Friday, February 28, 2014

Harnessing the wind to fight the storms of climate change

How Offshore wind turbines can win a david and goliath battle with hurricanes. Here is a lateral idea: build large offshore wind farms that provide electricity from day to day, but also substantially decrease damaging hurricane or tropical cyclone wind speed and storm surge.

With tropical cyclones forecast to grow stronger and more intense with climate change, if not in greater frequency, such an idea has definite merit to explore. Climate change is predicted to escalate Tropical Cyclone / hurricane damage costs particularly for US and China.

We wouldn't need to put offshore wind farms right along the coast, perhaps just where they can be most effective at lessening storm damage to human lives and infrastructure. And allow us to plant mangroves and cultivate coastal wetlands to store carbon, and provide fish nursery habitat, and absorb storm surges, rather than hugely expensive rock and concrete sea walls.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tackling food security with a growing population, climate change and peak oil

With a growing population and improving diets there is a need to double our food supply by 2050. Identify three measures you would take to meet this demand. Identify one of your measures from your list and post your solution into the discussion - be prepared to defend your choice!

That is a big question to throw in a climate change course. I am presently doing an online course - Climate Change: Challenges and solutions - offered by the University of Exeter (UK). So please indulge me as I also use this blog for some climate course work. This article is for week 6, section 6.5 of the course on 'Tackling food security'.

Food security is one helluva big area to try and come to terms with. Earth's population is just over 7 billion people. It is projected by the United Nations in a June 2013 report on global population to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, although some commentators like David Merkel think it may peak at 8.5 billion around 2030 due to officials underestimating the fall in the fertility rate.

Currently, at least one billion people are constantly hungry or living under the threat of hunger.

Agricultural productivity of the last century has been brought about by the energy input from fossil fuels. There is a strong recent correlation between soaring food costs and soaring oil costs. With Peak oil, energy costs can expect to increase much further, placing further costs on food production. A FAO 2011 report says: "Commodity prices tend to be linked with global energy prices. As energy prices fluctuate and trend upwards, so do food prices".

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Whitehaven coal mine offsets not compatible with threatened ecosystems being destroyed

The Whitehaven coal mine at Maule's Creek near Boggabri in north Western NSW involves the destruction of a substantial part of the Leard Forest. One of the requirements for approval was the provision of environmental offsets to balance 'like for like' against the destruction of high biodiversity habitat. But the latest environmental report by Dr John Hunter advises the offsets for critically endangered ecological communities are "vastly overstated".

This shows that the approval under the EPBC Act by former Environment Minister Tony Burke and the continued support given by current Environment minister Greg Hunt are a travesty and likely a dereliction of duty of care for the environment, threatened species and biodiversity.

Related: Front Line Action on Coal | Leard State Forest | Maule's Creek Community | No Fibs Leard Blockade reports

Alcoa smelter closure opportunity to close coal power at Anglesea and in La Trobe Valley

This week Alcoa announced the closure of it's Port Henry smelter and aluminium rolling mills after a review conducted in the last year. This is a definite employment blow to the Geelong region, coming on the heals of the Ford factory announced closure. But it can provide impetus to reduce carbon emissions for climate change mitigation action by shutting down polluting coal fired capacity now excess to demand.

The Alcoa closure will result in a reduction of about 360MW of electricity currently supplied to the Port Henry aluminium smelter. The Anglesea coal fired power station provides 150MW of this power, which would mean a need to reduce La Trobe Valley generating capacity by about 210MW.

"It is highly likely that existing coal-fired generation at Anglesea, or at Yallourn or Hazelwood, will be mothballed or retired as a result of Alcoa's decision, despite Alcoa's stated intent to try and find a buyer for the Anglesea mine and power station," said Mark Wakeham, Environment Victoria acting chief executive.

I wrote at this time last year that this was an opportunity to close down the highly polluting 150MW Anglesea power station and coal mine, all of the power of which was consumed by Alcoa's industrial processes. See the current Petition to close Anglesea Power Station

It is also an opportunity to expand wind power on the surf coast to increase local employment and power generation. Moving from a polluting brown coal mine and power station to wind turbines should be a no-brainer, but the current state government is beholden to coal intersts and a small cult of anti-wind activists holding back substantial investment in wind farm development in regional areas.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Marine heatwaves continue decimating corals in the Pilbara

Marine heatwaves are having a marked impact on coral reef systems off the Pilbara coast. A CSIRO and University of Western Australia study in progress found bleaching and decimation of ancient porite corals - many up to 400 years old - in a recent visit to Barrow Island. The oceans around Australia were unusually warm in 2013. Globally the deep oceans are also continuing to warm.

“We suspect this bleaching event was due to marine heatwaves that occurred in the region over the past few summers, and to see it up close was sobering,” said Dr Russ Babcock, CSIRO lead scientist, “But to offset this loss, some reefs only a short distance north showed much less damage and will continue to contribute to a healthy ecosystem."

A marine heatwave extreme bleaching event ocurred in 2011 that was widely spread along the Western Australian coast. Preliminary results from the study show that further damage was done in the 2012-2013 summer with elevated water temperatures.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guest Post: wet warning from Australia's Top End on rising sea levels


Rising sea level should concern us all. Sea levels will not rise evenly: it will vary from region to region. In Eastern and southern Australia sea levels are rising at about the global average, but in Northern Australia the rate is three times or more above the average. It poses difficult decisions of climate adaptation now about whether to defend coastal infrastructure or a managed retreat.

It comes at a time when many scientists are worried the IPCC is underestimating sea level rise. In Queensland we have seen Reversal of sea level rise co-ordinated planning increasing risk to Australian coastal development. The natural coastal defences need bolstering but Planners also need to allow for Coastal wetlands migration due to sea level rise, climate change. See also my 2011 article on Sea Level Rise and Australia.


This article by Andrew Campbell, Charles Darwin University and Stephen Garnett, Charles Darwin University, highlights the planning dilemmas involved with rapidly rising sea levels.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Moreland Council calls for greater heatwave emergency planning for Victoria


Welcome to the new normal with stinking hot summers, as heatwaves hover over and amplify the urban heat island effect in cities like Melbourne bringing the heat from central Australia. Most of Victoria is feeling the heat, which has come despite ENSO being in a neutral phase. So far the State Government lead by Premier Denis Napthine has made only Token efforts in managing heatwaves despite predictions by climate scientists that heatwaves increasing faster than average temperatures and becoming more frequent and intense. At least my local council, the City of Moreland is taking heatwaves seriously investigating what it can do and calling for greater heatwave emergency planning by the state government.

2014 started with intense heatwave in central Australia and Queensland with temperatures climbing toward 50C. It was so hot that bats were dying and falling from the trees. The extreme heat took a little whole longer to make it to the south east and Melbourne, but arrive it did causing stress to the electricity grid in Victoria and showing the importance of renewables, both solar PV and wind for moderating peak demand. Melbourne had four consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 41C, a new record for the city.

The heatwaves have continued in late January showing more action required on climate change and adaptation.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ExClimate: Experiment shows coral reefs in peril in a high CO2 world


Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg takes us through and explains a controlled experiment his Institute is conducting in coral reef ecosystem reaction to various temperature and carbon dioxide environments.

Hoegh-Guldberg is Director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and an important authority on tropical marine biology, coral reef ecosystems and climate change.

He argues that Coral Reef ecosystems have already changed significantly from pre-industrial times, and will change even further as human carbon emissions increase in the atmosphere with many species likely to be pushed to extinction due to heat stress and ocean acidification from anthropogenic climate change.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Guest Post: Atmospheric surface warming stalled by strong Trade winds driving heat into Pacific ocean

By Michael Hopkin, The Conversation, who interviewed Steve Rintoul from CSIRO, Richard Allan Professor of Climate Science at University of Reading, and Mathew England a Climatologist at University of New South Wales.

The “pause” in global warming since 2001 can be explained by the discovery of unusually strong winds in the Pacific, climatologists have found.

Global surface air temperatures have more or less flatlined since the turn of the century, prompting some observers to claim that the planetary warming trend has stopped. But the new research, published in Nature Climate Change, shows how stronger winds have driven the excess heat down into the ocean.

Researchers led by Matthew England, a professor of climatology at the University of New South Wales, began by looking at the differences between the 1990s, when Earth’s surface was strongly warming, and the 2000s, after the hiatus began.

Previous research has already shown that cooler temperatures over the eastern Pacific are linked to a slowdown in worldwide warming, but researchers wanted to know why.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

ExClimate: Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier revs up with climate change

A "glacial pace" can no longer be used to describe the speed of the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland. The latest study of Jakobshavn Isbræ (Jakobshavn Glacier) from Greenland reveals the glacier is setting new speed records. In the summer of 2012 the glacier reached a record speed of more than 17 kilometres per year, or over 46 metres per day. This is an unprecedented speed for a glacier and appears to be the fastest ever recorded for any glacier or ice stream in Greenland or Antarctica, according to a new study published in The Cryosphere.

The glacier discharges ice bergs in calving events from West Greenland and it's calving face continues to retreat over a deep depression in the fjord, which adds to it's instability.

“We are now seeing summer speeds more than 4 times what they were in the 1990s on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glacier in Greenland,” says Ian Joughin, a researcher at the Polar Science Center, University of Washington and lead-author of the study: Brief Communication: Further summer speedup of Jakobshavn Isbr√¶.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Exclimate: Are recent global temperatures predicted by climate models?

This article is a little bit of a tangent to my regular articles. I am presently doing an online course - Climate Change: Challenges and solutions - offered by the University of Exeter (UK). So please indulge me as I also use this blog for some climate course work. This article is for week 3, section 4.4 of the course on 'IPCC Fifth Assessment Report'.

The IPCC recently published their Fifth Assessment Report (2013). Does the recent change in global temperatures reflect the predictions of climate models? Search for other feedback in the media and focus on the role of climate models and then try to address the discussion question: Does the recent change in global temperatures reflect the predictions of climate models?

An interesting question, because recent global mean surface temperatures over the last 15 years from 1998 show only a very slight warming trend. In the HadCRUT4 temperature data series the trend is 0.04°C per decade over 1998–2012, compared to 0.11°C per decade over 1951–2012. This is used by climate sceptics to argue that 'global warming has stopped'.

So have climate models predicted this slow down in temperatures?

Not per se. But global climate models do include natural variability cycles as part of their long term average trend. In some periods of a similar length of time warming is greater than the average, and in some it is less or even shows a measure of cooling. This can be seen even in the last 100 years. So, yes, this recent slow down in global temperatures over the last 15 years forms part of long term climate model trends.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Coal barons and climate change driving Great Barrier Reef destruction


Let's get this straight. Australian politicians are allowing some of the richest Australian billionaires combined with Chinese and Indian power corporations to destroy the Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world and a World Heritage site. Political approval of mining the guts out of the coal rich Galilee basin in Central Queensland destroys sensitive ecosystems like the Bimblebox Nature Reserve containing threatened species, and is forecast to substantially lower the water table impacting rural communities and agricultural productivity with possible repercussions on flow in the Great Artesian basin aquifer.

This coal will be exported through Queensland ports, but substantial dredging is required with the dredge spoil to be dumped in the marine park waters damaging the reef. The increase in ship movements will also imperil the reef. The increased CO2 emissions when the coal is burnt will also cause ocean acidification and climate change both of which are, you guessed it....damaging the coral reef systems and the Great Barrier Reef.

Related: WWF:Fight for the Reef | Australia courting danger with the Great Barrier Reef : Greenpeace - Abbot Point Dredging – Who’s really to blame? | Greenpeace petition at SavetheReef.org.au