Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Paradox of Antarctic Sea Ice 2: Research vessel trapped by summer sea ice

I came across an article lambasting the Australian Antarctic Expedition scientists on board the MV Akademik Shokalskiy trapped by fast ice since Christmas Eve in the Commonwealth Bay region of Antarctica. Climate scientists and tourists are on board the vessel on the Spirit of Mawson voyage, retracing Sir Douglas Mawson's Antarctic expedition.

The ship found itself locked in thick ice after experiencing blizzard conditions which moved and piled up ice flows.

Ships can get trapped by pack ice in polar waters very quickly during blizzards. Pack ice moves around with wind conditions, and it is not uncommon for ships to become temporarily locked in the ice even during peak summer conditions in Antarctica.

But Daniel Greenfield seems to think a ship trapped in Antarctic summer sea ice is a negation of global warming and the science involved in climate change. He is not alone...

Related: Oliver Millman: Five basic Antarctic facts for climate change sceptics | Giles Parkinson: Australia, 'hostage to climate change madness'? To say so is madness indeed

Sunday, December 29, 2013

India innovating with solar PV, poised to become a global solar leader

Yesterday I saw an image shared on my Facebook timeline. It was of solar PV panels installed over an irrigation canal in India. This has the obvious advantage of a double impact for sustainability. Low carbon power is generated by the panels feeding into the transmission grid, and the panels shade the water in the irrigation canal reducing evaporation loss thus saving a scarce resource used for drinking and agriculture.

I googled for more information and posted the image in a tweet. This has become one of my most popular tweets to date, obviously striking a responsive nerve.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Australia's coal expansion risks stranded assets

Australia's headlong expansion of coal mining for export carries substantial investment risks of stranding assets says a new report from Oxford University. Previous warnings regarding potential risks of a carbon bubble have been made by Carbon Tracker, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and International Energy Agency (IEA).

During December 2013 the Abbott Federal Government gave approval for massive coal port expansion in Queensland at Abbot Point and expansion of coal seam gas (CSG) facilities in Gladstone. It also approved the third coal mine to operate in the Galilee basin 450km from the coast. Environmental approval processes were also passed to the authority of State Governments to streamline further mining approvals, as well as Federal funding immediately cut to Environmental Defenders Offices in each state.

In the conclusion of the report on the risk of stranded assets, Ben Caldecott, James Tilbury and Yuge Ma state:

"It is clear that China’s coal demand patterns are changing as a result of environment-related factors and consequently less coal will be consumed than is currently expected by many owners and operators of coal assets. Given China’s growing role as the price setter in global and regional coal markets; falling demand will, all things being equal, reduce coal prices. This would result in coal assets under development becoming stranded, or operating mines only covering their marginal costs and subsequently failing to provide a sufficient return on investment."

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dark Money - Who funds Climate Change Deniers in the United States?



A new peer reviewed study exposes the major sources of funding of climate deniers in the United States and methods developed more recently to hide this funding as 'dark money'. The study was done by Robert J Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University College of Arts and Sciences and published in Climatic Change.

The major findings of this study reveal that Conservative foundations have bank-rolled the climate change denial countermovement. Although the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil have publicly reduced funding from 2007, this occurred at the same time as a dramatic rise in funding through untraceable sources such as Donors Trust. Most funding for climate denial efforts is now publicly untraceable.

This well funded counter-movement has been successful at muddying the waters of public discourse on climate change even though there is an overhelming consensus among climate scientists and the general science community. Drawing upon conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and conservative foundations, with strong links to sympathetic media outlets and conservative politicians it has been able to block effective action by the US Federal government and Congress to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ice Sheets and Sea level: what the past tells us is likely.



Watch this informative video By Peter Sinclair and the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media on ice sheet collapse and sea level rise and past climates.

"We are still potentially underestimating the instability of the ice sheets" informs Stefen Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the oceans from Postdam University. "The IPCC has greatly revised it's estimates of how unstable the Greenland ice sheet was"

Dr Richard Alley in a graph illuminates that on current CO2 levels we can expect sea level rise to impact 10 per cent of the Earth's population, hundreds of millions of people. He says in the video that "Greenland is very tightly tied to temperature, and if it gets too hot, it goes away".

Friday, December 13, 2013

Guest Post: Reversal of sea level rise co-ordinated planning increasing risk to Australian coastal development

Sea level rise is perhaps one of the greatest perils of climate change over the long term according to Dr Peter Ward. The rate of rise will start relatively small and accelerate over this century and the following ones. The latest IPCC report projects sea level rise at 28-98 centimeters by the year 2100, and while this is more than the previous report, there is considerable doubt that this may be still unduly conservative. We simply do not know and understand the complexities of ice sheet disintegration - a non-linear process.

A survey of scientists researching in the sea level field - Expert assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300 - found that sea level rise is likely to be 70-120 centimeters by 2100 if greenhouse-gas emissions are not mitigated. A few like James Hansen think that it could be substantially higher.


The Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said in a media release:
The experts were also asked for a “high-end” estimate below which they expect sea-level to stay with 95 percent certainty until the year 2100. This high-end value is relevant for coastal planning. For unmitigated emissions, half of the experts (51%) gave 1.5 meters or more and a quarter (27%) 2 meters or more. The high-end value in the year 2300 was given as 4.0 meters or higher by the majority of experts (58%).

And yet here in Australia we see the Federal Government dropping the ball in co-ordinating coastal planning, and State Governments also withdrawing, leaving planning up to local Government which largely lacks the resources and cannot afford to carry the risk of inappropriate planning and development on our coasts. Queensland is just the latest Government to absolve itself of this planning responsibility.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Solar PV Panel installations in Fawkner exceed 5 per cent of dwellings

In my travels around the internet I found this site put together by the Australian PV Institute showing the level of installation of solar photovoltaic panel installation by postcode or Local Government area.

In Fawkner there have been about 246 solar PV installations. This amounts to approximately 5.4% of the estimated 4520 dwellings in our suburb with an installed capacity of 571kW.

This is lower than the Moreland average of 6.1%. Moreland Local Government Area (LGA) and is also below other municipal areas in Melbourne's north. Maribyrnong has 7% solar installation, Moonee Valley is on 6.5%, Darebin is on 6.9%, Banyule on 6.7%, Whittlesea on 9.7%, and Hume on 11%.

Hundreds rally to oppose brown coal allocation and export from Victoria

Hundreds rallied outside the Victorian Parliament House opposing plans for brown coal allocation and development for a coal export industry from the La Trobe Valley and Gippsland.

Currently 13 billion tonnes of brown coal is being considered for allocation by the Napthine conservative state Governmnet, despite the impact of this in carbon emissions on climate change and increasing temperatures and extreme weather. As well as the allocation of coal licences, $90 million of Federal and State subsidies are also up for grab. Does subsidising brown coal make sense when we should rapidly be transitioning to renewables?

Already 8,000 people have signed a petition against the coal allocation and coal exports, with 3,000 of those signatures being given to Labor to table in parliament later this week.



Friday, December 6, 2013

Guest Post: Philippines steps up restoration of mangroves as defence against typhoons, tsunamis, sea level rise

Coastal ecosystems are important for providing a range of services that tend to be taken for granted, even ignored as coastal development is promoted at the expense of salt-marshes, mangroves, and seagrass meadows. One of the more important roles for salt-marshes and mangroves is as a natural shield against typhoons and tsunamis, such as Typhoon Haiyan which recently devastated parts of the Philippines. Restoring mangroves helps build resilience to these communities, providing jobs and income in the short to medium term, and providing the opportunity for long term sustainability as well as being significant blue carbon sinks. Lindsay Stringer, Professor in Environment and Development and Director of Sustainability Research Institute at University of Leeds, and Steven Orchard, PhD Candidate at University of Leeds, report:

Mangroves, nature's shield against typhoons and tsunami

By Lindsay Stringer, University of Leeds and Steven Orchard, University of Leeds

Following typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines’ Department for Environment and Natural Resources has earmarked around US$8m to fund efforts to replant much of the affected coastal zone with mangrove forests. Reforesting these coasts with 19m trees, particularly the extensively damaged islands of Leyte and Samar, is a key part of bolstering the first line of defence against future storms. Reports suggest up to 80% of the money is likely to be channelled to residents to engage them in tree planting activities as part of the country’s cash-for-work programme.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Australian Public opinion on carbon pricing and climate change

Was Australia's Federal election a referendum on the carbon price and Australia's policies on climate change? Prime Minister Tony Abbott would have us believe that it was. Indeed, he campaigned strongly to 'axe the carbon tax'.

But exit polling by the Climate Institute and results from the ABC's Vote Compass show that Tony Abbott's views on carbon pricing and climate change are sharply at odds with the views of the electorate.

The estimated 60,000 people who rallied for climate action across Australia on November 17 also shows there is substantial support for climate action and for carbon pricing.

Australian Emissions set to increase by 12 per cent by 2020 under Tony Abbott

According to Climate Action Tracker, it is likely Australian emissions under the Liberals policy will actually increase by 12 per cent by 2020, instead of meeting the unconditional commitment of 5 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020.

While the Abbott Government were pushing their repeal legislation through the House of Representatives last week, being opposed by Labor and the Greens, Climate Tracker released a special briefing announcement and policy brief (PDF).

The Climate Action Tracker has rated Australia’s current target of a 5 percent emissions reduction by 2020 at 2000 levels as “inadequate,” and consistent with a global pathway heading to temperature rises of 3.5-4°C.

However, by dismantling this legislation and replacing it with the Abbott Government’s proposed “Direct Action” plan, Australia instead looks set to increase its emissions by 12% in 2020.

“Australia’s climate legislation was a milestone for the country and it had finally begun to turn a corner on climate change,” said Bill Hare, Director of Climate Analytics.

“The legislation would have bent the relentless upward trend of its emissions curve downwards, moving Australia onto the first step toward a low carbon, climate-safe future, and created the governmental machinery needed for upgrading action.”

“The proposed repeal will instead see a likely re-carbonisation of the power sector, the present machinery dismantled - and replaced by a climate policy that goes against the science.” concluded Bill Hare.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Civil society walk in protest at Lack of Progress at Climate Change Talks


Civil society organisations are leaving the climate change negotiations today en masse. The walkout is happening now with observers handing in their security passes. Members from Greenpeace, Oxfam, WWF, Actionaid, Friends of the Earth, the International Trade Union Confederation and 350.org all started leaving the conference at 2pm. This is an unprecedented action, the first time major civil society groups have staged a mass walkout.

Friends of the Earth International had highlighted previously that the Warsaw Climate Change negotiations were failing. The destructive tactics of Australia and reduced ambition of Japan have been widely mentioned, but there has been substantial intransigence from much of the developed world to progressing the megotiations forward on Finance, ambition, and a loss and damage mechanism.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe commented: "Big polluters were welcomed with open arms and the negotiations are driven by corporate interests. There is no room for people or planet. The Polish presidency's short-sighted coal-driven policy marks these talks out as one of the dirtiest yet."

Related: Democracy Now: "Nature Does Not Negotiate": Environmentalists Walk Out of U.N. Climate Summit in Warsaw | "Polluters Talk, We Walk": Civil Society Groups Abandon Warsaw Talks over Inaction on Global Warming | "We Have to Consume Less": Scientists Call For Radical Economic Overhaul to Avert Climate Crisis

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Warsaw Climate Change negotiations failing warn Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth International representatives said that COP19 United Nations climate change negotiations are set to fail due to the very low targets for emission reductions proposed by richer nations, especially with Australia and Japan having dramatically reduced their targets and ambition and with Europe maintaining a very low level of emissions cuts.

FoE International called on governments of the developed nations for greater levels of ambition, to honour the promises they had made to provide finance to help poorer countries to cut their emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The gravity of the situation was made clear: "We are in a planetary emergency. It is known more than ever that climate change is happening. The impacts we are facing are threatening and will become worse. We are in an urgent situation that we have to act. We have to act in a very fast period."

Canadians rally against tar sands pipelines to defend a safe climate

Last Saturday thousands of Canadians took to the streets marching and rallying for a safe climate, and against tar sands expansion and more pipelines.

From coast to coast to Repulse Bay, Nunavut on the Arctic cirle, people gathered in over 180 events. Many concentrated on opposing the Enbridge Pipelines and tar sands expansion, on fracking or the more general threat of climate change, and the anti-climate policies of the Harper Government.

The protests were co-ordinated by Defend our Climate. Many were organised at the local level on short notice as word spread of the national action. But the protests were also connected to the organising of climate protests in Australia that drew in excess of 60,000 people, with an estimated 30,000 people attending a rally in Melbourne against the climate denial policies of the new Australian Government lead by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

From Defend our Climate Blog: Charlottetown | First timers step up in Halifax | Oka is Defending our Climate | North Bay Ontario comes out strong | Ottawa: Bringing the wall of opposition to Harper’s doorstep | Ottawa: Canadians stand with the Philippines today | Solidarity in Winnipeg | Nunavut braves a blizzard to defend our climate | A pipeline through the heart of Toronto | Edmonton’s barrel blockade | Looks like the start of a prairie fire | Awareness builds along 2 new routes in Ontario and Quebec | Resistance in the Interior | Vancouver: National Day of Action Wraps on the West Coast

Monday, November 18, 2013

Australia wins unprecedented fourth Fossil of the Day award for finance stance

While 30,000 people rallied for climate action in Melbourne, and an estimated 60,000 nationally at 130 events across Australia, it seems Australia has won an unprecedented fourth fossil of the day award in Warsaw for a statement that obligations for new, predictable and reliable finance from developed countries are “not realistic” and “not acceptable.”

As the citation points out, this amounts to "an attack on an important cornerstone of the UNFCCC." That developed countries due to their historic emissions have an obligation and commitment to provide funding for developing countries for climate mitigation and adaptation.

Earlier this week Australia won Fossil awards for repeal of carbon pricing and abandoning neighbors on loss and damage. Australia started the week at COP19 winning the first Fossil of the Day award for not be putting forward any new finance commitments.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tens of Thousands rally for Climate Action across Australia

More than 60,000 people are estimated to have rallied or marched for climate action across Australia in a demonstration that a significant number of people view climate change as a serious issue requiring substantive action from all levels of Government, including the Federal Government lead by cinservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The rallies were organised by GetUp, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The protest comes as the bills to dismantle Australia's carbon price and funding subsidies for renewable energy are introduced into Federal parliament on Monday. If successful, Australia would become the first country to rill back a functioning carbon pricing mechanism.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Japan's reduced emissions target a setback to COP19 climate change negotiations

Japan, the third largest single economy, has announced in the Warsaw climate change negotiations a change in it's voluntary pledge emissions target to change from a 25 per cent emission cut on 1990 levels to a 3.1 per cent increase on 1990 levels by 2020.

"This move by Japan could have a devastating impact on the tone of discussion here in Warsaw. It could further accelerate the race to the bottom among other developed countries when the world needs decisive and immediate actions to "raise" ambition, not to "lower" ambition." said Naoyuki Yamagishi, leader, Climate and Energy Group, WWF Japan in a media statement at the climate talks.

Prior to the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in 11 March 2011, nuclear power provided about 30% of electricity generation in Japan. Currently all 50 nuclear power plants are shut down for significant safety checks. But Japan has also been increasing coal use over the last two decades, a trend ocurring even before the Fukushima crisis. The increase in coal use as a cheap fuel since 1990 has resulted in the equivalent of 12 per cent of 1990 emissions.

Australia wins Fossil awards for repeal of carbon pricing and abandoning neighbors on loss and damage

Just four days in to the United Nations climate negotiations in Warsaw and Australia are winning our 3rd Fossil award for abandoning our neighbours on loss and damage, and our 2nd fossil award for the first country to attempt to wind back an established carbon pricing mechanism.

Earlier Australia earnt it's first rebuke by civil society at UN climate change talks for not putting forward any new finance commitments at the Warsaw negotiations.

Anyone would think Tony Abbott was envious of Canada's recent dubious record in obstruction and non-compliance in United Nations climate negotiations and decided we could do even better. And it looks like we are succeeding at knocking Canada off it's fossil of the year pedestal. But we are far from alone with Japan also earning special mention at the awards.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Youth observers expelled from UN climate change talks for Philippines Solidarity

Justice is being demanded from the UNFCCC leadership to reverse its decision to take away the badges of 3 youth observers who were expressing their solidarity with the Filipino people suffering from the massive loss and destruction brought about by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

Three youth observers were ejected by security from the conference and had their accreditation withdrawn on Monday for 5 years. They had expressed solidarity with a non-sanctioned banner and signs after Philippines negotiator, Naderev Saño (Yeb Saño) left the main plenary after making his impassioned plea: "time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway".

Read Clemance Hutin's account at Push Europe: Kicked out of UN climate talks for expressing solidarity with the Philippines. Maria Alejandra Escalante and Graham Thurston Hallett gives their side of the story: Expelled from the United Nations: How the Secretary reacts to solidarity with the Philippines.

Clémence Hutin from Young Friends of the Earth Europe, and Graham Thurston Hallett and Maria Alejandra Escalante from Earth in Brackets were attending their first COP. The 3 activists were later informed they were being banned indefinitely from the negotiations on the express orders of Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC Exec Secretary. (@CFigueres). And not just for this conference, according to Hallett and Escalante's blog, they have been banned from attending UNFCCC conferences for 5 years!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hunger strike gains momentum at Warsaw climate talks

Civil society members have joined with the lead negotiator from the Philippines, Yeb Sano, to fast for the duration of the UNFCCC climate negotiations in protest at the lack of progress in an agreement to reduce global emissions and in establishing Green climate finance to aid developing countries mitigation and adaptation.

Civil society members joined the fast after Yeb Sano's powerful speech at the opening session on Monday on the impact of Super Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda) which devastated eastern coastal regions, with estimates of more than 10,000 deaths, and at an economic cost estimated at $70 billion to the Filipino economy.

Related: Stand with the Philippines Petition on Avaaz by Yeb Sano, to be delivered to negotiators. | Tcktcktck - COP19 intensifies as civil society joins Philippines in fasting for the climate

Protests against coal plants across Poland as Warsaw climate change talks open

Greenpeace activists launched protests at six coal fired power stations across Poland just before the UN climate conference - COP19 - started. Using projectors on Sunday night the activists projected anti-coal messages onto the power stations urging the world’s governments to phase out fossil fuels which cause serious environmental damage.

Messages projected included “Climate change starts here!” and “Storms start here!” and highlighted the link between greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like Super Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Australia earns first rebuke by civil society at UN climate change talks

Australia had the dubious priveledge of earning the first Fossil of the Day award at the United Nations climate talks in Warsaw, Poland. Civil society organisations confer the awards each day of the climate talks, and have been doing so since 1999.

Related: The Verb - Australia won't be missed

The new Federal Government lead by Prime Minister Tony Abbott has in a few short weeks dismantled the Climate Change Department, closed the independent scientific panel the Climate Commission and set about undoing Australia's carbon pricing through preparing legislation to repeal the operation of the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

But the award wasn't for all this political attack on climate change action at home in Australia. It was conferred because Australia will not be putting forward any new finance commitments at the Warsaw negotiations, beyond the Fast Start Finance commitments made by the former Labor Government.

Tony Abbott has confirmed that the Australian government would be making no further commitments of funding to the Green Climate Fund, setup by the UNFCCC climate talks to fund climate mitigation and adaptation programs in third world and developing countries. It was hoped that $100bn a year in public and private financing would be channeled to developing countries by 2020. The previous Labor government deposited $500,000 last year to help get the new fund established, as well as committing almost $600m to a "fast-start" fund.

A spokeperson for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the Guardian: "The Green Climate Fund is currently in the design phase and Australia will consider its longer term involvement in the fund once its design has been further progressed."

Philippines negotiator launches hunger strike in Warsaw "We need an emergency climate pathway"

Half a world away from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines delegation is in Warsaw, Poland, for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks. Yeb Sano leads the delegation and has made a speech at the plenary of the importance for taking substantive climate action now.

You may recall Yeb Sano made an impassioned speech last year at the Doha meeting after Typhoon Bopha slammed into the Philippines. Once again, this mild mannered diplomat feels the personal anguish of a disaster unfolding at home, indeed affecting his own family.

It is clear for several years that developing countries like the Philippines are bearing the brunt of the high costs of climate change. But even western countries are feeling the power of extreme weather events like superstorm Sandy, the Colorado extreme rainfall and floods, Alberta Floods, the Russian heatwave of 2010, England's trend for more intense rainfall, Australia's angry summer and sizzling autumn of 2013 or the unusually early Sydney bushfires.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Super typhoon Haiyan strongest on record with over 10,000 feared dead in Philippines


On the eve of the annual United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) meeting in Warsaw Poland, an extreme weather disaster has struck the Philippines with record-breaking Super-typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda), bringing devastating winds and storm surge.

Over 10,000 people are feared dead ,according to several media reports like this one in the Sydney Morning Herald, just in the province of Leyte, where the regional city of Tacloban, population of 221,000, was right in the path of the northern hurricane eye wall experiencing the full ferocity of destructive winds and tsunami like storm surge of over 5 metres.

The city has been estimated as 95 per cent devastated, with massive building destruction and damage, and substantial casualties, with people requiring emergency food and water supplies.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

El Niño Southern Oscillation activity and intensity increasing with Global Warming

A study by Australian and US researchers has found robust signs that global warming is having an increasing impact on the El Niño/La Nina (ENSO) cycle which drives a significant amount of changes to global weather. The El Nino cycle has been unusually active and intense in the 30 year period from 1979 to 2009, more than any time in the last 600 years, researchers found.

"Our research suggests in a warming world we are likely to see more extreme El Niño and La Nina events, which over the past decade in Australia have been related to extreme flooding, persistent droughts and dangerous fire seasons,” said lead author Dr Shayne McGregor from the University of NSW ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.

“Importantly, this study not only tells us how ENSO activity has behaved in the past in relation to global average temperature, it also opens the window for climate models to be able to estimate more accurately how this activity will change in the future." said Dr McGregor.

Related: El Niño intensification means stronger droughts for Australia, storms for Kiribati

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tony Abbott in denial on bushfire climate change link

In a radio interview with Neil Mitchell, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the Head of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, is "talking through her hat" for connecting the NSW bushfires with climate change and that "these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they are just a function of life in Australia."

It seems Mr Abbott is in denial on all the wildfire research done on the increase in fireweather and increase in frequency and intensity in bushfires both in Australia and globally.

Abbott articulated a list of major bushfire disasters in Australia as justification that climate change is not involved. Yet the science clearly shows the long term climate change trend for rising temperatures, with increasing frequency of heatwaves drying out forests and grasslands and driving reductions in humidity and soil moisture making extreme fireweather and bushfires more frequent and more intense.

Earlier this year just after the Tasmanian bushfires wiped out the town of Dunalley with people fleeing the inferno by boat, Prime Minister Julia Gillard linked the increasing frequency and intensity of bushfires generally to climate change conditions. At least she reads what climate scientists say on bushfires and climate change, unlike the present Prime Minister.

Related: Raging Bushfires surround Sydney with early start to Fire season | Mega bushfire feared as State of Emergency declared in NSW

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mega bushfire feared as State of Emergency declared in NSW

After two days of milder weather temperature and wind conditions are again worsening over the next few days. The fear is that the multiple fires through the Blue Mountains could link up to form a mega conflagration imperiling all the mountain communities that nest along the Great Western Highway. The fire could funnel down the Grose Valley joining the Springwood fire and crossing the Hawkesbury River to threaten the Richmond and Penrith districts of Western Sydney.

The Premier of NSW Barry O'Farrell on Sunday declared a 30 day State of Emergency which will give additional powers to emergency personnel in ordering evacuations and combatting the bushfires. An indefinite total fire ban has also been declared for Sydney, Hunter, Illawarra/Shoalhaven & Central Ranges.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Raging Bushfires surround Sydney with early start to Fire season

Widespread October bushfires in NSW are unusual, but have happened before, such as in 1991. This year there was an Early start to Australian bushfires, record temperatures in early September.

It is now the 7th time this bushfire season a total fire ban has been declared in Sydney. Very Unusual. If the fire weather is this bad so early in the season, it can get worse over the coming months as Summer heats up, especially if we have extreme summer heatwaves similar to 2013. Here is the 2013/2014 bushfire outlook from the Bushfire CRC:


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

El Niño intensification means stronger droughts for Australia, storms for Kiribati

El Niño is likely to become more intense with climate change, and produce drier conditions for Australia and the Western Pacific, with increases in rainfall in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific in the mid to late twenty first century, according to new research.

It is the first time climate scientists have produced robust results from modelling to conclude that climate change has a substantial impact on the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle in the future. But a 2010 study by scientists from NASA and NOAA provided some signs.

So, a stronger El Niño is likely to bring more intense drying which may exacerbate drought and bushfire weather. In the central pacific island nation of Kiribati El Niño will bring more intense rain and floods. More intense Winter rain and floods may be felt in California, northwest Mexico and southwest United States, as well as down the west coast of South America, and even further afield.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Climate Departure: Oceans already outside historical variability as cities and ecosystems follow


Researchers from the University of Hawaii have estimated the year when we depart the climate variability we have historically known for cities around the globe. But the study also identifies that the planet's oceans have already passed their climate departure point, and that the greatest impact of global warming will be felt in biodiversity and ecosystems in the tropics.

In a study published in Nature - The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability (abstract) - researchers lead by Camilo Mora from the Geography Department at the University of Hawaii sought to identify the point at which the climate at 54,000 locations on Earth will exceed the bounds of historical variability. They used a baseline period of 1860 to 2005 to determine natural temperature variability. Using results averaged from 39 different climate models, they then determined for each location measured the year point in which the coldest years are likely to be consistently hotter than any of the past 150 years.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Colorado extreme rainfall and flood event of 2013



Like many people around the world I watched and followed the astonishing rainfall and flood events in Colorado in September this year that resulted in at least 10 deaths, damaged some 18,000 homes, caused the evacuation of more than 10,000 people, washing away roads and bridges and isolating communities for a time. The rain and flood event is estimated to have caused $2 billion worth of damage.

The extent of the rainfall was unprecedented in meteorological records that stretch back a little more than 100 years. The extreme rainfall event has been described as a 1 in 1,000 year event. An Extremely rare combination of weather factors combining to produce the event.

Climate change however stacks the dice in several ways in increasing the probability of this event occurring in the future. A primary contribution is the increase in atmospheric capacity to carry water vapour which scientists have worked out to be 6 per cent to 7.5 per cent for each degree Celsius in average global warming. By the end of this century with average global surface temperatures projected to increase by 4 to 5 degrees with current business as usual scenarios, the atmospheric carrying capacity may be an extra 30 per cent, making extreme precipitation events like the Colorado event much more likely to occur.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hottest September and hottest 12 months on record for Australia


Even though the global land surface temperatures have appeared to plateau since 1998 - a global hiatus - other measurements show global warming has continued with continued warming of the oceans, sea level rise, melting of Arctic sea ice, continued retreat of mountain glaciers. 2000 to 2010 was also the hottest decade on record.

Significantly, Australia has broken many temperature records this year with the extreme January heatwave and Angry Summer, sizzling warming into late Autumn, a relatively warm Winter, and now the hottest September on record averaged across Australia, and the hottest 12 months on record. Australia is also on track for the hottest calendar year this year.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

IPCC report: Climate Council Q & A with Professor Will Steffen

While the AMOS event was occurring Professor Will Steffen and Amanda MacKenzie from the Climate Council conducted a live Q and A via twitter, facebook and youtube on the IPCC report.

The Climate Council was established two weeks ago after the Climate Commission was abolished as one of the first acts of the new Federal Government lead by Tony Abbott. The public reaction to the axing of the Climate Commission was an outpouring of donations to the new non-government Climate Council to continue it's valuable work. More than $1 million has been raised from 20,000 people, mostly in small donations.

IPCC: Climate change is unequivocal with rapid and substantive emissions reduction required

The original of this article was published on the Climate Action Moreland website.


A packed hall last thursday night (3 October) in Melbourne heard from Australian climate scientists on the latest science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I was one of four members of Climate Action Moreland who attended.

The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) organised the free public event in Melbourne to explore the findings and significance of the latest comprehensive report on the science of climate change. It was so popular that 700 people registered to attend - the capacity of the hall, and a further 200 people enquiring had to be turned away or put on a waiting list.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Super Typhoon Usagi drawing energy from record warm waters

Super Typhoon Usagi is the strongest tropical cyclone storm on a global level this year, bringing destruction to the Northern Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong and southern China.

Warmer surface waters contribute energy for much stronger, more intense storms. Parts of the Western Pacific have experienced record and much warmer than average sea surface temperatures in August, part of record global sea surface temperatures.

A NASA analysis of the storm remarked on it's super rapid intensification, identifying warm ocean waters as a contributor to the storm's rapid growth and strength.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

NOAA: Record Global Sea surface temperatures for August 2013

In August 2013 global sea surface temperatures (SST) set a new record. The August average sea surface temperature was 0.57°C above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.4°F), tying with 1998, 2003, 2005, and 2009 as the record highest for August.

This record warmth comes despite La Nina/El Nino (ENSO) neutral conditions in place for the last 16 months with below-average temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Early start to Australian bushfires, record temperatures


Just a few days after the Federal election NSW experienced a surprisingly early start to the bushfire season with fires on Sydney's outskirts giving us a taste of things to come. Queensland is also facing severe fire danger with the early onset of high temperatures.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology also issued a special climate statement saying that the last 12 months is Australia’s hottest 12 month period on record, and it's second warmest winter on record for maximum temperatures.

Tony Abbott's Government first actions: trash climate change education, carbon pricing

On September 7 Australia elected the Liberal National parties - the Coalition - to Federal Government, with Tony Abbott as our new Prime Minister. It is a Government firmly in climate denial, intent on winding back carbon pricing; undermining renewables; and closing down the Climate Commission setup to communicate and engage the public on climate science and its impacts.

On the Monday after the election there was an early start to the bushfire season with large fires in Western Sydney and bushfire alerts for much of Queensland. The Bureau of Meteorology also issued a special climate statement saying the last 12 months has been the hottest 12 month period on record with the winter period being the 2nd warmest on record.

Going into the election campaign there was bipartisan commitment by both the Labor and Liberal Parties to meeting a minimum commitment of 5 per cent reduction in Australia's emissions by 2020. But the Liberal Party party strategy for meeting this commitment, the Climate Direct Action Plan, was widely criticised as being reliant on soil carbon methodologies largely unproven and unable to achieve its target within its $3.2 billion budget.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Guest Post: Andy Pittman - Is global warming in a hiatus? Are our politicians being lulled into a false sense of security?

Is global warming in a hiatus?

By Andy Pitman

On September 27 2013 the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be released.

One part of this report will address the so-called “warming hiatus”. This is the argument that warming has stopped, with the further assertion in some quarters that we therefore have nothing to worry about in the future.

It is a fact, based on observations of air temperature, that the rate of global warming measured as surface air temperature has slowed over the past 15 years. The last decade is still the warmest in the past 150 years.

If you measure global heat content then global warming has not slowed. If you measure other indices including sea level rise or ocean temperatures or sea ice cover global warming has not slowed.

However, the warming trend in air temperatures has slowed over the last 15 years. There is a great deal of interest in this “hiatus” in the sense of whether it points to some fundamental error in climate science.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Election 2013: Food and agriculture policy debated by Labor and Greens in Wills

From my election 2013 series - see my Wills 2013 seat reports at Nofibs.com.au


L to R: Kelvin Thomson (ALP), Tim Read (Greens), Margarita Windisch (Socialist Alliance)

Discussing Food and agriculture policy may seem a little bit incongruent in an inner urban electorate, but the forum held in Wills at the Coburg Farmers market on Saturday highlights that city people are concerned with farming and agricultural practices that affect everyone from farmers to city consumers.

The public forum was organised by Transition Coburg, initially with sitting Labor member Kelvin Thomson, Liberal candidate Shilpa Hegde and Greens candidate Tim Read. Shilpa Hegde withdrew from attending the forum with no reason given and Margarita Windisch from Socialist Alliance was added.

Friday, August 23, 2013

If threatened species could vote...Wills candidates discuss biodiversity

From my election 2013 series - see my Wills 2013 seat reports at Nofibs.com.au


Leadbeaters Possum is on the endangered list, presently being assessed for upgrading to critically endangered Photo: John Englart
Environment and biodiversity have hardly rated a mention by the mainstream media in this Federal election campaign. Bread and butter issues of economic stability and national leadership predominate. But the election is being held on September 7, threatened species day, with the World Wildlife Fund Australia launching a series of television ads on the impact of climate change on the environment.

Even many Common plants and animals are facing dramatic biodiversity decline from climate change. But as environmentalist Margaret Blakers argues in The Guardian, we do have time to turn it around if there is political will.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wills candidates agree on climate but differ on urgency and the coal menace

From my election 2013 series - see my Wills 2013 seat reports at Nofibs.com.au


Kelvin Thomson MP makes a point
On a cold and rainy Monday evening some of the voters in Wills, in Melbourne's inner northern suburbs gathered at the concert hall in Coburg Town Hall to hear what some of the candidates had to say on climate and sustainability issues. It was a reasonable turnout with a full hall with an estimated 140 people in attendance.

Climate Action Moreland, a local community group active on climate issues, started organising the event in July. Other community groups endorsed the candidate forum. The date was set, and then Rudd named the election date. All the candidates who had declared their intention to stand were invited to attend and speak.

Come the night, Kelvin Thomson, the sitting Labor MP, Tim Read (Greens), Margarita Windisch (Socialist Alliance) and Dean O'Callaghan (Independent associated with Save the Planet Party) all attended and spoke and answered questions from the audience.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Election 2013: Save the Planet Party launches climate emergency campaign

From my election 2013 series - see my Wills 2013 seat reports at Nofibs.com.au

A new party is emerging in Victoria at this election…well, nearly. The Save the Planet Party was proposed in March and formed in a matter of a few months this year to proclaim that there is a climate emergency and to advocate for rapid economic and social transition to ensure a safe future. It is a single-issue party focused on what we need to do to avoid the extreme consequences of climate change already in the pipeline and to avert even greater catastrophic consequences that may unfold over coming decades and centuries.

Even though the party has found over 500 registered electors and submitted their registration, it isn’t quite through the process mandated by the Australian Electoral Commission. So party candidates will not have the party name on the ballot paper this election. They will be regarded officially as independents. Candidates are likely to poll fairly low, but in at least two electorates their preferences may be crucial to the final result: the Labor marginal electorate of Corangamite and the seat of Melbourne held by the Greens.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Election 2013 called on Threatened Species Day – September 7

From my election 2013 series - original at Fawkner.org

The election has been called by Kevin Rudd at last for September 7th, one week before Julia Gillard's announced date. The campaign is on. September 7 also happens to be Threatened Species Day. It is perhaps significant as action on climate change, the future of clean energy programs and investment, and conservation and biodiversity programs are at risk.

Matted Flax lilly
Photo: Matted Flax lilly at Bababi Djinanang
One tends to think in the city that biodiversity is not a great concern, but here in Fawkner we have the Matted Flax-lily (Dianella amoena) at Bababi Djinanang native grassland. The species is nationally endangered although only listed as vulnerable in Victoria. We sometimes have platypus in Merri Creek and kangaroos that follow the creek down into the Fawkner grasslands.

These are wondrous sights to see in our urban environment along our creek nature reserves. Once degraded and used as little more than drains, many people have put incredible effort into re-vegetation and restoration of our creek environments, including Friends of Merri Creek and Merri Creek Management Committee.

Monday, July 29, 2013

To Walk among Giants - National Tree Day celebrated in Victorian Central Highlands

How did you celebrate National Tree Day - 28 July? I finally found the time to drive up from Melbourne to the mountain ash forests of the Central Highlands at Sylvia Creek Road near Toolangi, to walk among giants.

The occasion was the opening of a new short track - The Kalatha Giant Tree Walk. There are still some mature Mountain Ash standing as silent sentinels. The Kalatha tree is estimated to be about 400 years old. Somehow it was missed in previous logging of the area, although a smaller tree near the start of the track provides evidence for early logging in the area.

It was quite a crowd that gathered at Tanglefoot Car Park picnic spot on Sylvia Creek Road. Many people brought hampers but there was also plenty of hot soup, juice and tea supplied by local people. My Environment, and Friends of Leadbeater's Possum were there, as well as CFA and DSE and councillors from Yarra Ranges and Murrindindi Councils.

Friends of Leadbeater's Possum had 'George' on display. George is a stuffed male Leadbeater's possum found intact on the side of a logging road about two years ago. It is assumed that George's home was a victim of logging, and as his home was being carted away he fell off the logging truck. Now he is truly stuffed. And his species isn't doing much better.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Guest Post: Andrew Glikson on Methane and the risk of runaway global warming

Methane and the risk of runaway global warming


By Andrew Glikson

Research was published this week showing the financial cost of methane being released from Earth’s permafrosts. But the risks go beyond financial – Earth’s history shows that releasing these stores could set off a series of events with calamitous consequences.

The sediments and bottom water beneath the world’s shallow oceans and lakes contain vast amounts of greenhouse gases: methane hydrates and methane clathrates (see Figure 1). In particular methane is concentrated in Arctic permafrost where the accumulation of organic matter in frozen soils covers about 24% of northern hemisphere continents (see Figure 2a) and is estimated to contain more than 900 billion tons of carbon.

Methane, a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than CO2, is released from previously frozen soils when organic matter thaws and decomposes under anaerobic conditions (that is, without oxygen present).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Prime Minister Rudd axes Biodiversity Fund in carbon pricing shakeup

Elimination of the $1 billion Biodiversity Fund is a major impact of Prime Minister Rudd's shake-up of Australia's carbon pricing policy and bringing forward the introduction of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) by one year to 1st July 2014. This relegates Australia's funding of biodiversity programs to the same level as many third world countries like the Congo and Iraq. Well done Prime Minister. A real race to the bottom on conservation.

There is a global Biodiversity crisis with habitat and climate change causing a 6th mass extinction. Species biodiversity under threat from the velocity of climate change. Even many Common plants and animals facing dramatic biodiversity decline from climate change.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Scientists advise Soil Carbon farming unviable - time to bury the Coalition Direct Action Climate Plan

Latest Scientific advice from University of Melbourne researchers says that The potential for carbon sequestration in Australian agricultural soils is technically and economically limited. This scientific report, published in Nature on 12 July 2013, should truly bury the Liberal National Party reliance on soil carbon sequestration for 60% of their Direct Action climate plan. It simply won't work.

Most of the rest of the Coalition Climate Plan revolves around urban tree planting and reverse auctions to pay polluters to reduce carbon emissions, both of which are also very problematic and costly responses, likely to be ineffective in mitigating emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020. This all adds up to the Coalition Climate Plan being a huge crock. Something to say you are doing when you are actually doing nothing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Concentrating Solar Power Station launched in Mildura

Today saw the official launch of the Silex built Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) Solar Power Station in Mildura, Victoria, supplying enough power to the grid for about 500 average homes. Victorian Minister for Energy launched the power station, but was criticised by Environment Victoria for failing to support investment in solar energy.

The Mildura Solar Farm project was initiated under the previous Brumby Labor Government as part of a scheme which aimed to build 5 to 10 concentrating solar thermal (CST) power stations in the states' north and west by 2020.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Longterm sea level rise estimated at 2.3 metres for every degree Celsius of global warming

"Continuous sea-level rise is something we cannot avoid unless global temperatures go down again," said climate scientist Anders Levermann from the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "Thus we can be absolutely certain that we need to adapt. Sea-level rise might be slow on time scales on which we elect governments, but it is inevitable and therefore highly relevant for almost everything we build along our coastlines, for many generations to come."

Anders Levermann was taking about the implications of a new study he is a co-author of - The multi-millennial sea-level commitment of global warming. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online during July 2013. It is one of the first studies to combine analyses of four major contributors to potential sea level rise into a collective estimate, and compare it with evidence of past sea-level responses to global temperature changes.

The result is a longterm estimate that global sea levels will rise about 2.3 meters, or more than seven feet, over the next two thousand years for every degree (Celsius) the planet warms. "the total sea-level commitment after 2,000 y is quasi-linear, with a sensitivity of 2.3 m °C" reports the study.

"The study did not seek to estimate how much the planet will warm, or how rapidly sea levels will rise," noted Professor Peter Clark, an Oregon State University paleo-climatologist and co-author on the PNAS article. "Instead, we were trying to pin down the 'sea-level commitment' of global warming on a multi-millennial time scale. In other words, how much would sea levels rise over long periods of time for each degree the planet warms and holds that warmth?"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Urbanization amplifies global warming temperatures for Sydney

A new scientific study finds that Sydney faces hotter temperatures due to the interaction of expanding urbanization, climate change and the urban heat island effect

The study - Temperature response to future urbanization and climate change (abstract) - highlights the combined impact of both new urbanization and climate change on near-surface temperatures for greater Sydney, with positive feedbacks between urban expansion and global warming at the local scales. While Maximum daytime temperatures (Tmax) for Sydney are projected to only increase slightly and mostly in the winter, most of the change will be seen in substantial increases in nigt-time temperatures (Tmin), particularly in Spring and Summer months.

Urban expansion in Western Sydney is creating a multitude of new estates on Sydney's fringes expected to house more than 100,000 residents. These new urban areas are likely to experience the largest rises in temperature of up to 3.7 degrees Celsius by 2050 due to the interaction of land use change, global warming and the urban heat island effect.

The Urban Heat Island effect (UHI) is a well known and studied phenomenon which says that the built urban environment increases local temperatures, while reducing the opportunity for evapo-transpiration for cooling.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Obama's climate Action plan and Australia

Last week President Barack Obama launched his Climate Action Plan for the United States at Georgetown University. It outlines the executive and regulatory actions to cut US greenhouse gas emissions to 17 per cent below their 2005 levels by 2020. The plan follows up in detail Obama's statements on tackling climate change in his inauguration speech and State of the Union Speech.

But the plan does not go far enough to meet the magnitude of the crisis, and really only meets the US voluntary commitments made by Obama at the 2009 Copenhagen UNFCCC climate conference. Such voluntary commitments still fall far short of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and are likely to result in 3 to 5 degrees C of arming by the end of the century.

"We're happy to see the president finally addressing climate change but the plain truth is that what he's proposing isn't big enough, and doesn't move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis," said Bill Snape, a senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest Post: The human role in Australia's ‘angry’ hot summer

Image: This extraordinary photograph of the bushfires engulfing the small Tasmanian town of Dunally in January 2013 shows Tammy Holmes, second from left, clutching her two small grandchildren, two-year-old Charlotte Walker, left, and four-year-old Esther Walker. Clinging precariously to a wooden jetty are Liam Walker, nine, Matilda, 11, second from right, and six-year-old Caleb Walker. Behind them are walls of flame, the sky a lurid and demonic orange.

The human role in our ‘angry’ hot summer

By Sophie Lewis, University of Melbourne and David Karoly, University of Melbourne

Today we released a study that shows quantitatively that anthropogenic climate change substantially increased the likelihood of the record-breaking Australian summer of 2013. Indeed, human influences on the climate system increased the chances of our record hot, “angry” summer by more than five times.

Average temperatures across the globe are now 0.8°C warmer than a century ago. This shift in the average climate can lead to substantial changes in the frequency and severity of extreme climate events.

Globally, many of the record-breaking heatwaves and extreme summer temperatures occurring elsewhere have been linked to anthropogenic influences. Our latest analysis of the 2013 extreme Australian summer also demonstrates a strong human influence on the record temperatures.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Alberta Floods highlight a more active water cycle with climate change

An intense rainfall and storm event on June 20-21 has caused widespread flooding in the Canadian province of Alberta, encompassing much of the southern portion of the province including Canada's fourth largest city of Calgary. It is the worst flooding event in Alberta's recorded history, highlighting the more active hydrological cycle with climate change.

Over 120,000 people across the region were evacuated, 75,000 in Calgary (7% of the population), many now returning to flood damaged homes and businesses to start the clean up.

I am not going to say climate change caused the flooding. Clearly natural weather variability still plays a significant part in extreme weather events. But the reality is we have warmed the atmosphere and changed the base climate from which all extreme weather events are generated from. We are now living with weather in a more active hydrological cycle resulting in more frequent and intense storm events with a capacity to cause greater flooding.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

IEA: Four measures to limit carbon emissions and Global Warming to 2 degrees Celsius

The International Energy Agency warned of the danger of exceeding the 2 °C of global warming unless governments take swift action to reign in emissions. The latest World Energy Outlook special report launched on the 10 June 2013 estimates global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2012 achieved a 1.4% increase, reaching a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt).

Over the last few years the International Energy Agency has consistently warned we need a Bold change of direction globally to meet climate commitments. Scientific studies show that we need to peak emissions this decade to meet 2 °C temperature goal.

With the launch of the IEA latest report - Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map - the organisation outlined four stopgap measures that can be taken to lower global energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions in the short term by 2020 to make limiting global warming to 2 °C still achievable.