Friday, May 31, 2013

Cities to get much hotter as heatwaves amplify Urban Heat Island Effect


A new study just published looked at the way Urban Heat Island effect interacts with heatwaves. It is not a simple addition of the heatwave increase in temperature added to the urban heat island temperature: heatwaves exacerbate and amplify the Urban Heat Island Effect so that the impact is magnified. This is a major energy use and health concern for people living in cities, particularly the poor and vulnerable.

"Not only do heat waves increase the ambient temperatures, but they also intensify the difference between urban and rural temperatures. As a result, the added heat stress in cities will be even higher than the sum of the background urban heat island effect and the heat wave effect." say the researchers, Dan Li and Elie Bou-Zeid, both from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University

Victorian Government knowingly driving Leadbeater's Possum to extinction say scientists

Two distinguished environmental scientists accused the Victorian Government of forestry policies knowingly designed to drive Leadbeater's Possum, one of the two fauna emblems of Victoria, to extinction.

In a letter to sciencemag.org, the publication of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science, Professors David Lindenmayer and Hugh Possingham say, "Government-sanctioned legal logging of the reserve system will significantly increase the chance of extinction of Leadbeater's possum. To the best of our knowledge, and despite state and national threatened species legislation, this is the first time an Australian government has taken calculated actions to substantially reduce the viability of an IUCN-listed endangered species with full knowledge of the likely consequences." (Read full letter reproduced at end of this article)

Petition: Defer the Bill that would lock-in long-term native forest logging | Help Save Leadbeater's Possum | My Environment Appeal 2013 Leadbeater's Possum | Ethical paper pledge

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Global Warming to exacerbate Heat related deaths, more storms for New York


The residents of Manhattan and New York are already feeling the effects of global warming after experiencing Hurricanes Irene and Superstorm Sandy. But more is in store with more frequent large storms, rising sea levels, and higher temperatures and heatwaves in summer. The latest scientific study identifies that rising temperatures and heatwaves are likely to substantially increase temperature related deaths in the city.

The study by public health and climate reserachers at Columbia University in New York projects that in the 2020s there will be a mean increase of about 20 percent in deaths due to heat, set against a mean decrease of about 12 percent in deaths due to cold, with a net result of a 5 or 6 percent increase in overall temperature-related deaths. Heat related mortality is expected to rise steeply in projections for the 2050s and 2080s, despite alternate emissions scenarios. The worst case scenario is projected to cause over 1,000 annual heat related deaths by rising temperatures and heatwaves.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Heading for cooler waters - Climate Change Impact of warming oceans on global fish stocks

For the first time scientists have demonstrated the impact of climate change on ocean warming and sea surface temperatures affecting global fisheries stocks. Previous studies were limited to individual fisheries. The changes have been occurring clearly since the 1970s, the scientists say. The implications of this research raises the need for timely changes in fisheries management practices and adaptation plans for communities dependant on fishing, particularly climate vulnerable developing countries in the tropics.

"Given global fisheries contribute hugely to the world's economy and food security, this is a significant finding," said co-author Dr Reg Watson from the University of Tasmania's specialist Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies."We are no longer talking about future hypotheticals - we are talking about impacts on a global scale that we can already demonstrate."

Previous research by Dr Watson published last year demonstrated that marine fishes are now smaller in size. "Last year we showed that one of the consequences of climate change and excessive fishing is that globally marine fishes are smaller," said Dr Watson.

The paper - Signature of ocean warming in global fisheries catch - was published in Nature on 15 May 2013. The study was lead by Assistant Professor William Cheung, University of British Columbia, with collaboration from Professor Daniel Pauly and Dr Reg Watson.

I wrote about a related issue on the Velocity of climate change imperiling ocean diversity, particularly with regard to Australia, in January 2012.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Seagrass projected to drastically decline with sea level rise

To most of us, what is hidden beneath the waves of our coastal environment remains invisible and is little thought about or cared about. Yet seagrass meadows, though hidden from our direct view, contribute valuable ecological services supporting valuable fish nurseries, as food for dugongs and turtles, and as a highly efficient blue carbon sink sequestering carbon.

A new study of the seagrass meadows in Moreton Bay, Queensland found that a significant proportion of valuable seagrass habitats would be lost without action to offset the affects of climate change. "The area of seagrass habitat was predicted to decline by 17% by 2100 under a scenario of SLR of 1.1 m." said the study.

Lead author Dr Megan Saunders from UQ's Global Change Institute said "Seagrass meadows not only help to slow climate change by sucking up a large portion of the world's plant-stored carbon, but they also benefit livelihoods, food security, fisheries, biodiversity, shoreline protection and other ecosystem services,"

Common plants and animals facing dramatic biodiversity decline from climate change

Closeup 2 - Matted Flax-lily (Dianella amoena) at Bababi Djinanang native grassland Fawkner

While much scientific and public attention has focussed on the many species endangered or on the brink of extinction, the impacts of climate change on species biodiversity are much larger. A landmark study looking at nearly 50,000 common species with widespread ranges has determined that half of these animals and two thirds of the examined plant species will lose more than half their range in the next 70 years, by 2080, if nothing is done to slow down the rate of global warming through cutting carbon emissions.


There is presently underway a biodiversity crisis with habitat loss and climate change causing the 6th mass extinction. Landuse and vegetation policy changes such as the recent Queensland Land clearing changes, exacerbate climate change impacts on biodiversity. It has been shown that preservation of plant biodiversity provides a crucial buffer to negative effects of climate change and preservation of biodiversity for many common species. Similarly, logging of native bushland and forests such as the Victorian Central Highland and East Gippsland forests destroys important wildlife refugia which also act as important carbon sinks. Victoria's forests are amoung the world's most carbon dense.

While there has been targeted research on how climate change impacts certain endangered and rare species, there have been few broad studies of how an increase in global temperature and climate change will affect more common species distribution and range.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Guest Post: How cold has it really been in the Northern Hemisphere?


While parts of Australia have been experiencing a warmer than average autumn, Europe and parts of North America have experienced extreme cold weather caused by a strong Arctic Oscillation, similar to the weather in 2010.

According to Peter Hannam in the Brisbane Times, the temperatures in Sydney has reached 20 degrees C for 26 consecutive days, a new record for this late in May in more than 150 years of record keeping. It is also likely to be one of the driest 30 days in autumn on record for Sydney. Offshore along most of the NSW coast, sea surface temperatures are between 1.5 and 3 degrees above normal.

Globally, March 2013 was tied with 2006 for 9th warmest March on record, since records started in 1880. The northern Hemisphere averaged 0.78 degrees C. above normal, placing it tied for 11th warmest on record. It was also the 10th warmest on record for the southern Hemisphere, averaging 0.52 degrees C. above the 1951-1980 average. The global temperature for March 2013 averaged 0.59 degrees C. above the 1951-1980 average.

In the article below republished from the Conversation under Creative Commons licence, Blair Trewin, Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Karl Braganza, Australian Bureau of Meteorology explain what is happening with cold extremes and why average temperatures over the hemisphere and the global average are still increasing.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Scientists condemn Queensland Land Clearing changes, warn of biodiversity loss

Leading Queensland environmental scientists are up in arms over changes to Queensland's Vegetation Management Act and the Water Act which will enhance land clearing and destruction of native vegetation important for preserving biodiversity values, ecological services such as clean water and flood mitigation, and carbon sink potential.

"Queensland is the most biodiverse state in Australia," said Dr Martine Maron of The University of Queensland, a spokesperson for the group. "Sadly, it has also seen 30 extinctions, with hundreds more on the threatened list. Ongoing habitat clearing is a major threat to our endangered wildlife."

Land clearing is seen by the scientists as the greatest threat to species biodiversity and also contributes to removing carbon sink capacity. Their concerns are backed up by a peer reviewed scientific report prepared for WWF-Australia - Bushland at risk of renewed clearing in Queensland.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Climate change fuelling more Hurricanes for Hawaii by end of century

A recent study looking into regional tropical cyclone formation conditions in the east and central Pacific has projected that 2 to 3 times more tropical cyclones (Hurricanes) are likely to hit Hawaii in the later part of this century.

While on a global level tropical cyclones are expected to slightly reduce in frequency overall, because of regional conditions some areas will actually experience an increase in tropical cyclone frequency. Hawaii happens to be one of those areas.

Related: Climate change predicted to escalate Tropical Cyclone damage costs for US and China

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Victorian State budget: Money for East west road link, but no cash for surfacing Merlynston Station carpark

The State Government has just handed down it's 2013 budget. As expected, there is little for public transport, or meeting it's own environmental election promises. Instead we see more support for brown coal which contributes to climate change, and to major road projects like initial funding for the east west link which will result in a public-private partnership and a privately managed tollroad which you and I will pay to travel on. The Metro rail tunnel and other badly needed rail network extensions have been effectively shelved by the current Government.

It hurts even more when the State Government ignores basic maintenance and simple upgrades which benefit public transport commuters. Melbourne's inner middle northern suburbs residents are calling out for existing station car parks to be resurfaced, at the cost of several thousand dollars, to avoid injuries such as broken ankles sustained from potholes in the gravel carpark surface.

Greg Combet says carbon price working but further tax cuts deferred

Federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet held a press conference at lunchtime today to scotch rumours and misleading comments on the Government's carbon price package. Basically, due to changes in the forecast carbon price for two years hence, tax cuts worth about $1.59 per week associated with an increasing carbon price will also be deferred.

The Government's carbon price mechanism and clean technology fund and associated support packages are largely working to reduce Australian carbon emissions. In December 2012, just 5 months after the carbon price was introduced the reduction in electricity demand showed a clear trend, a trend for coal fired generation to continue to fall. In fact Gas fired power stations for NSW and Victoria have also been placed on hold.

In terms of compensation packages, the examples of the funding of solar PV energy panels to reduce electricity costs for the Adelaide Ice Services factory, or funding Biomass Renewable Electricity from Mackay Sugar cogeneration plant, show the industry support assistance is working to help businesses adapt.

Here is Greg Combet's press conference statement in full:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Flinders Street Station Banner drop tells Vic Premier to get off the coal train

Climate activists this morning were up early, scaling the front of Melbourne's Flinders Street Station to do an anti-coal and pro-renewables banner drop above the iconic clocks at the station.

Quit coal activists abseiled down the building's facade unfurling the large banner addressed to the Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, "Get off the coal train and on track for Renewables!".

The climbers have been charged with trespass and other offenses. They have all been released from police custody.