review,” she said.
“This process is expected to be complete and provided by governments in the next few
The Australianreported on Friday that bulldozers, graders and service vehicles were sent to the site this week.
Earth moving equipment at Adani site.
However, there’s scepticism about the suggestion work on Adani’s mine is about to get started as it has made premature declarations before.
More than a year ago, in October 2017, Adani scheduled a ceremony to break ground on the coal mine’s rail link.
Even at 1.5C warming most of the world’s coral reefs including the Great Barrier Reef would be lost.
Meanwhile, Adani may be able to start “preparatory works” but there are a few other issues that need to be resolved before it has clear air to move forward.
MORE APPROVALS NEEDED
Adani is not required to submit a new Environment Authority application for its smaller mine but there are approvals it doesn’t yet have.
A spokeswoman for the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said “significant disturbance cannot commence until the required environmental plans for the mine are approved and in place”.
Adani has been asked to update its groundwater dependent ecosystems management plan after the CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific organisation, identified serious flaws, according to theABC.
The CSIRO was asked to review Adani’s plan by the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy. Geoscience Australia has also been asked to look at it.
Adani will now have to update its plans to identify the source of the aquifer of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex and measures it will take to protect the springs.
The plan must be approved before the Adani can start excavation of the first box cut, which is a small open cut that acts as an entrance to an underground mine.
The entrance to the box cut at Jabiluka Uranium Mine. Picture: Rohan Kelly. Picture: Supplied
The Queensland department spokeswoman said the state will also take the scientific reviews into consideration as part of its assessment.
“Preliminary advice from CSIRO requires Adani to update the plan,” the spokeswoman said.
She said the department had told Adani it would not continue its assessment until an updated version was submitted and noted there was no “statutory time frame” for assessment to happen.
“The Queensland Government takes environmental protections very seriously and will consider the advice of the (federal department), CSIRO and Geoscience Australia when assessing the plans,” she said.
Both the groundwater plan and a black-throated finch management plan will need to be signed off by state and federal governments.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Environment and Energy told news.com.au the Carmichael biodiversity research fund mechanism would also need to be approved before Adani could start “mining operations”.
The Queensland Government granted Adani a water licence last year to allow it to take up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River.
The Federal Government is also required to look at projects likely to have a significant impact on water resources but Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price chose this year not to activate the “water trigger” that would have required a full environmental impact assessment.
Instead only preliminary documentation was considered.
This month the Australian Conservation Foundation launched legal action for a judicial review of this decision. No court date has yet been set.
Until this action is resolved, Adani won’t be able to take water from the Suttor River system although Adani has said this won’t stop it from starting work on the project.
Adani has yet to finalise a royalty agreement with the Queensland Government.
It had been in negotiations to allow it to defer payments for the first few years but the deal was never signed. Then in May last year the Palaszczuk Government unveiled a new policy for all developments in the Galilee and Surat Basins and the North West Minerals Province.
The new resources framework allows royalties to be deferred but insists that interest is paid and companies must also ensure “security of payment” is in place.
Eligible projects are required to provide jobs, common-user infrastructure and to have a positive impact on the state’s finances.
However, the government will only enter into an agreement with approved projects and Adani’s mine has not yet been approved.
A spokeswoman for the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad told news.com.au Adani would pay royalties like everyone else.
“No taxpayers money will go to toward this project,” she said.
NATIVE TITLE ACTION
The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council has been fighting Adani’s indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) saying a vote to approve it had been a sham. The council disputes that 294 people voted for the agreement and only one against.
The W&J lost its legal action but is appealing the decision in the Federal Court. This week it was ordered to pay $50,000 by the end of January as part of a security of costs order to show it was capable of paying Adani’s legal costs if it lost the appeal.
The appeal was due to be heard in February but has now been delayed until May.
W&J traditional owner and lead spokesman Adrian Burragubba said for Adani to act before the appeal was decided would be to “deny our rights and open the way for a grave injustice”.
“Without our consent, the mine is not ready to proceed,” he said.
Adrian Burragubba outside the Federal Court in Brisbane, Friday, August 17, 2018. Picture: Darren England/AAP
RAIL LINE NEGOTIATIONS
Another question remains over whether Aurizon has approved Adani’s request to connect to its existing railway line.
An Adani spokeswoman said Adani had submitted a conceptual operation plan for its new narrow gauge rail line and was working through the “regulatory process”.
“Once it is complete we will commence construction of the rail line,” she said.
When asked whether an agreement had been reached, an Aurizon spokeswoman said it had to treat all requests confidentially.
“Therefore we cannot comment on any discussions that may occur with any third-party,” she said.
Over the Christmas weekend Adani is moving heavy earth moving equipment into the Adani Mine site.
It’s time to wage war on Adani!
Our politicians are ignoring the Australian people.
Now Adani is going ahead despite the overwhelming majority of Australians who are against the opening of the Carmichael Basin.
We’ll believe it when we see it!
By Felicity Caldwell
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has expressed scepticism about Adani’s announcement that construction on its Carmichael coal mine would begin.
Adani Australia mining chief executive Lucas Dow on Thursday announced the scaled-back project would be “100 per cent financed” from within the Adani conglomerate.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she will believe the Adani project is going ahead when she sees it.AAP Image/ Darren England
Ms Palaszczuk said the announcement was “very different to what we have been seeing” and she wanted more details.
“There is no taxpayers’ money going into the building of that railway line, they have to have agreements with Aurizon, we haven’t seen any of that evidence as of yet,” she told the ABC on Friday morning.
“And, of course, we will believe it when we see it.”
Ms Palaszczuk said the success of Adani’s project would depend on whether the company met its milestones.
“We’ve got a lot of companies that come and say we’ve got finance to begin things and it doesn’t happen,” she said.
“I will believe it when it starts happening.”
Adani was previously seeking a $1 billion taxpayer loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to finance a 388-kilometre rail line needed to move its coal to port for export.
However, Ms Palaszczuk announced she wouldveto the NAIF loanduring the state election campaign.
In September, Adani announced it would save $1.5 billion by scaling down the rail line. It will now build a shorter narrow gauge line to connect with Aurizon’s existing rail plans.
Speaking from Gladstone, Resources Minister Matt Canavan said Adani’s investment plans were fantastic news for the region.
“It’s still, here in central and north Queensland, difficult economic times, the unemployment rate in this region is 6.8 per cent over the last 12 months and that’s well above the national average,” he said.
“What this region needs is jobs and it needs big investments like this.
“My hope now is that we can all work together to create these jobs, deliver this opportunity.”
Senator Canavan said it was the first of six mines that might go ahead in the Galilee Basin.
“All together they could deliver 15,000 jobs in central and north Queensland and deliver opportunities for decades,” he said.
“Adani have said they’ve got the money and it’s up to governments now to come together and support investment in our state.
“There’ no public money going towards this, so the project has been improved and gone through all of the processes, in fact it’s probably been the most assessed project in our nation’s history.
“It’s gone through 12 court cases, all of them they’ve won.”
On Twitter, Mr Canavan described Adani, which has its headquarters in India, as a “little Aussie battler” that “just keeps chugging along”.
Adani ordered to pay almost $12m for work on scrapped Carmichael rail line
Adani has been ordered to pay almost $12m owed to engineering firm AECOM for work on a scrapped rail line to theCarmichael coalmine.
A judgment in the Queensland Building and Construction commission details how “payment difficulties” emerged in a contract between AECOM and an Adani subsidiary company. The1,862-point commission adjudicationsays Adani had “anticipated” receiving government support that did not materialise, including a $1b federal loan to build the rail link between Carmichael and the Abbot Point port.
The loan was vetoed by theQueenslandgovernment in November last year. The contract to design the rail line was suspended about six months later.
Soon after AECOM lodged a claim with the QBCC alleging it was owed $20m for the work. Adani countered by offering $325,000.
Large Galilee Basin coal projects could be in doubt with Labor EPA
THE LABOR Party may use changes to the Australian Environment Act to enforce provisions concerning the water trigger for dams and pipelines associated with large coal mines to stymie the development of coal projects being proposed for the Galilee Basin in Queensland by Clive Palmer.
Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal has two projects earmarked for the region – the Waratah Galilee Coal mine and the Galilee Coal Project (Northern Export Facility) mine.
Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin has already been approved by the federal government as has Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal’s proposed Alpha and Kevin’s Corner mine projects.
Shadow environment minister Tony Burke said the Labor Party would create an Australian Environment Act and establish a Federal Environmental Protection Agency, which could also impact on the development of large coal projects by making the protection of the Great Barrier Reef a priority.
“Labor will also establish a new agency, a federal EPA, with the mission to protect Australia’s natural environment,” he said.
“It will be informed by the best available scientific advice and, ensure compliance with environmental law, and have the ability to conduct public inquiries on important environmental matters.
“The new legal framework will compel the Australian government to actively protect our unique natural environment and demonstrate national leadership.”
According to Burke, Labor will establish a high powered working group of experts including scientists, environmental lawyers and public policy thinkers to refine the clear concepts that underpin this reform.
“The current environment act is now 20 years old and has never been significantly reformed,” he said.
“It is time to bring it into the 21st century.
“In 2018, it is bizarre that the national environmental law does not properly factor in climate change.
Policymakers have severely underestimated the risks of ecologicaltipping points, according to a study that shows 45% of all potential environmental collapses are interrelated and could amplify one another.
The authors said their paper,publishedin the journal Science, highlights how overstressed and overlapping natural systems are combining to throw up a growing number of unwelcome surprises.
“The risks are greater than assumed because the interactions are more dynamic,” said Juan Rocha of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “The important message is to recognise the wickedness of the problem that humanity faces.”
It then cross-referenced the 30 types of shift to examine the impacts they might have on one another and human society.
Only 19% were entirely isolated. Another 36% shared a common cause, but were not likely to interact. The remaining 45% had the potential to create either a one-way domino effect or mutually reinforcing feedbacks.
Among the latter pairings were Arctic ice sheets and boreal forests. When the former melt, there is less ice to reflect the sun’s heat so the temperature of the planet rises. This increases the risks of forest fires, which discharge carbon into the air that adds to the greenhouse effect, which melts more ice. Although geographically distant, each amplifies the other.
By contrast, a one-way domino-type impact is that between coral reefs and mangrove forests. When the former are destroyed, it weakens coastal defences and exposes mangroves to storms and ocean surges.
Thedeforestation of the Amazonis responsible for multiple “cascading effects” – weakening rain systems, forests becoming savannah, and reduced water supplies for cities like São Paulo and crops in the foothills of the Andes. This, in turn, increases the pressure for more land clearance.
Until recently, the study of tipping points was controversial, but it is increasingly accepted as an explanation for climate changes that are happening with more speed and ferocity than earlier computer models predicted. The loss of coral reefs and Arctic sea ice may already be past the point of no return. There are signs the Antarctic is heading the same way faster than thought.
Co-author Garry Peterson said thetipping of thewest Antarctic ice shelfwas not on the radar of many scientists 10 years ago, but now there was overwhelming evidence of the risks – including losses of chunks of ice the size of New York – and some studies now suggest the tipping point may have already been passed by the southern ice sheet, which may now be releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
“We’re surprised at the rate of change in the Earth system. So much is happening at the same time and at a faster speed than we would have thought 20 years ago. That’s a real concern,” said Peterson. “We’re heading ever faster towards the edge of a cliff.”
The fourth most downloaded academic research of 2018 was theHothouse Earthpaper, which considered how tipping points could combine to push the global climate into an uninhabitable state.
The authors of the new paper say their work goes beyond climate studies by mapping a wider range of ecological stress points, such as biodiversity loss, agricultural expansion, urbanisation and soil erosion. It also focuses more on what is happening at the local level now, rather than projecting geo-planetary trends into the future.
“We’re looking at things that affect people in their daily lives. They’re things that are happening today,” said Peterson. “There is a positive message as it expands the range of options for action. It is not just at an international level. Mayors can also make a difference by addressing soil erosion, or putting in place social policies that place less stress on the environment, or building up natural coastal defences.”
Rocha has spent 10 years building a database of tipping points, or “regime shifts” as he calls them. He urges policymakers to adopt a similar interdisciplinary approach so they can better grasp what is happening.
“We’re trying to connect the dots between different research communities,” said Rocha. “Governments also need to look more at interactions. They should stop compartmentalising ministries like agriculture, fisheries and international relations and try to manage environmental problems by embracing the diversity of causes and mechanisms underlying them. Policies need to match the scale of the problem.
“It’s a little depressing knowing we are not on a trajectory to keep our ecosystem in a functional state, but these connections are also a reason for hope; good management in one place can prevent severe environmental degradation elsewhere. Every action counts.”
An extreme heatwave in far north Queensland last month is estimated to have killed more than 23,000 spectacled flying foxes, equating to almost one third of the species in Australia.
The deaths were from colonies in the Cairns area where the mercury soared above 42 degrees Celsius two days in a row, breaking the city’s previous record temperature for November by five degrees.
Ecologist, Dr Justin Welbergen from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (Western Sydney University) iscollating the numbers of bat deathsand said it was the second-largest mass die-off of flying foxes recorded in Australia and the first time it had happened to this species.
“These are certainly very serious wildlife die-off events and they occur at almost biblical scales,” he said.
“[The biggest] was in south-east Queensland back in 2014 where about 46,000 animals (predominantly black flying foxes) died.
“The population size of the spectacled flying fox in Australia is estimated to be about 75,000 individuals, give or take, so for all intents and purpose that means we have lost close to a third of the entire species in Australia.
“Losing a third of the species on a hot afternoon I would argue certainly strengthens the case for both the Federal and Queensland Governments to consider lifting the species from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’, if not ‘critically endangered’.”
Dr Welbergen said it was also the first time there had been mass deaths of flying foxes from heat stress in far northern Australia where conditions were typically hot and humid but usually remained below 40 degrees.
“Science pretty much agrees this is a sign of things to come,” he said.
“Extreme heat events are increasing in frequency, also in terms of intensity and duration, and we can expect more extreme temperatures to occur increasingly frequently further north.
“A certain proportion of such an extreme event can certainly be statistically attributed to climate change for sure. I think the jury is no longer out on that.”
Wildlife carers overwhelmed
Flying foxes dropped dead from roosting trees around Cairns during the heatwave with some residents forced to leave their homes due to the smell from thousands of rotting carcasses.
With no official protocols in place on how to deal with such an event, the task of removing the dead bats was largely left to an army of wildlife volunteers.
Wildlife carer Rebecca Koller said almost 850 bats were rescued and she was looking after about 200 on her property at Kuranda.
“None of our carers were prepared for the numbers we would have. We already had 500 orphans in care prior to this event,” she said.
“To find places for another nearly 850 orphans was just not something that we would ever in a million years anticipate.
“Not having experienced this before, we went in flying blind.”
‘Canaries in the coal mine’
Dr Welbergen said Australia was now averaging one major flying fox die-off (in excess of 1,000 deaths) each year.
“Since our paper in 2008where we had identified more than 30,000 casualties going all the way back to settlement, we have evidence for at least nine other major events [where] the number of casualties combined is now more than 100,000 individuals,” he said.
“So this is very clearly a very serious issue for the long-term conservation of flying foxes in Australia.”
He said climate change impacts on bats were highly visible given they often roosted near urban areas.
“These sorts of events really raise concerns around what is happening to other species, especially wildlife that have more solitary and cryptic lifestyles,” he said.
“If 30 per cent of all koalas die in a forest, who will be there to see them and count the dead bodies?
“Flying foxes are Australia’s canaries in the coal mine.”
Before the 2016 midterm elections, it was a campaign slogan little known outside progressive activist circles.
Now after the election, it is supposedly supported by most American voters.
Even if many of them still said they have no idea what it was.
In only a few months, the notion of a “Green New Deal” has earned the support of not just a few dozen Democrats in Congress. It’s also backed,at least according to one new survey, by the vast majority of registered voters.
A poll conducted by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities found that 81 percent of registered voters either strongly or somewhat support the ambitious plan to reduce carbon emissions over the next decade.
Even most Republican voters — nearly two in three — said they supported the Green New Deal when it was described to them by pollsters as a plan to generate all of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources within 10 years while providing job training for those displaced from traditional energy sector jobs.
But that same survey also identified the main weakness surrounding a Green New Deal, an ambitious proposal from progressive activists to tackle climate change that has been adopted by some high-profile Democratic freshman includingRep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(D-N.Y.).
More than four-fifths of respondents said they had heard “nothing at all” of it before being reached online by survey takers.
Those findings show that left-leaning activists have, at the very least, found an effective slogan to encapsulate the aggressive action they demand to address climate change.
But turning a mantra into law is no small task.
Ocasio-Cortez and others have outlined formidable goals, but have not yet detailed a clear way of achieving them. And the researchers warn Democrats and their climate activist allies that they should expect to see more resistance to the idea of the platform as more people learn about it and associate it one political party over another.
The phrase “Green New Deal” has existed in U.S. political discourse for at least a decade after New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman used it in a2007 column calling for a plan to transition the American energy system from fossil fuels to renewable sources.
The name harkens back to a series of efforts to build public works and overhaul financial rules under Franklin D. Roosevelt dubbed the New Deal.
Soon after that, Van Jones, the CNN commentator who once served as President Obama’s “green jobs czar,”adoptedthe phrase in his 2008 book “The Green Collar Economy” to describe a plan to create thousands of low- and medium-skill jobs installing solar panels and insulating homes.
A year later, the United Nations Environment Programmepicked up onthe phrase when outlining a “Global Green New Deal” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing economic development.
But the current version was perhaps outlinedbest by Ocasio-Cortez.
Shortly after the election, she called for the creation of a so-called “Select Committee For A Green New Deal” in the House that would develop a plan to “dramatically expand” renewable power to meet 100 percent of the nation’s needs while creating a job guarantee program to facilitate that transition.
Since the election, young activists part of groups like the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats have staged sit-ins in the offices of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other Democratic leaders,demanding their endorsement of the committee. So far, at least 40 members of Congress have endorsed the idea of a Green New Deal.
But given House Democrats’experiencewith cap-and-trade legislation when they were last in the House majority, grand gestures aimed at climate change are going to be politically divisive, even among Democrats.
Edward Maibach, director of George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication and one of the co-authors of the survey, said it is “probably not all that surprising” few Americans outside Washington have heard of the Green New Deal.
“It’s quite a new concept and while it is certainly caught hold in in liberal progressive circles, probably not so much in much of the rest of America,” he said.
The poll, which was conducted online between Nov. 28 to Dec. 11, did not tell respondents that so far all of congressional backers of the Green New Deal are Democrats. Public opinion may calcify along party lines as the concept gains publicity and its details — including its costs — are sketched out more thoroughly.
“The Green New Deal isn’t anything yet.
It doesn’t have any guts.
It doesn’t have any inside. It doesn’t have any real specifics other than broad platitudes,” said Frank Maisano, an energy industry specialist at the law and lobby firm Bracewell.
For now, the organizers of the Capitol Hill climate protests are fine with allowing the moment to fill out the details of what major climate change action would look like.
“What young people are doing here today, and what Justice Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez have been calling for, is similar to what happened in the 1930s and 1940s,” Justice Democrats’ spokesman Waleed Shahid told reporters before the protest in Pelosi’s office this month. “The original New Deal was not one policy.”
Australia is experiencing more extreme heat, longer fire seasons, rising oceans and more marine heatwaves consistent with a changing climate, according to the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s state of the climate report.
The report, published every two years, measures the long-term variability and trends observed in Australia’s climate.
The 2018 report shows that Australia’s long-term warming trend is continuing, with the climate warming by just over 1C since 1910 when records began.
That warming is contributing to a long-term increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, fire weather and drought.
“Australia is already experiencing climate change now and there are impacts being experienced or felt across many communities and across many sectors,” said Helen Cleugh, the director of the CSIRO’s climate science centre.
The report’s key findings include:
Australia’s fire seasons have lengthened andbecome more severe. In some parts of the country, the season has been extended by months.
The number of extreme heat days continues to trend upward.
There has been a shift to drier conditions in south-eastern and south-western Australia in the months from April to October.
Rainfall across northern Australia has increased since the 1970s, particularly during the tropical wet season in north-western Australia.
Oceans around Australia have warmed by about 1C since 1910, which is leading to longer and more frequent marine heatwaves that affect marine life such as corals.
Sea levels around Australia have risen by more than 20cm since records began and the rate of sea level rise is accelerating.
There has been a 30% increase in the acidity of Australian oceans since the 1800s and the current rate of change “is ten times faster than at any time in the past 300 million years”.
Karl Braganza, the bureau of meteorology’s manager of climate monitoring, said the increase in average temperature was having an impact on the frequency or amount of extremes Australia experienced in any given year.
“In general there’s been around a five-fold increase in extreme heat and that is consistent whether you look at monthly temperatures, day time temperatures or night time temperatures,” he said.
He said there had been a reduction in rainfall of 20% in south-western Australia and in some places that was as high as 26%. In south-eastern Australia, April to October rainfall had fallen by 11%.
The report also highlights an increase in the number of extreme fire danger days in many parts of Australia, particularly in southern and eastern Australia.
Braganza said there was a “clear shift” towards a lengthened fire season, more fire weather during that season and an increase in its severity.
“Often the worst fire weather occurs when you’ve had long-term drought, long-term above-average temperatures, maybe a short-term heatwave and then the meteorology that’s consistent with severe fire weather and the ability for fire to spread,” he said.
“It’s those types of compound events that are going to be most challenging going forward in terms of adapting to climate change in Australia.”
David Cazzulino, theGreat Barrier Reefcampaigner for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the report confirmed what many Australians already knew about the rising risks of climate change.
“The big line around oceans warming one degree since 1910 is a huge wake-up call,” he said.
“It’s undeniable that warming oceans lead to more marine heatwaves, coral bleaching and coral mortality.”
He said the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, and climate change policy generally, would be a key campaign issue ahead of the 2019 federal election.
“We are running out of time to keep warming to a safe degree for the reef to have a future,” Cazzulino said.
It’s been little over a month since newly-elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortezjoined some 200 young climate activistsfor a sit-in in soon-to-be House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office to demand that Democrats back a Green New Deal, a plan to transform the U.S. energy economy in order to stave offclimate changeand promote greater equality.
Since then, support has ballooned for the revolutionary policy plan, with 38 Congresspeople now pledging to back a select committee to develop it, and to renounce donations fromfossil fuelcompanies, according to thelatest tallyfrom theSunrise Movement.
The survey gave a brief explanation of the Green New Deal and then asked respondents, “How much do you support or oppose this idea?”
Eighty-one percent of registered voters either “strongly” or “somewhat” supported it, and, while support was stronger among Democrats, a majority of Republicans were also in favor.
While 92 percent of Democrats supported it, 64 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of conservative Republicans also thought it was a good idea.
However, there is a catch: The survey did not mention that the Green New Deal has so far been promoted by progressive Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez.
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication explained why this could alter Republican support as the deal and its proponents gain more national attention:
Other research has shown that people evaluate policiesmore negativelywhen they are told it is backed by politicians from an opposing political party. Conversely, people evaluatethe same policymore positively when told it is backed by politicians from their own party.
Therefore, these findings may indicate that although most Republicans and conservatives are in favor of the Green New Deal’s policiesin principle, they are not yet aware that this plan is proposed by the political Left. For any survey respondents who were previously unaware of the Deal, it is likely that their reactions have not yet been influenced by partisan loyalty.
The survey also showed that most of its respondents had not heard of the deal.
Before it offered its paragraph of explanation, the survey’s authors asked if respondents had heard of it. Eighty-two percent answered that they had heard “nothing at all.”
For Yale postdoc Abel Gustafson, who co-authored the report on the survey’s findings, the challenge for the deal’s proponents is how to spread awareness in a way that does not alienate potential supporters.
“Given that most Americans have strong support for the components and ideas of the Green New Deal, it becomes a communication strategy problem,” Gustafson toldThe Huffington Post. “From here, it’s about how you can pitch it so you can maintain that bipartisan support throughout the rest of the process.”