Response to rapidly changing climate – deflect, distract, deny and delay

I’m asking myself, what exactly does Earth need to do to get our attention? No, really, what the heckedy-heck does it take to make us truly sit up and notice the massive changes going on in the natural world around us?

(ABC Science Show)

It’s a travesty that so many people are fixated by staring at their so-called smart phones in a search for imaginary Pokémon creatures, while the real plants and animals of the world are turning up their toes in their billions.

Look what has been happening lately around Australia’s coastline alone. If our home is girt by sea, as our national anthem says, then all the signs are that we are effectively burning the floorboards. Disaster after disaster is happening. Think I’m being alarmist? Well, think about this; off Queensland, more than nine-tenths of the Great Barrier Reef has just been bleached. Perhaps a quarter of it has died and likely won’t come back.

Look up north in the Gulf, the worst mass die-off of mangroves ever seen, 10,000 hectares of it along great lengths of the coast. Look off Western Australia, 960 square kilometres of kelp forest has just disappeared. More than a third of it is now extinct. And all of this has become evident in just the past six months alone. It’s as if our oceans have just suffered a massive stroke.

And don’t get me started about the terrible decline in bird populations around our shorelines, or about the rapid southward shift of tropical and subtropical fish, seaweeds and urchins. We are finding Nemo in Tasmanian waters! And don’t mention the millions of tonnes of man-made polymer waste materials, PET bottles, caps, bags, disposable plates, wrappers, you name it, that enter our oceans every year, turning them into one great plastic soup. The sand on every single Australian beach is now made up in part of countless grains of plastic. I could go on but what’s the point. I know I’m far from alone in being aghast about all this. But if the list I have just reeled off hasn’t got Australians off their butt demanding action and marching in the streets, I don’t know what will.

And more – worth a read

(ABC Science Show: 13 Aug 2016: Bob Beale)

Bob Beale has been writing on science and the environment since he worked as a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald. Here he reflects on the lack of concern and the lack of real action in dealing with a world he sees as crumbling.—deflect,-distract,-deny/7726580

Are Australians really prepared to let the Great Barrier Reef die?

All over the world the Great Barrier Reef is making front page news. The world is watching how Australia exercises its duty of care over this most loved international icon.

‘As warming seas kill off one of the world’s natural wonders, researchers are calling for urgent action,’ Britons read in The Guardian newspaper this week. ‘Last chance to save Great Barrier Reef, warn scientists’, the headline read. …

Australia’s national daily also put the reef on the front page, but it had a very different take on the situation. ‘Scientists ‘exaggerated’ coral bleaching’ the headline read. The claim was that some ‘activist scientists’ and ‘lobby groups’ had confused people with references to percentages of coral death in different parts of the reef to make out the bleaching was worse than it really is.

Yet immediately following this coverage, top coral scientists were quick to point out that they had no need – or desire – to exaggerate the sad state of the reef.

‘Twenty two per cent of whole GBR, 35 per cent north of Townsville. Different areas. Where’s the exaggeration?’ asked University of Queensland coral scientist Dr Selina Ward in a tweet.

‘An inconvenient truth – shocking numbers speak for themselves. You decide how serious this is.’ tweeted Professor Terry Hughes.

But, of course, the biggest threat to the reef is not run-off or crown-of-thorns – serious as these problems are – it’s climate change.

This year’s mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef is about as stark a reminder as we could possibly expect that climate change is hitting Australia hard, and we must act fast to get ourselves out of the coal business.

I don’t believe Australians will let the Great Barrier Reef die. But it will take more than just hopes and goodwill to save it. We will need to convince our politicians that it is time to say no to proposals like Adani’s Carmichael proposal and create a future that is coal free.

We need to ask ourselves: are we as a nation so in thrall to the coal industry that we are willing to let the reef perish?

The Age: 10 June 2016
Geoff Cousins
President of the Australian Conservation Foundation

Gulf of Carpentaria mangroves suffer 7,000 hectare dieback

A 700 kilometre stretch of mangrove shoreline in the southern reaches of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia has died, sparking fears of deeper implications for the ecosystem.

The dieback encompasses about 7,000 hectares of land and was the result of the El Nino conditions that affected the region during the warmer months.  It’s sparking fears of far reaching repercussions.   … We know from the remote sensing we have in the area that the dieback occurred late November, December  2015.  … That was the end of an unusually long dry period, that is probably the major contributing factor, the change of climate such that there was virtually no wet season last year. … It’s been so severe in many locations that the whole of the shoreline fringe of mangrove has been killed or at least defoliated.

The Age: 9 July 2016: Drew Creighton

From now, every US government agency will have to consider climate change.

The White House’s chief environmental office has finalized a six-year process of shaping how the government’s agencies will factor climate change into their decisions.

All US federal agencies are to prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of, and alternatives to, major federal actions significantly affecting the environment,. Now agencies are to actually quantify the climate impacts of their decisions.  …  They are to consider how to do things differently, in a way that could help better prepare the US for a warming climate.

We are now going to know what all of our decisions add up to in terms of impacting climate change.  You can think of all the different federal decisions, and how they all add up.

The Washington Post: 2 August 2016: Chris Mooney
(now a broken link)

Plankton Could Stop Making Oxygen by End Of Century

Researchers reveal how Earth’s oxygen could collapse with ocean warming of just 6 degrees C.  Such as collapse is a far greater threat than the threat of sea level rise and flooding.

A study of ocean plankton led by Sergei Petrovskii, Professor in Applied Mathematics (specializing in ecological mathematics) from the University of Leicester’s Department of Mathematics, has shown that an increase in the water temperature of the world’s oceans of around six degrees Celsius – which some scientists predict could occur as soon as 2100 – could disrupt the process of photosynthesis and so stop oxygen production by phytoplankton.

About two-thirds of the planet’s total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton – and therefore cessation would result in the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on a global scale. This would likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans.”

Additional support for the model comes from direct measurement of a mysterious decline of oxygen in the atmosphere. Within the past several years scientists have found that oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere has been dropping, and at higher rates than just the amount that goes into the increase of CO2 from burning fossil fuels, some 2 to 4-times as much, and accelerating since 2002-2003. Simultaneously, oxygen levels in the world’s oceans have also been falling in an expanding fashion for the past fifty years, and will continue into the foreseeable future.

The fundamental cause of oxygen decline in the oceans that has not been mentioned in many studies is the failure of phytoplankton in the oceans to regenerate oxygen by photosynthesis. Phytoplankton is responsible for most of the primary productivity in the oceans that supports the entire marine food web and accounts for the majority of the planet’s primary production from photosynthesis.

Article: Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics under Climate Change
Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

Russ George: 17 June 2016

The climate crisis is already here, but no one’s telling us

The media turns us away from the issues that will determine the course of our lives, and towards topics of brain-melting irrelevance.

Year 2016, on current trends, will be the hottest year ever measured. The previous record was set in 2015; the one before in 2014. Fifteen of the 16 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century. Each of the past 14 months has beaten the global monthly temperature record. But you can still hear people repeating the old claim, first proposed by fossil fuel lobbyists, that global warming stopped in 1998.

Arctic sea ice covered a smaller area last winter than in any winter since records began. In Siberia, an anthrax outbreak is raging through the human and reindeer populations because infected corpses locked in permafrost since the last epidemic in 1941 have thawed.

The Guardian: George Monbiot: 3 August 2016