threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Residents of Cairns in Australia speak out for the future of the Great Barrier Reef

Many people across the world are calling for changes in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, to save the world from climate change.  In Australia, this is the case too.  A recent email from the AMCS (Australian Marine Conservation Society) included a short piece of video which has been posted on Facebook. In the video, people from Cairns in Northern Queensland, describe their grief at the damage being sustained to the Reef by global warming and they cry out for policy changes, to rescue it from further harm.  It is heart-breaking:

Cairns is a large town in Northern Queensland, probably the closest town to the Great Barrier Reef and the livelihood of many of its citizens is dependent on the tourism that the GBR attracts.  But, more than that, most of them have grown up experiencing the beauty of the Reef and don’t want to lose that, especially for their children. Some of them state that their children may never see it.

GBR

One woman says that millions of tourists come to the Great Barrier Reef every year saying “I’ve heard your reef is dying and I’ve come to see it before it’s dead.” She find this devastating.  “As if we’ve already given up.”

I lived in Mackay, to the south of Cairns, for a year, back in the 60s, and also stayed on Magnetic island, just off Townsville, for a while, as well as on Middle Percy Island, 70 miles south east of Mackay – all of these places along the Great Barrier Reef coast are very special.  So I can identify very strongly with the emotions shared by the people in the video above.  We cannot stand by and watch this amazing and beautiful reef die of the coral bleaching caused by the warmer oceans that surround it. The marine life that it sustains is also similarly iconic.

GBRmarinelife



Another recent posting describes how climate change and pesticides in the water can work together to destroy fish populations, especially reef fish:

https://theconversation.com/coral-reefs-climate-change-and-pesticides-could-conspire-to-crash-fish-populations-142689

The article in The Conversation starts:

“Australia barely had time to recover from record breaking fires at the start of 2020 before the Great Barrier Reef experienced its third mass coral bleaching event in the past five years. Only five of these have occurred since records began in the 1980s. High water temperatures and marine heatwaves, caused by climate change, are making coral bleaching an almost regular occurrence in some parts of the world.

Coral reefs are among the most vibrant ecosystems on the planet, but they are also very sensitive to stress. Meteorologists predict that 2020 is likely to be the hottest year on record, threatening yet more bleaching on reefs around the world. But it’s not just the coral itself that suffers.

Reef fishes exposed to high temperatures tend not to behave normally. Underwater noise and pollutants, such as agricultural pesticides, can have the same effect. Juvenile fish exposed to this kind of stress are less able to identify and avoid predators. But scientists aren’t sure exactly why this is.

In our new study, we found that a double whammy of higher water temperatures and pesticide exposure may be affecting the development of baby reef fish, with consequences for the entire ecosystem.”




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Independent review backs introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/independent-review-backs-introduction-of-highly-protected-marine-areas

marine life

An independent review led by former Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, and published today on World Ocean Day, is calling for the introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas in English waters. The review was commissioned on last year’s world ocean day by then Environment Secretary Michael Gove as part of the Government’s drive to protect our waters.

These highly protected marine areas would enable a greater recovery of the marine ecosystem and enhance the Government’s commitment to a national ‘Blue Belt’, which has already seen an area of 92,000 square km protected – 40% of English seas.

The UK currently has a range of protections in place through a network of 355 Marine Protected Areas, which offer protections for a designated feature or habitat within their boundaries. Highly Protected Marine Areas would go further by taking a ‘whole site approach’ and only permitting certain activities within their boundaries such as vessel transit, scuba diving and kayaking. Activities that could have a damaging effect on habitats or wildlife, including fishing, construction and dredging would be banned. The review claims the introduction of such areas could lead to a significant biodiversity boost for our seas by giving our marine life the best chance to recover and thrive.

The review, which was supported by a panel of independent experts, also sheds light on the potential social and economic benefits of introducing highly protected marine areas. These benefits include increased tourism and recreational activities, opportunities for scientific research and education, and positive effects for human health. It also suggests that any potential fishing restriction could be counterbalanced by a stronger and biodiverse marine wildlife – with potential long-term benefits for the fishing industry from providing areas where sea life can develop and breed undisturbed.

Three Marine Protected Areas: Flamborough Head, Lundy Island and the Medway Estuary currently have in place ‘no take zones‘ which prohibit all methods of fishing.

The panel has made a number of recommendations which will now be considered by Government with a formal response made in due course.

Key recommendations include:

  • the introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) within the existing network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to allow for the full protection and recovery of marine ecosystems
  • a “whole site approach” to protect all species and habitats within the HPMA boundaries
  • potential sites should be identified on the basis of ecological principles. Once these are met, the selection of sites should seek to minimise any negative effects on stakeholders. To do this, Government should agree the identification and regulation of these sites in partnership with sea users
  • ‘blue carbon’ habitats are identified for protection during the HPMA site selection process to help combat climate change

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

Our ‘Blue Belt’ of Marine Protected Areas has already raised the bar for marine protection and we are committed to the highest standards of sustainability for our seas that set a gold standard around the world.

That’s why we asked the panel to conduct this review and I am very grateful to them for their work. I welcome and agree with the spirit of ambition, which is in line with our 25 Year Environment Plan, and we will now carefully consider the recommendations set out in the review.

Chair of the Independent review Panel Richard Benyon said:

The sea has provided food, materials and recreational opportunities for thousands of years. However, human activities have significantly impacted these habitats and species, which we now know need greater protection.

Our review demonstrates that in order to deliver the protections our most threated habitats need, Highly Protected Marine Areas need to be introduced, and I hope that government will engage with local communities and stakeholders to more forward plans to designate these new sites.

Chair of Natural England Tony Juniper, said:

I welcome the recommendations put forward by the Panel. This review is an important marker of how we can use highly protected areas to mitigate the impact of human activities on the ocean, and support its recovery to a more natural state.

I thank the panel for their work and look forward to working with Defra as they consider how best to take forward the recommendations.

Lewis Pugh, endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans, said:

The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how important our relationship with nature is. The beauty of nature is that it can bounce back – but only if we give it proper protection. There is little point in having protected areas that are not pulling their weight.

The UK has some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world. I’m excited that we may soon have a pilot programme of Highly Protected Marine Protected Areas in England, but this must amount to more than dipping a toe in the water.

I urge the UK government to show the same leadership as with their call for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected. They must act urgently to strengthen protection, as in a few years’ time it will be too late to fix the crisis in our oceans.

Richard Benwell, Chief Executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

The panel’s work shows strong consensus from conservation, industry and fisheries perspectives: highly protected areas are essential in reviving the ocean. We urge Ministers to now implement the recommendations quickly and create fully protected HPMAs for our seas. These will help recover our seas for people, nature and climate and be a vital addition to the UK network of marine sites. This would set Government at the cutting edge of ocean action and reinforce its leadership role in the Global Ocean Alliance as it calls to protect 30% of the world’s oceans.

On World Ocean Day, this review builds on the UK Government’s commitment to further advance ocean protection measures including last year’s designation of a further 41 Marine Protection Zones protecting species and habitats such as the rare stalked jellyfish, short-snouted seahorse and blue mussel beds. The Government is currently putting in place management measures for Marine Protected Areas, including seeking new powers through the Fisheries Bill, and through implementation of the 25 Year Environment Plan.

This news comes as seven new countries joined the UK led Global Ocean Alliance, an initiative aimed at securing protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. There are now a total of 20 countries in the Alliance following today’s announcement. Germany and Italy are amongst the major new players to join, other joiners include Fiji, Cabo Verde, Monaco, Senegal, and Luxemburg.

This complements a wide programme of overseas engagements, including through the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance and the Commonwealth Litter Programme, aiming to prevent plastic waste from reaching the ocean.

The Government has also committed to a £500 million Blue Planet fund to export UK expertise in marine science around the world, supporting overseas countries to protect marine habitats.

Background:

The Benyon Review into Highly Protected Marine Areas was announced on World Oceans Day 2019 by the then Environment Secretary Michael Gove .

This review covers the English inshore, offshore and Northern Irish offshore waters. Collectively these are referred to as Secretary of State waters.

Chair of the review:

Richard Benyon is a former MP and Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries. He is actively interested in environmental issues, and is a former chair of the All Party Parliamentary Environment Group and a former member of the Environment Audit Committee. He is widely respected within the fishing industry, and during his time at Defra worked closely with marine conservation groups, fishermen, and coastal communities during the development of the first tranche of Marine Conservation Zones.

Panel Members:

Peter Barham, Chair of the Seabed User and Developer Group, a representative group of UK marine industries.

Peter has over 20 years’ experience as a senior manager in public and private sectors delivering environmental and sustainable development solutions.

Joan Edwards, Director of Marine Conservation at The Wildlife Trusts.

Joan has substantial experience working on marine issues in the Wildlife Trusts for over 30 years and led the NGO campaign for the Marine and Coastal Access Act and its implementation.

Michel Kaiser, Professor of Fisheries Conservation, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.

Michael is a board member of Fisheries Innovation Scotland and a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Fisheries Expert Group.

Susan Owens OBE, FBA, Emeritus Professor of Environment and Policy, University of Cambridge, and Fellow Emerita of Newnham College.

Susan was a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution that produced the ‘Turning the Tide’ report which addressed the impact of fisheries on the marine environment.

Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation, University of York.

Trustee of Nekton Oxford Deep Ocean Research Institute; Trustee and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Blue Marine Foundation; Member of WWF-UK’s Council of Ambassador.

Nathan de Rozarieux, inshore fisherman and fisheries consultant.

Nathan has been a Board Member of the Sea Fish Industry Authority since 2018 and was a committee member of the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority.

Benj Sykes, Vice-President of Ørsted’s Offshore wind business.

Co-chair, Offshore Wind Industry Council. Benj is also on the Board of RenewableUK and is a Fellow of the Energy Institute with over 30 years’ experience in the energy sector.



 


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The impact of bushfires on coastal and marine environments

This is a report, published by the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

Bushfires Impacts on our oceans report Australian Marine Conservation Society

It can be found at:

Bushfire-Report_February-2020_Final-full-for-web-1.pdf

Bascially, what the report outlines is that the full effects of the summer of disasters will take months to materialise. The report shed light on the dangers to guard against in the critical months ahead.

  • Sediment slugs harming habitats and wildlife: Nutrients, ash and debris released by bushfires can damage habitats and form into sediment slugs following heavy rains – which slowly work their way to our oceans, harming aquatic life along the way.
  • Contamination: Metals and other contaminants released by bushfires in sediment, smoke and ash can change the physiology and behaviours of marine animals and work their way into the food chain.
  • Algal blooms killing fish: Harmful algal blooms caused by nutrient enrichment can kill fish and contaminate oyster farms, forcing their closure;
  • Damage to protective vegetation: Debris, sediment and ash washed into seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and reefs could further burden these already pressured environments.

Critically, the research report has uncovered alarming gaps in the monitoring of waterways and a lack of infrastructure and resources for responding to the threats. Unless these gaps are addressed urgently, many species face an uncertain future in the face of intensifying bushfire seasons.

The report recommends:

  • Monitoring of waterways: a comprehensive and integrated monitoring program for coastal and marine environments, that builds understanding of bushfire impacts and informs responses.
  • Urgent rehabilitation funding: Increased support will be vital for programs targeting the rehabilitation of the most vulnerable catchments and restoration of damaged coastal environments.
  • Rapidly cut carbon emissions: leaders must deal with the root cause of intensifying bushfires – rising temperatures – including swift and effective action to cut carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy sources.


 


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Message from the Future

This post was written on Facebook by an Australian man, who grew up in Queensland in the 70s and 80s and now has a young family of his own.



Great-Barrier-Reef

I lived in Australia for three years during the early 60s and have returned for short visits in 1994 and 2010.  On both occasions I found the country to be hotter and drier.  This last month my brother, who has lived in NSW most of his life, had his home threatened by bush fires for the very first time.



 


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Earth’s Oceans bearing the brunt of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide

A new IPPC report outlines how oceans and marine life are responding to climate change:

https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2019/09/1047392

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/oceans/

The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.

Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future. However, at the current time, there is a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution and ocean acidification is having an adversarial effect on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity. This is also negatively impacting small scale fisheries.

bears

Marine protected areas need to be effectively managed and well-resourced and regulations need to be put in place to reduce overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification.

Even if all human carbon-releasing activities ceased immediately, the overheated oceans will continue to heat the rest of earth’s already overheated overcrowded ecosystem for decades and possibly centuries.

Facts and figures:

  • Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 per cent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 per cent of the living space on the planet by volume.
  • Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.
  • Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5 per cent of global GDP.
  • Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions.
  • Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.
  • Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 3 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein
  • Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.
  • Subsidies for fishing are contributing to the rapid depletion of many fish species and are preventing efforts to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, causing ocean fisheries to generate US$50 billion less per year than they could.
  • Open Ocean sites show current levels of acidity have increased by 26 per cent since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Coastal waters are deteriorating due to pollution and eutrophication. Without concerted efforts, coastal eutrophication is expected to increase in 20 percent of large marine ecosystems by 2050.

Eutrophication is excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to run-off from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life.

ocean zones

At the Ocean conference in September 2019, climate experts said:

Our oceans and frozen spaces have been “taking the heat” for global warming for decades, and warned that without a radical change in human behaviour, hundreds of millions of people could suffer from rising sea levels, frequent natural disasters and food shortages.”

“The ocean is warmer, more acidic and less productive”, the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states. “Melting glaciers and ice sheets are causing sea level rise, and coastal extreme events are becoming more severe.”

According to the IPCC report on the ocean and cryosphere – the frozen parts of the planet – global warming has already reached one degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

This temperature rise, which the 195-strong Member State body attributes to greenhouse gas emissions, has resulted in “profound consequences” for people and the planet.

“The world’s ocean and cryosphere have been ‘taking the heat’ from climate change for decades, and consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe,” said Ko Barrett, Vice-Chair of the IPCC.

In total, 670 million people who live in the world’s high mountain regions and around the same number in low-lying coastal zones “depend directly” on the planet’s oceans and frozen resources, the IPCC notes.

In addition, four million people live permanently in the Arctic region, and small island developing states are home to 65 million people.

In a bid to protect them, their surroundings and livelihoods, the IPCC is calling for the introduction of measures to limit global warming “to the lowest possible level”, in line with the internationally agreed 2015 Paris Agreement.

“If we reduce emissions sharply, (the) consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable”, said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people. But we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways – for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.”

According to the IPCC report, average sea level rise is now 3.6 millimetres a year.

This is more than twice as fast as during the last century and levels could rise more than a metre by 2100 “if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly”.

The result is likely to be more extreme sea level events that occur during high tides and intense storms. “Indications are that with any degree of additional warming, events that occurred once per century in the past, will occur every year by mid-century in many regions, increasing risks for many low-lying coastal cities and small islands”, the report states.

Without major investments in adaptation, these low-lying zones would be exposed to escalating flood risks, and some island nations “are likely to become uninhabitable”.

Glaciers could shrink 80 per cent, by 2100

Highlighting the importance of coordinated, ambitious and urgent action to mitigate the impact of global warming, the IPCC report also warns that glaciers, snow, ice and permafrost are declining “and will continue to do so”.

In Europe, eastern Africa, the tropical Andes and Indonesia, smaller glaciers are projected to lose more than 80 per cent of their current ice mass by 2100, under worst emission scenarios.

This is likely to increase hazards for people, for example through landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods, in addition to farmers and hydroelectric power producers downstream.

“Changes in water availability will not just affect people in these high mountain regions, but also communities much further downstream”, said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC’s Working Group I.

melting glaciers

Sea ice getting thinner every month

On sea ice, the IPCC report underscores that the extent of Arctic ice has declined every month, “and it is getting thinner”.

If global warming can be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the Arctic ocean would only be ice-free in September once in every 100 years, the study suggests. At two degrees Celsius, however, this would occur up to one year in three.

“Some people living in the Arctic, especially indigenous peoples, have already adjusted their travelling and hunting activities to the seasonality and safety of land, ice and snow conditions, and some coastal communities have planned for relocation,” the report states.

Permafrost ‘warming and thawing’

Turning to permafrost – ground that has been frozen for many years – the IPCC suggests that it is “warming and thawing and widespread permafrost thaw is projected to occur in the 21st Century”.

Even if global warming is limited to well below two degrees Celsius below pre-industrial levels, around a quarter of the permafrost down to three to four metres depth, will thaw by 2100.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly, there is a potential that around 70 per cent this near-surface permafrost could be lost.

In writing the report, more than 100 authors from 36 countries assessed the latest scientific literature on the ocean and cryosphere, basing their findings on some 7,000 scientific publications.

It will provide input for world leaders gathering in forthcoming climate and environment negotiations, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Chile, in December.



And a Guardian report on this issue:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/25/extreme-sea-level-events-will-hit-once-a-year-by-2050

“Extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts by 2050, no matter whether climate heating emissions are curbed or not, according to a landmark report by the world’s scientists.

The stark assessment of the climate crisis in the world’s oceans and ice caps concludes that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and dwindling marine life.

But far worse impacts will hit without urgent action to cut fossil fuel emissions, including eventual sea level rise of more than 4 metres in the worst case, an outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people.”



Another WordPress blogger has come up with the idea of sequestering carbon dioxide by planting kelp forests in a deserted part of the South Pacific.

Maximum carbon sequestration.

Here is a quote from this site:

“The South Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and South America is at present ocean desert. In fact, it is the world’s largest ocean desert at around 37 million square km. It is far from any landmass and a lack of dust and minerals means there is very little life to be found. Growing a kelp forest ecosystem in this area would transform it from a desert into a teeming mass of life as well as providing Carbon sequestration on a truly massive scale. I suggest that every kelp plant grown in this forest could be free-floating and attached to its own simple bamboo buoy, ( The Peel Technique ).

How would the approach work?. Vast forests of both bamboo and kelp will be required.  Land based bamboo plantations would be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, produce oxygen and restore degraded lands. The bamboo plantations would also supply the kelp buoy production factories with the bamboo that they require. The bamboo buoys would be used to assist young kelp plants to float in deep ocean waters. The buoys would also carry the minerals that the growing kelp plants require to survive.”



And from the UK Government’s website:

While attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, International Environment Minister, Zac Goldsmith, announced on 24th September that ten countries have signed up to a UK-led initiative to safeguard the world’s ocean and its wildlife. The initiative was endorsed by the Prime Minister, also at the United Nations General Assembly, and was welcomed by the environmental organisation Greenpeace UK.

The announcement received positive coverage on several international outlets: OceanographicBusiness Leader, Energy Live News, Brits in Kenya, and Seychelles State House Blog, as well as on social media, including a tweet from the Finnish Minister of Environment, Krista Mikkonen, who said: “We must live up to our promise of halting the loss of #biodiversity.”

The 30by30 initiative, which is pushing for at least 30 per cent of the global ocean to be protected in Marine Protected Areas by 2030, has been supported by 10 countries including:

  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • Finland
  • Gabon
  • Kenya
  • Seychelles
  • Vanuatu
  • Portugal
  • Palau, and
  • Belgium

Further details at:

Ten countries join UK’s leading 30by30 initiative to safeguard the world’s ocean



Here is another report on the issue from the Huffington Post:

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/heatwaves-in-the-ocean-have-doubled-in-the-last-30-years_uk_5b75529fe4b02b415d75cf93?guccounter=1

“Heatwaves in the Ocean have doubled in the last thirty years

While the news has been filled with the types of heatwaves that we experience above sea level, the fact is the ocean suffers from the phenomenon as well.

In fact ocean heatwaves have roughly doubled in number over the last three decades and are already looking to become even more common and intense as the planet warms, research has found.

Prolonged periods of extreme heat in the oceans can damage kelp forests and coral reefs, and harm fish and other marine life.

To make matters worse, the oceans both absorb and release heat more slowly than air. This means that most marine heatwaves can last for at least several days — and some for several weeks, Dr Frolicher said.”



 


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Heatwaves, fires, floods, reef pollution and wildlife deaths affecting Australia

In an earlier blog, I have described the prolonged extreme heat that affected Australia in January.  It was followed by devastating bush fires.  In February, unprecedented floods hit Northern Queensland as double the annual rainfall fell in just 12 days, causing rivers and creeks to burst their banks.  500,000 cattle were drowned as well as much of the state’s native wildlife.  Cattle that did survive were in a poor state after being stranded in deep water and mud for days.

cattle

Queensland cattle drowned by the flood waters

Following the floods, a massive plume of polluted floodwater has hit the Great Barrier Reef, sparking a fresh threat to its fragile ecosystem. The muddy plume, which likely included nitrogen and pesticide chemicals, spread 60 kms to the outer reefs and was so large it could be seen from space. The satellite image below from the recent Queensland floods shows how far polluted runoff can reach into Reef waters.

gbrfloodpollution

Satellite image showing river flood pollution along the Australian coast south of Townsville, Queensland

Sediment and fertiliser runoff from farms is a major threat to inshore coral reefs and seagrass meadows of the Great Barrier Reef. This pollution can lead to devastating impacts to corals and seagrass ecosystems, critical habitats for threatened dugongs, turtles and many juvenile commercial fish species.

The Reef life is also being weakened by sediment and chemical pollution – right when it needs to be strong in the face of rapidly heating oceans. Its corals are still recovering from the devastating back to back bleaching events that occurred from rising ocean temperatures in 2016 and 2017. Improving the quality of water flowing from the Reef coast into the sea is critical to reduce the pressure and support its recovery.

Nutrients from fertiliser runoff are driving massive outbreaks of coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns Starfish. These starfish devour vast amounts of coral on the Reef, threatening the recovery of bleached corals.  So, the Great Barrier Reef is at risk from a number of sources.

One of the corollaries to climate change is extreme weather events and Australia has had its fair share of them this year (2019).



And, from the Times, 4th March 2019, the following:

“Residents in part of the outback have been ordered to limit their showers to three minutes a day and banned from using a washing machine more than twice a week amid the worst drought since 1900.

The seven-year lack of rain has prompted convoys of lorries to take bottled water to small towns across far-western New South Wales. Their water supply, from stagnant ponds in drying rivers, has become undrinkable.

“There’s an acute water shortage in a substantial amount of western New South Wales,” James McTavish, the state’s town water supply co-ordinator, said.”



Guardian 7th March 2019:

Ringtail possums in Victoria are dying of heat stress.  Rescuers found 127 of them at Somers Beach on the Mornington Peninsula, dying or already dead.  It is thought that the possums had become so dehydrated and desperate they had left an area of scrub and come down to the beach and attempted to drink salt water.  Some had fallen out of trees.

possums

Story at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/07/falling-out-of-trees-dozens-of-dead-possums-blamed-on-extreme-heat-stress?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTkwMzA4&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email



April 15th 2019

A Nature study reported on CNN website found that successive ocean heat waves are not only damaging Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, they are compromising its ability to recover, raising the risk of “widespread ecological collapse”.

The 2,300-kilometer-long (1,500 mile) reef has endured multiple large-scale “bleaching” events caused by above-average water temperatures in the last two decades, including back-to-back occurrences in 2016 and 2017.
The new study, released in the journal Nature, examined the number of adult corals which survived these two events and how many new corals they created to replenish the reef in 2018.
The answer was as bleak as it was stark: “Dead corals don’t make babies,” the study’s lead author, Terry Hughes, said in a press release.
Scientists working on the study found the loss in adult corals caused a “crash in coral replenishment” on the reef, as heat stresses brought about by warming ocean temperatures impacted the ability of coral to heal.
Coral
“The number of new corals settling on the Great Barrier Reef declined by 89% following the unprecedented loss of adult corals from global warming in 2016 and 2017,” said Hughes.
Scientists have long warned of the impact on global warming on the reef, the world’s largest reef system and the only living organism that can be seen from space. The reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, supports thousands of species — fish, turtles, sharks and marine mammals.
In the introduction to the report, the authors note that environmental changes caused by climate change, “are increasingly challenging the capacity of ecosystems to absorb recurrent shocks and reassemble afterwards, escalating the risk of widespread ecological collapse of (the) current ecosystem.”
The study found that one of the most dominant species of coral, Acropora, which provides “most of the three-dimensional coral habitat that support thousands of other species,” according to co-author Andrew Baird, had suffered a 93% drop in replenishment following the back-to-back bleaching events of 2016 and 2017.


May 2019:

Australia re-elects the climate change denier, Scott Morrison.

Battered by extended droughts, damaging floods, and more bushfires, Australian voters had been expected to hand a mandate to the Labour party to pursue its ambitious targets for renewable energy and carbon emissions cuts.

Instead, they rejected the opposition’s plans for tax reform and climate action, re-electing a Liberal-led center-right coalition headed by Morrison. The same coalition government last year scrapped a bipartisan national energy plan and dumped then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull because he was viewed as anti-coal.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison once brandished a lump of coal in parliament, crying, “This is coal – don’t be afraid!”

It would appear that the Australian voting public were enticed to vote this way in order to reduce energy prices.



July 31st 2019:

Another report from Nature gives the alarming news that the climate crisis is already causing deaths and childhood stunting. The Nature report from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, is reviewed in The Guardian and msn.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/climate-crisis-already-causing-deaths-and-childhood-stunting-report-reveals/ar-AAF76ZS?ocid=spartandhp

The report “From Townsville to Tuvalu” pulled together scientific research from roughly 120 peer-reviewed journal articles to paint a picture of the health-related impacts of the climate emergency in Australia and the Pacific region. It stated, “Climate change is “absolutely” already causing deaths” and also predicts climate-related stunting, malnutrition and lower IQ in children within the coming decades.

It pointed to a 2018 report from the World Health Organisation, which predicted that between 2030 and 2050, global warming would cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year from heat stress, malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea. But Misha Coleman, one of the report’s authors, stressed that deaths were already occurring:

“During the Black Saturday fires (in Victoria in 2009) for example, we know that people were directly killed by the fires, but there were nearly 400 additional deaths in those hot days from heat stress and heatstroke.”

The report found that, as well as deaths caused directly by severe weather events such as hurricanes, flooding and fires, the “more deep and insidious impact” came from the secondary impacts of climate change.

The report warned that rising global temperatures would expand the habitat of mosquitos, exposing more people to diseases including dengue, chikungunya and zika, and would cause other diseases to spread into Australia, including Nipah virus, which is spread by bats, and Q fever, which is already prevalent around Townsville.

John Thwaites, Chair of the Sustainable Development Institute of Monash University. said:

“Q fever is something that is carried by a lot of wild and domesticated animals. “As climate change degrades their habitat through fires and drought, these animals go looking for green grass and fresh water [and] they find themselves on golf courses and on retirees’ two-acre blocks.”

Coleman said the problem comes when infected animals defecate on lawns and the poo is then run over by humans with lawnmowers. “It becomes airborne and a highly transmissible toxin, that’s why it’s being described, even by the Lancet medical journal, as a bioweapon in our own backyard.”

Climate change is expected to pose particularly stark issues for childhood development, with the report citing research that shows children born to women who were pregnant while they experienced floods in Brisbane in 2011 had lower cognitive capacity (equivalent to at least 14 points on an IQ scale), smaller vocabularies and less imaginative play at the age of two.

The decreased nutritional value of staple crops as a result of higher CO2 concentration was also expected to cause stunting, anaemia and malnutrition in children, within 10 to 20 years.

See also:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/31/climate-crisis-already-causing-deaths-and-childhood-stunting-report-reveals

https://www.nature.com/nclimate/articles?type=news-and-views

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32610-2/fulltext

https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/how-climate-change-affecting-australia

The final article in the link above describes specifically the reality of climate change effects for Australia. It is worth reading. It shows, by means of a graph, the consequences of an upward shift in average temperature for the region:

heatw3



December 2019:

Extensive bush fires have hit Australia earlier this year, affecting much of Queensland and especially New South Wales, where the fires have been burning out of control, destroying property, as well as wildlife.  Smoke pollution has also hung over Sydney for days on end.

One big concern in all of this is the loss of many of the native koalas, killed in the fires.  Concern was already being expressed about the future viability of this species, due to habitat loss.  Now, heartbreaking film of burnt and dying koalas is being shared globally.

koala2

Reports state that:

Thousands of koalas are feared to have died in a wildfire-ravaged area north of Sydney, further diminishing Australia’s iconic marsupial, while the fire danger accelerated on Saturday in the country’s east as temperatures soared.

The mid-north coast of New South Wales was home to up to 28,000 koalas, but wildfires in the area in recent months have significantly reduced their population.

Koalas are native to Australia and are one of the country’s most beloved animals, but they have been under threat due to a loss of habitat.

Environment minister Sussan Ley said: “Up to 30% of their habitat has been destroyed.

“We’ll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made.”

Images shared of koalas drinking water after being rescued from the wildfires have gone viral on social media in recent days.

koala

Ms Ley said: “I get mail from all around the world from people absolutely moved and amazed by our wildlife volunteer response and also by the habits of these curious creatures.”

About 12.35 million acres of land have burned nationwide during the current wildfire crisis, with nine people killed and more than 1,000 homes destroyed.

Fire danger in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory was upgraded to severe on Saturday, as high temperatures built up over the region.

Sydney’s western suburbs reached 41C, while the inner city is expected to hit 31C on Sunday before reaching 35C on Tuesday.”



 


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The Great Barrier Reef: breaking news from Australia – Aug 2018

A $400 million plan to rescue the Great Barrier Reef has been announced this week by the Australia government when issuing their federal budget.  It will include $60 million to tackle run off from farms, fund new research on coral bleaching and deal with the destructive crown of thorns starfish.

High ocean temperatures, caused by global warming have already ravaged the reef. Environmentalists have described the plan as totally inadequate, as it does not deal with the factors causing climate change, such as industrialisation and the burning of fossil fuels. A particular sore point for Australians campaigning for the reef is government support for the Adani coal mines in mid-Queensland.

The maps below show the location of the proposed mines in relation to the Great Barrier Reef.  Australia is one of the largest sources of coal in the world.

galileebasinmap

p11_carmichael-mine-map

Further details at:

http://econews.com.au/57562/lib-nat-govt-plans-400m-barrier-reef-rescue-plan-in-federal-budget/

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/false-claims-behind-adanis-carmichael-coalmine

30th August 2018:

The Fight for our Reef campaigners have issued a new mailing, as they are extremely concerned about their new PM, who is a climate change denier.  The text of their recent email is as follows:

Less than a year before he was sworn in as our latest Prime Minister, Scott Morrison famously waved around a lump of coal in Parliament House, ridiculing our concerns about the impact of coal on our climate, and by implication our Reef. Now Australia’s new PM says he is “technology-agnostic”, which is code for continuing support for coal. Now more than ever, it’s time for urgent action on climate change. Will you join the global day of action on 8 September?

Coal in parliament? No way! Let's rise for climate, rise for our Reef!

Last week we watched the Liberal Party dump their long awaited energy policy to cut carbon pollution and elect Scott Morrison as our new Prime Minister.

This week the new Prime Minister has evaded any discussion on climate change, including its link to the devastating drought hitting Australia. He is also under pressure to ditch the Paris Agreement, from the same climate sceptics within the party who scuttled Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.

While politicians in Canberra are shunning their climate responsibilities, the rest of us are living with the devastating effects of climate change gripping Australia and hitting our national icons like the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s time to take it to the streets. It’s time our government understands that we are sick and tired of climate change being a political football. We want strong action on climate change and we want it now.

5th September 2018 update from “Fight for the Reef”:

BREAKING: The Queensland Government has announced it is prosecuting Adani for releasing highly polluted water into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. 

 

Great news! The Queensland government has announced that it is prosecuting Adani for breaching it’s pollution licence by 800% in Great Barrier Reef waters.

Adani must now go to court to defend their actions. If found guilty they could face far greater penalties, including a suspension of their suitability to operate at Abbot Point.

We are pleased that the Queensland government is holding its ground and prosecuting Adani for the unauthorised release of concentrated coal-laden water into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area at Abbot Point. While the outcome of the court case is too early to call, this is a big moment to celebrate. Thank you to everyone who contacted the Premier and Minister for the Reef, and who spread the word by sharing our video on Adani’s shonky reputation.”

 

 


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The Truth about Heatwaves: 2

In the first of my blogs about heatwaves, I focused on the heatwaves that are occurring on land more and more often and the effects these are having on terrestrial life forms, including humans.

In this blog, I will describe the effects of heatwaves on the oceans, which have doubled in the last 30 years. Up till now, perhaps we have been unaware that heatwaves do affect the oceans and the life that in them. In other blogs, and in my book, I have talked about the destruction of coral as the seas warm, causing coral bleaching.  It is also known that, after the 2016 heatwave in Australia, one third of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef died.  Many of the beautiful fish who live in coral reefs, and are dependent on them, will be affected by the death of corals.

2_3_X_PacificReefFishesExh (2)

Fish in a coral reef

In yet another blog, I have referred to how global warming is affecting the gender of sea turtle eggs, developing in the hot sands where they have been laid, so that now the majority (99%) of the hatchlings born in Northern Australia are female.

Swiss scientists have been recording sea water temperatures over the period 1982-2016 and have found that the number of ocean heatwaves has doubled.  Marine heatwaves can last for several days, and even weeks, as water absorbs heat more readily than air and releases it more slowly.  Dr Thomas Frölicher, of the University of Bern in Switzerland, is the climate scientist who has conducted this study. He believes that the trend of increasing ocean heatwaves will only accelerate with time. Prolonged periods of extreme heat in the oceans can damage kelp forests as well as coral reefs, and harm fish and other marine life. Some sea creatures have evolved to survive in a very narrow band of temperatures compared to creatures on land.  Some free swimming fish can move to other places when the sea becomes too hot for them but, with fixed organisms like coral and kelp forests, there is no opportunity to move.

kelpforest

Kelp forest

If the plankton in the sea, as well as kelp forests, are affected by warming temperatures, many marine creatures will lose their main source of food.

Further details of the study, published in Nature, can be found on the following websites:

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/heatwaves-in-the-ocean-have-doubled-in-the-last-30-years_uk_5b75529fe4b02b415d75cf93

http://www.itv.com/news/2018-08-15/marine-heatwaves-on-the-increase-in-worlds-oceans/



 


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The death of coral reefs

In Chapter 1 of my book, Our beautiful world in harmony, I talk about coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, caused by warming sea temperatures and Australia’s recent surge in industrialisation projects.  The Great Barrier Reef is 1,400 miles long and is the longest and largest coral reef in the world. It lies off the N.E. coast of Queensland, Ausltralia. This blog goes into the issue in more detail and cites from articles in The Guardian, The Atlantic.com and the campaigning organisation Fight for our Reef.

According to Ben Smee in The Guardian (18th April 2018), the 2016 heatwave in Australia caused the death of 30% of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef. A study by scientists, led by Prof Terry Hughes (Director of ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies), and published in Nature, examined the link between the level of heat exposure, subsequent coral bleaching and ultimately coral death.  Hughes commented,

“When corals bleach from a heatwave, they can either survive and regain their colour slowly as the temperature drops, or they can die.”  Across the whole of the barrier reef, 30% of the corals died during the period March to November 2016.  The figure below shows that losses were greater in the warmer northern part of the barrier reef but coral deaths were recorded as far south as off Rockhampton, Queensland.

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                            The loss of coral cover along the Great Barrier Reef in 2016.                                Photograph: Nature/Hughes et al. 2016

North of Cooktown, coral losses of between 75-100% were recorded.  The study found that “initially, at the peak of temperature extremes in March 2016, many millions of corals died quickly in the northern third of the Great Barrier Reef over a period of only two to three weeks”.  Those corals that died were the temperature-sensitive species, such as staghorn and tabular corals; other corals were more resilient to temperature changes which resulted in radical changes in the mix of coral species on hundreds of individual reefs”.

Staghorn corals play crucial roles in reef-building, and in providing food, shelter and other services to the remarkable array of associated species (fish, crustaceans etc), a number of which are important to humans.   See: https://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/fact_sheet_red_list_staghorn_corals.pdf
This article, entitled “Staghorn Corals and Climate Change, published in pdf by the Species Survival Commission, gives a great deal of information about staghorn corals.

Prof Hughes and his researchers estimated that half of the corals in shallow-water habitats in the northern Great Barrier Reef have already been lost but their conclusion is that the Great Barrier Reef is certainly threatened by climate change, but it is not completely doomed yet, “if we deal very quickly with greenhouse gas emissions”.  Their conclusion was: “If the targets in the Paris agreement are met, the reef will survive as “a mixture of heat-tolerant [corals], and the ones that can bounce back”.

See: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/19/great-barrier-reef-30-of-coral-died-in-catastrophic-2016-heatwave


The Atlantic.com article also draws on the Nature article but gives further detail about how the study was conducted. See:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/since-2016-half-the-coral-in-the-great-barrier-reef-has-perished/558302/

It also refers to a further study, conducted in 2017 when warm waters struck the reef again and triggered another bleaching event.  The results have not yet been published but Hughes is quoted as saying:

“Combined, the back-to-back bleaching events killed one in every two corals in the Great Barrier Reef. It is a fact almost beyond comprehension: In the summer of 2015, more than 2 billion corals lived in the Great Barrier Reef. Half of them are now dead.”

Hughes was also clear about the cause of this coral bleaching and death: human-caused global warming. The accumulation of heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere has raised the world’s average temperature, making the oceans hotter and less hospitable to fragile tropical corals.

Bleached-staghorn-coral-Rummer-889x628

bleached staghorn corals


The Australian-based Fight for Our Reef Campaign has no doubt about who is the greatest culprit in causing this warming of the barrier reef water – Adani Group coal supply chain.  The following comes from their latest email:


A couple of weeks ago we emailed you with the shocking news. Adani Group representatives had been quietly meeting with federal Trade Minister Steven Ciobo and the government’s Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) – trying to secure funds for their Reef-wrecking coal project and their suppliers via this backdoor channel.¹

We asked for your help to expose Adani, and the response has been incredible. We dialled up the pressure with thousands of emails to Minister Steven Ciobo. And with the world watching we ran a mobile billboard during the Commonwealth Games – calling on the Federal government to not give Adani any of our taxpayer dollars through EFIC.

The reaction to our billboard was overwhelming. Honks, whistles and cheers as the billboard drove past, exposing Adani’s backdoor plans to people living in Minister Ciobo’s electorate and international visitors alike.

Let’s turn this moment into unstoppable momentum. We’ve reached 9,000 emails calling for Minister Ciobo to rule out taxpayer funding. 

The Commonwealth Games may be over now but our effort to stop Adani getting their hands on taxpayer money isn’t finished yet. To protect our Reef from the pollution this mine would unleash, the Minister must rule out any EFIC funding going to the Adani Group’s coal supply chain.

If Adani succeed, and get this money, it will be bad news for our beautiful Reef. The mining and burning of coal from Adani’s colossal Carmichael coal mine would generate billions of tonnes of new carbon pollution, heating our oceans and endangering the future of our beautiful but damaged Great Barrier Reef.

We have to ensure that Adani does not get their hands on our taxpayer money. The window of opportunity is closing fast. Tell Minister Ciobo to rule out any EFIC money going to the Adani Group and its suppliers.

We exposed Adani and stopped the $1 billion NAIF loan of taxpayer money. Public pressure has gotten banks around the world to rule out funding this Reef-wrecking coal mine. Together we can stop Adani getting taxpayer money from EFIC.

Yours, for our Reef.

Imogen Zethoven
With the Fight For Our Reef Campaign team
P.S. Outrage is growing. More and more people are talking about Adani’s sneaky attempts to get our taxpayer money for their Reef-wrecking mine. But it’s going to take more voices to turn this momentum into change. Add your name to the thousands of Australians fighting for our Reef – no taxpayer money to Adani!

¹ Source: ABC News – Adani Finance Agency Talks Suggest Door Not Shut on Taxpayer Funds
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-20/adani-finance-agency-talks-suggest-door-not-shut-taxpayer-funds/9344886 ;


And in May 2018, further concerns about another company applying to start mining in the Galilee Basin in Queensland.  The latest email from the “Fight for Our Reef Campaign” states the following:

Thank you for contacting the federal Minister for Environment and Energy and asking him to reject the Waratah Coal mine proposal and protect our beautiful Great Barrier Reef.

Waratah Coal, a Clive Palmer associated company, is currently seeking approval for a new coal mining project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. If built the mine would be 33% bigger than Adani’s Carmichael coal mine and would be a disaster for our precious Reef.  

While we didn’t manage to have the mine proposal rejected outright, we were successful in ensuring any impacts to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and Marine Park must be considered as part of the assessment process.

In its application Waratah Coal stated that the mine would have no impact on the Great Barrier Reef. They failed to acknowledge the extra coal ships that will plough through the Reef’s waters, the dredging that will be required to expand the port of Abbot Point and above all the climate change-related impacts on the Reef caused by the burning of coal from this mine in power plants.       

Thanks to you and the other 8000 people who contacted the Minister – we drew the Minister’s attention to the impacts the mine would have on the Great Barrier Reef.

To preserve the remainder of our precious Reef we must rapidly reduce carbon pollution, not open up new mega mines. With your help we will continue to fight this and other Galilee Basin mines to ensure the Reef has a future.

Thanks for all that you do.

For our Reef,
Dr Lissa Schindler


 


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The effects of heat waves on human survivability

An article in the New Scientist (No.3161) by John Pickrell, entitled “Too hot to handle”, discusses the increasing trend of heatwaves throughout the world, as a result of climate change.

heatwave

Pickrell starts by discussing Australia, which had a heatwave in January 2017, with the hottest ever recorded temperatures in Sydney and Brisbane (Sydney had over 47 degrees). Large parts of the country had temperatures over 40 degrees C for weeks on end, as well as bush fires.  Many of the unique species of wildlife common to Australia had to be rescued from fires and heat, many of them suffering from heat exhaustion, burns, dehydration and stress.

koala

kangaroo

 

Temperatures of 50 degrees C are predicted by 2040 for Australia.

Pickrell then goes on to cite papers, which give statistics about fatalities during heatwaves, one from The Lancet which covered research by 26 institutions (including the World Health Organization).

The 2003 heatwave in France killed 70,000 people – but it would appear that the level of humidity is the crucial factor, as high levels of water in the atmosphere can reduce the body’s ability to cool down through sweating.  To sweat effectively, you must maintain your blood volume, so dehydration can cause heat stress, followed by heat stroke, multiple organ failure and possible death.  The elderly and children are at greater risk of heat stroke, as well as those on medication or with heart disease.

I came across another wordpress website, which gives a useful chart showing temperature against relative humidity and which combinations are lethal:

See: https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/heatwaves/

and below for the table (with acknowledgments):

nclimate_heatwaves

The black crosses in the chart above show temperature and relative humidity during events that were lethal. The blue line shows the likely boundary between lethal and non-lethal events, and the red line is a 95% probability threshold.


According to The Lancet, global warming has reduced the workforce in India by 418,000.


An interesting map of the world is given in the New Scientist article to show the probability of deadly heatwaves for three global warming scenarios: 1.5 degrees C; 2 degrees C and 4 degrees C.  This can be seen by clicking on the link below:

heatwaves data

It shows that, even with an increase in global temperature of 2 degrees, many parts of the world will become uninhabitable, through rising temperatures: North West Africa, much of the Middle East, parts of Central and South America, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and much of Australia.  At four degrees the situation is dire throughout much of the tropical world.

The New Scientist article concludes with a list of advice on how to keep cool.


 Another academic article on a similar subject has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA by Sherwood and Huber in 2010 (Vol 107, (21), 9552-5) entitled “An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress.”  This article has been summarised in the Science & Technology section of the The Observer (10th Sept. 2017).  This article gives a chart showing which species die at particular degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels.  Amphibians will be the first to go (at 0.6 degrees+), followed by penguins, due to loss of food sources, as the krill populations dwindle. At 1.6 degrees+, the wooded tundra is lost, along with its inhabitants, moose, lynx and brown bears, followed by large African mammals, such as elephants, then rain forest dwellers (orangutans, jaguars, sloths) at 2.6 degrees+.  At a warming of 4 degrees, 70% of species would be extinct, coral reefs dead and deserts would expand across the world. The fate of humankind would be dominated by mass migration, on a scale even larger than we see today, with water resources extremely limited, as we would have to abandon most of the Earth or live underground.  The authors predict that, by 2050, temperatures will be in a range that nobody has experienced before.

It is interesting to note that the Australian town of Coober Pedy, a major site for opal mining, has already built an underground town, including hotels, for those times in the year when it is already too hot to live above ground.


2nd August 2018

Since this post was first written, time has now moved on into 2018 with heatwaves across much of the northern hemisphere (see other posts on this site for details).  Even climate sceptics are now beginning to accept that climate change is with us, with the extremes of weather which accompany it.

A piece this week in The Guardian by David Carrington deals with the issue of human survivability during heat waves.  I quote a short passage from him, in which he summarises scientific work on the issue:

The new analysis assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, which is measured as the “wet bulb” temperature (WBT). Once the WBT reaches 35C, the air is so hot and humid that the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade die within six hours.

A WBT above 31C is classed by the US National Weather Service as “extreme danger”, with its warning stating: “If you don’t take precautions immediately, you may become seriously ill or even die.”

He then goes on to discuss which parts of the world are most at risk of high WBT temperatures.  This would appear to be the north China plain, with a population of 400 million people, most of them farmers.  The scientists who produced the data have predicted that by 2070 to 2100, this area of the world will become uninhabitable.  Other areas at risk are the Middle East, around the Gulf (particularly Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and the coastal cities of Iran) and parts of South Asia (around the Indus and Ganges valleys).

For the full Guardian article, see:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/31/chinas-most-populous-area-could-be-uninhabitable-by-end-of-century?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=282539&subid=2617869&CMP=EMCENVEML1631



July 2019

The UK has experienced another heatwave period this summer, with record temperatures being reached in a number of countries.  It was particularly humid in the UK, with weather forecasters predicting the humidity above 50%, a level which can prove fatal with temperatures above 25ºC, according to the graph shown above.

So its worth looking again at the relationship between WBT (wet bulb temperature) and death due to heat stress.  The following can be found in Wikipedia:

“Living organisms can survive only within a certain temperature range. When the ambient temperature is excessive, humans and many animals cool themselves below ambient by evaporative cooling (sweat in humans and horses, saliva and water in dogs and other mammals); this helps to prevent potentially fatal hyperthermia due to heat stress. The effectiveness of evaporative cooling depends upon humidity; wet-bulb temperature, or more complex calculated quantities such as Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) which also takes account of solar radiation, give a useful indication of the degree of heat stress, and are used by several agencies as the basis for heat stress prevention guidelines.

A sustained wet-bulb temperature exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) is likely to be fatal even to fit and healthy people, unclothed in the shade next to a fan; at this temperature our bodies switch from shedding heat to the environment, to gaining heat from it. Thus 35 °C (95 °F) is the threshold beyond which the body is no longer able to adequately cool itself. A study by NOAA from 2013 concluded that heat stress will reduce labour capacity considerably under current emissions scenarios.

A 2010 study concluded that under a worst-case scenario for global warming with temperatures 12 °C (22 °F) higher than 2007, the wet-bulb temperature limit for humans could be exceeded around much of the world in future centuries. A 2015 study concluded that parts of the globe could become uninhabitable. An example of the threshold at which the human body is no longer able to cool itself and begins to overheat is a humidity level of 50% and a high heat of 46 °C (115 °F), as this would indicate a wet-bulb temperature of 35 °C (95 °F).”