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Monday, February 13, 2012

Drying trend in Australia still evident despite wettest two year period on record

Back-to-back La NiƱa events has produced the wettest two year period on record for Australia according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). The two year rainfall total for 2010-2011 of 1409 mm, eclipsed the old record of 1407 mm set during the big wet of 1973-1974. But underlying this wet record is a strong drying trend in the southeast and southwest of the continent with a consistent reduction in Autumn and winter rainfall and streamflow which are important for both agriculture and water storage.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tropical insects face catastrophic reduction in reproduction with climate change

It looks like cold blooded species (ectotherms) in the tropics could be at an extreme risk of extinction with just moderate increases in temperature according to scientific studies. The latest study looked at the effects of increased temperature on the entire life cycle of one tropical ectotherm species, suggesting reproduction may suffer a catastrophic reduction as the climate warms with just moderate increases in tropical temperatures. The research has possible ramifications for all tropical ectotherms - Insects, spiders, frogs, snakes, turtles and other reptiles.

This is not the first indication that global warming impact on tropical species is greater than expected. Small increases in temperature in tropical ecosystems can have large impacts as many species are already near their thermal physiological maximum. Many species also have small dispersal ranges which increases their risk of extinction through small changes in habitat or environment.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Alcoa to review Point Henry smelter at Anglesea

Alcoa have announced a review of the future of Point Henry Smelter near Anglesea in a press release to the Australian Stock Exchange. The smelter at Point Henry has been operating for 49 years and employs about 600 people. Maybe the government subsidies that prop up an inefficient industrial plant need to be redirected into reskilling, retraining and relocating the 600 odd workers that face losing their jobs. This could provide the perfect opportunity for job creation in the renewable sector with the right range of government incentives. Sadly, the Baillieu track record on wind farms is beholden to the anti-wind farm lobby with Future wind power development in Victoria stifled by draconian planning regulations.

Monday, February 6, 2012

No coal mine in Bacchus Marsh - locals and activists halt exploratory drilling

Locals and activists from Quit Coal stopped exploratory drilling in Bacchus Marsh today, 50km west of Melbourne. About 20 people occupied a drilling rig belonging to Mantle Mining on the side of Glenmore Road, near the corner of Daisybank Lane, Bacchus Marsh.

Two people locked themselves to the Mantle Mining exploratory drilling rig this morning: Paul Connor climbed to the top of the rig and unfurled a banner which read ‘No New Coal Bacchus Marsh’. Bacchus Marsh mother Natasha Mills, who is pregnant with her second child, locked herself to the bottom of the rig and told reporters "I felt a responsibility to stop drilling today because I’m determined to protect my family from a dangerous coal mine, and I don’t want my children’s future to be marked by run-away climate change."

Background: Our neighbour the coal mine? Bacchus Marsh | Quit Coal | Quit Coal Flickr Photostream | Moorabool Environment Group | Sourcewatch: Bacchus Marsh coal project

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sea Cucumber poo moderates impact of ocean acidification on coral reefs

Ocean acidification is a major threat to coral reefs and other marine zooplankton and creatures using calcium carbonate shells. Marine and Climate scientists working at the University of Sydney's research station, One Tree Island, on the Great Barrier Reef have discovered that sea cucumber poo increases the alkalinity of the reef water providing a buffer to the increasing acidity caused by ocean acidification.

It is a vital marine process that provides some buffer to corals with the impacts of ocean acidification. "We have found that sea cucumbers play a vital role in reducing the harmful impact of ocean acidification on coral growth," said Professor Maria Byrne, the director of One Tree Island Research Station.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

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

A new study looking at the economic costs of tropical cyclone damage taking into account climate change, forecasts that tropical cyclones will cause $109 billion in damages by 2100. Increased vulnerability of populations and growing economic wealth is expected to double the costs from $26 billion per year to $56 billion by 2100. Climate change is predicted to add some $53 Billion in damages. Two countries are responsible for incurring 75% of the extra damage from climate change associated with tropical cyclones: the United States and China. But tropical island nations will incurr the highest damage per GDP - up to 37%.

The study - The impact of climate change on global tropical cyclone damage - is by Robert Mendelsohn, Kerry Emanuel, Shun Chonabayashi & Laura Bakkensen from Yale and MIT and was published in Nature Climate Change on January 15, 2012.

Caption: Storm tracks and minimum pressure for a sample of synthetic storms. The tracks show that storms are more frequent in the western Pacific. The minimum pressure (hpa) or storm intensity is measured by their color. Storm intensity is higher over the warm waters near the Equator and lower over the cooler waters towards the poles.

Extreme weather: Heavy rain and flooding in Fiji tests climate disaster preparedness

Fiji is experiencing heavy rain and major flooding with a 15-day state of emergency being declared in Fiji’s west coast areas. At least 8 people have died so far in the Fiji January-February 2012 floods with up to 51 reported cases of water-related diseases, thousands in evacuation centres and $30million in damages reported so far.

The Government’s Provincial Development and Multi Ethnic Affairs Ministry Permanent Secretary, Colonel Inia Seruiratu, declared the emergency on January 25 to apply to Ba, Lautoka, Nadi, Nadroga, Ra, and Tavua.

A 2009 publication produced by UNISDR and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) warned that in western Fiji, high-intensity floods would become more frequent. In the Nadi area, for example, these type of floods used to occur every 190 years, but with the influence of climate change by 2100 it is projected that they will occur every 25 years. (Institutional and policy analysis of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Pacific Island Countries: final report (PDF))

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rally says no to HRL coal power station in Victoria

About 400 people gathered in the sun, on the steps of the Victorian parliament for a weekday lunchtime protest to say no new coal fired power stations. The Rally was against the propoed HRL coal fired power station for Victoria. Speakers included Adam Bandt, Greens MP for Melbourne, Kelvin Thomson, Labor MP for Wills, Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, Safe Climate Campaigner for Environment Victoria, Greenpeace Energy Campaigner Julien Vincent, and Gem from AYCC.

Climate change increasing Canada's boreal forest mortality reducing carbon sink capacity

Climate change induced drought and water stress is increasing tree mortality in Canada's boreal forests, particularly in western Canada, resulting in a reduction in biomass which reduces it's capacity as a carbon sink. As tree mortality increases, there is reduced capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, resulting in a feedback loop where conditions become warmer and drier increasing the stress on the boreal forest ecosystem and ability to absorb carbon dioxide that humans keep on pumping into the atmosphere at increasing rates.