Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Senate climate report is a warning for Australia’s military

Climate change warning for Australia’s military    Former defence chief Admiral Chris Barrie, who led Australian forces until 2002, says a new Senate committee report on the security risks of climate change must be taken seriously. SBS World News, By James Elton-Pym  , 18 May 18 

 

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May 18, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Climate change is a clear and present danger to Australia’s security – Senate report

Senate report: climate change is a clear and present danger to Australia’s security, The Conversation,  Matt McDonald, Associate Professor of International Relations, The University of Queensland, 

The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade yesterday presented its report on the national security implications of climate change.

The report makes several findings and recommendations, noting at the outset that climate change has a range of important security implications, both domestically and internationally.

Tellingly, none of the expert submissions questioned the rationale for this inquiry, nor the claim that climate change challenges Australian national security.

The report concludes that:

the consensus from the evidence (is) that climate change is exacerbating threats and risks to Australia’s national security.

Significantly, it also notes that climate change threatens both state and human security in the Australian context. Here are some of the key security implications.

Sea-level rises and natural disasters are key challenges

The report emphasises the risks posed by rising sea levels and an increase in the frequency and intensity of environmental stress (droughts and floods, for example) and natural disasters such as cyclones. In turn, it notes that these could trigger population movements, with people displaced by extreme weather events or rising seas.

This, the report argues, would have significant implications for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions involving the ADF have increased significantly in Australia and our region in recent years. The report predicts that the ADF will face even more pressure to carry out this type of mission in the future.

In its submission, the Department of Defence pointed out that the ADF was not established to provide these roles. The report recommends the creation of a senior leadership position within Defence to plan and manage disaster relief missions both here and abroad.

Australia, and its backyard, are particularly vulnerable

The report notes that Australia and its region are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Australia’s population is largely clustered in coastal areas, and this is also true of the Asian region generally and the Pacific specifically. Pacific island nations – as low-lying and with limited resources for implementing adaptive measures – are acutely vulnerable to sea-level rises. In the Asian region 40 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2010-11 alone.

The report argues that Australia’s obligation to its neighbours in the region, acknowledged in recent statements on the Pacific, will create significant pressure on Australia and its defence force to manage the implications of climate change. It recommends sending even more aid to the Pacific region to help build climate resilience.

Defence needs to plan ahead

While the report acknowledges Defence efforts, a key finding is the urgent need for Defence to plan for a climate-affected world………https://theconversation.com/senate-report-climate-change-is-a-clear-and-present-danger-to-australias-security-96797

 

May 18, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Book on the campaign against Adani coal megamine

Just four citizens’: the Australians who confronted Adani in India, and made a difference Guardian, Geoff Cousins, 12 May 2018

In this book extract, Geoff Cousins describes how the farmer, the activist, the tourism operator and ‘an old bald man with hope in his heart’ travelled to India to protest against Adani……..

The campaign against the Adani mine is unique in my experience of major environmental battles. Most are “place-based” campaigns in one way or another: “don’t dam this river”; “don’t pollute this groundwater reserve”; “build this gas hub somewhere other than in a wilderness area”. The Adani proposal is different and touches on all the major environmental issues of our time, from climate change to global warming, from shifting from fossil fuels to renewables to the direct and indirect impacts on the Barrier Reef.

It has become a symbol of what is wrong with so much of the government policy in this country and elsewhere and that is why the campaign has attracted such widespread and passionate support. The central question that has focused the minds of all involved has become: if we can’t stop this mine at a time in history when urgent action is needed on all these issues, what can ever be achieved by the environment movement?…….

In discussions with traditional owners in Australia, it has been powerful to be able to describe first-hand the mistreatment Adani has meted out to Indigenous groups in India. The same promises are being made here, of employment and funding, and Indigenous groups are increasingly disbelieving of them – even those who may have signed agreements with Adani before they knew the truth.

A farmer in a wide hat and a bright green shirt with a white map of Australia on the back; an experienced and brave Great Barrier Reef activist; a woman who left her tourism business to join us at the last minute; and an old bald man with hope in his heart and fear in his belly – this was the great Aussie delegation. The Indians loved us. “You’re just four citizens?” they asked. “You don’t represent any organisation or government?” “No, just four people,” we answered.

There are thousands now, all over our country. More than 130 Stop Adani groups and thousands more people join the cause every month, with only one aim: to protect the planet, our reef, our natural world and our way of life against the environmental rape and pillage being carried out by Gautam Adani and his band of brothers.

This is an edited extract from David Ritter’s The Coal Truth: The fight to stop Adani, defeat the big polluters and reclaim our democracy ($29.99, UWA publishing)   https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/12/just-four-citizens-the-australians-who-confronted-adani-in-india-and-made-a-difference

May 13, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Turnbull’s budget shows complete ignorance about climate change

Hours before the doors swung open on the budget lock-up, the bright sparks on Twitter had already started a new meme. #KeepMyTenDollars was a reminder that Australians would gladly forgo an extra few bucks a week for to see the governments prioritise spending on health, education and renewables, not corporate and high-end tax cuts. It was certainly funnier than Scott Morrison’s bizarre attempt at humour.

“What have you achieved?” would have been an odd opening line to the government’s pre-election budget speech, were it not coming from the mouth of the man who famously waved a lump of coal around in Parliament to declare his love for the toxic fuel. The joke was lost on the rest of us, but it was the punch line that betrayed the confusion of the government.

The world’s leading economists have been warning for decades that the damage caused to the climate by burning coal, oil and gas poses one of the most serious threats to the global economy. The cost of destruction in agriculture, tourism, finance, insurance, property, and even mining caused by sweeping floods, droughts and bushfire caused by distorting the world’s life support systems is nearly unimaginable.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a sector that will not be severely impacted by climate change. But collapsing costs in renewables and a rising global movement against pollution is changing the headwinds – not that our Government seems to have noticed.

You would think that a Government that waxes lyrical about intergenerational equity would have at least a primary school grasp on climate change. Yet the forbidden words were nowhere to be seen in the budget speech, save for a small reference to the Government’s plans to walk away from innovation in the renewables sector (whatever happened to that dogged commitment to ‘jobs and innovation’). The devil, as always, was in the detail of the budget papers.

Budgets are a statement of values that mark the principles of legislators. In this year’s budget, the Government’s values were laid bare, with climate spending slashed by almost half, falling further to $1.2 billion by 2022. Analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation found that the under-resourced Department of Environment and Energy will have an axe taken to its bottom line, with spending slated to plunge by 43 per cent on 2013 levels (when the Government took office) by 2022.

The Renewable Energy Target will be abolished by 2020. Taxpayer largesse will continue to flow to the Government’s friends in fossil fuel companies, with $30 billion in diesel tax subsidies pouring into private companies over the forecast period. No additional money for renewables or climate mitigation and adaptation will be forthcoming.

The opportunities that come from renewable energy, which are now cheaper as well as being cleaner and healthier, are being seized by the community of nations while Australia clings to a wheezing, out-dated economy.

On the same day the budget was delivered, the meter at Mauna Loa, Hawaii clocked 410 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – a level not seen in 800,000 years, well before humans developed agriculture, let alone donned suits and waved rocks around in Parliament.

The other critical budget, the carbon budget, is in obvious deficit.

The Government should keep my ten dollars, and use it to achieve real progress towards a coal-free, more liveable society. Most Australians would gladly chip in for wind and solar, and our vast weight of numbers will eventually prevail.

It’s clear after this budget that it will take concerted action from all Australians everywhere for the Government to regain its grip on reality.

May 12, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

The melting of Antarctic ice is coming from warm waters underneath

Global warming is melting Antarctic ice from below Warming oceans melting Antarctic ice shelves could accelerate sea level rise, Guardian,  John Abraham, 9 May 18,  “……With global warming, both of the poles are warming quite quickly, and this warming is causing ice to melt in both regions. When we think of ice melting, we may think of it melting from above, as the ice is heated from the air, from sunlight, or from infrared energy from the atmosphere. But in truth, a lot of the melting comes from below. For instance, in the Antarctic, the ice shelves extend from the land out over the water. The bottom of the ice shelf is exposed to the ocean. If the ocean warms up, it can melt the underside of the shelf and cause it to thin or break off into the ocean.

 A new study, recently published in Science Advances, looked at these issues. One of the goals of this study was to better understand whether and how the waters underneath the shelf are changing. They had to deal with the buoyancy of the waters. We know that the saltier and colder water is, the denser it is.

Around Antarctica, water at the ocean surface cools down and becomes saltier. These combined effects make the surface waters sink down to the sea floor. But as ice melt increases, fresh water flows into the ocean and interrupts this buoyancy effect. This “freshening” of the water can slow down or shut down the vertical mixing of the ocean. When this happens, the cold waters at the surface cannot sink. The deeper waters retain their heat and melt the ice from below.

The study incorporated measurements of both temperature and salinity (saltiness) at three locations near the Dalton Iceberg Tongue on the Sabrina Coast in East Antarctica. The measurements covered approximately an entire year and gave direct evidence of seasonal variations to the buoyancy of the waters. The researchers showed that a really important component to water-flow patterns were ‘polynyas.’ These are regions of open water that are surrounded by ice, typically by land ice on one side and sea ice on the other side.

When waters from the polynya are cold and salty, the waters sink downwards and form a cold curtain around the ice shelf. However, when the waters are not salty (because fresh water is flowing into the polynya), this protective curtain is disrupted and warm waters can intrude from outside, leading to more ice melt.
Based on this study, we may see increased ice loss in the future – sort of a feedback loop. That concerns us because it will mean more sea level rise (which is already accelerating), and more damage to coastal communities. I asked the lead author, Alesandro Silvano about this work:

 Lead author Alesandro Silvano.

We found that freshwater from melting ice shelves is already enough to stop formation of cold and salty waters in some locations around Antarctica. This process causes warming and freshening of Antarctic waters. Ocean warming increases melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, causing sea level to rise. Freshening of Antarctic waters weakens the currents that trap heat and carbon dioxide in the ocean, affecting the global climate. In this way local changes in Antarctica can have global implications. Multiple sources of evidence exist now to show that these changes are happening. However, what will happen in Antarctica in the next decades and centuries remains unclear and needs to be understood.

This is just another reason to take scientists seriously and act to slow down climate change before it is too late.   https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/may/09/global-warming-is-melting-antarctic-ice-from-below

May 10, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Carmichael mine in Queensland no longer a viable proposition

Adani losses prompt mining company to shift away from imported coal, Guardian,  Ben Smee , 7 May 18,  Results show Carmichael mine in Queensland no longer a viable proposition, analysts say 

Adani’s coal-fired power business has reported more heavy losses, prompting the Indian conglomerate to announce it would shift away from using expensive imported coal.

Analysts say the fourth-quarter financial results for Adani Power, a subsidiary of the Adani group, showed the proposed Carmichael mega-mine in Queensland was no longer a viable proposition.

Remarkably in the context of the Carmichael project, the billionaire Adani Groupboss, Gautam Adani, acknowledged in a statement that the cost of importing coal to India had contributed to Adani Power’s struggles.

“We expect to receive [domestic coal] for the Tiroda and Kawai plants in the near future, which will help reduce fuel costs and improve profitability of these projects,” he said.

“Under-recovery of fuel costs for Mundra project have impacted its financial viability, and we are in dialogue with key stakeholders for an early solution.”

When the Carmichael coal project was first proposed, Adani was pushing a “pit to plug” operational model under which it would mine coal to use at its own generators, making profits through efficiencies and cutting out middlemen.

The Mundra power plant, which operates on imported coal, was the planned destination for the spoils from the Carmichael project. After Mundra fell into financial trouble, Adani attempted unsuccessfully to sell the plant. It has not operated since February.

The Indian financial services company Edelweiss said Adani Power was “on thin ice” and doubted whether Mundra would reopen………https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/07/adani-coal-losses-prompt-mining-company-to-shift-from-imported-coal

May 9, 2018 Posted by | business, climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

American climate denialist Scott Pruitt’s would have been c o-hosted by the climate denying IPA

Climate sceptic group IPA suggested as co-host of Australian visit by Trump’s environment chief, Scott Pruitt’s cancelled trip would have promoted ‘innovation deregulation’, emails released under FoI show  Guardian,  Adam Morton.4 May 18The climate sceptic thinktank the Institute of Public Affairs was mooted as a co-host of an Australian visit by Donald Trump’s beleaguered Environment Protection Agency head, Scott Pruitt, which may have included discussion with local officials on whether environmental deals should be changed or cancelled.

Emails released to the US environment group the Sierra Club under freedom of information laws show that Matthew Freedman, a Washington consultant who describes himself as “a close personal friend” of the Australian environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, played a central role in organising Pruitt’s proposed August trip before it was cancelled when Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas gulf coast.

In the US, the emails are of interest as evidence that Pruitt relied on business figures and lobbyists to plan and justify his overseas travel. They were first published by the New York Times.

From an Australian perspective, they give insight into Pruitt’s proposed agenda and schedule. They discuss focusing on promoting “innovation deregulation”, federal-state relations and how to counter potential disagreements with Australian officials about climate change. The EPA administrator rejects mainstream climate science and worked closely with fossil fuel companies to reduce environmental regulation when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.

Freedman suggested that Pruitt meet several members of the Australian government including the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull (listed as “Malcomb”), the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, the trade minister, Steve Ciobo, and the then resources minister, Matt Canavan, along with Frydenberg …..

Roskam also recommended Pruitt meet Maurice Newman, a former chair of Tony Abbott’s business advisory council who has described global warming as “a delusion”, the former Productivity Commission head Gary Banks and the economist Henry Ergas …..

Roskam said Freedman, the US embassy in Canberra and the US consulate in Melbourne had approached the IPA about Pruitt’s potential visit. He said the organisation had welcomed the chance to “work closely with the world’s leading advocate for cutting environmental red tape” …….

Pruitt faces 11 federal investigations in the US, including into his spending on travel and his business relationships with lobbyists. Freedman worked on national security-related issues for Trump’s transition team but was removed after using a personal email address to conduct government business. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/04/climate-sceptic-group-ipa-suggested-as-co-host-of-australian-visit-by-trumps-environment-chief

May 5, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | 1 Comment

The North Shore Environmental Stewards – Liberals aim to unseat Tony Abbott, over his climate denialism

Liberal activists target Tony Abbott’s seat over climate change policy
Sydneysiders urged to join party in former PM’s seat to ‘shift the politics’ and speak up for the environment,Guardian,  Anne Davies, 3 May 18, 

Tony Abbott’s political future could be under threat from a group of activists who have been organising environmentally conscious voters to join Liberal partybranches on Sydney’s north shore – a move that could unseat the former prime minister.

Billing themselves as “the counterweight” to the pro-coal power Monash Forum, the North Shore Environmental Stewards have held at least two recruitment functions at which attendees were urged to tap into their networks of environmentally conscious people to join the Liberal party branches in Abbott’s seat of Warringah and on the lower north shore.

The NSES has a Facebook page that says the group “supports clean energy and a healthy environment, and believes in traditional Liberal party values of environmental stewardship”………https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/may/03/environmentally-conscious-liberals-urged

 

May 4, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Doctors for the Environment Australia speak out on Australia’s disgraceful response to climate change

Climate change: Australia’s position is unconscionable for a wealthy country http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-29/climate-change-health-impacts-who-adani-nt-fracking-australia/9702386   By David Shearman  

April 29, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | 1 Comment

South Australia Health now dealing with infectious disease threats increased due to climate change

Disease threat forces SA Health to prioritise adapting to climate change

HEALTH threats from extreme weather events and diseases spread by mosquitoes have prompted SA Health to prioritise adapting to climate change in a new blueprint. http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/disease-threat-forces-sa-health-to-prioritise-adapting-to-climate-change/news-story/fc734296a4580dda2c60320f8e8ac463#.ajdi8  Matt Smith

Chief medical officer Paddy Phillips has told The Advertiser the frequency and severity of heatwaves and bushfires, and the increased risk of the spread of disease by insects and bugs, meant climate change threatened the wellbeing of South Australians.

His warning comes as SA Health released its draft State Public Health Plan for the period from 2019-2024. Professor Phillips said multiple government agencies needed to consider the impact of climate change when developing policies and strategies to manage and prevent public health risks.It should also be front of mind when agencies assessed the suitability of health infrastructure and assets.

“Variations in our climate have increased the frequency and severity of weather events such as floods, droughts, bushfires, storms (and) periods of extreme heat, as well as the spread of vector-borne diseases,” Prof Phillips said.

“These events threaten the wellbeing of our communities, especially in vulnerable populations.”

Increases in diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, sandflies, triatomine bugs, blackflies, ticks, tsetse flies, mites, snails and lice have in recent years been linked to climate change on Australia’s east coast.

The draft report, that has been published for public consultation, lists four priorities:

CREATE healthier neighbourhoods and communities.

PROTECT against public and environmental health risks and adapt to climate change.

PREVENT chronic disease, communicable disease and injury.

FURTHER develop and maintain the statewide public health system.

Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said he would review the plan, which was drawn up on the watch of the former Labor state government, to determine if any additional issues needed to be addressed. Mr Wade welcomed the inclusion of climate change as a priority. “It is prudent for public health plans to consider the impact of climate change,” he said.

SA Greens leader Mark Parnell said a suite of measures, including better town planning and the design of individual homes to be more resilient to changing climatic conditions, was needed.

That would help South Australia adapt to the challenge of climate change.

“We know that with a hotter climate comes more health problems including increased hospitalisations and premature deaths from increasing heatwaves,” he said.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | climate change - global warming, health, South Australia | Leave a comment

New South Wales firefighter warns on the importance of climate change bringing extreme weather

Menai bushfire reveals problem we must confront https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/climate-change/menai-bushfire-reveals-problem-we-must-confront-20180418-p4zabg.html –By Jim Casey, 

I’m a professional firefighter employed by Fire Rescue NSW and working out of Balmain fire station.

When I arrived at work on Sunday, the crew who were just finishing their shift looked dead on their feet. There was a pile of dirty hose in the backyard, and the fire engine stank of smoke.

April 20, 2018 Posted by | climate change - global warming, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Multi-Faith Open Letter: 50+ Religious Leaders Call on Adani to invest in Solar, not Coal

For our common home

Dear Mr Adani,

‘We are leaders from many faith traditions and communities across Australia.
We are writing to you to ask you to abandon your proposed mine and
instead use the same money to invest in solar energy in North Queensland.

‘Our common home, the Earth, is now in great danger
due to the effects of our actions as human beings on the climate.
On this point the scientific community is united.
Today, we too are united as people of faith.

‘Let us be clear.
We are not merely opposed to this one mine.
We are opposed to all new coal development in the Galilee Basin.
We are at a crossroads.
One way lies destruction; the other way, sanity.
We need to turn immediately in the direction of a stable and
compassionate future based on ambitious investment in renewable energy. … ‘

Keep reading the Open Letter, including the names of the authors of the letter here:
www.arrcc.org.au/multi_faith_open_letter_to_mr_gautam_adani

April 20, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Climate change – unseasonably hot weather made bushfires near Lucas Heights nuclear reactor become “apocalyptic” blazes

Apocalyptic blaze surrounding nuclear reactor sets off emergency

AUSTRALIA is struggling to contain a growing bushfire that is racing towards a nuclear reactor, amid fears that the blaze could expand beyond their control. By OLI SMITH Apr 16, 2018 

More than 500 Australia firefighters are struggling to tackle a massive bushfire, with several residents urged to seek shelters as evacuation is now “too late”.

Scenes of the blaze, which started yesterday, have been described as “apocalyptic” after the fire ripped through nearly 2,500 hectares of land close to the suburbs of Sydney.

Firefighters failed to stop the out-of-control blaze from burning through a major military base – and a nuclear reactor is the next at-risk location.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) said it was concerned that flying embers could spark even more blazes……

The unseasonably hot Autumn in south-eastern Australia has been blamed for worsening the bushfire after record temperatures for April.

Shane Fitzsimmons, of the RFS, warned that strong 60km per hour winds are expected to push towards residential homes.

He said that the country’s largest army barracks at Holsworthy, where stockpiles of fuel, ammunition and explosive materials are kept, had been hit by the fire.

April 18, 2018 Posted by | climate change - global warming, New South Wales, safety | Leave a comment

Australia to join global health and climate change initiative

 https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/uos-atj041218.php   UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY

The Lancet Countdown report on health and climate change was published in October 2017 by The Lancet and will be updated annually through to 2030.

It tracks progress on health and climate change across 40 indicators divided into five categories: climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability; adaptation planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement.

Dr Ying Zhang, a senior lecturer in the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, and Associate Professor Paul Beggs, from Macquarie University, wrote in the MJA that, from an Australian perspective, “with our high level of carbon emissions per capita, it will be important to reflect on our progress and how it compares with that of other countries, especially high-income countries”.

“A group of Australian experts from multiple disciplines is commencing work on our first national countdown report,” Zhang and Beggs wrote.

“The project recognises the importance of the climate change challenge in Australia, including its relevance to human health, and also the unique breadth and depth of the Australian expertise in climate change and human health.

“The Australian countdown will mirror the five domain sections of the Lancet Countdown, adopt the indicators used–where feasible and relevant to Australia–and include any useful additional indicators.

“The inaugural Australian report is planned for release in late 2018 and is expected to be updated annually. We hope to raise awareness of health issues related to climate change among Australian medical professionals, who play a key role in reducing their risks,” the authors concluded.

“The Australian countdown is also envisioned as a timely endeavour that will accelerate the Australian government response to climate change and its recognition of the health benefits of urgent climate action.”

The University of Sydney appointed Dr Tony Capon as the world’s first professor of planetary health in 2016. Learn more about the mission and activities of the University of Sydney’s Planetary Health Platform.

April 18, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Accelerating rate of heat increasing in oceans, especially around Australia

‘Concerning’: Marine heatwaves increasing, especially near Australia, https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/marine-heatwaves-australia-tasman-sea-climate-20180410-p4z8qq.html, By Peter Hannam, 

Marine heatwaves are increasing in their frequency and duration at an accelerating rate in many parts of the world, especially around Australia, a team of international scientists has found.

The number of oceanic heatwave days a year has increased by 54 per cent in the past century globally, the researchers determined, using data of sea-surface temperatures from long-established sites and satellites.

“We have seen an increasing trend in the frequency and duration [of marine heatwaves], and that trend has accelerated in the past 30 years or so,” said Lisa Alexander, associate professor at University of NSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, and an author of the paper published in Nature Communications on Wednesday.

Rather than a precursor, the number of heatwave days may even be an underestimate of what is to come as the planet warms, Professor Alexander said. “We could see it accelerated even more, given what we’ve seen recently,” she said.

Episodes of extreme heat over land have been studied more closely than those beneath the waves. Oceans, though, not only absorb about 93 per cent of the additional heat being trapped by rising greenhouse gas levels, they are also the main driver of the Earth’s climate.

Thank goodness we have the oceans as this massive sink [for both heat and carbon dioxide] but they are also changing too, and we tend to forget that,” said Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, an author of the paper and also a researcher at the UNSW CCRC.

Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick likened the oceans to the tropics, where temperatures typically move within a narrow band. Even moderate increases can have big impacts on humans and ecosystems alike.

The paper, which defined heatwaves as at least five consecutive days with sea-surface temperatures in the top 10 per cent of warmth over a 30-year period, found such events were on the increase in most parts of the world.

Global hot spots

Australia was home, along with the north Pacific and north Atlantic, of some of the global ocean hot spots.

While coral bleaching from extended heat over the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere in recent years had drawn international attention, many other regions had seen “substantial ecological and economic impacts”, as fishing and tourism industries they support were hit, the paper said.

For instance, an extreme event off the Western Australia coast in 2011 led to large-scale effects in the Ningaloo region. Kelp forests south of Ningaloo were hammered and are yet to recover.

“You only need to have that one event to have this complete shift in the ecological environments,” Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick said, noting such changes have tended to be less dramatic on land.

“Will it ever change back? Have we reached the point of no return for certain marine environments?” she said. “There are a lot of unknowns there, but it’s quite concerning.”

Coral bleaching events have garnered much of the attention but many other marine species, including kelp forests off Tasmania, can be vulnerable to changing conditions.

“[Corals] are the sort of poster child for ecological change, and other systems aren’t maybe as pretty to look at,” Professor Alexander said. “But [others] are equally as important in the ecosystems and food chains”.

Tasman Sea heat

The westward boundaries of the continents tend to be where oceans are warming fastest, including off the east Australian coast.

The Tasman Sea had experienced an increase in heatwave events even before this past summer’s record burst, that fell outside the researchers’ period of study.

In a special climate statement released last month by the Bureau of Meteorology and New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, the agencies found the south Tasman Sea recorded sea-surface anomalies of as much as 2.12 degrees last December and 1.96 degrees in January.

Those readings were compared with a 1981-2010 baseline – and broke the record for those months by about a degree – an unusual departure from the norm for ocean readings.

April 13, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment