Monday, July 29, 2013

To Walk among Giants - National Tree Day celebrated in Victorian Central Highlands

How did you celebrate National Tree Day - 28 July? I finally found the time to drive up from Melbourne to the mountain ash forests of the Central Highlands at Sylvia Creek Road near Toolangi, to walk among giants.

The occasion was the opening of a new short track - The Kalatha Giant Tree Walk. There are still some mature Mountain Ash standing as silent sentinels. The Kalatha tree is estimated to be about 400 years old. Somehow it was missed in previous logging of the area, although a smaller tree near the start of the track provides evidence for early logging in the area.

It was quite a crowd that gathered at Tanglefoot Car Park picnic spot on Sylvia Creek Road. Many people brought hampers but there was also plenty of hot soup, juice and tea supplied by local people. My Environment, and Friends of Leadbeater's Possum were there, as well as CFA and DSE and councillors from Yarra Ranges and Murrindindi Councils.

Friends of Leadbeater's Possum had 'George' on display. George is a stuffed male Leadbeater's possum found intact on the side of a logging road about two years ago. It is assumed that George's home was a victim of logging, and as his home was being carted away he fell off the logging truck. Now he is truly stuffed. And his species isn't doing much better.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Guest Post: Andrew Glikson on Methane and the risk of runaway global warming

Methane and the risk of runaway global warming


By Andrew Glikson

Research was published this week showing the financial cost of methane being released from Earth’s permafrosts. But the risks go beyond financial – Earth’s history shows that releasing these stores could set off a series of events with calamitous consequences.

The sediments and bottom water beneath the world’s shallow oceans and lakes contain vast amounts of greenhouse gases: methane hydrates and methane clathrates (see Figure 1). In particular methane is concentrated in Arctic permafrost where the accumulation of organic matter in frozen soils covers about 24% of northern hemisphere continents (see Figure 2a) and is estimated to contain more than 900 billion tons of carbon.

Methane, a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than CO2, is released from previously frozen soils when organic matter thaws and decomposes under anaerobic conditions (that is, without oxygen present).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Prime Minister Rudd axes Biodiversity Fund in carbon pricing shakeup

Elimination of the $1 billion Biodiversity Fund is a major impact of Prime Minister Rudd's shake-up of Australia's carbon pricing policy and bringing forward the introduction of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) by one year to 1st July 2014. This relegates Australia's funding of biodiversity programs to the same level as many third world countries like the Congo and Iraq. Well done Prime Minister. A real race to the bottom on conservation.

There is a global Biodiversity crisis with habitat and climate change causing a 6th mass extinction. Species biodiversity under threat from the velocity of climate change. Even many Common plants and animals facing dramatic biodiversity decline from climate change.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Scientists advise Soil Carbon farming unviable - time to bury the Coalition Direct Action Climate Plan

Latest Scientific advice from University of Melbourne researchers says that The potential for carbon sequestration in Australian agricultural soils is technically and economically limited. This scientific report, published in Nature on 12 July 2013, should truly bury the Liberal National Party reliance on soil carbon sequestration for 60% of their Direct Action climate plan. It simply won't work.

Most of the rest of the Coalition Climate Plan revolves around urban tree planting and reverse auctions to pay polluters to reduce carbon emissions, both of which are also very problematic and costly responses, likely to be ineffective in mitigating emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020. This all adds up to the Coalition Climate Plan being a huge crock. Something to say you are doing when you are actually doing nothing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Concentrating Solar Power Station launched in Mildura

Today saw the official launch of the Silex built Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) Solar Power Station in Mildura, Victoria, supplying enough power to the grid for about 500 average homes. Victorian Minister for Energy launched the power station, but was criticised by Environment Victoria for failing to support investment in solar energy.

The Mildura Solar Farm project was initiated under the previous Brumby Labor Government as part of a scheme which aimed to build 5 to 10 concentrating solar thermal (CST) power stations in the states' north and west by 2020.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Longterm sea level rise estimated at 2.3 metres for every degree Celsius of global warming

"Continuous sea-level rise is something we cannot avoid unless global temperatures go down again," said climate scientist Anders Levermann from the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "Thus we can be absolutely certain that we need to adapt. Sea-level rise might be slow on time scales on which we elect governments, but it is inevitable and therefore highly relevant for almost everything we build along our coastlines, for many generations to come."

Anders Levermann was taking about the implications of a new study he is a co-author of - The multi-millennial sea-level commitment of global warming. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online during July 2013. It is one of the first studies to combine analyses of four major contributors to potential sea level rise into a collective estimate, and compare it with evidence of past sea-level responses to global temperature changes.

The result is a longterm estimate that global sea levels will rise about 2.3 meters, or more than seven feet, over the next two thousand years for every degree (Celsius) the planet warms. "the total sea-level commitment after 2,000 y is quasi-linear, with a sensitivity of 2.3 m °C" reports the study.

"The study did not seek to estimate how much the planet will warm, or how rapidly sea levels will rise," noted Professor Peter Clark, an Oregon State University paleo-climatologist and co-author on the PNAS article. "Instead, we were trying to pin down the 'sea-level commitment' of global warming on a multi-millennial time scale. In other words, how much would sea levels rise over long periods of time for each degree the planet warms and holds that warmth?"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Urbanization amplifies global warming temperatures for Sydney

A new scientific study finds that Sydney faces hotter temperatures due to the interaction of expanding urbanization, climate change and the urban heat island effect

The study - Temperature response to future urbanization and climate change (abstract) - highlights the combined impact of both new urbanization and climate change on near-surface temperatures for greater Sydney, with positive feedbacks between urban expansion and global warming at the local scales. While Maximum daytime temperatures (Tmax) for Sydney are projected to only increase slightly and mostly in the winter, most of the change will be seen in substantial increases in nigt-time temperatures (Tmin), particularly in Spring and Summer months.

Urban expansion in Western Sydney is creating a multitude of new estates on Sydney's fringes expected to house more than 100,000 residents. These new urban areas are likely to experience the largest rises in temperature of up to 3.7 degrees Celsius by 2050 due to the interaction of land use change, global warming and the urban heat island effect.

The Urban Heat Island effect (UHI) is a well known and studied phenomenon which says that the built urban environment increases local temperatures, while reducing the opportunity for evapo-transpiration for cooling.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Obama's climate Action plan and Australia

Last week President Barack Obama launched his Climate Action Plan for the United States at Georgetown University. It outlines the executive and regulatory actions to cut US greenhouse gas emissions to 17 per cent below their 2005 levels by 2020. The plan follows up in detail Obama's statements on tackling climate change in his inauguration speech and State of the Union Speech.

But the plan does not go far enough to meet the magnitude of the crisis, and really only meets the US voluntary commitments made by Obama at the 2009 Copenhagen UNFCCC climate conference. Such voluntary commitments still fall far short of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and are likely to result in 3 to 5 degrees C of arming by the end of the century.

"We're happy to see the president finally addressing climate change but the plain truth is that what he's proposing isn't big enough, and doesn't move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis," said Bill Snape, a senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.