Sea Turtles

Scientists have become angry! #ClimateChange #Coral #StopAdani 

The amazing biological fixes that could help save the Great Barrier Reef

October 3 2017

In just the past two years, up to half the coral on the Great Barrier Reef has died.

 The world has reacted differentially to this disaster. 

Publics have been shocked. 

Conservationists have cried.

 The tourism industry has fractured. 

Some opportunistic politicians have denied. 

And scientists, what have we done?

 We’ve become angry.
Scientists have known this was going to happen for years. I have been teaching climate change and coral bleaching as part of core curriculum since I first began as a young academic in 2001. We have been watching the world in disbelief; watching the world careen down a collision course with its own climate.
Somehow, we thought that common sense would prevail – that politicians and businesses and people would change course before it was too late. And then, suddenly, it was too late for half of the corals on the world’s largest contiguous reef system – our national natural treasure.
The only good news is that when scientists get angry, we get active. In response to two consecutive years of mass coral mortality, some scientists have ramped up the pressure on decision makers, demanding they rapidly adopt evidence-based policies on energy.
Bleaching corals off Port Douglas.


Bleaching corals off Port Douglas. Photo: Dean Miller

Some have ramped up efforts to reduce other reef stressors, such as poor water quality, to increase resilience. 

And some have ramped up their creative efforts to provide fixes, be they technological, sociological or biological.
It is the biological solutions that are fascinating me right now. 

Can we save a reef?

As a professor of marine ecology and the newest member of the board of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, I believe this question is paramount. 

We know the increasing temperature of ocean waters are threatening reefs around the world. We know that when ocean temperatures are too warm, for too long, coral animals eject their symbionts. That is, they throw the microscopic algae that live within them out into the sea.
That means they lose their colour, they bleach. But more importantly, they lose their major source of food. If the waters do not quickly cool, the ghostly white corals starve to death.
Coral bleaching has returned to the Great Barrier Reef in 2017.


Coral bleaching has returned to the Great Barrier Reef in 2017. Photo: James Cook University

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, of the University of Queensland, was one of the first to study this process of bleaching and to warn us of the impending global ecosystem collapse.
Almost 30 years later, and a paradigm shift in conservation biology is almost complete. From “lock it up and let it live”, the pace of climate change has forced us to consider a more interventionist approach. We’re not quite at “whatever it takes”, but our science and the approach to conservation is changing as fast as the world around us. Chair of the marine park authority Dr Russell Reichelt​ says: “Everything is on the table. Leave no stone unturned”. 
Mature stag-horn coral bleached at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef.

Mature stag-horn coral bleached at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef. Photo: David Bellwood

So, scientists are busy in laboratories and reef sites all over the globe in a race to create, select, discover, and cultivate heat-tolerant corals that will withstand the next 50 years of warming oceans – before humanity must, inevitably, achieve net negative carbon emissions, or move to another more habitable planet.
Professor Ruth Gates, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, is selecting the toughest corals and “pre-conditioning” others, preparing them for the heat bath.
Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef of the Whitsundays in the Coral sea.


Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef of the Whitsundays in the Coral sea. Photo: Alamy

Professor Madeleine van Oppen​, of the University of Melbourne and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, is creating hybrids and culturing multiple generations of their microscopic algae under heat-stress conditions. 

Her heat-tolerant symbionts can be taken up by bleached corals – but they’ve not yet prevented bleaching.
Other researchers are refining the cryopreservation process (snap-freezing) to produce algal seed banks. If they can get this working, one option might be to fly aeroplanes across the more than 2000 kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef spraying heat-tolerant symbionts across the bleached reefs – aerial first-aid for corals.
A reef flat exposed at low tide on the Great Barrier Reef.


A reef flat exposed at low tide on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Penguin Random House Australia

Not all scientists believe such biological fixes will be useful, compared with the rapid evolution already taking place on reefs around the world.
Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and one of our foremost researchers of reef diversity, is focused more on reducing carbon emissions and building reef resilience through consideration of social, as well as environmental factors. It may well be that we can’t beat rapid natural selection – already under way in vast numbers of surviving corals – in response to this very unnatural disaster.
Divers on the outer Great Barrier Reef off Port Douglas.


Divers on the outer Great Barrier Reef off Port Douglas. Photo: Jason South

It is true that reefs have moved and changed with climate in the past, but such changes occurred over tens of thousands of years, not hundreds. It remains to be seen how many of the coral species and strains can survive, reproduce and disperse with sufficient potential for heritable selection to heat stress.
Finally, not all scientists are convinced of the safety of “assisting evolution” – releasing selectively bred or genetically modified corals or algae on the reef. Memories of previous biological interventions gone wrong still scar our consciousness.
To keep ahead of the science, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is developing a policy for permitting such interventions – one that enables experimental trials on the reef under strict conditions.
Suffice to say, angry scientists are not standing still. We are exploring every possibility. For the burden of knowing the reef – and understanding what lies ahead – is eased by every effort we make to sustain our living treasures.


Professor Emma Johnston is dean of science at UNSW Sydney and host of Can We Save the Reef? airing on Catalyst, Tuesday, October 3 on ABC & ABC iview.

Press link for more: SMH.COM

Advertisements

The Great Barrier Reef needs your help #StopAdani #Auspol #Qldpol #ClimateChange 

The Great Barrier Reef May Not Be Dead Yet, But It’s Not Far Off
Share this article and help save the reef.

Shock and dismay struck the Internet when Outside Magazine released an obituary stating that scientists had declared the Great Barrier Reef dead.

 Thankfully, these reports were not accurate. 

Although the 25 million-year old organism is in grave danger, it is not dead yet. 

Scientists and environmentalists are taking to social media to set the record straight.

Environmental reporter Tony Davis tweeted, “Reports of the Great Barrier Reef’s death are greatly exaggerated, say scientists, booing Outside Magazine.”

 And the Cornell Cooperative Extension at Rockland County, an environmental nonprofit organization, tweeted “Great Barrier Reef is Dying NOT Dead!

 ‘The message should be that it isn’t too late… not we should all give up.'”
It may be a relief to know that the GBR isn’t dead, but this scare should be taken as a wake up call, especially considering we are a big reason for the reef’s deteriorating health. 

Coral on the reef are dying due to a phenomenon called coral bleaching. 

Changes in condition, like warmer water temperatures, cause coral to become stressed, which causes the algae living in their tissues to leave. 

When this happens the coral turn white, hence the term coral bleaching, and the coral is left vulnerable and more susceptible to disease. 

According to a report by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, 93% of the reef is affected by bleaching.


How is this our fault? 

Two words: global warming.

 As our oceans temperatures continue to rise, more and more bleaching events are occurring and causing sections of the reef to die. 

According to a survey by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 22% of the reef’s coral are dead. 

If we want to save one of the seven natural wonder of the world, we need to act now.

Press link for more: Propeller.LA

Midnight Oil Join Fight to #StopAdani #Auspol #Qldpol 

MIDNIGHT Oil will kick off their Australian reunion tour with a musical protest against the Adani mine and threats to the Great Barrier Reef’s survival next week.
The activist rockers will stage the Oils at the Reef concert in Cairns on October 6 to support research into the damage suffered by the treasured natural wonder.

All proceeds from Midnight Oil’s ‘Oils at the Reef’ concert will go towards scientific research aimed at protecting the reef. 

The band will direct all proceeds from the show at the Tank Arts Centre to nonpartisan scientific research organisation called Great Barrier Reef Legacy.
The Oils haven’t been quiet about drawing attention to environmental causes on their Great Circle world tour.
They performed on the famous Rainbow Warrior in Brazil in April to protest mining at the mouth of the Amazon River.


Midnight Oil will be touring Australia with their ‘The Great Circle 2017’ reunion tour. Picture: Jenny EvansSource:News Corp Australia
“Midnight Oil have always used our music to talk about things we believe are important,” Peter Garrett said.
“We believe the future of the Great Barrier Reef is clearly on the line. We’re at the eleventh hour for our most important natural asset.
“As the largest living organism in our world the reef is a treasure of extraordinary beauty itself but it’s also a symbol of greater questions we all have to answer.”

Midnight Oil frontman and politician Peter Garrett is fighting to protect the Great  Barrier Reef.
“Some parts of the reef are already being killed off by catastrophic climate change and other parts would be damaged by bad federal government policy that prioritises short term corporate profit above all else.
“So we’re looking forward to getting together with our friends in Cairns and all doing our bit to share some information, provoke more conversation and make change while there’s still time.”

The Great Circle world tour has already ticked off more than 50 concerts in 16 countries and will end with a victory lap around Australia, starting in Alice Springs on Monday and finishing at the Domain in Sydney on November 17.


Locals protest the Adani coal mine. Photographer: Liam KidstonSource:News Corp Australia
Tickets for the Oils at the Reef concert go on sale at 10am on Wednesday, with a limit of two per person.
The concert will form the backdrop for radio and television specials by Triple M and Foxtel’s MAX to spotlight the battle for the reef’s survival.
“The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most beautiful and intricate ecosystems,” drummer Rob Hirst said.

The threat to the Great Barrier Reef ‘should be a concern of all Australians’ says Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst.Source:Supplied
‘“It’s also a magnet for tourists, and a major contributor to the local economy so the fact that it’s under threat from climate change and unsustainable development should concern all Australians.
“We believe we should support the work of scientists and listen to them when it comes to what we should do to protect this precious environment.”

Press link for more: News.com.au

Bleak world if the Great Barrier Reef dies. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol 

Scientist Dr Charlie Veron’s warning to Gold Coasters of a bleak world if the Great Barrier Reef dies

Dr Charlie Veron with a piece of coral named Blastomussa. Picture: Zak Simmonds
A RENOWNED scientist has painted a bleak picture of the impact on the Gold Coast if the Great Barrier Reef dies, warning of a worldwide environmental disaster that will hurt even more if rising carbon dioxide levels keep cooking the planet.
Dr Charlie Veron has urged young Gold Coasters to build multiple skills for a chaotic world, saying important fields like medicine and agriculture will be vital as carbon dioxide levels increase because of the burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal.
Even if nations stopped production of carbon dioxide, the oceans would keep heating for another 20 years, leading to a vicious pendulum ride between cyclonic storms and floods, and severe drought and bushfires.

Dead and dying staghorn coral, central Great Barrier Reef in May 2016. Credit: Johanna Leonhardt

“Half of all coral colonies on the Great Barrier Reef died over the past two years due to coral bleaching,’’ Dr Veron said.
“It’s going to be a horrible world. Young people now are going to curse the present generation for what we’ve done. We’ll have left them a planet in dire straits.’’
Known as the Godfather of Coral, Dr Veron has been hailed by the likes of high-profile British naturalist David Attenborough for his career that led to him being appointed chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science and to recognition as a wideranging specialist in corals and reefs.

Dr Charlie Veron was the first full-time researcher on the Great Barrier Reef and has described more than a quarter of the world’s coral species.

With several books to his name including his memoir, A Life Underwater, Dr Veron was a prominent speaker at the Byron Writers Festival at the weekend.
“The Australian public is asleep. They seem to be unaware of what’s going on,’’ he told the Gold Coast Bulletin outside the festival.
Rising levels of the otherwise rare gas carbon dioxide were increasing ocean temperatures, which were causing bleaching and killing coral reefs, putting the entire marine environment in peril.
“Australia is now the biggest coal exporter in the world,’’ he said.
“Australians are fuelling this as fast as they can through the mining of coal, which is the worst driver of this.’’
Dr Veron, who has been an outspoken critic of the proposed Adani coal mine in Central Queensland, feared the Great Barrier Reef could be gone within 15 years.

Dr Charlie Veron 

“If the Great Barrier Reef dies then you can be sure most coral reefs in the world would have died and the oceans will be in a state of ecological collapse. Nowhere is going to be exempt,’’ he said.
“We will see fishing industries collapse, for starters.
“Between a quarter and a third of all marine species have part of their life cycle in a coral reef. Taking away the reefs precipitates ecological collapse of the oceans. It’s happened twice in the past due to volcanoes releasing carbon dioxide and lava flows, but that was nothing like the amount of carbon dioxide being released now.’’
One of those mass extinctions, at the end of the Mesozoic era 65 million years ago, brought an end to the dinosaurs. The other was at the end of the Palaeozoic era about 200 million years ago, which wiped out corals.
“A lot of marine species here (in Gold Coast and Byron Bay waters) have come from the Great Barrier Reef,’’ Dr Veron said.
“The corals here have all come from the barrier reef as have all the tropical marine species. They come down the East Australia Current and colonise here. This applies to migratory fish species too.
“It’s all gloom and doom, I’m afraid.
“The science has been right.
“The sceptics now have no credibility. The deniers of climate change might as well deny Jumbo jets can fly. It’s no longer an issue of science or judgment. It’s happening.’’
Carbon dioxide was important in keeping the earth warm and keeping green plants going.
But concentrations had now reached 406 parts per million.
“But when you go over the limit it becomes a very dangerous gas,’’ he said. “It’s now reached that point.
“It’s doing this slowly. It’s like putting a jug of water on the stove. It takes a long time to equilibrate with the heat under it.
“The oceans are taking at least 20 years to equilibrate with current conditions. We have oceans that have warmed in response to carbon dioxide levels of the 1990s. (Even if carbon dioxide production stopped now) the oceans have got 20 years of warming ahead.’’

Press link for more: Gold Coast Bulletin

Elon Musk exposes deep coal divide in Australia. #StopAdani @AnnastaciaMP #Qldpol #auspol 

Elon Musk Exposes Deep Coal Divide in Australia Bloomberg
Elon Musk’s intervention in Australia’s energy crisis is widening a divide over the future of coal.
The billionaire Tesla Inc. founder, who has promised to help solve an Australian state’s clean energy obstacles, sees no place for the fossil fuel. 

That conflicts with the national government’s push for it remaining a mainstay source of electricity generation, as well as the “clean, beautiful coal” technologies that U.S. President Donald Trump sees helping to save American mining jobs.

Elon Musk in Adelaide on July 7.


Photographer: Ben MacMahon/EPA

“Coal doesn’t have a long-term future,” Musk told reporters in Adelaide last week during a short trip to Australia. “The writing’s on the wall.”


His declaration in energy-strapped South Australia, where the 46-year-old entrepreneur announced plans to build the world’s biggest battery to support the state’s blackout-plagued power grid, has rankled lawmakers.

Photo Green TNQ (Tablelands Far North Queensland) 

Energy minister Josh Frydenberg, 45, accused the state of tapping a celebrity to paper over its patchy clean energy record. 

Tesla’s battery plan “is a lot of sizzle for very little sausage,” Frydenberg, a member of the conservative Liberal-led federal government, said Monday. 

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, 50, said Musk’s plan “doesn’t make a hell of a lot of difference” to the nation’s struggles over energy security.


Most of Australia’s states and territories — free to determine their own energy and climate policies independent of the national government — beg to differ. 

Just hours after Musk’s announcement, the neighboring state of Victoria closed the door on new coal-fired power stations, saying energy companies would rather invest in renewables.

Adani Project
The northern state of Queensland, where India’s Adani Group is planning to develop the $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine, expects a move to clean energy will completely wipe out its carbon emissions by 2050.
Energy policy is a fraught subject Down Under, where a push by the majority of Australians for more renewable power sources is clashing with the government’s political imperative to keep a lid on soaring power prices. 

Currently, some 76 percent of Australia’s electricity is drawn from coal-fired power stations which, while a cheap supply source, are at odds with a commitment to lower climate emissions.

A series of power outages in South Australia the past year spurred fears of more widespread blackouts across the nation’s electricity market and raised questions as to why one of the world’s largest producers of coal and gas is struggling to keep the lights on in a mainland state.
The nation’s largest and also dirtiest power generator, AGL Energy Ltd., says its investment appetite for coal has reversed in the space of just a few years. 

The economics of building new coal plants don’t stack up and increasingly renewables will dominate base-load power, AGL Chairman Jeremy Maycock said last week. 

Australians overwhelmingly want the government to focus on clean energy, according to a June poll by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute.


‘Highly Improbable’
“It’s highly improbable that AGL will be constructing new coal-fired power stations because we don’t think the economics are likely to favor that,” Maycock said in a phone interview. “As the largest generator we want to play our fair share in the country’s emissions reduction targets.”

For Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, banging the drum on coal is proving a treacherous task.
In 2009, Turnbull lost his job as leader of the then opposition Liberal Party to Tony Abbott due to his support for an emissions trading program that was eventually installed by a Labor Party government in 2012.
After defeating Labor in 2013, Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition dismantled the levy on carbon emissions, claiming it was responsible for higher electricity costs, and cut targets for how much energy Australia aims to draw from wind and solar generation by 2020.
‘Good for Humanity’

While in power, Abbott claimed coal was “good for humanity” and his government attacked wind farms for being “ugly.” Since seizing the leadership from his unpopular predecessor almost two years ago, Turnbull has toned down the government’s attack on renewables.
Turnbull announced in March a plan to boost capacity at Australia’s largest hydro-electric power project by 50 percent in a bid to tackle surging electricity prices and supply constraints.

Yet the climate issue continues to create rancor within Turnbull’s party. When Chief Scientist Alan Finkel proposed last month that Australia gradually increase its renewable target to 42 percent by 2030, at least 22 members of his ruling coalition spoke out about it. Renewable energy generation provided 17.3 percent of Australia’s annual electricity generation in 2016, according to an annual report from the industry-led Clean Energy Council.

Abbott, who remains a lawmaker on the government backbench, is now calling for the government to subsidize the building of new coal-fired power plants even as investors shy away from it. Turnbull has refused to rule it out while his deputy Joyce has talked up the potential for the government taking an equity stake in any new plant. For now, the official political line is all energy sources need to be in the mix. Just don’t rule out coal.
“When it comes to energy sources, ours is a technology-neutral and all-of-the-above approach,” Frydenberg said in an emailed response to questions last week. “With a significant amount of base-load generation being phased out over the next 15 years, we need to ensure we are prepared and have enough power to meet future needs.”
‘An Absurdity’
Joyce, whose New England electorate in rural New South Wales is home to a number of coal mines, is typically more blunt. Not having any coal-fired power generation in Australia is “an absurdity,” he told Sky on Sunday.
Frydenberg and state and territory energy ministers agreed to implement 49 of the Finkel report’s 50 recommendations at a meeting in Brisbane on Friday. Among those endorsed were a requirement that renewable energy sources provide a backup in the event of blackouts, and that large power generators give at least three years notice before plant closures.
Not sanctioned was the report’s recommendation that a national clean-energy target be implemented. Instead, most state and territory Labor governments moved to have the Australian Energy Market Commission press ahead with designing options for a benchmark that could be introduced by the states.
Australia exported more coal than any other country in 2015, and has the fourth-largest share of the planet’s coal resources, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science said in December. Still, the existing and perceived political and environmental costs attached to coal are deterring lenders.
‘Run a Million Miles’

“The high risk and cost associated with new coal plants make investors and financiers run a million miles from it in Australia,” said Ali Asghar, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Sydney. “The only way new coal could get built is if the government funds it and indemnifies any private entity against all future carbon risks.”
And doing so makes little sense, given that the cost of building cleaner, so-called high-efficiency, low-emission coal plants in Australia exceeds that of new projects relying on solar, wind, or gas, Asghar said.
“As solar and wind become cheaper and continue to undermine the economics of operating coal, investment in new coal plants become an even riskier proposition.”

Press link for more: Bloomberg.com

How did Australia get this stupid about Clean Energy! #auspol #qldpol

How did Australia get this stupid about clean energy?

By Giles Parkinson

Just when you thought that the public debate around clean energy in Australia could not possibly get any worse, any dumber, or any further divorced from reality, it did.
Conservatives have been railing against renewables and carbon pricing for at least a decade. 

So ingrained has it become in our national psyche that it is like a State of Origin contest between energy sources and their fans. “Queenslander”, shout the league fans. “Fossil fuels” screech the incumbents.

Photo courtesy Green TNQ (Tablelands Far North Queensland) 
But it plumbed further depths this week. 

And it got really stupid and really nasty. 

Conservatives in the government and the media rebooted their attacks on wind and solar energy, and extended it to battery storage and vehicle emission standards, with the Murdoch media dubbing the latter as a “carbon tax on cars.”
Craig Kelly, the chair of Coalition’s energy policy committee, said renewable energy “would kill people”, a claim happily repeated by columnist Andrew Bolt.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan urged the Queensland government to “forget about climate change”, while the LNP in Queensland will this weekend consider a motion urging Australia to quit the Paris climate deal.
Worse, the conservatives started attacking individuals. 

The verbal assault on chief scientist Alan Finkel was launched way back in February when it was clear he would not toe the fossil fuel line. 

And even after delivering what many consider a “soft option”, the conservatives rekindled their attack.
“The Finkel report is a blueprint for destruction — of the Australian economy and destruction of the Liberal Party,” Murdoch columnist Piers Akerman wrote.
Then they added another target – the new head of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Audrey Zibelman. Broadcaster Alan Jones urged that “this woman”, who he accused of being a “global warming advocate and a promoter of wind turbines”, be “run out of town”.

On the same day, writing in Quadrant magazine, Alan Moran, the former head of regulation for the Institute of Public Affairs, described Zibelman as a “refugee from Hillary Clinton’s presidential defeat.”

 (Actually she worked for New York governor Andrew Cuomo).
“Alan Finkel’s otherworldly prognosis is bad enough. But toss in Malcolm Turnbull’s advocacy of renewables and then add an imported American chief regulator who would have been happier working for Hillary Clinton and where are you? 

The simple answer: thoroughly stuffed,” Moran wrote.
These attacks on Finkel, and now Zibelman, come in groups. 

It begs the question, are they co-ordinated? And if so, by whom?
But really, how did Australia get this stupid? And this ugly?

South Australia’s energy minister Tom Koutsantonis thinks it’s because the conservatives, or at least the Coalition, are in the pockets of the fossil fuel lobby.
“The only thing standing in the way of lower prices, improved grid security and meeting our carbon reduction commitments is a divided federal Liberal Party that is completely beholden to the coal lobby,” Koutsantonis said on Thursday.
He may have a point, because ideology alone does not explain the absurdity and ignorance of some of the remarks made this past week.
It seems there is nothing about the clean energy economy that these people like. The conservatives and the Murdoch camp has been relentless against wind farms for years now and this week they turned its target to battery storage and solar panels.
One story focused on fires from solar panels, claiming 40 such fires occurred over the last five years in Victoria.
Context: Victoria has around 3,000 house fires a year, mostly from heaters and clothes dryers and electric blankets. Fridges cause one fire a week in London, including the recent tragedy at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington that claimed 80 lives.
The Murdoch media’s campaign against Elon Musk’s “bulldust boutique batteries” was actually kick-started by energy minister Josh Frydenberg, who made some ridiculous remarks about how a single battery could not power the whole state, or store its entire wind output.
(But it was 20 times bigger than the 5MW battery storage “virtual power plant” he was hailing earlier in the year).
No one is suggesting that this battery storage array can provide all of the state’s power needs: It is designed to help make up any energy shortfall, which occurred last year when the biggest gas plants sat idle, or when they unexpectedly tripped, and to help ride through network faults and generator failures.
And battery storage would have prevented, or at least reduced, all three major outages that occurred in South Australia since November 2015. It would certainly be smarter and quicker than the dumb, slow responding fossil fuel generator that did the wrong thing and extended the blackout on that day last November.
Battery storage is a threat to the incumbents, and their defenders, because it and other storage will make wind and solar dispatchable, will make more expensive gas peaking plant redundant, and eventually – with the addition of pumped hydro and solar thermal – allow the coal fleet to be entirely replaced.
The attack on proposed vehicle emissions standards was extraordinary. Australia has become a dumping ground for inefficient and polluting vehicles because of its absence of any such standards.
That is causing health issues and higher prices (it means more fuel consumption), but the Murdoch media had no hesitation in calling it a “carbon tax” on cars, and epithet that even Fairfax used to lead its coverage.
“Hands off our cars, warmists,” warned Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun, echoing the extraordinary push back by conservatives against the idea of autonomous driving. “Don’t try and steal my pick-up, I’ve got a gun.”
One wonders: Do any of these people use modern technologies? Or are they still riding a horse and cart, sending telegrams and listening to the wireless, storing their beers in an ice box.
Of course, the clean energy industry doesn’t help itself – either too brow-beaten by the media or scared to offend the government. When I started writing about clean energy a decade ago, I was astonished by the circular nature of the mutual put-downs from the wind, solar, geothermal and biomass industries.
Last week, when the Murdoch media got their “scoop” on an issue well reported in RenewEconomy, the draft standards that may effectively ban lithium-ion batteries from the inside of homes, and bring a halt to the nascent household battery storage industry – a major threat to incumbent utilities.
The response from some of Australia’s leading battery storage developers? The promoters of vanadium and zinc bromine flow batteries hopped on to their soap-box and crowed about how their product was not affected.
No sense of a common purpose there. Sauve qui peux! Every man for themselves. The story of Australia’s energy industry.
Meanwhile, the fossil fuel push continues unrelenting. The Minerals Council producing yet another report claiming that “High efficiency, low emissions” coal plants could meet climate targets. To understand how preposterous that claim is, read this.
“Low emissions” is just another marketing lie. “High emissions, low efficiency” might be a more accurate description of HELE coal plants compared to the alternative smart technologies.
It is an absurd situation we find ourselves in. The public support for these new technologies is overwhelming, as it is in business (apart from those seeking to protect stranded assets), and among most politicians – even many in the Liberal Party, as NSW energy minister Don Harwin revealed late last month.
Yet here we are: Short-term policies; a patchwork of rules on energy efficiency; the worst building stock in the world; the most inefficient and polluting cars; and the world’s most expensive and dirty grid, soaring emissions, and rising temperatures.
And two years after obtaining power, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is still defending policies he once describes as “bullshit,” too afraid to call out the nonsense spread by those keeping him in power.  

Press link for more: Renew economy.com

Climate Change: The Science 

By Justin Gillis
The issue can be overwhelming. 

The science is complicated. 

Predictions about the fate of the planet carry endless caveats and asterisk.

We get it.
So we’ve put together a list of quick answers to often-asked questions about climate change. 

This should give you a running start on understanding the problem.

1. How much is the planet warming up?

2 degrees is actually a significant amount.

As of early 2017, the Earth had warmed by roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or more than 1 degree Celsius, since 1880, when records began at a global scale.

 That figure includes the surface of the ocean. 

The warming is greater over land, and greater still in the Arctic and parts of Antarctica.

The number may sound low. 

We experience much larger temperature swings in our day-to-day lives from weather systems and from the changing of seasons. 

But when you average across the entire planet and over months or years, the temperature differences get far smaller – the variation at the surface of the Earth from one year to the next is measured in fractions of a degree. 

So a rise of 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century is actually high.
The substantial warming that has already occurred explains why much of the world’s land ice is starting to melt and the oceans are rising at an accelerating pace.

 The heat accumulating in the Earth because of human emissions is roughly equal to the heat that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every day.


Scientists believe most and probably all of the warming since 1950 was caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.

 If emissions continue unchecked, they say the global warming could ultimately exceed 8 degrees Fahrenheit, which would transform the planet and undermine its capacity to support a large human population.
2. How much trouble are we in?

For future generations, big trouble.

The risks are much greater over the long run than over the next few decades, but the emissions that create those risks are happening now.

 This means the current generation of people is dooming future generations to a more difficult future. 

How difficult?
Over the coming 25 or 30 years, scientists say, the climate is likely to resemble that of today, although gradually getting warmer, with more of the extreme heat waves that can kill vulnerable people. 

Rainfall will be heavier in many parts of the world, but the periods between rains will most likely grow hotter and drier. 

The number of hurricanes and typhoons may actually fall, but the ones that do occur will draw energy from a hotter ocean surface, and therefore may be more intense. 

Coastal flooding will grow more frequent and damaging, as is already happening.

Longer term, if emissions continue to rise unchecked, the risks are profound. 

Scientists fear climate effects so severe that they might destabilize governments, produce waves of refugees, precipitate the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in the Earth’s history, and melt the polar ice caps, causing the seas to rise high enough to flood most of the world’s coastal cities.
All of this could take hundreds or even thousands of years to play out, but experts cannot rule out abrupt changes, such as a collapse of agriculture, that would throw civilization into chaos much sooner. Bolder efforts to limit emissions would reduce these risks, or at least slow the effects, but it is already too late to eliminate the risks entirely.
3. Is there anything I can do about climate change?

Fly less, drive less, waste less.

You can reduce your own carbon footprint in lots of simple ways, and most of them will save you money. 

You can plug leaks in your home insulation to save power, install a smart thermostat, switch to more efficient light bulbs, turn off the lights in any room where you are not using them, drive fewer miles by consolidating trips or taking public transit, waste less food and eat less meat.
Perhaps the biggest single thing individuals can do on their own is to take fewer airplane trips; just one or two fewer plane rides per year can save as much in emissions as all the other actions combined.

 If you want to be at the cutting edge, you can look at buying an electric or hybrid car, putting solar panels on your roof, or both.

If you want to offset your emissions, you can buy certificates, with the money going to projects that protect forests, capture greenhouse gases and so forth. 

Some airlines sell these to offset emissions from their flights. You can also buy offset certificates in a private marketplace, from companies such as TerraPass; some people even give these as holiday gifts. 

In states that allow you to choose your own electricity supplier, you can often elect to buy green electricity; you pay slightly more, and the money goes into a fund that helps finance projects like wind farms.
Leading companies are also starting to demand clean energy for their operations. You can pay attention to company policies, patronize the leaders, and let the others know you expect them to do better.
In the end, though, experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies.

 So speaking up and exercising your rights as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.


4. What’s the optimistic case?

Several things have to break our way.

In the best case that scientists can imagine, several things happen: Earth turns out to be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than currently believed; plants and animals manage to adapt to the changes that have already become inevitable; human society develops much greater political will to bring emissions under control; and major technological breakthroughs occur that help society to limit emissions and to adjust to climate change.
Some technological breakthroughs are already making cleaner energy more attractive. 

In the United States, for instance, coal has been losing out to natural gas as a power source, as new drilling technology has made gas more abundant and cheaper; for a given amount of power, gas cuts emissions in half. In addition, the cost of wind and solar power has declined so much that they are now the cheapest power source in a few places, even without subsidies.

Unfortunately, scientists and energy experts say the odds of all these things breaking our way are not very high. 

The Earth could just as easily turn out to be more sensitive to greenhouse gases as less.

 Global warming seems to be causing chaos in parts of the natural world already, and that seems likely to get worse, not better. 

So in the view of the experts, simply banking on rosy assumptions without any real plan would be dangerous. They believe the only way to limit the risks is to limit emissions.

5. Will reducing meat in my diet really help the climate?

Yes, beef especially.

Agriculture of all types produces greenhouse gases that warm the planet, but meat production is especially harmful — and beef is the most environmentally damaging form of meat. Some methods of cattle production demand a lot of land, contributing to destruction of forests; the trees are typically burned, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Other methods require huge amounts of water and fertilizer to grow food for the cows.
The cows themselves produce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes short-term warming. Meat consumption is rising worldwide as the population grows, and as economic development makes people richer and better able to afford meat.
This trend is worrisome. Studies have found that if the whole world were to start eating beef at the rate Americans eat it, produced by the methods typically used in the United States, that alone might erase any chance of staying below an internationally agreed-upon limit on global warming. Pork production creates somewhat lower emissions than beef production, and chicken lower still. So reducing your meat consumption, or switching from beef and pork to chicken in your diet, are moves in the right direction. Of course, as with any kind of behavioral change meant to benefit the climate, this will only make a difference if lots of other people do it, too, reducing the overall demand for meat products.
6. What’s the worst case?

There are many.

That is actually hard to say, which is one reason scientists are urging that emissions be cut; they want to limit the possibility of the worst case coming to pass. 
Perhaps the greatest fear is a collapse of food production, accompanied by escalating prices and mass starvation. It is unclear how likely this would be, since farmers are able to adjust their crops and farming techniques, to a degree, to adapt to climatic changes. But we have already seen heat waves contribute to broad crop failures. A decade ago, a big run-up in grain prices precipitated food riots around the world and led to the collapse of at least one government, in Haiti.
Another possibility would be a disintegration of the polar ice sheets, leading to fast-rising seas that would force people to abandon many of the world’s great cities and would lead to the loss of trillions of dollars worth of property and other assets. In places like Florida and Virginia, towns are already starting to have trouble with coastal flooding.  
Scientists also worry about other wild-card events. Will the Asian monsoons become less reliable, for instance? Billions of people depend on the monsoons to provide water for crops, so any disruptions could be catastrophic. Another possibility is a large-scale breakdown of the circulation patterns in the ocean, which could potentially lead to sudden, radical climate shifts across entire continents.
7. ​Will a technology breakthrough help us?

Even Bill Gates says don’t count on it, unless we commit the cash.

As more companies, governments and researchers devote themselves to the problem, the chances of big technological advances are improving. But even many experts who are optimistic about technological solutions warn that current efforts are not enough. For instance, spending on basic energy research is only a quarter to a third of the level that several in-depth reports have recommended. And public spending on agricultural research has stagnated even though climate change poses growing risks to the food supply. People like Bill Gates have argued that crossing our fingers and hoping for technological miracles is not a strategy — we have to spend the money that would make these things more likely to happen. 
8. How much will the seas rise?

The real question is not how high, but how fast.

The ocean is rising at a rate of about a foot per century. That causes severe effects on coastlines, forcing governments and property owners to spend tens of billions of dollars fighting erosion. But if that rate continued, it would probably be manageable, experts say.
The risk is that the rate will accelerate markedly. If emissions continue unchecked, then the temperature at the Earth’s surface could soon resemble a past epoch called the Pliocene, when a great deal of ice melted and the ocean rose by something like 80 feet compared to today. A recent study found that burning all the fossil fuels in the ground would fully melt the polar ice sheets, raising the sea level by more than 160 feet over an unknown period. Many coastal experts believe that even if emissions stopped tomorrow, 15 or 20 feet of sea-level rise is already inevitable.
The crucial issue is probably not how much the oceans are going to rise, but how fast. And on that point, scientists are pretty much flying blind. Their best information comes from studying the Earth’s history, and it suggests that the rate can on occasion hit a foot per decade, which can probably be thought of as the worst case. Even if the rise is much slower, many of the world’s great cities will flood eventually. Studies suggest that big cuts in emissions could slow the rise, buying crucial time for society to adapt to an altered coastline.
9. Are the predictions reliable?

They’re not perfect, but they’re grounded in solid science.

The idea that Earth is sensitive to greenhouse gases is confirmed by many lines of scientific evidence. For instance, the basic physics suggesting that an increase of carbon dioxide traps more heat was discovered in the 19th century, and has been verified in thousands of laboratory experiments.
Climate science does contain uncertainties, of course. The biggest is the degree to which global warming sets off feedback loops, such as a melting of sea ice that will darken the surface and cause more heat to be absorbed, melting more ice, and so forth. It is not clear exactly how much the feedbacks will intensify the warming; some of them could even partly offset it. This uncertainty means that computer forecasts can give only a range of future climate possibilities, not absolute predictions.
But even if those computer forecasts did not exist, a huge amount of evidence suggests that scientists have the basic story right. The most important evidence comes from the study of past climate conditions, a field known as paleoclimate research. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has fluctuated naturally in the past, and every time it rises, the Earth warms up, ice melts and the ocean rises. A hundred miles inland from today’s East Coast of the United States, seashells can be dug from ancient beaches that are three million years old, a blink of an eye in geologic time.
These past conditions are not a perfect guide to the future, because humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the air far faster than nature has ever done. But they show it would be foolish to assume that modern society is somehow immune to large-scale, threatening changes. 
10. Why do people question the science of climate change?

Hint: ideology.

Most of the attacks on climate science are coming from libertarians and other political conservatives who do not like the policies that have been proposed to fight global warming. Instead of negotiating over those policies and trying to make them more subject to free-market principles, they have taken the approach of blocking them by trying to undermine the science.
This ideological position has been propped up by money from fossil-fuel interests, which have paid to create organizations, fund conferences and the like. The scientific arguments made by these groups usually involve cherry-picking data, such as focusing on short-term blips in the temperature record or in sea ice, while ignoring the long-term trends.
The most extreme version of climate denialism is to claim that scientists are engaged in a worldwide hoax to fool the public so that the government can gain greater control over people’s lives. As the arguments have become more strained, many oil and coal companies have begun to distance themselves publicly from climate denialism, but some are still helping to finance the campaigns of politicians who espouse such views.
11. Is crazy weather tied to climate change?

In some cases, yes.

Scientists have published strong evidence that the warming climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. It is also causing heavier rainstorms, and coastal flooding is getting worse as the oceans rise because of human emissions. Global warming has intensified droughts in regions like the Middle East, and it may have strengthened a recent drought in California.
In many other cases, though, the linkage to global warming for particular trends is uncertain or disputed. That is partly from a lack of good historical weather data, but it is also scientifically unclear how certain types of events may be influenced by the changing climate.
Another factor: While the climate is changing, people’s perceptions may be changing faster. The Internet has made us all more aware of weather disasters in distant places. On social media, people have a tendency to attribute virtually any disaster to climate change, but in many cases there is little or no scientific support for doing so.
12. Will anyone benefit from global warming?

In certain ways, yes.

Countries with huge, frozen hinterlands, including Canada and Russia, could see some economic benefits as global warming makes agriculture, mining and the like more possible in those places. It is perhaps no accident that the Russians have always been reluctant to make ambitious climate commitments, and President Vladimir V. Putin has publicly questioned the science of climate change.
However, both of those countries could suffer enormous damage to their natural resources; escalating fires in Russia are already killing millions of acres of forests per year. Moreover, some experts believe countries that view themselves as likely winners from global warming will come to see the matter differently once they are swamped by millions of refugees from less fortunate lands.
13. Is there any reason for hope?

If you share this with 50 friends, maybe.

Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were allowed to build up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.
But after 20 years of largely fruitless diplomacy, the governments of the world are finally starting to take the problem seriously. A deal reached in Paris in late 2015 commits nearly every country to some kind of action. President Trump decided in 2017 to pull the United States out of that deal, saying it would unfairly burden American businesses. But other countries are promising to go forward with it anyway, and some states and cities have defied Mr. Trump by adopting more ambitious climate goals.
Religious leaders like Pope Francis are speaking out. Low-emission technologies, such as electric cars, are improving. Leading corporations are making bold promises to switch to renewable power and stop forest destruction.
What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens. Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it.
14. How does agriculture affect climate change?

It’s a big contributor, but there are signs of progress.

The environmental pressures from global agriculture are enormous. Global demand for beef and for animal feed, for instance, has led farmers to cut down large swaths of the Amazon forest.
Brazil adopted tough oversight and managed to cut deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent in a decade. But the gains there are fragile, and severe problems continue in other parts of the world, such as aggressive forest clearing in Indonesia.
Scores of companies and organizations, including major manufacturers of consumer products, signed a declaration in New York in 2014 pledging to cut deforestation in half by 2020, and to cut it out completely by 2030. The companies that signed the pact are now struggling to figure out how to deliver on that promise.
Many forest experts consider meeting the pledge to be difficult, but possible. They say consumers must keep up the pressure on companies that use ingredients like palm oil in products ranging from soap to lipstick to ice cream. People can also help the cause by altering their diets to eat less meat, and particularly less beef.
15. Will the seas rise evenly across the planet?

Think lumpy.

Many people imagine the ocean to be like a bathtub, where the water level is consistent all the way around. In fact, the sea is rather lumpy — strong winds and other factors can cause water to pile up in some spots, and to be lower in others.
Also, the huge ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica exert a gravitational pull on the sea, drawing water toward them. As they melt, sea levels in their vicinity will fall as the water gets redistributed to distant areas.
How the rising ocean affects particular parts of the world will therefore depend on which ice sheet melts fastest, how winds and currents shift, and other related factors. On top of all that, some coastal areas are sinking as the sea rises, so they get a double whammy.
16. What are ‘carbon emissions?’

Here’s a quick explainer.

The greenhouse gases being released by human activity are often called “carbon emissions,” just for shorthand. That is because the two most important of the gases, carbon dioxide and methane, contain carbon. Many other gases also trap heat near the Earth’s surface, and many human activities cause the release of such gases to the atmosphere. Not all of these actually contain carbon, but they have all come to be referred to by the same shorthand.
By far the biggest factor causing global warming is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity and transportation. That process takes carbon that has been underground for millions of years and moves it into the atmosphere, as carbon dioxide, where it will influence the climate for many centuries into the future. Methane is even more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, but it breaks down more quickly in the air. Methane comes from swamps, from the decay of food in landfills, from cattle and dairy farming, and from leaks in natural gas wells and pipelines.
While fossil-fuel emissions are the major issue, another major creator of emissions is the destruction of forests, particularly in the tropics. Billions of tons of carbon are stored in trees, and when forests are cleared, much of the vegetation is burned, sending that carbon into the air as carbon dioxide.
When you hear about carbon taxes, carbon trading and so on, these are just shorthand descriptions of methods designed to limit greenhouse emissions or to make them more expensive so that people will be encouraged to conserve fuel.

Press link for more: NY Times

Coral Turfed Out #StopAdani 

Coral Turfed Out
Turf algae may come to dominate reefs if climate trends continue

Jun 30, 2017
Turf algae coats the surface of a coral reef section near Moorea, French Polynesia. Photo: Maggie D. Johnson

Turf algae coats the surface of a coral reef section near Moorea, French Polynesia in what could be a common look by century’s end. 

Marine ecologist Maggie Johnson, a recent PhD graduate from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and colleagues describe what happened when they grew turf algae from the South Pacific Ocean island under ocean conditions predicted for the year 2100 in a new study published in the journal Coral Reefs.

The team monitored how increasing temperature and decreasing ocean pH influence the rates of growth and photosynthesis of turf algae, which are key biological processes for sustaining coral reef ecosystem function. 

It found that turf algae responded positively to increasing temperatures, and to decreasing pH associated with higher CO2 concentrations, but that these effects weren’t independent: the impact of the increased CO2 concentrations on increased photosynthesis was higher at warmer temperatures.
“We are finding that higher levels of CO2 can have negative effects on some sensitive marine organisms, like corals, but have positive effects on others, like seaweeds and turfs, that can take advantage of the extra CO2 for photosynthesis,” Johnson said. 

“The different magnitude of response by these key competing groups on coral reefs may mean that coral reefs of the near future will look and function very differently from thriving and healthy coral-dominated reefs.”


These findings have important implications for the future of coral reefs, and indicate that some species, including turf algae can respond positively to warming temperatures and decreasing pH—but that this will come at the expense of other key reef-building species.
Scripps marine ecologist Jennifer Smith was a co-author of this study. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Scripps Family Foundation and the Bohn Family.

Press link for more: Scripps.ucsd.edu
 

No more business as usual. #StopAdani #auspol 

No more business as usual: the corporates stepping up to save the planet
Companies are increasingly coming to understand the impact of climate change on their businesses – and stepping up to make changes. 

When the US president, Donald Trump, announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, one might have anticipated a hearty cheer from industry around the world relieved that business as usual could continue.


Instead the opposite has happened. 

Across the United States, the business community is taking it upon itself to implement the measures needed to address climate change. 

And in Australia an increasing number of major companies are publicly stating their commitment to addressing climate change, even as the federal government drags its heels on implementing policies to address the crisis. 

Companies around the world – from small family-run enterprises to Fortune 500 firms – are not only calling for action on climate change but also putting their money where their mouth is.

Lou Leonard, the senior vice president of climate change and energy at WWF, says companies are coming to understand the impact of climate change on their businesses.
“If you’re a company that either grows food in the heartland of the United States or ships it down the Mississippi and out to other countries, or you’re a company that builds the components of wind turbines and solar panels, or you’re a company that has a big retail footprint all over the world, climate change has come to you already,” he says. “I think that the understanding of those impacts has led those companies to again take action to begin to green their own footprint, and their supply chains.”
This understanding has also led to initiatives such as We Are Still In , an open declaration of continued support of climate action to meet the Paris agreement. 

The letter has now been signed by 1,565 companies and investors, including giants such as Apple, Walmart, Microsoft, Adidas, Facebook and Google, as well as leaders from 208 cities and counties, nine US states and 309 colleges and universities.
Another initiative called Unreasonable Goals, led by the Unreasonable Group, is partnering the private and public sectors – including entities such as the US State Department – to help meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set at the United Nations in 2015.

Daniel Epstein, founder and chief executive of the Unreasonable Group, says he believes business can save the world.
“I’m optimistic because I know that the entrepreneurs we align with at Unreasonable Group are the future titans of industry and because some of the world’s largest companies are now pivoting their entire business models and supply chains to focus on sustainability,” Epstein says.
One of those entrepreneurs is Australian renewable energy company Carnegie Clean Energy, which recently announced it has been selected as the industry partner to lead action on the seventh SDG: affordable and clean energy.
The Carnegie Clean Energy chief executive, Michael Ottaviano, says the aim of the project is not to solve the world’s clean energy problems in one hit, but rather focus on a particular region and provide the benchmark to upscale.
“I think we’re at a point now – and maybe this point has only been reached in the last 12-18 months – where it is now just so apparent that renewable energy is the pathway forward,” 

Ottaviano says. “It’s no longer just an environmental reason, which is a very good reason, but it’s also an economic reason as well.”

Twenty-four of Apple’s global facilities are now 100% powered by renewable energy – which includes the US and China – and 96% of its global electricity budget comes from renewable sources. 

Retail giant Walmart is aiming to have 50% of its operations powered by renewable energy, and achieve zero waste to landfill in four of its larger markets, by 2050.
Closer to home, Australian travel company Intrepid Travel has announced it will double the carbon offset contribution it makes for all its United States tours, stating that it can “no longer wait for our government leaders to take action on climate change.”
Their commitment amounts to an additional 3000 tonnes of CO2 being offset this year, on top of Intrepid’s existing commitment to offset all of its trips.
“We feel it’s our responsibility to make sure that we are actually trying to contribute back to areas such as climate change; something that the tourism industry is both impacted by but also a contributor to,” says Intrepid’s Asia Pacific regional director Brett Mitchell.
Intrepid Travel has been carbon neutral since 2010. But these actions come at a cost; Intrepid has spent over $1.5m on renewable energy projects. but Mitchell says it’s definitely a worthwhile investment. “We believe very strongly in climate change; it is real, it does exist, and we need to do something about it.”
A decade ago, business might have been happy to sit back in the absence of political or regulation on climate change and save itself both trouble and cost, but Leonard says that’s no longer the case.
“We realise that our future is wrapped up in the success of this effort and therefore we certainly don’t want the United States to be pulling back, we certainly don’t want to risk trade tariffs on our goods, we don’t want to risk access to markets in other countries,” he says.
Does this mean business alone can deliver what politics cannot? Leonard argues that while companies can take the lead on climate change action in the short term, eventually politicians will need to and create the policy framework to drive rapid reduction in emissions.
In the meantime however, action by industry is filling the gap.
“We need the leadership of real action in the real economy in the United States that can create a bridge to the time when we have the politics that will allow us to get the policy that we need,” Leonard says. “We need that political normalisation that comes when actors like this step up and say this just makes sense.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

Wide spread coral decline. #StopAdani #ClimateChange

SECOND YEAR OF BLEACHING IMPACTS GREAT BARRIER REEF – GBRMPA UPDATE 29/5/17

Global coral bleaching over the last two years has led to widespread coral decline and habitat loss on the Great Barrier Reef.
Since December 2015, the Great Barrier Reef has been exposed to above average sea surface temperatures, due to the combined effects of climate change and a strong El Niño.

  
These conditions triggered mass coral bleaching in late summer 2016 and led to an estimated 29 per cent loss of shallow water coral Reef-wide, according to findings by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
Winter sea surface temperatures in 2016 remained above average and, by the beginning of the 2016-17 summer, the accumulated heat stress on the Reef resulted in a second wave of mass bleaching.
Staff from the Marine Park Authority took part in aerial surveys conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and the results confirmed the extent and severity of the 2017 bleaching event.

As seen last year, bleaching and mortality can be highly variable across the 344,400 square kilometre Marine Park — an area bigger than Italy. 

The Centre of Excellence’s maps below show the 2017 bleaching footprint differs from 2016 in that it extends further south in the Marine Park.

In-water surveys and other reports from the community and our science and tourism partners have also been used to determine the health of the Reef following these events.
In addition to severe bleaching affecting over half the Reef since 2016, large portions of the Reef have also been subjected to other simultaneous impacts during the 2016-17 summer.
Severe tropical cyclone Debbie crossed the coast at Airlie Beach on 28 March 2017.

  
It is estimated approximately 28 per cent of the total reef area in the Marine Park was within the ‘catastrophic damage zone’ of the cyclone’s path.


Surveys conducted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service have revealed that some sites have suffered significant damage (up to 97 percent coral loss) and are down to very low coral cover, while others received less damage and still have moderate coral cover.
Studies following previous extreme weather events revealed that even within severely damaged reefs, there were often areas that were relatively undamaged. 

These areas are critical for providing the next generation of corals and assisting with reef recovery.. 
On becoming an ex-tropical cyclone, the system brought torrential rain to parts of the central and southern Great Barrier Reef catchment, which caused flooding of the Burdekin and Fitzroy Rivers, and resultant flood plumes.
Outbreaks of coral disease and crown-of-thorns starfish have also been ongoing.
The cumulative impact of these disturbances are affecting most of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (see graphic), and it is likely the resilience of the majority of reefs north of Mackay has been severely diminished.
Press link for more: BarrierReef.org