The Great Barrier Reef, a problem for the planet

How did the Great Barrier Reef reach ‘terminal stage’?

Back-to-back severe bleaching events, caused by warming oceans, have affected two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, new aerial surveys have found. Climate change is not the only challenge – runoff-affected water quality, reef-killing crown of thorns starfish and the destruction of Cyclone Debbie also threaten the reef’s health. Scientists are warning that Australia has little time left to act on climate change and save the world’s largest living structure.

Inherently democratic in its size and closeness to the shore, the Great Barrier Reef is truly the people’s reef. Looking back on the first great struggle for the reef between the Australian people and the fossil fuel industry, Wright wrote thatif disasters in the shape of weather, accident and climate change lie ahead, the work done already has shown what can be done to shield it from such dangers and has proved that people will agree, in the event, to supplying the help it needs”.

Unhappily, those disasters are now upon us. Global warming brought the great bleaching of 2015-16 and the dreadful and unprecedented sequel over the summer that has just finished. Our reef is in dire trouble.

But while the people’s reef is grievously wounded, it is still very much alive. And life fights for life. Innumerable animals are now doing what creatures do, navigating the hazards of life as best they can to survive and reproduce in the warming waters. Given time and the right conditions, the people’s reef can recover and life will flourish again.

Two-thirds of Great Barrier Reef hit by back-to-back mass coral bleaching.

The big lie propagated by Australian government and big business is that it is possible to turn things around for the reef without tackling global warming. As scientists have made clear, it isn’t – we have to stop climate pollution to give our reef a chance.

It is true that Australia can’t save the reef alone because climate change is a global problem. But that does not mean we are powerless to act and we should not be deterred. Because when you love something deeply – as we Australians cherish our people’s reef – then you do all that is within your power to save that thing which you hold so dear. And there is much that is within our power to do.

So what is to be done? The answer does not lie in false techno-fixes or the faux-democratic farrago of the government-business funded Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. Australia’s greatest contribution to global warming is through our coal, exported and burned in foreign power stations. So our most determined Australian efforts to save the reef must be directed to closing down the coalmining industry, while ensuring decent new jobs and fair transitions for all affected workers and communities.

Again, the balance of power seems loaded against us. First the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and now the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, have betrayed both the reef and the trust of the Australian people by snivelling across the seas, pledging allegiance to the Carmichael coalmine. All too often, the rest of big business is complicit in the crisis by explicitly or tacitly supporting the coal industry. Financial institutions such as CommBank continue to invest in the fossil fuel projects that are bringing disaster to the reef.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.

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Trump Transistion Team Witch-hunt

Michael Flynn reportedly improperly shared classified information with foreign military officers. Photograph: Kathy Willens/AP

Incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn reportedly improperly shared classified information with foreign military officers. Photograph: Kathy Willens/AP

Global warming — “it’s a hoax.”

Donald Trump has said that more than once.

So it’s understandable that the request by the president-elect’s transition team for the names of individual Energy Department employees and contractors who worked on the issue makes them worry that the trick could be on them.

“There is major concern amongst my members,” said Jeff Eagan, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) chapter at the department’s headquarters building in Washington. He’s also a 17-year Energy employee but was speaking in his union capacity. “I have received lots of calls, emails, messages expressing shock and dismay.”

The scientists and their colleagues at Energy know global warming is real. What they don’t know is what Trump might do to those whose work has been in line with the science and the Obama administration, which has spoken about “the real and urgent threat of climate change.”

Perhaps Trump’s crew will do nothing. Trump more recently has said he has an open mind about global warming, so maybe he’s discarding his flat-Earth approach to the subject. Nonetheless, the transition team’s request to “provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended” certain climate change meetings casts a shroud of apprehension over the workforce. The transition team ignored a request for comment.

Donald Trump’s transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking agency officials to identify which employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.

The questionnaire requests a list of those individuals who have taken part in international climate talks over the past five years and “which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.”

Trump and his team have vowed to dismantle specific aspects of Obama’s climate policies, and Trump has questioned the reality of climate change. The questionnaire, which one Energy Department official described as unusually “intrusive” and a matter for departmental lawyers, has raised concern that the Trump transition team is trying to figure out how to target the people, including civil servants, who have helped implement policies under Obama.

The White House is struggling to prevent a crippling exodus of foreign policy staffers eager to leave before the arrival of the Trump administration, according to current and former officials.

The top level officials in the National Security Council (NSC) are political appointees who have to submit resignations and leave in a normal transition. The rest of the 400 NSC staff are career civil servants on secondment from other departments. An unusual number of these more junior officials are now looking to depart.

Many are concerned by a proliferation of reports about the incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn. On Wednesday the Washington Post reported that Flynn had improperly shared classified information with foreign military officers. On the same day, CNN reported that the former DIA chief had this week deleted a tweet he had sent out a few days before the election that linked to a fake news story suggesting Hillary Clinton took part in crimes against children.

“Career people are looking get out and go back to their agencies and pressure is being put on them to get them to stay. There is concern there will be a half-empty NSC by the time the new administration arrives, which no one wants,” said one official.

The official added that the “landing team” sent to the NSC – Trump representatives who are supposed to prepare for the handover to Trump appointees – have been focused on issues of process, how the office functions, rather than issues of substance involving an explanation of current national security threats and the state of the world the new administration will inherit.

The Trump transition team in New York did not respond to a request for comment. The current NSC spokesman, Ned Price said in an email: “The administration has undertaken its national security transition planning with the utmost rigour and seriousness in order to effect the most seamless and responsible transition.”

Price added: “We have been working since this spring to assemble a broad variety of transition material focused on critical national security challenges as well as NSC organizational issues and the NSC-led interagency policy process. The NSC staff also is offering to the incoming team in-person briefings and discussions with current NSC leadership and staff, and is coordinating statutorily-required interagency homeland security exercises that will include both incoming and outgoing national security leadership from departments and agencies, as well as senior career public servants who will provide continuity through the transition.”

It is not clear how many of the incoming team have taken up the offer of personal briefings. Flynn himself has been meeting a steady flow of foreign diplomats in New York in recent days. He met the UK national security adviser, Mark Lyall Grant, over the weekend, and French president’s diplomatic adviser, Jacques Audibert, a few days earlier.

It is unclear how much contact there is between the embryonic policy teams in New York and the landing teams in Washington, however.

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Global warming may be far worse than thought, cloud analysis suggests

 Under a blanket of clouds, tourists watch a meltwater waterfall on an icecap. Photograph: Ralph Lee Hopkins/National Geographic Society/Corbis

Under a blanket of clouds, tourists watch a meltwater waterfall on an icecap. Photograph: Ralph Lee Hopkins/National Geographic Society/Corbis

Researchers said that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere compared with pre-industrial times could result in a global temperature increase of up to 5.3C – far warmer than the 4.6C older models predict.

The analysis of satellite data, led by Yale University, found that clouds have much more liquid in them, rather than ice, than has been assumed until now. Clouds with ice crystals reflect more solar light than those with liquid in them, stopping it reaching and heating the Earth’s surface.

Scientists have been trying to get to grips with the extent clouds and water vapor will influence the warming already under way. A paper published last year found that short-term fluctuations in clouds have large impacts on the net rate of heat gain by the Earth.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper website here.

You’re going to get wet

Image from The Economist magazine.

Image from The Economist magazine.

I lived for a few years in a home on Vancouver Island a few feet from the ocean, and had an interest in global warming increasingly creeping water up towards home during the coming years.

I didn’t see the sense living in a million-dollar home with a million-dollar ocean view if in 20-40 years you need a submarine to get to your car.

Lately, I’ve seen more and more waterfront homes coming on the market for $4-28 million dollars. Maybe these owners are deciding to get out while the getting is good.

Before Hurricane Sandy tore through New York and New Jersey, it stopped in Florida. Huge waves covered beaches, swept over Fort Lauderdale’s concrete sea wall and spilled onto A1A, Florida’s coastal highway. Beach erosion forced Fort Lauderdale to buy sand from an inland mine in central Florida; the mine’s soft, white sand stands out against the darker, grittier native variety.

Even as seas have risen over the past century, Americans have rushed to build homes near the beach. Storms that lash the modern American coastline cause more economic damage than their predecessors because there is more to destroy. The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, a Category 4 storm, caused $1 billion-worth of damage in current dollars. Were it to strike today the insured losses would be $125 billion, reckons AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe-modelling firm. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, caused $23 billion in damage; today it would be twice that.

The Economist magazine has a great article titled “You’re going to get wet”. Well worth reading.

World is warming map

According to The Economist:

The world is warming

ON NOVEMBER 29th representatives of countries from around the world gathered in Cancún, Mexico, for the first high-level climate talks since those in Copenhagen last December. Incremental progress is possible, but continued deadlock is likelier. What is out of reach, as it was at Copenhagen, is agreement on a plausible programme for keeping climate change in check. The world warmed by about 0.7°C in the 20th century and by the end of the 21st century temperatures will be 3°C warmer than at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Increases in average temperature will be less noticeable than those in extremes. According to a 2009 comparison of over 20 climate models by David Battisti and Rosamond Naylor, by 2050 there is a 10-50% likelihood that the average summer in much of the world will be hotter than any summer recorded until now. By 2090 the likelihood of this happening rises to 90% in many places. For more on climate change, see article.

World Heat Map

World Heat Map from The Economist magazine

 

Another world temperature map, this one from Wolfram “Global Climate Studies”, click Here.