Monday, January 30, 2012

Critical time for stopping the HRL Coal fired power station in Victoria



Victorian residents are fighting to stop the construction of a new 600MW coal fired power station at Morwell in the La Trobe valley. The HRL coal gasification plant proposes to turn brown coal into a synthetic gas which is mixed with natural gas to fire steam turbines to generate electricity. The pollution generated will be the equivalent of a black coal fired powered station, around 4 million tonnes of CO2 pollution each and every year.

John Howard awarded HRL $100 million, a low emissions technology 'clean coal' grant contingent on it meeting certain project deliverables including raising commercial finance by 31st December 2011. These conditions have not been met. Victorians will rally on Wednesday 1st February 2012 at Parliament House in Spring Street at 12.30pm for the Federal Government to withdraw this grant money and redirect it to renewable energy projects. And to ensure that Julia Gillard keeps her 2010 promise "that there will be no more dirty coal powered stations built in this country".

Related: July 2011 - Victorian Government needs to come clean on plan to achieve 20 percent emissions cut by 2020 | June 2011 - Ferguson and Gillard feeding HRL's coal gasification technology in Melbourne | April 2011 - Government foyer occupied to stop new Victorian coal power station | Campaign sites: Stop HRL, Quit Coal

Freshwater wetlands are important carbon sinks says scientific study



A new study has emphasised the importance of the carbon sequestration capacity of freshwater wetlands. The researchers suggest that temperate freshwater wetlands may have a significant part to play in offsetting greenhouse gas emissions as carbon sinks.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Biodiversity crisis: Habitat loss and climate change causing 6th mass extinction


Scientists meeting at the University of Copenhagen have warned that biodiversity is declining rapidly throughout the world, describing the loss of species as the 6th mass extinction event on the earth. The world is losing species at a rate that is 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, with the challenges of conserving the world's species larger than mitigating the negative effects of global climate change.

Video: Call of Life - Facing the mass extinction

While writing the article on Biodiversity crisis: Habitat loss and climate change causing 6th mass extinction I came across this film - Call of Life - Facing the mass extinction made by Species Alliance and released in 2010. I found the interviews with scientists and academics engaging and in the sum total empowering to face this issue of the biodiversity crisis and the 6th mass extinction which humans are causing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wandering Albatross Riding the winds of climate change

We are stacking the climate dice against the survival of many species on planet earth. A few species may be able to ride the changes, at least temporarily. And so it is with the largest of birds, the wandering albatross, with some populations of this species able to take advantage, so far, of the changing winds of climate change. But for how long?

Global warming has caused the westerly winds in the Southern Ocean to increase in intensity and move poleward. The wandering albatross, with a three metre wing span, spends much of it's life soaring above the ocean searching for food, with the changes in the winds increasing it's foraging ability, breeding capacity and reducing it's conflict with commercial long line fishing operations.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Biodiversity a crucial climate change buffer for ecosystem and cultural diversity

A new multi-author scientific study says that preservation of plant biodiversity provides a crucial buffer to negative effects of climate change and desertification in drylands. Preventing ecosystem degredation in a warming world is significant with drylands particularly vulnerable to environmental changes and desertification. Dryland ecosystems cover 41% of the land surface of the Earth and support 38% of the human population.

It is the first global study of its kind examining 224 dryland sites in 15 countries. The scientific paper - Plant Species Richness and Ecosystem Multifunctionality in Global Drylands (abstract) was published in the AAAS journal Science on 13 January 2012.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Climate activists protest spying and surveillance authorised by Energy minister Martin Ferguson

Climate and Environment activists along with Occupy Melbourne paid a call on thursday afternoon to Martin Ferguson's electoral office at 159 High Street, Preston. The office was closed early supposedly on occupational health and safety grounds, and had a Federal and Victorian police presence.

Martin Ferguson, Minister for Resources and Energy has pushed for increased surveillance of environmental and climate activists protesting coal-fired power stations and coal export facilities, after he was directly lobbied by coal and energy infrastructure companies.

Related: Northcote Independent - That's a pretty clear "No" to Ferguson's NOSIC

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Scientific breakthrough: Remove CO2 from pollution and atmosphere for alternate fuel

An improved method of removing carbon dioxide (CO2) cheaply from industrial smoketacks and even scrubbing the air has been discovered which may help in stabilising climate and reducing carbon emissions. Resolving the huge problem of climate change and global warming is going to take significant action on many levels. This new technology, if it can be rapidly developed and commercialised, may prove extremely useful in reducing carbon emissions and ultimately helping our society to become carbon negative. But the scientists have gone a further step and propose turning the captured carbon dioxide into an alternate stable fuel called renewable methanol to assist in resolving the peak oil petroleum resource depletion problem.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Climate change and habitat loss threaten biodiversity, extinction rate underestimated

Two new scientific papers have emphasised the threat to biodiversity from the impacts of climate change and habitat loss. A study by US ecologist Mark Urban identified that predictions of the loss of animal and plant diversity due to climate change may be greatly underestimated as most predictions of the rate of extinctions don't take into account species competition and movement. A second key global study by University of Queensland and Australian CSIRO scientists emphasised the link between current climate, climate change and habitat loss on plants and animals on a global scale.

Multiple processes are driving the global loss in biodiversity and understanding the synergistic effects on animal and plant populations will be important for wildlife conservation efforts this century.


Species are already moving in response to climate change. Recent research on the velocity of climate change has estimated the average movement of climate envelopes at 27.3 km/decade on land, and 21.7 km/decade in the ocean.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Species biodiversity under threat from the velocity of climate change

Scientists have been able to calculate the velocity of climate change on land and ocean environments using temperature records to determine isotherms and their change in a fifty year period from 1960 to 2009. So how fast are climate envelopes moving? The general median answer is 27.3 km/decade on land, and 21.7 km/decade in the ocean. This equates to a speed needed to outrun climate change on land (2.7 kilometers per year) and in the oceans (2.2 kilometers per year). This rate of movement of thermal climate envelopes poses problems for species facing a high speed migration, or a difficult and abrupt adaptation or extinction.

Here is how scientists measured the velocity of climate change ocurring:

We used global surface temperatures over 50 years (1960-2009) to calculate the distribution of the velocity and seasonal shifts of isotherm migration over land and ocean on a 1°-by-1° grid. The velocity of climate change (in km/year) was calculated as the ratio of the long-term temperature trend (in °C/year) to the two-dimensional spatial gradient in temperature (in °C/km, calculated over a 3°-by-3° grid), oriented along the spatial gradient. We introduced the seasonal climate shift (in days/decade) as the ratio of the long-term temperature trend (°C/year) to the seasonal rate of change in temperature (°C/day). We present seasonal shifts for spring and fall globally using April and October temperatures.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Extreme Weather: Cyclone Thane hits India

One of the last tragic extreme weather events of 2011 was Cyclone Thane hitting the Tamil Nadu coast of India. It caused 46 deaths and damaged buildings, roads and crops. It was the strongest tropical cyclone of 2011 within the North Indian Ocean.

Image from NOAA - Cyclone Thane in the Bay of Bengal
on 28 December 2011, taken by Meteosat


From the Bay of Bengal it made landfall as a very severe cyclone on Friday 30 December very close to Puducherry. The storm struck with torrential rains and gale force winds from 125 to 140 kilometres per hour which uprooted hundreds of trees and knocked down electric poles and mobile phone towers producing power outages and communications blackouts in several areas.

A recent study linked increasing air pollution over the Indian sub-continent to an increase in the intensity of Tropical cyclones in the region.

Cyclone Intensity in North Indian Ocean linked to increasing air pollution

A recent study linked increasing air pollution over the Indian sub-continent to an increase in the intensity of Tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea. The air pollution over the Indian sub-continent changes wind circulation patterns reducing wind shear in the Northern Indian Ocean providing more potential for intense cyclones to form. This is combined with warm sea surface temperatures in the region, especially in the Bay of Bengal, to provide the conditions for more intense and destructive cyclones.

Image by NASA Earth Observatory - Category 4
Tropical Cyclone Gonu in the Arabian Sea in 2007