Methane

The big heatwave: from Algeria to the Arctic. But what’s the cause? #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange #Longman

The big heatwave: from Algeria to the Arctic. But what’s the cause?

Robin McKieSun 22 Jul 2018 08.00 BST

Last week, authorities in Sweden took an unusual step.

They issued an appeal for international aid to help them tackle an epidemic of wildfires that has spread across the nation over the past few days.

After months without rain, followed by weeks of soaring temperatures, the nation’s forests had become tinderboxes.

The result was inevitable. Wildfires broke out and, by the end of last week, more than 50 forest blazes – a dozen inside the Arctic circle – had spread across Sweden.

A nation famous for its cold and snow found itself unable to cope with the conflagrations taking place within its border and so made its appeal for international help, a request that has already been answered by Norway and Italy who have both sent airborne firefighting teams to help battle Sweden’s blazes.

Nor is the nation’s fiery fate particularly unusual at present. Across much of the northern hemisphere, intense and prolonged heatwaves have triggered disruption and devastation as North America, the Arctic, northern Europe and Africa have sweltered in record-breaking temperatures. In Africa, a weather station at Ouargla, Algeria, in the Sahara desert, recorded a temperature of 51.3C, the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in Africa.

In Japan, where temperatures have reached more than 40C, people were last week urged to take precautions after the death toll reached 30 with thousands more having sought hospital treatment for heat-related conditions. And in California increased use of air conditioning units, switched on to counter the scorching conditions there, has led to power shortages.

But perhaps the strangest impact of the intense heat has been felt in Canada. It too has been gripped by ferocious heat, with Toronto recording temperatures that have exceeded 30C on 18 days so far this year. This figure compares with only nine such days all last summer.

Dozens have died in the withering heat – with startling and grim consequences. Montreal’s morgue has been swamped with the bodies of those who have died because of the heat, and many corpses have had to be stored elsewhere in the city. Montreal coroner Jean Brochu said it was first time the city’s morgue had been overwhelmed this way.

Britain’s scorching weather – which has melted the roof of Glasgow’s Science Centre and parched the lawns of the nation’s historic homes – may have made regular UK headlines. However, it has been relatively mild in impact compared to those experienced in many other parts of the world.

Fighting wildfires near Brasilia, Brazil, last week. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Far from being a parochial problem, the current heatwave is clearly an issue that affects vast stretches of our planet: a global concern not a local one.

But why is so much of our world currently being afflicted with blisteringly hot weather? What is driving the wildfires, the soaring temperatures and those melting rooftops? These are tricky questions to answer, such is the complex nature of the planet’s weather systems. Most scientists point to a number of factors with global warming being the most obvious candidate. Others warn that it would be wrong to overstate its role in the current heatwaves, however.

“Yes, it is hard not to believe that climate change has to be playing a part in what is going on round the globe at present,” said Dann Mitchell of Bristol University. “There have been some remarkable extremes recorded in the past few weeks, after all. However, we should take care about overstating climate change’s influence for it is equally clear there are also other influences at work.”

One of those other factors is the jet stream – a core of strong winds around five to seven miles above the Earth’s surface that blow from west to east and which steer weather around the globe. Sometimes, when they are intense, they bring storms. On other occasions, when they are weak, they bring very calm and settled days. And that is what is occurring at present.

“The jet stream we are currently experiencing is extremely weak and, as a result, areas of atmospheric high pressure are lingering for long periods over the same place,” added Mitchell.

Other factors involved in creating the meteorological conditions that have brought such heat to the northern hemisphere include substantial changes to sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. “These are part of a phenomenon known as the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation,” said Professor Adam Scaife, of the Met Office.

“In fact, the situation is very like the one we had in 1976, when we had similar ocean temperatures in the Atlantic and an unchanging jet stream that left great areas of high pressure over many areas for long periods,” said Scaife.

“And of course, that year we had one of the driest, sunniest and warmest summers in the UK in the 20th century.”

Farmers are battling an extreme drought in New South Wales, Australia.

Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

However, there is one crucial difference between 1976 and today, added Professor Tim Osborn, director of research at the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia. “The baseline on which these effects operated is very different today. Since 1976 we have had several decades of global warming – caused by rising carbon emissions – which has raised baseline global temperatures significantly.”

As a result, any phenomenon such as the weakening of the jet stream is going to have a more pronounced effect than it did 40 years ago.

And as global carbon emissions continue to rise and predictions suggest the world will be unable to hold global temperature rises this century to below 2C above pre-industrial levels, widespread heatwaves are very likely to get worse and become more frequent, scientists warn.

Nor is the problem of increasingly severe heatwaves confined to the land. “We have marine heatwaves as well – all over the globe,” said Michael Burrows, of the Scottish Marine Institute, Oban. “For example, there was a major marine heatwave that struck the coast of Australia last year. It devastated vast swathes of the Great Barrier Reef. More to the point, marine heatwaves are also becoming more and more frequent and intense, like those on land, and that is something else that we should be very worried about.”

A simulation of maximum temperatures on 21 July. Photograph: Climate Reanalyzer/Climate Change Institute/University of Maine

Press link for more: The Guardian

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Global heat wave: an epic TV news fail #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ThisIsZeroHour

Simulation of maximum temperatures on July 18 at two meters above the ground, from the Global Forecast System weather model. Credit: University of Maine Climate Reanalyzer

This month’s scorching heat wave broke records around the world.

The Algerian city of Ouargla, with a population of half a million, had a temperature of 124.3 degrees Fahrenheit on July 6, the hottest reliably measured temperature on record in Africa. In Ireland and Wales, the unusually hot weather revealed ancient structures normally hidden by grass or crops.

In Chino, California, the mercury soared to 120 degrees.

Another round of hazardous summer heat is expected this week, with record high temperatures possible in the southern United States.

The prolonged heat wave has been a staple of television news for weeks.

However, most of the coverage has been sorely lacking in context: Humans are warming the planet, and scientists have already linked some heat waves to climate change.

A recent analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes that human-driven climate change, rather than natural variability, will be the leading cause of heat waves over the western United States and Great Lakes region as early as the 2020s and 2030s, respectively.

Like the heat itself, much of the media coverage was stupefying. “Major broadcast TV networks overwhelmingly failed to report on the links between climate change and extreme heat,” according to a Media Matters survey. “Over a two-week period from late June to early July, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 127 segments or weathercasts that discussed the heat wave, but only one segment, on CBS This Morning, mentioned climate change.”

TV coverage would undoubtedly improve if weather forecasters were better informed about climate science.

But four Republican senators with close ties to the fossil fuel industry are trying to eliminate government funding for a National Science Foundation designed to help forecasters (and by extension, the general public) “become more familiar with the science behind how their local weather and its trends are related to the dynamics of the climate.”

Press link for more: The Bulletin

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

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

We must bridge generational divide to prevent climate & budget crises #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange Intergenerational Debt #Neoliberalism

Progressives must bridge the generational divide to prevent climate and budget crises

BY PAUL BLEDSOE AND BEN RITZ, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS

Amid the daily drama of President Trump‘s tweets and scandals, it can be hard to focus on the most important issues for our future.

An unfortunate consequence of this purposeful turmoil is that few serious solutions are being offered for addressing two of the greatest threats facing the United States: runaway climate change and unsustainable budget policies.

The resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may end his days of plundering the environment and public treasury, but the Trump administration will continue doing both even in his absence, risking long-term national well-being for temporary political benefits.

It’s critical that progressives offer credible alternatives, especially if they hope to inspire younger voters who will bear the burden of these problems, because we cannot afford to dither on either issue much longer.

We speak from experience.

One of us is a baby boomer who has spent most of his career working on energy and climate policy; the other is a millennial focused on the federal budget.

Although our two fields may seem unrelated, both these existential challenges require our generations to work together to solve.

Our leaders have been warned about the climate crisis for more than a generation.

Thirty years ago last month, NASA scientist James Hansen first testified before Congress noting the irrefutable relationship between growing carbon dioxide emissions and rising temperatures.

Since then, global average temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions have increased relentlessly, leading to enormously expensive climate change impacts around the world.

Just last year, Hurricane Harvey and other major storms made worse by climate change devastated the US costing federal taxpayers over $130 billion so far.

The longer we wait to stem rising temperatures, the higher these costs will grow.

The Long-term Budget Outlook recently published by the Congressional Budget Office tells a similar story.

The gap between federal revenues and spending is growing at an alarming rate, requiring the government to borrow more each year to cover the difference.

If current policies remain in place, the national debt relative to the size of the economy could rocket past the record-high level reached just after World War II as soon as 2029.

From then onward, the federal government will be stuck spending over $1 trillion every year just to pay interest on the debt, making the growing budget deficit increasingly difficult to close the longer we wait.

Both our climate and our budget problems stem in large part from a moral failure by baby boomers.

Rather than investing in their children’s future via sustainable energy and fiscal policies, boomers emitted greenhouse gases and cut their own taxes with reckless abandon, while promising themselves generous retirement benefits paid-for by future workers.

Now millennials will be stuck with a debt and a climate that are far more dangerous than in previous generations.

The two problems exacerbate one another.

As climate change worsens, hundreds of billions each year will need to be spent each year on adaptation and disaster relief, making it that much harder to reduce future budget deficits.

Conversely, the federal government will find it increasingly difficult to invest in technologies to combat climate change when so much of tax revenue is pre-committed to servicing our debt and paying for past promises.

Alas, the Republican-controlled government in Washington (like the LNP government in Australia) has made both problems much worse.

Party leaders deny or ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus around climate change, with the president calling it a “hoax” while his administration is pushing to replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with a pro-pollution alternative that props up dying industries at the expense of our planet and economy.

The GOP exhibits the same pattern of willful ignorance on the federal budget: just recently, National Economic Council Chairman Larry Kudlow erroneously claimed that the deficit is falling even as it does the exact opposite – a problem which was made worse by the $2 trillion tax cut Republicans enacted at the end of last year without making any serious effort to pay for it.

Democrats and Labor have to do better.

Just as the far right wants to play chicken with our climate, some on the far left want to play chicken with our national debt.

Neither is a risk worth taking.

Democrats must resist the far left’s calls to pursue expensive expansions of social insurance programs before making our current obligations financially sustainable.

When it comes to climate change, most of the party understands the need for action but has yet to coalesce around practical approaches for solving the problem that would attract rather than alienate swing voters.

Democrats must realize there is little value in having the moral high ground, on either climate or the budget, without the political power to implement solutions.

The responsibility for making these changes thus lies with voters as much as their leaders, and both of our respective generations must do our part to promote responsible solutions.

Baby boomers need to accept responsibility for the unresolved problems they leave millennials and be willing to contribute to solutions.

But millennials need to take ownership of their future by showing up at the polls and making these challenges core voting issues.

Young voters already overwhelmingly support Democrats – it’s time they show up and demand Democrats support them in return by addressing the two greatest threats to our future prosperity.

Paul Bledsoe is strategic advisor for the Progressive Policy Institute, and Ben Ritz is the director of PPI’s Center for Funding America’s Future.

Press link for more: The Hill

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