Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Premier Campbell Newman opens up logging destruction in Queensland native forests

The Queensland Premier and Government have reopened logging in native forests with 2 million hectares of state forest being made initially available for environmental destruction. This will impact on habitat for endangered species, biodiversity and the huge carbon stores locked up in mature forests. Mature forests also tend to hold more moisture and are less susceptible to bushfire, and absorb more water during floods - providing a natural flood mitigation service, a natural service that is all the more needed with the increase in rainfall and extreme whether events with climate change. See Leaked Document (PDF).

Climate change to increase heat stress, reduce work capacity

Climate change will result in hotter and more humid environment for the tropics and mid latitudes resulting in increasing economic costs of reduced work capacity due to heat stress. The study by NOAA scientists said work capacity has already reduced by 10 percent during extreme heat in summer months. This is likely to double to 20 per cent by 2050.


One of the physical properties of warmer air is that it can hold more moisture. So in hot weather atmospheric humdity can be more extreme. But there are physiological limits of human health in coping with temperature extremes. In 2010 Scientists outlined health limits of heat stress with Climate Change. The scientific paper by Steven Sherwood from the University of NSW and Professor Matthew Huber from Purdue University - 'An Adaptability Limit to Climate Change Due to Heat Stress' outlined the health adaptation limits of the human body.

Humans and most mammals maintain a core body temperature around 37 °C that may vary slightly among individuals but does not adapt to the local climate. To allow transfer and regulation of metabolic heat human skin is strongly regulated at 35 °C or below, a couple of degrees colder than core body temperature. This allows the body to dissipate heat through the skin at wet-bulb temperatures below 35 °C.

In this latest study, the researchers looked at military and industrial guidelines already in place for those who work in hot and humid conditions outside, and set those guidelines against climate projections for how hot and humid it's likely to get over the next century, using Wet Bulb temperatures scale which take account of humidity and wind speed. Using a middle of the road modelling projection they estimated that reduced work capacity due to heat stress is likely to double to 20 per cent by 2050.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sea ice reduction disturbs Arctic greenhouse gas balance

The diminishing Arctic sea-ice extent is resulting in changes in how greenhouse gases interact between the land, ocean and atmosphere according to a new study.

"Changes in the balance of greenhouse gases can have major consequences because, globally, plants and the oceans absorb around half of the carbon dioxide that humans release into the air through the use of fossil fuels. If the Arctic component of this buffer changes, so will the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere", says Dr Frans-Jan Parmentier, a researcher at Lund University, Sweden, and lead author of the study..

Reduced white sea ice and expanded dark ocean surface results in a change to the surface albedo feedback or reflectivity, resulting in increased light absorption and ocean warming which then warms the atmosphere affecting the rate of interchange of CO2.

The decline of summer sea ice has been dramatic with the Arctic Summer Sea Ice Extent Minimum record smashed in 2012.

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Our governments are well oiled and they are coal fired" says James Hansen


An estimated 35,000 to 50,000 people attended the February 17th climate rally in Washington DC organised by 350.org, the Sierra Club and a few other groups. It was the largest climate rally to date that has occurred in the United States.

One activist, ebecker2000, caught up and briefly interviewed NASA climatologist James Hansen at the rally. Hansen bluntly stated "if we burn all of the fossil fuels, more than half the planet will be uninhabitable by humans."

But Hansen was heartened to see the numbers at the rally, "This is great. This is by far the biggest crowd we have ever had and finally I think the public is waking up to the fact that our governments are working for the fossil fuel industry...."

Across the US Tens of thousands march against Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

DC Indymedia reported : On the 17th of February, the "Forward on Climate" march and rally against TransCanada's racist, earth-destroying Keystone XL tar sands pipeline took place. It was the largest protest I have seen in several years, with the Tar Sands Blockade website claiming a turnout of 50,000 people. Bill McKibben also announced at the rally that the Sierra Club estimated that 50,000 people were on the march past the Whitehouse House.

From the arrival of leading elements of the march back at the Washington Monument to the arrival of the last element seemed to be in excess of an hour. One report said the march, which crammed the road from curb to curb, was strung out over a mile long.

Related: James Hansen Improptu interview at Washington March | Voices of Resistance: Four Women Tell Why They're Rallying in D.C. |
Photos - Largest Climate March in History | Fairfax Climate Watch Climate Change Rally Draws a large turnout
Portland - Climate Justice Activists in Portland, OR Occupy Exhibit for Tar Sands Profiteer ESCO Corp. | Why Organized Labor Must Stand Against the Keystone XL Pipeline
San Fransisco - Biggest Climate Change Rally in American History Brings Out Thousands in DC, San Francisco
Los Angeles - Shut It Down, Mr. President | L.A. Participates in Protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline (part 1, part 2)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sea Level rising 3 to 4 times faster on US Atlantic coast

One of the impacts of the Greenland Ice sheet melt is the increase in cold fresh water impacting on the themohaline circulation, the great ocean conveyor belt. There are signs the Gulf Stream has slowed down by a third due to this influx of melt water. The Gulf Stream acts to drag water away from the coast of North America, so a slowing current will add to greater sea level rise along the east coast of north America: increasing sea level rise by up to 4 times the global average.

Scientists from the US Geological Survey (USGS) identified that since about 1990, sea-level rise in the 1,000-km (600 mile) stretch of coastal zone from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to north of Boston, Massachusetts is a sea level rise hotspot. This is based on tide gauge data and concurs with sea level rise modelling.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Greenland Melting detected during Winter a climate change concern

Satellite data for the first several weeks of 2013 is showing that melting is occurring in south east Greenland. In summer this would be expected, but January-February is the dead of winter. Some portions of Greenland have experienced more than 30 days of melting since the start of this year, a worrying trend.

According to email correspondence with Ted Scambos from National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) sent to Tom Yulsman, all of Greenland has been 2 to 6 degrees C warmer than the 30 year mean. Tom quotes Ted Scambos on his blog: "Air temperatures along the southeastern coast for the period Feb 10 – 15 are running 2 to 6 C above normal. Nuuk, the capital, on the very southern west coast, is currently just a couple of degrees below freezing."

Related: Is Climate Change causing an exponential rate of Ice sheet Mass Loss, sea level rise? | Global Warming threshold for Greenland Ice Sheet collapse reduced to 1.6 degrees C

Friday, February 15, 2013

Australia gives foreign aid to Kiribati to combat climate change as new coal mines approved

At the start of this week Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced that Australia would fund repairs to 40 kilometres of main road in South Tarawa, Kiribati. The road is heavily damaged and undermined by rising sea levels and coastal erosion from climate change. The irony is that at the same time Bob Carr's colleague, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke was approving 3 major fossil fuel developments that will exacerbate climate change.

"Kiribati is at the front line of climate change," Senator Carr said. "Its highest point is now just three metres above sea level. Unless action is taken, Kiribati will be uninhabitable by 2030 as a result of coastal erosion, sea level rise and saltwater intrusion into drinking water."

To Kiribati Australia's aid money is an important contribution to a small island state facing obliteration due to rising seas in the next 50 years. The highest point on Kiribati is just 3 metres above sea level, and much of the land is only one to two metres high. Rising seas and storm surges are spoiling land for agriculture, washing away houses, undermining roads and producing salt water incursion into fresh drinking water wells.

Kiribati is unlikely to survive the impacts of climate change this century, but adaptation can be made to increase resilience. "This project will provide more than 40 per cent of the population with better access to health clinics, schools and markets. Coastal roads will be rehabilitated to withstand rising sea levels and storm surges caused by climate change." said Senator Carr.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Environment Minister approves fossil fuel projects increasing carbon emissions 8% per year

Maules Creek and Boggabri coal mines, and the Gloucester CSG Field in New South Wales get conditional go ahead from the Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke increasing Australia's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change and strongly condemned by the local community and conservationists.

Environment Minister Tony Burke has conditionally approved the Whitehaven Maules Creek open cut coal mine near Narrabri in the Leard State Forest as well as the four fold expansion of the neighboring Idemitsu Boggabri coal mine, and a major Coal Seam Gas field near Gloucester being undertaken by AGL.

The decisions were brought forward after the NSW State Government leaked that the Minister had already decided last year to approve the projects. "Unfortunately the decision of the New South Wales Government to leak commercially sensitive information has caused me to have to bring these decisions forward today with the remaining work to be resolved directly between the company and myself." Tony Burke said in a press release.

The decision came just a few days after an announcement that the Minister would delay a decision on the Maules Creek mine until the end of April.

According to a report in the Age newspaper the three projects have a huge carbon footprint of 47 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year. This amounts to 8 per cent of Australia's emissions and contradicts the work of the Climate Change Department and carbon price in aiming to reduce Australia's emissions by just 5 per cent by 2020.

A Greenpeace report by environmental consultants Ecosys - Point of No Return - published in January 2013 highlighted the danger of 14 global 'carbon bomb' projects which would increase global carbon emissions by 20% and lock the planet in to worst case business as usual climate change scenarios of 4 to 6 degrees centigrade of global warming this century. Fossil fuel extraction projects in Australia and China top the list. The approval of the Maules Creek coal mine and Boggabri coal mine extension are part of Australia's substantial contribution to this 'carbon bomb'.

Sydney's water supply under threat from BHP Long wall coal mine extension

"Allowing BHP to undermine our drinking water supply defies common sense and breaches a personal commitment by Premier O'Farrell to prevent mining in drinking water catchments," Nature Conservation Council of NSW Chief Executive Officer Pepe Clarke declared on Tuesday with the announcement that approval had been given to BHP Billiton's Mount Kembla Dendrobium coal mine to extend under part of Sydney's water catchment.

On Monday 11 February the New South Wales State Government Department of Planning and Infrastructure gave approval to BHP Billiton's Mount Kembla Dendrobium Area 3B long wall mine extension plan. This involves several underground excavations directly under Sydney's Woronora water catchments. The approval was strongly criticised by conservationists including Total Enviropnment Centre director Jeff Angel, and the NSW Conservation Council Pepe Clark who accused the Premier Barrie O'Farrell of breaking a key pre-election promise of not to mine in Sydney's catchments.

Related: Longwall mining, subsidence and damage to Sydney waterways and wetlands | Aboriginal Heritage: Water - Everyone's Future | SMH: Mine approved despite water catchment fears

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Coal Seam Gas Field proposal for Pilliga Scrub withdrawn by Santos


The Adelaide headquarted Mining and energy company Santos has withdrawn proposals for development of the Pilliga gas field near Narrabri in north western New South Wales.

Santos took over Eastern Star Gas' assets in the Pilliga Forest in 2011 with the intention of developing 550 duel coal seam gas wells and associated infrastructure. They were vigorously opposed by the local community and activist groups including the Wilderness Society. Conservationists have welcomed the withdrawal but are aware that further proposals may be submitted in future.

The development proposals were withdrawn after a private meeting between Santos and the Federal Government last Friday. All proposed development including the gas field, power plant and major gas pipeline applications, have now been withdrawn.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

CO2 carbon capture process mimics Sea Urchin

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a thorny and costly problem which scientists are still coming to terms with for a technological solution to mitigating carbon pollution and climate change. But what if we mimiced nature, as indeed scientists at Newcastle University in the UK have done in understanding how the simple sea urchin, a thorny little marine creature, uses nickel to turn carbon dioxide in the sea to calcium carbonate for making their exo-skeleton.

This is another demonstration of the importance of preserving biodiversity: for the insights it can give us in understanding the world around us and assisting in breakthroughs in biological, chemical and pharmaceutical processes. Unfortunately for the sea urchin warming oceans reduce sea urchin sperm longevity impacting the fertilisation process which may lead to sea urchin population decline in the future.

Capturing carbon and long term sequestration is a costly industrial process that currently uses substantial energy and resources. Carbon sequestration is presently only working in pilot programs. Usually CO2 is captured and pumped underground under pressure in depleted oil and gas fields. But there is also a risk of leakage that would substantially lessen any carbon reduction gains made. Earthquakes causing fractures and leakage are also a concern. While there are many pilot CCS plants in operation round the world, industrial scale CCS plants are still a coal mining company's dream.

Several alternate methods for carbon capture and storage (CCS) are being researched and have been proposed as possible answers. See Scientific breakthrough: Remove CO2 from pollution and atmosphere for alternate fuel (Jan 2012) and Award for ground breaking research in capturing Carbon Dioxide (Aug 2010). For a discussion on Carbon Capture and Storage and seismicity see Carbon capture and storage and the Melbourne Earthquake (June 2012)

So a method of extracting waste carbon from coal fired power stations and chemical plants and converting it to a stable mineral form like Calcium or Magnesium Carbonate seems like a no brainer. Especially if it can be done cheaply and efficiently at commercial industrial scale.