Showing posts with label climate change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label climate change. Show all posts

Thursday, 16 May 2019

First global assessment of the ecological health of the world's "wild" rivers has found only about one third of the longest rivers are still free-flowing


As the Queensland flood waters finally make it down the Dimantina and Georgina rivers and Cooper's Creek and spread out over the Eyre Basin and into Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, it is well to remember three things.

The first is that; The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the largest and most pristine desert river systems on the planet, supporting 60,000 people and a wealth of wildlife.

The second is the fact that the Morrison Government has a stated policy to dam and divert more water from Australia's river systems if it is re-elected. 

The third is that water sustainability into the future is dependent on wild rivers running free.

ABC Radio,“RN”, 9 May 2019:

The first global assessment of the ecological health of the world's "wild" rivers has found only about one third of the longest rivers are still free-flowing.

The report warns the disruption is harming ecosystems, with 3,700 new large dams either under construction, or planned.


Nature, 8 May 2019:

Gill,Gunter et al, (2019) Mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers

ABSTRACT

Free-flowing rivers (FFRs) support diverse, complex and dynamic ecosystems globally, providing important societal and economic services. Infrastructure development threatens the ecosystem processes, biodiversity and services that these rivers support. Here we assess the connectivity status of 12 million kilometres of rivers globally and identify those that remain free-flowing in their entire length. Only 37 per cent of rivers longer than 1,000 kilometres remain free-flowing over their entire length and 23 per cent flow uninterrupted to the ocean. Very long FFRs are largely restricted to remote regions of the Arctic and of the Amazon and Congo basins. In densely populated areas only few very long rivers remain free-flowing, such as the Irrawaddy and Salween. Dams and reservoirs and their up- and downstream propagation of fragmentation and flow regulation are the leading contributors to the loss of river connectivity. By applying a new method to quantify riverine connectivity and map FFRs, we provide a foundation for concerted global and national strategies to maintain or restore them.

At least 13 local government authorities around Australia have formally recognised a climate emergency



Clarence Valley Council, media release, 8 May 2019:

Mayor: Jim Simmons LOCKED BAG 23 GRAFTON NSW 2460
General Manager: Ashley Lindsay Telephone: (02) 6643 0200

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Council recognises a climate emergency

ADDRESSING climate change has become a core issue in the Clarence Valley following a council decision to recognise there is a climate emergency that requires urgent actions by all levels of government and the community.

Council has joined a number of local councils that have recognised the urgency needed to implement actions to mitigate and adapt to projected climate change impacts.

Australia’s climate has warmed by 1°C since 1910 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) September 2018 report on global warming highlights the serious risks of not containing global warming to 1.5°C or below. Current projections are tracking for more than 3°C of global warming by 2100.

To stay below 1.5°C the IPCC concludes the world must embark on a World War II level of effort to transition away from fossil fuels and start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at large scale.

Council has previously decided to fast track a strategy of cutting Council emissions by 40% and increase the use of renewables to 50% before 2030.

At its last meeting, council adopted a five-point resolution aimed at addressing climate change urgently, including making “climate change” a sub heading in all council reports and continuing to carry out actions in an earlier “100% Renewables” strategy.

Waste and sustainability coordinator, Ken Wilson, said there were cost savings for council from its energy efficiency gains and onsite solar, with an average payback period of 6.5 years.
He said council’s recognition of a climate emergency provided an opportunity to lobby other levels of government on the urgency of cutting emissions.

“Council’s work to date and the ambitious strategy for increasing renewable energy and reducing emissions is doing well, however the community Climate Change Advisory Committee considers council should engage our local community and other levels of government to communicate there is a climate emergency and we all need to do more,” he said.

At least another 12 local government authorities around Australia have formally recognised a climate emergency, including Upper Hunter Shire Council, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Bellingen councils in NSW. The British parliament has also just resolved to declare a national climate emergency.

* NSW Government projections about the impact of climate change on the North Coast are available here 


Release ends.


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Australia cannot afford a third term Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government


The continuous prevarication and callous disregard for any policy which might provide a sustainable future for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren makes the Liberal and National political parties a danger to us all.........

The Guardian, 9 May 2019:

Scott Morrison’s office has declined to say what legislation he was referring to when he said he had “been taking action” on a landmark UN report about the extinction of a million different species.

On Monday, the UN released a comprehensive, multi-year report that revealed human society was under threat from the unprecedented extinction of the Earth’s animals and plants. The agriculture minister, David Littleproud, said the report “scared him”, during a debate on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Morrison responded to the report saying: “We already introduced and passed legislation through the Senate actually dealing with that very issue in the last week of the parliament. We’ve been taking action on that.”

However, no legislation regarding animal conservation or the environment passed in the last week of parliament.

When asked what the legislation was, the prime minister’s office did not reply. The office of the environment minister, Melissa Price, also did not respond when asked what legislation Morrison was referring to.

The only legislation regarding animals that passed within the last few months is the Industrial Chemicals Bill 2017, which set new regulations on testing cosmetics on animals.

However, it was passed by both houses on 18 February – not in the last week of parliament, which was in April.

Neither the prime minister nor the environment minister responded to clarify if this was the bill Morrison was referring to, or whether he made an error.

Tim Beshara, the federal policy director of the Wilderness Society, said Morrison appeared to have “alluded to a bill that doesn’t exist”.

 “The last bill to pass the Senate from the environment portfolio was about changing the board structure of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 2018,” he said.
“It looks like the prime minister of Australia is so desperate to move the debate off the environment as an issue that he has alluded to a bill that doesn’t exist so that journalists would stop asking questions about it.”…..

On Wednesday, Morrison also railed against the expansion of environmental regulations, calling them “green tape”.


“[Labor] want to hypercharge an environment protection authority which will basically interfere and seek to slow down and prevent projects all around the country,” he said.

Beshara said the timing of this with the mass extinction report showed “excellent comedic timing”.

“What he is calling ‘green tape’, most Australians would call basic environmental protections,” he said. “I don’t expect the prime minister to know their numbats from their bandicoots, but I do expect them to know what bills their government has passed, and to respond to a globally significant UN report like this with the seriousness it deserves.”

The Guardian, 9 May 2019:

Most clearing of Australian habitat relied on by threatened species is concentrated in just 12 federal electorates, nine of which are held by the Coalition, an analysis has found.

University of Queensland scientists found more than 90% of the threatened species habitat lost since the turn of the century has been in six electorates in Queensland, two each in NSW and Western Australia and one in Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Most of the land-clearing in Queensland has been to create pasture.

The study, commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation, was released following a United Nations global assessment that found biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate, with one million species at risk of extinction. The report warns the decline in native life could have implications for human populations across the globe.

Threatened species habitat loss, by federal electorates
Showing the percentage of habitat loss used by threatened species

Source: ACF





The research found the greatest loss of threatened species habitat had been in the agriculture minister David Littleproud’s electorate of Maranoa, in southern Queensland. Nearly two million hectares, or 43%, has been cleared since 2000, when the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was introduced. Among the 85 threatened species affected are the koala, the greater bilby, the black-throated finch and the long-nosed potoroo.

Maranoa is followed on the list by Kennedy, home to the maverick independent Bob Katter, the Liberal Rick Wilson’s Western Australian seat of O’Connor and Capricornia, a marginal electorate held by the LNP’s Michelle Landry.

The environment minister Melissa Price’s vast electorate of Durack, which covers nearly two-thirds of Western Australia, is seventh, with more than 300,000 hectares lost.

Other seats on the list are Flynn, Parkes, Leichhardt, Lingiari, Farrer, Dawson and Lyons.

James Watson, the director of the university’s centre for biodiversity and conservation science, said Australia was sleep-walking through a worsening extinction crisis.

“These results show the laws we have to protect our wonderful natural heritage are not working and that is a significant failure of government,” he said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s nature policy analyst, James Trezise, said the next Australian government must invest in the recovery of threatened species and introduce strong environment laws overseen by an independent national regulator if it was serious about reversing the decline in native wildlife…..

Australia has the highest rate of mammal extinction in the world over the past 200 years. It is considered one of 17 “megadiverse” countries, which share just 10% of global land but 70% of biological diversity. A green group study found funding to the national environment budget has been reduced by a third since the Coalition was elected.

Habitat loss on the NSW North Coast

Richmond electorate held by Labor MP Justine Elliot - 710 ha loss
Page electorate held by Nats MP Kevin Hogan - 16,725 ha loss
Cowper electorate held by Nats MP Luke Hartsuyker until April 2019 - 5,159 ha loss
Lyne electorate held by Nats MP David Gillespie - 6,181 ha loss

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

UN-UNESCO Global Assessment Report: "The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being."


Smithsonian.com, 6 May 2019:

Our world is losing biodiversity, and fast. According to a report released today by the United Nations, up to one million species could face extinction in the near future due to human influence on the natural world. Such a collapse in biodiversity would wreak havoc on the interconnected ecosystems of the planet, putting human communities at risk by compromising food sources, fouling clean water and air, and eroding natural defenses against extreme weather such as hurricanes and floods.

In the sweeping UN-backed report, hundreds of scientists found that biodiversity loss poses a global threat on par with climate change. A 40-page “Summary for Policy Makers” was released in advance of the full report, which is expected to be published later this year and span nearly 2,000 pages. The document calls the rate of change in nature “unprecedented” and projects that species extinctions will become increasingly common in the coming decades, driven by factors such as land development, deforestation and overfishing.

“The basic message is the same as what the scientific community has been saying for more than 30 years: Biodiversity is important in its own right. Biodiversity is important for human wellbeing, and we humans are destroying it,” Robert Watson, the former chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) that produced the report, said during a press conference on Monday.

To produce the report, 145 biodiversity experts plus hundreds of other contributors compiled information over three years from 15,000 sources. For years, scientists have been sounding the alarm about biodiversity’s dramatic decline in what some have dubbed the world’s sixth mass extinction event. This die-off, however, differs from the other five in its central cause: humans.

As the global assessment confirms, human activity is a major driver of biodiversity decline among the millions of species on Earth. The report ranks some of the top causes of species loss as changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms (like hunting or fishing), climate change, pollution and invasive alien species (often introduced by human travel across ecosystems). The current global rate of species extinction is already “at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years,” and it’s expected to keep accelerating.

All in all, human action has “significantly altered” about 75 percent of the world’s land environment and 66 percent of its marine environment, according to the report. Insect populations have plummeted in tropical forestsgrasslands are increasingly drying out into deserts, and pollution along with ocean acidification is driving many coral reef ecosystems to the brink.

The destruction of biodiversity at all levels, from genes to ecosystems, could pose significant threats to humankind, the report says. In addition to affecting human access to food resources, clean water and breathable air, a loss of species on a global scale could also clear a path for diseases and parasites to spread more quickly, says Emmett Duffy, a biodiversity expert with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center who contributed to the report.

“Historically, a lot of us have thought about conservation and extinction in terms of charismatic animals like pandas and whales,” Duffy says. “But there’s a very strong utilitarian reason for saving species, because people depend on them. There’s an environmental justice aspect.”

The effects of biodiversity loss won’t be distributed equally, either, the researchers found. The most devastating impacts would disproportionately affect some of the world’s poorest communities, and the report concludes that the decline in biodiversity undermines global progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, milestones set by the U.N. General Assembly in 2015 to reduce global inequality…..

Important aspects of the Global Assessment
Building upon earlier IPBES assessment reports, especially the recently-released Land Degradation and Restoration Assessment and the Regional Assessment Reports for Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe and Central Asia (March, 2018), the Global Assessment:
• Covers all land-based ecosystems (except Antarctica), inland water and the open oceans
• Evaluates changes over the past 50 years — and implications for our economies, livelihoods, food security and quality of life
• Explores impacts of trade and other global processes on biodiversity and ecosystem services
• Ranks the relative impacts of climate change, invasive species, pollution, sea and land use change and a range of other challenges to nature
• Identifies priority gaps in our available knowledge that will need to be filled
• Projects what biodiversity could look like in decades ahead under six future scenarios: Economic Optimism; Regional Competition; Global Sustainability; Business as Usual; Regional Sustainability and Reformed Markets
• Assesses policy, technology, governance, behaviour changes, options and pathways to reach global goals by looking at synergies and trade-offs between food production, water security, energy and infrastructure expansion, climate change mitigation, nature conservation and economic development
What the CSIRO and climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au state about coastal New South Wales:

KEY MESSAGES

·         Average temperatures will continue to increase in all seasons (very high confidence).
·         More hot days and warm spells are projected with very high confidence. Fewer frosts are projected with high confidence.
·         Decreases in winter rainfall are projected with medium confidence. Other changes are possible but unclear.
·         Increased intensity of extreme rainfall events is projected, with high confidence.
·         Mean sea level will continue to rise and height of extreme sea-level events will also increase (very high confidence).
·         A harsher fire-weather climate in the future (high confidence).
·         On annual and decadal basis, natural variability in the climate system can act to either mask or enhance any long-term human induced trend, particularly in the next 20 years and for rainfall.


At its ordinary monthy meeting of 23 April 2019 Clarence Valley Council passed the following resolution:



Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Lobby group giving farmers a bad name



The Guardian, 2 May 2019:

The Queensland farm lobby AgForce has deleted more than a decade worth of data from a government program that aims to improve water quality in the Great Barrier Reef, in response to state government moves to introduce new reef protection laws.

Guardian Australia revealed in June that the state’s auditor general had raised concerns that agriculture industry groups had refused to share data from the “best management practices” program due to privacy concerns.

In recent months, AgForce and others had campaigned against the imposition of new reef protection regulations, which set sediment “load limits” in reef catchments and impose new standards on farmers.

The proposed new laws, which have been introduced to state parliament, also include a provision to allow the environment minister to obtain data from agricultural groups……

The Queensland environment minister, Leeanne Enoch, told the Courier-Mail the decision flushed “so much work and the taxpayer dollars that have been supporting it out to sea”.

“AgForce often claims that they are true environmentalists but this decision is not the action of a group that wants to protect the environment,” she said.

The Queensland audit office last year found that the success of the best management practices program could not be properly measured because the agricultural groups that receive government funding would not provide data on whether producers had actually improved their practices.

“This detailed information is currently held by the industry groups,” the report said. “Despite this work being funded by government, the information is not provided to government due to privacy concerns from the industry.

“These data restrictions mean government does not have full visibility of the progress made and cannot measure the degree of practice change or assess the value achieved from its investment of public funds.

“This means that the reported proportion of lands managed using best management practice systems could be overstated.”

Monday, 6 May 2019

Climate change policy scare campaign does the rounds again


A scary headline from 7 West Media and Kerry Stokes**….


Fossil fuel industry analyst and economist  Dr. Brian Fisher has issued another warning about what he apparently believes is the folly of tackling climate change……

The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 May 2019, p.1:

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is facing an explosive political row over his climate change policy as industry warns of rising costs and a new economic study predicts 167,000 fewer jobs by 2030 under the Labor plan.

Business groups backed the ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but said they deserved more detail given they would pay for the scheme, in a rebuke to Labor's claim it was "impossible" to model the costs of its policy on employers and the economy.

The new warning from economist Brian Fisher, which is hotly disputed by Labor and countered by other experts, marks a dramatic escalation in the political fight over the cost of taking action on climate change compared to the cost of inaction.

Dr Fisher concluded that the Labor emissions target would subtract at least 264 billion from gross national product by 2030 and as much as26 4billion from gross national product by 2030 and as much a s542 billion, depending on the rules for big companies to buy international carbon permits to meet their targets.

"Negative consequences for real wages and employment are projected under all scenarios, with a minimum 3 per cent reduction in real wages and 167,000 less jobs in 2030 compared to what otherwise would have occurred," he concluded.

"Labor's plan results in a cumulative GNP loss over the period from 2021 to 2030 that is over three times larger than that occurring under the Coalition policy. Turning to other results, the wholesale electricity price under Labor's climate policy is around 20 per cent higher than that resulting from the Coalition policy."

Labor has been bracing for Dr Fisher's report after weeks of conflicting claims over the cost of its policies.

But Australian National University professor Warwick McKibbin cautioned against some of the claims, telling the Herald two weeks ago that the impact of Labor's proposals would be a "small fraction" of the economy by 2030.

Professor McKibbin estimates the Coalition and Labor policies would subtract about 0.4 per cent from the economy by 2030.

The cumulative value of economic output has been broadly tipped to be about $30 trillion by 2030, which means Dr Fisher's worst-case scenario equates to less than 2 per cent of output over that period.

An earlier version of Dr Fisher's modelling triggered headlines of a "carbon cut apocalypse" in March but was questioned by other economists, who said he had assumed very high costs for renewable energy generation and the cost of reducing emissions.

ANU professor Frank Jotzo said in March that Dr Fisher's work had used "absurd cost assumptions" about emissions abatement.

Dr Fisher was the executive director of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics for many years and conducted the modelling at his firm, BAEconomics. He said this was not commissioned or paid for by the government.
While heavily disputed, Mr Morrison is expected to use the results to mount an escalating campaign against Mr Shorten ahead of the May 18 poll….


Fisher gets called out….

Mirage News, 2 May 2019:

THE CLIMATE COUNCIL is calling on Brian Fisher to come clean about his links to the fossil fuel industry, following the release of his “independent” modelling looking at the cost of Labor’s climate policy.

“Mr Fisher has a history of working closely with fossil fuel industries. How can his research be ‘independent’?” asked the Climate Council’s Head of Research, Dr Martin Rice.

“Mr Fisher’s work has been at odds with credible economic literature which shows that strong action on climate change can be achieved at a modest price, while the costs of inaction are substantial,” said Dr Rice.

“We should be having a conversation about the escalating costs of climate change and the very real economic pain Australia will suffer for failing to act,” said Dr Rice.
“Since the Coalition has been in government, greenhouse gas emissions have gone up and up and up. Meanwhile, Australians are on the frontline of worsening extreme weather as the climate is changing,” he said.

“We urgently need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions There’s credible, independent research that finds Australia can drive down its emissions by more than 45% with minimal impact on the economy,” he said……

The first report in a nutshell….

Climate Council, 20 March 2019:

What’s the story?

Fossil fuel industry consultant Brian Fisher has released so-called “independent” modelling looking at the economic cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but his research is deeply flawed.

Who is Brian Fisher?

Brian Fisher is the fossil fuel industry’s go-to consultant. The industry has paid for much of Fisher’s so-called ‘research’.

Is the modelling credible?

No. Fisher’s report fails to consider the economic benefits for Australia from investing in renewable energy and new technologies as well as failing to quantify the costs of not acting to prevent climate change. 

Several of his findings are implausible. For example, his findings on electricity prices are contrary to a range of detailed Australian studies showing more renewable energy means lower wholesale electricity prices.

This is a distraction.

The Federal Government has a poor record on climate change and is running a scare campaign to distract from this. Since the Liberal National Party has been in government, pollution has gone up, electricity and gas prices have gone up and extreme weather events have worsened.

An explanation of how economic modelling is used….

The Guardian, 21 February 2019:

Whenever Australia starts to have a serious conversation about addressing climate change, headlines appear in newspapers of an economic apocalypse. This happened again in the Australian this week based on work by a long-standing economic modeller of climate policy, Brian Fisher.

So, what do economic modelling exercises tell us of the impact of reducing Australia’s contribution to global warming, and more importantly, what do they not? Should we cower in fear of action or embrace the inevitable change and manage the human and economic costs of transition?

Firstly, economic modelling results are not predictions. They are based on hypothetical future worlds. Economists try to capture the dynamics of economic systems in their models to understand the relative impact of different policy options. This means they are always wrong because economists can’t predict the future. 

Economic modellers are not the crystal ball gazers we read about in fantasy books……

This does not mean the economic models are not useful, it just means they should be used to test the relative impact of different policy options and not be presented as predictions of the future. They have a long history of overestimating the costs of environmental regulations because people and markets can innovate faster than they often expect.

Secondly, the way economic modelling results are presented is very important. Industry groups in particular like to attach themselves to particular results and scream that thousands of jobs will be lost, or wages will be slashed. This is designed to scare people into not acting on climate change by making them feel insecure in their lives. The headlines in the Australian did just this.

It is also dishonest because they also don’t clearly put the results in the context of the broader change in the economy. (David Gruen, one of Australia’s top economic officials gave a great speech about this in 2008 to illustrate how long this silliness has been going on.)

To illustrate my point, the economic impacts Fischer has projected for different emissions targets are in the same ballpark of those projected for work commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade a few years ago. This work also presented results in a similar way to the Australian. However, what is also showed is that the economy, jobs, income, etc continued to grow regardless. We keep getting richer and have more jobs, we just do so at a slightly slower rate.

Thirdly, because Australia exports a lot of coal and other emissions-intensive products to other countries, what they do matters an awful lot to the Australian economy. As other nations reduce emissions, demand for these products falls regardless of what we do. It has been established for some time that a significant part of the economic impacts of climate change on Australia comes from things we can’t control and this is generally presented in the results (see here for an example). While he does not report this, Brian Fisher knows this because he spearheaded economic analysis in the 1990s that was targeted at convincing Japan, one of our major coal markets, it would be too costly for them to reduce emissions.

Lastly, whenever these headlines are blasted across the papers one point is always lost: these results don’t include the cost of climate change itself. This summer, we have again seen a glimmer of what climate change will mean for Australia. Recent economic analysis indicates the benefits of limiting global warming far outweigh the cost of doing so, in one case by 70-1 (a good summary is here). (Again, this is something Fisher has considered in the past as he once said it would be cheaper to move people from the Pacific and put them in condos on the Gold Coast than act on climate change.)

So, as we head into another cycle of climate change politics in Canberra, beware the economic doomsayers and the threats from industry groups that credible action will be a “wrecking ball” to the economy. To be glib, no one said saving the Earth would be free. Acting on climate change will have costs but the costs of not acting will be far, far larger. Better that we come together and manage a fair and effective transition than continuing to delay and pay a much, much greater bill later…..

Dr Fisher feels the heat....

Fisher now accuses the Morrison Government of sitting on a second report modelling cost to the mining and resources sector of climate action, which was commissioned in the lead up to the federal election campaign and, which the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science confirms it has received.

Fisher appears to believe that this report to which he was a contributor will buttress his claims and silence his critics.

However, to date Morrison and Co have not released this report so two possiblities exist: (i) the report's conclusions tend to support Labor climate action policy or (ii) the report's conclusions are based on such flawed assumptions that it will be easily unpicked by genuinely independent experts.

* Mr Stokes is the Executive Chairman of Seven Group Holdings Limited, a company with a market-leading presence in the resources services sector in Australia and formerly in north east China and a significant investment in energy and also in media in Australia through Seven West Media. Mr Stokes has held this position since April 2010. He is also Chairman of Australian Capital Equity Pty Limited, which has substantial interests in media and entertainment, resources, energy, property, pastoral and industrial activities.