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Climate Shifts » Chris McGrath http://www.climateshifts.org Science, climate change, coral reefs and the environment Sun, 05 Oct 2014 04:16:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.25 A single coal mine that will add 1 ppm CO2 to the atmosphere http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=6176 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=6176#comments Wed, 08 Dec 2010 06:37:04 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=6176

Amidst the rubble of international and Australian climate change policies a remarkable expansion of the Australian resources sector continues.

A new mega-mine, the Carmichael Coal Mine, is now proposed in Queensland, Australia, by a subsidiary of the Indian-based Adani Group. It will produce around 60 million tonnes of thermal coal for 150 [...]]]>

Amidst the rubble of international and Australian climate change policies a remarkable expansion of the Australian resources sector continues.

A new mega-mine, the Carmichael Coal Mine, is now proposed in Queensland, Australia, by a subsidiary of the Indian-based Adani Group. It will produce around 60 million tonnes of thermal coal for 150 years.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the mine is estimated to have an indicated and inferred resource of 7.8 billion tonnes of thermal coal.

No details of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the mine have yet been published but a very rough calculation of the total GHGs that will be produced by the mining and burning of the coal from it can be done using the formulas and figures set out in the Australian Government’s National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (Measurement) Determination 2008.

Based on this methodology the mining and burning of coal from the Carmichael Coal Mine will produce around 20 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the 150 year life of the mine. This figure is a rough estimate only and there are significant uncertainties that cannot be resolved without detailed information on the coal resource and mining methods (which the proponent has yet to provide).

In the absence of more detailed calculation of the GHG emissions being supplied by the proponent, the figure of around 20 gigatonnes of CO2 from the mining and burning of the coal at least gives a rough estimate of the total GHG emissions from the mine. These emissions are truly enormous on a national and global scale. They are equivalent to around 36 years of direct emissions from the whole of Australia based on current levels of emissions of around 550 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per year (excluding LULUCF).

The emission of 20 billion tonnes of CO2 from the mining and burning of coal from the Carmichael Coal Mine alone will add around 1 ppm to atmospheric CO2 levels based on current levels of global emissions of around 32 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalents/yr and corresponding annual rises in atmospheric CO2 of 1.6 ppm/yr.
The fact that the coal from the mine will be produced over 150 years means little for the atmosphere given the fact that the CO2 released by the burning of coal will continue to affect the atmosphere for “300 years, plus 25% that lasts forever” (Archer 2005).

Despite the enormity of the greenhouse gas emissions involved the mine is certain to be approved by the Australian Government and the State Government in Queensland.

The Australian Government’s commitments to prevent dangerous climate change while at the same time allowing massive expansion of coal mines is, as John Podesa put it, like “trying to ride two horses galloping in opposite directions.”

This coal mine brings Elizabeth Kolbert’s closing lines in Field Notes from a Catastrophe to mind:

“It may seem impossible to imagine that that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”

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2010 Caribbean and SE Asia coral bleaching could be worst ever http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=5940 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=5940#comments Thu, 21 Oct 2010 09:17:26 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=5940 The hottest January – September 2010 period on record has driven a massive coral bleaching event in the northern hemisphere.

Eli Kintisch reports at Science online:

“Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have [...]]]> The hottest January – September 2010 period on record has driven a massive coral bleaching event in the northern hemisphere.

Eli Kintisch reports at Science online:

“Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have dealt a blow to shallow and deep-sea corals that is likely to top the devastation of 2005, when 80% of corals were bleached and as many as 40% died in areas on the eastern side of the Caribbean.”

The situation is equally grim in South-East Asia. Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University reports that across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and including reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia:

“It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science. So far around 80 percent of Acropora colonies and 50 percent of colonies from other species have died since the outbreak began in May this year.”

It remains to be seen whether the extreme water temperatures experienced during the northern hemisphere summer will continue into the southern hemisphere 2010/2011 summer and affect coral reefs south of the equator such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Hat-tip: Joe Romm at Climate Progress

Related posts: Coral reefs are bleaching worldwide

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Our Future World: CSIRO research of megatrends, megashocks & future scenarios http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=5629 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=5629#comments Tue, 20 Jul 2010 12:21:43 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=5629

Dr Stefan Hajkowicz gave an interesting presentation on 12 July 2010 in Brisbane, Australia, on recent CSIRO research of megatrends, megashocks and future scenarios.

Stefan is the co-author of Our Future World: an analysis of global trends, shocks and scenarios, released by CSIRO in April 2010. The report is being used [...]]]>

Dr Stefan Hajkowicz gave an interesting presentation on 12 July 2010 in Brisbane, Australia, on recent CSIRO research of megatrends, megashocks and future scenarios.

Stefan is the co-author of Our Future World: an analysis of global trends, shocks and scenarios, released by CSIRO in April 2010. The report is being used to guide CSIRO’s research investment strategy.

The report defined a “megatrend” as “a collection of trends, patterns of economic, social or environmental activity that will change the way people live and the science and technology products they demand.”

The five interrelated megatrends identified in the report are:

  1. More from less. This relates to the world’s depleting natural resources and increasing demand for those resources through economic and population growth. Coming decades will see a focus on resource use efficiency.
  2. A personal touch. Growth of the services sector of western economies is being followed by a second wave of innovation aimed at tailoring and targeting services.
  3. Divergent demographics. The populations of OECD countries are ageing and experiencing lifestyle and diet related health problems. At the same time there are high fertility rates and problems of not enough food for millions in poor countries.
  4. On the move. People are changing jobs and careers more often, moving house more often, commuting further to work and travelling around the world more often.
  5. i World. Everything in the natural world will have a digital counterpart. Computing power and memory storage are improving rapidly. Many more devices are getting connected to the internet.

I attended the presentation interested to think outside my normal (environmental law) box and to hear how future scenarios could incorporate climate change impacts. Ove was also there to listen in.

While the Stefan’s presentation did include a significant component on “TRIAGE” for the Murray-Darling and coral reefs due to over-allocation of water and climate change respectively, I came away fairly disappointed with the scientific validity of the analysis that was presented.

The major failing of the analysis is that it treats climate change as only as seemingly minor component within megatrend 1 and there was no reference at all to ocean acidification.

In fact, climate change is only mentioned in megatrend 1 tangentially through reference to “growth in the global carbon market”.

The only direct reference to climate change in the report is in the megashock section of the report through identification of “extreme climate change related weather.”

Incidentally, the full list of environment-related global risks identified in the report are:

  • Extreme climate change related weather
  • Droughts and desertification
  • Loss of freshwater
  • Cyclone
  • Earthquake
  • Inland flooding
  • Coastal flooding
  • Air pollution
  • Biodiversity loss

Ocean acidification, the “evil twin” of climate change, is not mentioned anywhere in the report.

It is hard to reconcile the failure in the report to recognise climate change and ocean acidification as a megatrend in their own right with the peer-reviewed literature or numerous synthesis reports of leading scientific bodies, including but far from limited to IPCC 2007.

Just read the abstract of one of the many recent review articles on climate change and ocean acidification to understand the dystopia that current science foresees in the near-term future for the world’s oceans based on current and likely future trends in carbon dioxide emissions (Hoegh-Guldberg et al 2007):

“Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is expected to exceed 500 parts per million and global temperatures to rise by at least 2°C by 2050 to 2100, values that significantly exceed those of at least the past 420,000 years during which most extant marine organisms evolved. Under conditions expected in the 21st century, global warming and ocean acidification will compromise carbonate accretion, with corals becoming increasingly rare on reef systems. The result will be less diverse reef communities and carbonate reef structures that fail to be maintained. Climate change also exacerbates local stresses from declining water quality and overexploitation of key species, driving reefs increasingly toward the tipping point for functional collapse. This review presents future scenarios for coral reefs that predict increasingly serious consequences for reef-associated fisheries, tourism, coastal protection, and people. As the International Year of the Reef 2008 begins, scaled-up management intervention and decisive action on global emissions are required if the loss of coral-dominated ecosystems is to be avoided.”

Stefan wondered during his presentation into the climate change thicket when discussing the rapidly rising middle-class in India and said “we must fix poverty before we fix climate change.”

To me that sounded a lot like Bjørn Lomborg’s misguided argument that climate change should be given a low priority because increasing the world’s riches will solve climate change in the future without costly interventions or unpopular behavioural change now. Understandably Lomborg is thin on the details of how this magic transition will occur.

Like Lomborg’s work, the analysis reflects an economist’s rosy confidence in market forces and humanity’s technological capacity to solve all problems. Also like Lomborg’s work, more attention to the physics and chemistry of the world’s atmosphere and oceans would improve its usefulness as a guide to the future.

Overall, it was a thought-provoking presentation and a report that is well worth a look at but there is a serious discrepancy between the analysis and the world that climate science suggests is our most likely future.

Unlike their treatment in this analysis, climate change and ocean acidification should be regarded as a megatrend in their own right as they are fundamentally altering the world we live in on a massive scale and they will continue to impact on all aspects of life in the future.

Page photo: “Dystopia” by Moebius (Hat-tip to Climate Progress)

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The best argument against global warming http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=4883 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=4883#comments Mon, 15 Mar 2010 01:45:41 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=4883

Dr Peter Gleick writes in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Here is the best argument against global warming:

. . . .

Oh, right. There isn’t one.

There is no good argument against global warming. In all the brouhaha about tiny errors recently found in the massive IPCC report, the posturing by [...]]]>

Dr Peter Gleick writes in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Here is the best argument against global warming:

. . . .

Oh, right. There isn’t one.

There is no good argument against global warming. In all the brouhaha about tiny errors recently found in the massive IPCC report, the posturing by global climate deniers, including some elected officials, leaked emails, and media reports, here is one fact that seems to have been overlooked:

Those who deny that humans are causing unprecedented climate change have never, ever produced an alternative scientific argument that comes close to explaining the evidence we see around the world that the climate is changing. [read more]

Hat-tip to Joe Romm at ClimateProgress.

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Climate Change Science Compendium 2009 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=3090 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=3090#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2009 03:52:24 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=3090

The UNEP has released a Climate Change Science Compendium 2009 (McMullen and Jabbour 2009) that:

“presents some of the issues and ideas that have emerged since the close of research for consideration by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report over three years ago. Focusing on work that brings new insights to [...]]]> CCC_Cover

The UNEP has released a Climate Change Science Compendium 2009 (McMullen and Jabbour 2009) that:

“presents some of the issues and ideas that have emerged since the close of research for consideration by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report over three years ago. Focusing on work that brings new insights to aspects of Earth System Science at various scales, it discusses findings from the International Polar Year and from new technologies that enhance our abilities to see the Earth’s Systems in new ways. Evidence of unexpected rates of change in Arctic sea ice extent, ocean acidification, and species loss emphasizes the urgency needed to develop management strategies for addressing climate change.”

The UNEP summarises the findings of the report as:

“The pace and scale of climate change may now be outstripping even the most sobering predictions of the last report of the IPCC … many predictions at the upper end of the IPCC’s forecasts are becoming ever more likely.”

One of the most important sections of the report deals with sea-level rise – an area of considerable research debate since the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report was released.

The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report could affirm only 18–59 cm rise in global sea levels over the 21st century based largely on thermal expansion of the oceans. Critically, it excluded contributions to sea level rise from dynamic ice changes, such as from melting of glaciers, because no consensus could be reached based on the published literature available at that time.

The new UNEP report concludes based on recent research publications that:

“Introduction of realistic future melt and discharge values … suggests that plausible values of total global average sea-level rise, including all land-ice sources plus thermal expansion, may reach 0.8 to 2.0 metres by 2100, although no preferred value was established within this range …

Immediate implications are already challenging … for every 20 cm of sea-level rise the frequency of any extreme sea-level of a given height increases by a factor of about 10. According to this approach, by 2100, a rise of sea level of 50 cm would produce events every day that now occur once a year and extreme events expected once during the whole of the 20th Century will occur several times every year by the end of the 21st.”

The UNEP report’s reference list provides a helpful compilation of the leading climate change research since 2007.

Reference

McMullen, C.P. and Jabbour, J. (2009). Climate Change Science Compendium 2009. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, EarthPrint (Link to PDF)

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"National targets give virtually no chance of protecting coral reefs" http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=2000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=2000#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2009 08:32:37 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=2000 A study published in Nature Reports Climate Change on 11 June 2009 reports on the consequences of the emission targets being set by countries, including the US and Australia, in the lead-up to the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

Joeri Rogelj and colleagues conclude, “National targets give virtually no chance of [...]]]> A study published in Nature Reports Climate Change on 11 June 2009 reports on the consequences of the emission targets being set by countries, including the US and Australia, in the lead-up to the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

Joeri Rogelj and colleagues conclude, “National targets give virtually no chance of constraining warming to 2 °C and no chance of protecting coral reefs.”

image002

Citing recent publications of Jacob Silverman and colleagues, they note in relation to ocean acidification and coral reefs:

Acid test
While we have focused on global mean temperature increase here, it is increasingly clear that independent of its effect on temperature, growing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere will also threaten the world’s oceans owing to acidification. The latest research indicates substantial risk to calcifying organisms at atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 450 ppm, with all coral reefs halting their growth and beginning to dissolve at concentrations of 550 ppm. The best Halfway to Copenhagen emissions pathway would result in CO2 concentrations above this level shortly after 2050.

Unless there is a major improvement in national commitments to reducing greenhouse gases, we see virtually no chance of staying below 2 or 1.5 °C. Coral reefs, in addition, seem to have certainly no chance if the work of Jacob Silverman and colleagues is correct.

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Climate Change Accounting Goes Public in a Big Way http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1859 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1859#comments Sat, 20 Jun 2009 12:19:15 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1859 Solve Climate reports on a massive electronic billboard displaying the real-time stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, unveiled on 18 June outside New York City’s Penn Station.

The world’s first “Carbon Counter”, launched by Deutsche Bank, will be seen daily by half a million people and millions more can do so online [...]]]> 2_image002Solve Climate reports on a massive electronic billboard displaying the real-time stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, unveiled on 18 June outside New York City’s Penn Station.

The world’s first “Carbon Counter”, launched by Deutsche Bank, will be seen daily by half a million people and millions more can do so online at know-the-number.com.

The basis for the number displayed on the Carbon Counter – over 3.6 trillion tons and rising by 800 tons per second – is not immediately clear. Deutsche Bank explains the calculation of the figure on its website:

Greenhouse gas concentrations are frequently expressed as an equivalent amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This CO2-equivalent concentration in parts per million (ppm) can then be expressed in terms of metric ton of CO2, a standard of measurement, which as a stock of gases in the atmosphere is readily understood.

According to the IPCC AR4 Synthesis Report, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were 379 ppm in 2005. The estimate of total CO2-eq concentration in 2005 for all long-lived GHGs is about 455ppm.

On June 18th as the counter started, long-lived GHGs in the atmosphere were estimated to be 3.64 trillion metric tons, growing at 2 billion metric tons per month, or 467 ppm, of which CO2 was 385 ppm.

The Carbon Counter, therefore, displays in metric tons the absolute amount of all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (as opposed to the concentration) but excludes the cooling effect of aerosols.

The use of the absolute amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere yields a big number that is rapidly increasing, but it is questionable whether this muddies the already confusing array of units used to explain the rising pressure of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere.

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide is a simpler and much more widely used unit used to explain the rising pressure of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere, though less dramatic for a real-time billboard aiming to capture the attention of passing commuters.

CO2 Now suggests that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 390.18 ppm in May 2009, up nearly 2ppm from 388.50 ppm in May 2008, the highest level in at least the past 800,000 years.

Related posts:

·         Avoiding confusion for stabilisation targets for climate change and ocean acidification.

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A world without fish – what would it take? http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1450 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1450#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2009 18:26:58 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1450

A Sea Change – Imagine a World Without Fish” is a recently released documentary film about ocean acidification, the little-known ugly sister of global warming. The film website www.aseachange.net explains it “… aims not only to educate viewers about the science of our rapidly-changing [...]]]> picture-353

A Sea Change – Imagine a World Without Fish” is a recently released documentary film about ocean acidification, the little-known ugly sister of global warming. The film website www.aseachange.net explains it “… aims not only to educate viewers about the science of our rapidly-changing oceans, but also to engage them on accessible terms.”
The full film was shown to the European Geosciences Union 2009 conference on 27 April 2009, a podcast of which is available here. After a 2 minute introduction, the film lasts for 19 minutes followed by an illuminating question and answer session.

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Monaco Declaration by scientists urges ambitious, urgent plans to cut emissions drastically http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1094 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1094#comments Mon, 02 Feb 2009 07:20:39 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1094 155 scientists from 26 countries have issued a declaration on the severe threat posed by ocean acidification following the 2nd symposium on “The Ocean in a High-CO2 World” held on 6-9 October 2008 at the Oceanography Museum of Monaco.

The Monaco Declaration, issued on 30 January 2009, states:

Ocean acidification is [...]]]> 155 scientists from 26 countries have issued a declaration on the severe threat posed by ocean acidification following the 2nd symposium on “The Ocean in a High-CO2 World” held on 6-9 October 2008 at the Oceanography Museum of Monaco.

The Monaco Declaration, issued on 30 January 2009, states:

Ocean acidification is accelerating and severe damages are imminent
Currently the average concentration of atmospheric CO2 is 385 parts per million (ppm) [and increasing] At that 560-ppm level, it is expected that coral calcification rates would decline by about one-third. Yet even before that happens, formation of many coral reefs is expected to slow to the point that reef erosion will dominate. Reefs would no longer be sustainable. By the time that atmospheric CO2 reaches 450 ppm, it is projected that large areas of the polar oceans will have become corrosive to shells of key marine calcifiers.

Unfortunately, despite these specific findings, the policy recommendations made by the Declaration are vague and do not state a quantitative level to stabilise atmospheric carbon dioxide that will avoid significant impacts to the marine ecosystem.

The Declaration merely urged policymakers to develop “ambitious, urgent plans to cut emissions drastically” as one of four types of qualitative initiatives.

The Declaration is one of several made by marine scientists in recent years on the threat of climate change and ocean acidification, such as the Consensus Declaration on Coral Reef Futures issued by 50 Australian scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in 2007.
Some previous statements by similar international symposia have been more specific and suggested quantitative stabilisation targets. The Third International Tropical Marine Ecosystem Management Symposium in Mexico in October 2006 and the International Coral Reef Initiative General Meeting held in Japan in April 2007 stated that the actions required to support reef resilience to climate change include:

Limit climate change to ensure that further increases in sea temperature are limited to 2°C above preindustrial levels and ocean carbonate ion concentrations do not fall below 200 mol. kg-1.

The Monaco Declaration adds to the calls for urgent action to address the threats of climate change and ocean acidification but the vagueness of its recommendations means it is unlikely to alter national policies in this area.

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Emissions pathway to return global warming beneath 1 degree Celsius http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1038 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1038#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2009 23:19:23 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1038 Leading climate scientist Bill Hare has published the first emissions pathway to date that brings expected global warming beneath 1°C, albeit after peaking beneath 2°C and on the scale of centuries.

This is an immensely significant research topic for coral reefs as a rise in mean global temperature of 1°C appears to be the highest [...]]]> Leading climate scientist Bill Hare has published the first emissions pathway to date that brings expected global warming beneath 1°C, albeit after peaking beneath 2°C and on the scale of centuries.

This is an immensely significant research topic for coral reefs as a rise in mean global temperature of 1°C appears to be the highest target that should be set if coral reefs are to be protected from serious degradation (see previous Climate Shifts post here).

Figure 2-1 depicts the global emissions pathway that Hare (2009: 25) suggests “is plausible technically” and “goes beyond the technically and economically feasible pathways published elsewhere”. It requires getting fossil CO2 emissions down to close to zero in 2050 and being carbon negative thereafter – a commitment to action that spans centuries.

picture-110

Hare (2009: 27) suggests that under this emissions pathway “global temperatures should peak below 2 degrees Celsius around mid-century and begin a slow decline, dropping to present levels by the last half of the twenty-third century.”

The means of achieving such an emissions pathway, including being carbon negative after 2050, are discussed by Hare and other authors in subsequent chapters of the Worldwatch Institute publication, ‘State of the World 2009‘. This report is peer reviewed, but Hare will hopefully publish his new modelling in a peer reviewed climate journal shortly to improve its acceptance in the scientific community.

Hare (2009: 25) acknowledges that achieving negative CO2 emissions on a global scale will be extremely difficult and “evaluation of the implications of the technologies required to achieve this are only just beginning.”

Hare’s emissions pathway builds on the recent publication by Jim Hansen and his colleagues which argued “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that.”

The ambition of the emissions pathway suggested by Hare (2009) is far beyond any contemplated in the mainstream policy debate at present but it is likely that such radical proposals will become much more prevalent in the future.

References

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