Effects of climate change on biodiversity
The images of the devastating floods in Queensland and other areas of Queensland and Australia have shocked the world. Three quarters of the state of Queensland, an area the size of France and Germany, is under water and some 31 towns including our capital city Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Dalby and others in South East Queensland have been inundated.
Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes, their businesses and lives have been lost. Surviving victims have described the floods at Toowoomba as "an inland Tsunami", "a devastating wall of water" and "an angry force of nature".
Donations are being accepted to help the many human victims through the Queensland Premier's Department. Go to: http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html for more information.
Damages from the floods are impacting every aspect of life in the area including access to clean water and food and shelter, food production and, ironically, coal mining – Queensland's largest primary industry.
Senator Christine Milne, Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, immediate past Vice-President of the IUCN and a UNEP Global 500 Laureate writes in the CLIMATE THINKERS BLOG. What a contrast with the global financial crisis where the crisis rhetoric from world leaders was matched by effective, immediate and cooperative crisis action.
Unless and until the crisis rhetoric of climate change is matched with crisis action, it is doubtful that a meaningful agreement can be reached at next month's conference.
Around the world, governments are explicitly linking the extreme weather events we've seen - heat waves, bushfires, drought and floods - to climate change and using that link to push for the limited action they are willing to take. Attacking climate sceptics for holding back action has also become a favoured mechanism for claiming the moral high ground in the climate debate. This claim to be guided by the science while espousing weak and scientifically unsupportable targets, this climate hypocrisy, is more dangerous than true climate scepticism because it is more insidious.
On the 6th July, 2009, the Royal Society, the Zoological Society of London and the International Programme on the State of the Ocean facilitated a Coral Reef Crisis meeting to identify key thresholds of atmospheric carbon dioxide needed for coral reefs to remain viable.
The meeting consisted of a workshop and a presentation by Dr John "Charlie" Veron, introduced by Sir David Attenborough. There is a powerpoint presentation available for download from and you can view the 61 minute presentation from here.
Charlie Veron is best known as the author of the three volume Corals of the World. He is also the senior author of the major electronic products Coral ID and Coral Geographic. Veron is the author of 100 scientific articles, including 14 books and monographs, on subjects ranging from climate change, molecular biology, palaeontology, coral identification, biogeography, coral reefs, conservation, marine science policy, marine science history, cell biology, reptilian physiology and biography. He is former Chief Scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. He has discovered and described 20% of all coral species of the world. He has worked in all the major coral reef regions of the world, participating in 66 expeditions and spending 7,000 hours scuba diving.
He continues to work in many different fields although he now concentrates on conservation and the effects of climate change on coral reefs.
Download or access the presentation from this link. http://www.coralreefresearch.org/html/crr_rs.htm
Charlie Veron is also a contributor on this CLIMATE CHANGE PORTAL. See his reef coments here. http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=151
Oxfam Australia requests support for Sisters on the Planet in their efforts to tackle climate change
Host your own DVD screening to raise awareness of the human impacts of climate change
Register before 15 September to receive the SOTP events pack. If you've ever asked yourself "What can I do to prevent dangerous climate change?", this is your answer.
Register here and also check out some great resources and films.
We're all feeling the effects of climate change. But women in developing countries feel the impacts the most.
ROLE OF FORESTS This short animated film highlights the role forests can play in national development, a green economy and climate change. The film also reviews the impact of forests on business as usual and on transformative solutions.
AYCC Australian Youth Climate Coalition have emailed the video linked here from youtube to every federal politician's office to remind them that a youth climate movement is building. One minute and forty seconds of pure awesome-ness. Check it out below. Help make this video for AYCC and Power Shift a hit.
The AYCC is a growing coalition of 27 member and partner youth organisations from across Australia whose mission is to build a generation-wide movement to solve climate change, through uniting diverse youth organisations around this common challenge.
Through member groups, they aim to inspire, educate, empower and mobilise young Australians to take action on climate change - coordinating, communicating and networking with each other, and running shared projects and campaigns. Website:http://www.aycc.org.au . A list of member groups and partners is available here. School groups can also become members, please contact Ben at ben.margetts [a] youthclimatecoalition.org
How are we and the wildlife to adapt to the impacts of climate change and global warming.?
The following news story which was published in a recent Indonesian paper as Plagued Southern Land and also the Los Angeles Times paints a challenging scenario. Many have lost their lives.
Frank Eddy, his hands as dry and cracked as the orchards he tends, explained what damage a decade of drought has done.
"Suicide is high. Depression is huge. Families are breaking up. It's devastation," he said. "I've got a neighbor in terrible trouble. Found him in the paddock, sitting in his [truck], crying his eyes out. Grown men - big, strong grown men. We're holding on by the skin of our teeth. It's desperate times."
They call Australia the "Lucky Country" with good reason. Generations of hardy castoffs tamed the world's driest inhabited continent, created a robust economy and cultivated an image of resilient people who can't be held down.
Australia exports itself as a place of captivating landscapes, brilliant sunshine, glittering beaches and an enviable lifestyle.
Look again. Climate scientists say Australia - beset by prolonged drought and deadly bush fires in the south, monsoon flooding and mosquito-borne fevers in the north, widespread wildlife decline, economic collapse in agriculture and killer heat waves - epitomizes the "accelerated climate crisis" that global warming models have forecast.
With few skeptics among them, Australians appear to be awakening: Adapt to a rapidly shifting climate and soon.
Australian scientists warn that the experience of the island continent is an early cautionary tale for the rest of the world.
"Australia is the harbinger of change," said paleontologist Tim Flannery, Australia's most vocal climate-change prophet. "The problems for us are going to be greater. The cost to Australia from climate change is going to be greater than for any developed country. We are already starting to see it."
Many believe Australia has a death toll connected to climate change: the 173 people who died in February 2009 during the nation's worst-ever wildfires and the 200 who died from heat the week before.
A three-person royal commission has convened to decide, among other things, whether global warming contributed to massive bush fires that destroyed entire towns and killed a quarter of Victoria state's koalas, kangaroos, birds and other wildlife. The commission's proceedings mark the first time anywhere that climate change could be put on trial. And it will take place in a nation that still gets 80 percent of its energy from burning coal, the globe's largest single source of greenhouse gases. The commission's findings aren't due until August, but veteran firefighters, scientists and residents believe the case has already been made.
Even before the flames, 200 Melbourne residents died in a heat wave that buckled the steel skeleton of a new 120-meter Ferris wheel and warped train tracks like spaghetti. Cities experienced four days of temperatures at 40 degrees Celsius or higher with little humidity and 16-kph winds. In areas where fires hit, temperatures reached almost 50 degrees. On the hottest day, more than 4,000 gray-headed flying foxes dropped dead out of trees in one Melbourne park.
"Something is happening in Australia," Dan Condon, a firefighter of the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade, wrote in an open letter. "Global warming is no longer some future event that we don't have to worry about for decades. What we have seen in the past two weeks moves Australia's exposure to global warming to emergency status."
The possibility that a high-profile royal commission may find a nexus between climate change and the loss of human life is significant for many scientists in Australia.
"That will be an important moment in its own right," said Chris Cocklin, a climate change researcher at James Cook University in Townsville, in Queensland state, and lead author on the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "It may mean that climate change will be brought to the fore in a way that has never happened."
Australia's climate-change predicament is on depressing display in the Murray-Darling Basin, where the country's three largest rivers converge. The Murray, Darling and Murrumbidgee rivers flow from the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range and nourish the valleys of Australia's fruit and grain basket, as well as a diverse system of wetlands, grasslands and eucalyptus forests.
Farmers who once grew 60 percent of the nation's produce are walking off their land or selling their water rights to the state and federal government. With rainfall in the region at lower than 50 percent the average for more than a decade, Australia is witnessing the collapse of its agricultural sector and the nation's ability to feed itself.
In rural Victoria, one rancher or farmer a week takes his own life. Public health officials say hanging is the preferred method.
"Fourteen dairy farmers in the valley have committed suicide in the last five years," Eddy said. "Hangings, they are common but they are not made public. It's really depressing, it's really tough going.
"Fruit growers are abandoning their orchards. It's their life's work, and it's gone to dust. They are at their wits' end. The small growers haven't got the money to replant, haven't got the time to wait five years for a return.
"The machinery they have is not saleable. They have thrown their arms up and walked away. They are broken people."
Santo Varapodio, 73, is the patriarch of a family that runs one of the largest fruit operations around the nearby agricultural center of Shepparton. The area's annual rainfall used to be 48 to 53 centimeters a year.
"Now we're lucky if we get [15 to 18 centimeters]," Varapodio said.
This summer's heat wave "cooked" his fruit. "When we bring the pears in, about 15 percent will have burn on them."
"The apples will have anything up to 50 percent sunburn on them," he said.
Rainfall patterns have been frustratingly uncooperative. Gentle winter showers that replenished groundwater have been replaced by torrential summer onslaughts that turn the fertile topsoil into a slough.
Much of the country is in the grip of the worst drought in more than a century. Every capital in Australia's eight states and territories is operating under considerable water restrictions. In urban areas, "bucketing" has become a common practice - placing pails in showers and using the "gray water" on lawns or gardens. In some cities, such as Brisbane, residents drink recycled water, a process nicknamed "toilet to tap." In rural areas, the lucky tap their own wells, if they still function. Others survive on rainwater or what they can scrounge or buy.
Meanwhile, the tropical north's rainy season, known as the Big Wet, is longer and wetter than ever. Warming tropical waters in the Coral Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria spawn increasingly powerful cyclones, while rainfall and heat records are broken every year.
The coastal city of Darwin, in the Northern Territory, swelters through 20 to 30 days of temperatures above 35 degrees, with high tropical humidity. Government scientists project that by 2070, Darwin will experience such conditions as many as 300 days a year. Communities on the Cape York Peninsula accustomed to being flooded for days are now cut off for weeks.
Throughout February, the Queensland government air-dropped supplies to citizens, who had to wait to re-emerge when the water receded in the Southern Hemisphere's autumn, in late March or early April. In the meantime, in-ground burials are on hold.
The region is beset with twin epidemics of malaria and a dangerous form of hemorrhagic dengue fever from mosquitoes that breed in standing water. Such diseases are expected to become more common in the tropics as the climate changes.
The north's two largest tourism draws, the Great Barrier Reef and the Tropical Rainforest Reserve, are withering under climate extremes. Higher ocean temperatures are bleaching coral and affecting fish and plant species.
A 2008 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that the Great Barrier Reef would be "functionally extinct" by 2050.
Inland, tropical forests are retreating up mountainsides as species of towering trees die off at lower altitudes and re-establish themselves in cooler climes. Rare and unique animals are on the move, competing for scant space atop Australia's modest topography. In many areas, the vertical distance from the tree line to a mountain's peak is less than 400 meters.
"If you are at the top of the mountain, it will only take a couple of degrees to push you off the top," said Stephen Williams, director of the Center for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change in Townsville.
Scientists paint a bleak picture of wildlife competing for space on peaks in the country's alpine region. Williams and other biologists predict as much as 50 percent animal extinction in the region by the end of the century.
Chief among the candidates for extinction is the rare white lemuroid ringtail possum, a singular species that Flannery describes as "our panda." The pale creatures live high in trees in the 10,400 square kilometers of moist forest in northeast Queensland. They can't tolerate, even for hours, temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. Williams' research found that the possum was gone from one of the animal's two historical ranges, and in the other it "has declined dramatically, to the point where you can barely detect it." Scientists are frustrated that such dramatic evidence hasn't sparked action from Australia's government.
They suspect the inaction can be partly explained by examining the nation's relationship with coal. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and relies on it for 80 percent of its electricity. That helps make Australia and its 21 million people the world's highest per-capita producers of greenhouse gases in the industrialized world. Cocklin said the massive receipts coal companies bring in render the industry politically untouchable.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says climate change is high on his agenda, but many people are disappointed by his pledge to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by only 5 percent by 2020.
Scientists and policy makers now agree that even drastic cuts won't halt climate changes already under way. In response, some Australians are considering whether outback settlements should be abandoned.
"We are already very flat and very dry as a continent," Flannery said. "There is just this little margin that is inhabitable. We don't have a lot of options."
Many Australians live on the coast, where they are vulnerable to flooding because of rising sea levels, projected to increase by almost 2 meters this century.
"Some places are pretty close to being bloody unlivable anymore," Cocklin said. "When you start talking about places where 45 degrees is commonplace, that raises the question ... ‘Can you really live in that?'"
Join the fight against climate change and convince the government to act, writes Simon Sheikh.
At other times in our history, youth have been the vanguards of movements that have changed the world. Climate change is quickly becoming the hottest issue for young people and youth are poised to lead the way once again.
Power Shift 2009 is Australia's first national youth climate summit. You can join Simon Sheikh at the event in Sydney this July. The music industry has joined his GetUp organisation in throwing their weight behind the event. So far bands like the Cat Empire, Regurgitator, Blue King Brown, Skipping Girl Vinegar, Mr Percival and many more have come on board to support the event. Check out powershift.org.au for all the details.
Right now youth have the moment to convince our politicians to aim higher. As they debate how much to reduce our nation's carbon emissions, how much to invest in renewable energies, like wind and solar, and how to help Australians with the transition to a new green economy. Youth are leading the call for strong solutions. Read Simon's article for Earth Hour here in the Sydney Morning Herald. EARTH HOUR 28 MARCH 2009 8.30-9.300 TONIGHT
The Great Artesian Basin has provided water for inland areas of Australia since 1878. Basin water is extracted through bores and is the only source of water for mining, tourism and grazing in the states of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia states, as well as the Northern Territory. The underground water returns $3.5 billion a year from farming, mining and tourism, says the Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee.
Recently the Australian Science Media Centre hosted a Background Briefing session which is available online. Web users can read and hear three experts discuss the issues. John Hillier's presentation is available here. There has been an enormous decrease in the pressure flow from 1800-2000 - without the addition of new needs for the planned coal extraction at Wandoan. The sleepy farming community is presently under the microscope for coal mining and a section of the Melbourne to Darwin inland rail. Planning is underway to construct the rail line from Wandoan to the port at Gladstone.
Lynn Brake's presentation is available here and shows us that the water is 2 million years old.
A 15-year Great Artesian Basin Sustainability project started in 1990 aims to protect the water supply and the hydraulic pressure necessary to access it. Today, there are still some 3,000 bores which pour water into 21,130 miles of open bore drains, with 90 per cent of the water evaporating in the outback heat. But more than 1,052 bores have now been controlled and tens of thousands of miles of open drains removed and pipelines laid, saving 272 gigalitres of water a year. Andy Love, from Flinders University in Adelaide said that an expansion in exploration and mining activities in the area will place increased demands on securing groundwater allocations for economic development. Clearly a balance between development and environmental protection needs to be achieved.
However, this is not possible without increased knowledge about the amount of groundwater that can be safely extracted.
Some of these online polls are still accepting votes.
The Australian Online Poll on the target at - http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22073824-5013404,00.html
The Age Online Poll on the Target at - http://www.theage.com.au/polls/form.html
The Canberra Times Online Poll on the target -- http://www.canberratimes.com.au/polls/
The Western Austarlian - Do the Carbon Cuts go far enough Poll? at. http://www.thewest.com.au/ (Scroll half way down the cover page)
There may be new polls you'd like to follow eg The Australian's poll, at time of editing concerns, the Christmas shopping dollar.
This article Australia's climate change plan needed to aim higher was written byDr Barrie Pittock, PSM is the former leader of the CSIRO Climate Impacts Group, and lead author of the IPCC, and author of Climate Change: the Science, Impacts and Solutions (CSIRO Publishing, 2009).
The Logan and Albert Conservation Association is very disappointed with the Rudd government's current position. As an individual we can each exercise our power by joining a local action group whose collective power and pupose is to bring about national reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The Australian Conservation Foundation ACF has extensive coverage of Climate Change issues, feature articles and reports which can be accessed from this page. The media release Households to foot the big polluters' carbon bill is a difficult pill to swallow. The analysis by Innovest Strategic Value Advisors reveals that "The corporate compensation expected to go to just one company, Rio Tinto, over two years is more than the Federal Government's entire renewable energy fund."
This is not aceptable for me. Is it acceptable for you? GetUp's Spot the difference! campaign is available here if you'd like to participate.
Healthy wetlands have many values for people and other species. However one littlle mentioned value which WetlandCare Australia remind us is their value as a storage or sink for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
The world is putting too much emphasis on planting trees to reduce the effects of climate change, according to WetlandCare Australia. A report in New Scientist magazine on 3 May 2008 has identified that restoring drained peat wetlands is better at removing carbon dioxide from the air than planting trees.
World Environment Day on 5 June 2008 has the theme of kicking the CO2 habit for a low carbon economy.
"Reducing our use of coal and petroleum is the most important thing we can do, but its worth remembering that many wetlands are effective carbon sinks," said Alan Cibilic of WetlandCare Australia. "After all, most oil reserves came from coastal waters and lakes in the first place. Wetlands are amongst the most productive ecosystems on earth, and the story gets better. When wetland plants die they sink below the water table where there's little oxygen, so they don't easily rot. These anaerobic conditions are ideal for long term carbon sequestration."
The New Scientist report identifies that carbon does leak back into the atmosphere from wetlands, mainly as methane, which is around 25 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Mr Cibilic points out that even if that is significant, peat restoration is still likely to be more effective than tree planting.
Mr Cibilic said that one of the main benefits of restoring wetlands comes from reversing the effects of drainage - in drained wetlands the organic matter oxidises, or rots, as air gets into it, and this releases carbon dioxide.
WetlandCare Australia has highlighted the need for more funding to research carbon sequestration in wetlands, and is urging the inclusion of wetland sequestration in any future scheme to accredit the sequestration of carbon in soil.
"This would have the added benefit of giving wetland owners an alternative income stream. That way farmers could reduce grazing pressure on wetlands at the same time as they reverse drainage, further improving the productivity and habitat value of wetlands," said Mr Cibilic.
"Planting trees will help remove carbon dioxide, which is great, especially if you're also reinstating native ecosystems. But plantations on drained wetlands are definitely to be avoided. Restoring such wetlands will provide more long term benefits for the planet."
Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, yet their extent and health continues to diminish. Many wetlands have been degraded or destroyed completely in the past 200 years.
Wetlands are particularly vulnerable due to the pressures from unsustainable land use activities, and the increasing pressure of population and development along our waterways.
The benefits wetlands contribute to all of us are significant. In fact, the ecosystem services wetlands provide underpin much of our economic activity. The assumed to be "free" services provided by wetlands are taken for granted and include:
Flood detention basins which reduce the impacts of flooding
Fish nursery and habitat areas
Drought refuges for stock and wildlife
Nutrient capture and recycling
Filtering and capture of sediment
Significant habitat areas for wildlife - quality of life & ecotourism contribution
Great places to look at and visit - quality of life & ecotourism contribution
Waterway, riparian, and habitat connections between other natural areas - quality of life & ecotourism contribution
More imformation is available from the website http://www.wetlandcare.com.au
Brisbane Saturday 15 November 2008
12.30 - 4.00 pm Queens Park
Save our Reef, Save our Pacific Neighbours
State government was not present at the Brisbane community action event to hear and share citizens' concerns for the impacts of global warming.
Members of the Greens, Queensland Conservation Council and the World Wildlife Fund marched today with other residents from Brisbane and nearby areas in the Walk against Warming, in conjunction with walkers from every other Australian capital city. Walkers formed a large map of Queensland. See it here.
Queensland Conservation Council spokesman Toby Hutcheon said that a good outcome for us would be for the Rudd government to take a strong role in the lead-up to the UN climate negotiations in Poland.
Clean energy, strong climate targets, and a safe future. It was worth voting for, it's worth fighting for.
Logan and Albert Conservation supports this campaign
Climate change is one of the most significant global threats facing humanity and is of major public concern in Australia. Yet we find that substantive action on climate change within the state of Queensland is sadly lacking.
The Queensland election is a significant opportunity to commit to developing and implementing legislative action that will begin to reduce our state's inexcusably large greenhouse gas footprint, contribute to protecting our natural and productive areas of significance such as the Great Barrier Reef, and commit to prioritising the food and energy security of current and future generations of Queenslanders. Read the whole letter here.
Julia Whitty writes in the November / December 2008 issue of MotherJones: NEWS:
The secret to cutting carbon? A dieting support group.
While she marvels, as I do at the incredible migratory feat of the bar-tailed godwit which "manages its hectic calendar and limited resources with a lithe professionalism that enables it to do what no other animal on earth can do-that is, to leave Alaskan shores and strike out over open water to fly nonstop for eight days and 7,200 miles without feeding or drinking before touching down in another hemisphere (New Zealand) during a different season (spring)", the question is for us the human species - can we too be small of footprint, capable of the long haul?
Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, a documentary filmmaker, and the author, most recently, of The Fragile Edge, a book on coral reefs. Read this thought provoking article here.
Deacons a leading Australian law firm states it is a leader in helping organisations meet the challenges that climate change presents as the global environmental and economic challenge of the 21st Century They are work ing with clients to: develop low emissions infrastructure including buildings, transportation and stationary energy infrastructure projects; negotiate low emissions and green energy contracts; navigate the emerging carbon trading markets; and better understand the climate change issues arising in relation to development projects.
Just as importantly, the firm has led by example on environment issues, establishing its first internal ‘green teams' in 2003 and, more recently, a dedicated sustainability team charged with reducing the firm's greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 per cent by mid-2008
Their speaking engagements, updates,news views and opinions are available here.
The South Australian Supreme Court has ruled that predicted sea level rises are a valid reason to reject beachfront housing developments, in a portent of how climate change could transform town planning along the nation's coastlines. This was reported in The Australian recently. The rejection of a subdivision on Yorke Peninsula, west of Adelaide, is likely to be repeated across the country as councils progressively write climate change provisions into their planning regulations. The South Australian Supreme Court cited local sea level rises of 30cm over the next 50 years in ruling yesterday against Northcape Properties' plans for 80 holiday homes at Marion Bay, 150km west of Adelaide. The changes - which the court ruled was expected, not merely a probability - would encroach on the proposal's "erosion buffer and coastal reserve".
The Australian understands the decision is the first of its kind across the nation, with no other court so pointedly referring to climate change and its effects. The story Coastal plan 'not on the sea level' reports.
In Victoria, GIPPSLAND council is facing a multimillion-dollar class action for damage already done to coastal property values as it weighs banning development in areas vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change. Read the story Coastal shire may face class action.
Experts warn that many Australian mammals are in danger of suffering the same fate as the Tasmanian Tiger, as changes in climate threaten to make many species extinct. Human activities in Australia are having a devestating impact on our native fauna as has been reported on recently on ABCs 7.30 Report. The country's leading experts agree it's likely more of our species are headed for the cupboard. A new report by the CSIRO says climate change will bring inevitable and unpalatable choices. Do or die for threatened species story in Sydney Morning Herald for March 31, 2008 sums up with ...
the report cites studies showing how some bird species are already adapting to climate change as they shift their migration and breeding patterns, potentially having cascading impacts on insect species and plant seeds.The forest kingfisher, for example, is now breeding twice a year rather than once. Some migratory birds are arriving earlier and leaving later. In Western Australia, tropical seabirds are pushing further south. This initial rich increase in some species as they adapt could result in pressure on others as competition for food increases.
While Australian plants and wildlife have adapted to change before and suffered extinction, the report finds the scale of changes from global warming are "unprecedented in their nature and rate [and] they may be outside any evolutionary coping range of many species".
Media release and links to the full report are here.