Few people have seen the entire reef – it’s 3,000km long! Each part of the reef is unique, but those who have visited even one corner of this amazing underwater world talk in wonder of the exquisite, vibrant colours and shapes of diverse marine life. Diving the reef is almost like stepping into a parallel universe, experiencing a vision that inspires awe and respect for nature. I have a personal fondness for the reef, having worked up and down its length in my early 20′s, mapping the reef for the Australian bid for UNESCO World Heritage status, given in 1981.
Archive for ‘Climate Change’
Cattle – not climate change – killing the Great Barrier Reef
Sunday, July 28th, 2013
Radical Natural Climate Solutions
Friday, November 16th, 2012
In the lead up to COP18, climate scientists are desperate for solutions, but few countries are willing to take bold action. The world is on track for 6° warming: we have reached a point where radical and affordable solutions to fix our climate are urgently needed. The solutions described here are low cost, natural and solve both short and long term global warming.
The double edged sword: A quick-fix for global warming
Friday, June 8th, 2012
The closer we look at livestock production, the more we discover that it is truly a double-edged sword. On one hand we have the damaging health, climate and environmental effects, and on the other hand, we are now finding that the short-lived emissions from livestock may give us a quick fix for global warming – the solution many climate scientists have been desperately seeking.
WPF scientists recently published a paper in the International Journal of Climate Change that explains how steep reductions in livestock production will be the most effective way to slow warming in the next decades, by at least 2°C. Here’s the paper and press release.
Not only is livestock shown to be a quick-fix, the paper also highlights the work of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency that looked at long-term climate fix – the cost of mitigating global warming. It works out that returning the world’s pastures (a quarter of the land surface) to grow trees, woodland and native perennial grasses, will soak up at least 20 years of carbon emissions.
This approach is also the lowest cost option, coming in a just 20% of the cost of the alternatives – a cheap option that will be taken more seriously as the climate chaos continues.
These ideas also won an award with the MIT Climate CoLab project to find climate solutions – http://climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/4/planId/15201.
Bill Gates agrees – here is a mobile phone video where he predicts that plant protein foods will be a part of the mainstream dialogue within 5 years, and an enormous business opportunity.
Shorter Lived Climate Forcers: Agriculture Sector and Land Clearing for Livestock
Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
In this video presentation, Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop, World Preservation Foundation Senior Scientist, puts forward the case for how, with the devastating effects of climate change being felt ever-more quickly and with increasing intensity, the importance of embracing fast-acting solutions to mitigate climate change has increased dramatically.
In recent years, greater understanding of climate science has advanced considerably, and scientists and even policy makers now recognise that climate change in the short term is being driven by extremely potent, shorter-lived climate forcers. By reducing these climate forcers — namely black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone — cooling begins rapidly.
Globally, the production of meat and dairy are significant contributors of these fast warming agents with far reaching consequences on planetary warming and environmental devastation. These include the major effects of black carbon due to biomass burning, on West Antarctica as well as the tropical monsoons; deforestation; soil carbon loss; and, food and water security. It’s estimated that 47% to 60% of the black carbon reaching West Antarctica and causing rapid melting is due to biomass burning resulting from livestock pasture management.
CO2 from pasture maintenance fires, reforestation of pastures and soil carbon uptake on relief of grazing pressure may also play a part in a fast-acting solution to the climate crisis.
This video is a synopsis of the paper Gerard wrote that examines the contributions of agriculture, namely livestock farming, to planetary warming through the shorter-lived climate forcers, and the effect of animal agriculture abatement on alleviating global warming and environmental collapse. We also propose four policy measures to immediately reduce the shorter-lived warming agents.
(By: Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop: Senior Scientist, World Preservation Foundation )
Afforestation will hardly dent warming problem: study
Sunday, June 19th, 2011
Schemes to convert croplands or marginal lands to forests will make almost no inroads against global warming this century, a scientific study published on Sunday said.
Afforestation is being encouraged under the UN’s Kyoto Protocol climate-change treaty under the theory that forests are “sinks” that soak up carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air through photosynthesis.
But environmental researchers, in a new probe, said that even massive conversion of land to forestry would have only a slender benefit against the greenhouse-gas problem.
This is partly because forests take decades to mature and CO2 is a long-lasting molecule, able to lurk for centuries in the atmosphere.
But another reason is that forests, even as they absorb greenhouse gas, are darker than croplands and thus absorb more solar heat — and in high latitudes, this may even result in net warming.
Vivek Arora of the University of Victoria in British Columbia and Alvaro Montenegro of St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia modelled five scenarios in which afforestation was carried out over 50 years, from 2011 to 2060.
They used a Canadian programme called CanESM1 that simulated the impacts on land, sea and air if Earth’s surface temperature rose by some 3.0 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 compared to 1850.
Even if all the cropland in the world were afforested, this would reduce the warming by only 0.45 C (0.81 F) by a timescale of 2081-2100, according to the study, which appears in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Fifty-percent afforestation would brake it by an even tinier 0.25 C (0.45 F).
Both scenarios are, of course, wildly unrealistic because of the need to grow food.
Fifty-percent afforestation would require at least a doubling in crop yield to feed the human population because half of the crop area would be taken out of use.
The other three scenarios found that afforestation in the tropics was three times more efficient at “avoided warming” than in northerly latitudes and temperate regions.
The study said that afforestation does have other benefits, for the economy and the ecoystem.
“There’s nothing wrong with afforestation, it is positive, but our findings say that it’s not a response to temperature control if we are going to be emitting (greenhouse gases) this way,” Montenegro told AFP.
The study said bluntly, “Afforestation is not a substitute for reduced greenhouse-gas emissions.”
In forest programmes, policymakers would be advised to focus afforestation efforts in the tropics but also push hard against deforestation, which accounts for 10 to 20 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions globally.
Avoiding deforestation is under discussion for post-2012 climate action under the UN flag.
Source: Afforestation will hardly dent warming problem: study – Physorg
Date: 19 June 2011
Forget carbon, this is worse: researcher
Friday, June 17th, 2011
Attention should turn to nitrous oxide if climate change is to be properly addressed, according to a Brisbane-based member of a Nobel Prize-winning team who says the gas has 300 times the impact of carbon dioxide.
Queensland University of Technology professor Richard Conant was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore.
Professor Conant’s latest research suggests the best way to reduce greenhouse emissions is to improve the way nitrogen fertiliser, which releases nitrous oxide, is applied to crops throughout the world.
Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from two main sources: 38 per cent from nitrous oxide from poor soil fertilisation and 34 per cent from methane from stock.
Professor Conant said the nitrous oxide could be better controlled than methane-emitting pigs and cattle.
“The three greenhouse gases related to agriculture are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane,” he said.
“They have different impacts on the atmosphere. Now if we say carbon dioxide has an impact of one, methane has an impact of say 21 times.
“Nitrous oxide has an even bigger impact, something like 300 times the impact of CO2.”
The figures represent the ability of a molecule to absorb the long wave energy radiation from the earth.
Nitrous oxide was, per molecule, a bigger destroyer of the cushioning greenhouse environment surrounding the earth, Professor Conant said.
“Nitrous oxide is not the main greenhouse gas, it is just that for every molecule of greenhouse gas, it just absorbs a lot more of the energy from the earth,” he said.
Professor Conant’s latest research suggests it is possible to produce more food and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving the way nitrogen fertiliser is applied in developing countries.
Professor Conant, who now works at QUT’s Institute of Sustainable Resources, has used computer modelling to analyse the way nitrogen is applied throughout the world to cereal crops, like maize, rice, wheat, millet and sorghum.
Collectively, these cereals make up about 70 per cent of the world’s food production.
“Literature in this field implies that with greater (nitrogen) fertilisation we can expect that we are going to be less efficient at growing food,” Professor Conant said.
“So there is this fear out there that we are seeing diminishing marginal returns on our nitrogen inputs to the system.”
However, Professor Conant’s research into international cereal crop farming shows that is not the case.
“I think that while in some countries the nitrogen inputs are increasing, the benefits from those nitrogen are not increasing as much in the developing world as they are in the rich world,” he said.
If better food yields could come from improved nitrogen fertilising, Professor Conant said more food could be produced with a lower greenhouse impact.
“By bridging this gap, food production in developing countries can grow more quickly than nitrogen inputs grow in those countries,” he said.
Professor Conant’s research will be housed at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and used by all member nations.
Source: Forget carbon, this is worse: researcher – Brisbane Times AU
Date: 16 June 2011
Curb soot and smog to keep Earth cool, says UN
Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Sharply reducing emissions of soot and smog could play a critical role in preventing Earth from overheating, according to a UN report released on Tuesday.
Curbing these pollutants could also boost global food output and save millions of lives lost to heart and lung disease, said the report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
Even as climate talks remain deadlocked on how to share out the task of cutting CO2, parallel action on “black carbon” particles and ground-level ozone would buy precious time in the quest to limit global temperature rise to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), it said.
Record output in 2010 of carbon from energy use and unprecedented CO2 levels in the atmosphere suggest that efforts to maintain the 2.0 C cap, widely seen as a threshold for dangerous warming, may already be doomed, say scientists.
On current trajectories, temperatures are set to go up 1.3 C (2.3 F) — on top of the 0.9 C (1.6 F) jump since human-induced warming kicked in — by 2050, bringing the total compared to preindustrial levels to 2.2 C (4.0 F).
But quickly tackling black carbon and smog-related ozone could slash 0.5 C (0.9 F) off the temperature increase projected for 2030, putting the two-degree target back on track, the new findings suggest.
“There are clear and concrete measures that can be undertaken to help protect the global climate in the short and medium term,” said Drew Shindell, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the 50 scientists behind the new assessment.
“The win-win here for limiting climate change and improving air quality is self-evident and the ways to achieve it have become far clearer.”
The report was unveiled in Bonn as delegates from more than 190 nations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) struggle to make headway in the deeply stymied negotiations.
Black carbon, found in soot, is a byproduct of incomplete burning of fossil fuels, wood and biomass, such as animal waste. The most common sources are car and truck emissions, primitive cook stoves, forest fires and industry.
Soot suspended in the air accelerates global warming by absorbing sunlight. When it covers snow and ice, white surfaces that normally reflect the Sun’s radiative force back into space soak up heat instead, speeding up the melting of mountain glaciers, ice sheets, and the Arctic ice cap.
The tiny particles have also been linked to premature death from heart disease and lung cancer.
Ground-level, or tropospheric, ozone — a major ingredient of urban smog — is both a powerful greenhouse gas and a noxious air pollutant. It is formed from other gases including methane, itself a potent driver of global warming.
A threefold increase in concentrations in the northern hemisphere over the last century has made it the third most important greenhouse gas.
Unlike carbon dioxide, which lingers in the atmosphere for centuries once emitted, black carbon and ozone disappear quickly when emissions taper off.
“The science of short-lived climate forcers has evolved to a level of maturity that now requires … a robust policy response by nations,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP.
Measures recommended for reducing black carbon include mandatory use of diesel filters on vehicles, phasing out wood-burning stoves in rich countries, use of clean-burning biomass stoves for cooking and heating in developing nations, and a ban on the open burning of agricultural waste.
For ozone, the report calls for policies that curb organic waste, require water treatment facilities to recover gas, reduce methane emissions from coal and oil industries, and promote anaerobic digestion of manure from cattle and pigs, both major sources of methane.
The report estimates that nearly 2.5 million deaths from outdoor pollution, mainly in Africa and Asia, could be avoided every year by 2030 if black carbon levels dropped significantly.
Far less ground-level ozone could also avoid important losses in global maize, rice, soybean and wheat production, it said.
Source: Curb soot and smog to keep Earth cool, says UN – PHYSORG
Date: 14 June 2011
World ‘must invest $40bn a year in forests’: UN
Monday, June 6th, 2011
Investing $40 billion annually in the forest sector is needed for the world to transition into a low carbon, resource-efficient green economy, according to a UN report released here Sunday.
The additional investment “could halve deforestation rates by 2030, increase rates of tree planting by around 140 per cent by 2050,” said the report published by the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
“Carefully planned investments would also contribute to increased employment from 25 million today to 30 million by 2050,” it also added.
The cost of ensuring a green transition would equal $40 billion a year or around 0.034 per cent of global GDP, the report said.
Such an investment, equivalent to about two-thirds more than what is currently spent on the sector, would also remove an extra 28 per cent of carbon from the atmosphere, the Nairobi-based UNEP said.
Earlier this week the UNEP warned that fires, felling and agriculture are whittling Europe’s forests down into isolated patches, threatening to speed up desertification and deplete wildlife.
The UN Environment Programme is working with scientists to draw up maps of areas that need to be replanted to help reconnect fragmented forests. The maps will submitted at a June 14-16 ministerial meeting in Oslo.
Source: World ‘must invest $40bn a year in forests’: UN – France 24 International News
Date: 05 June 2011
People destroy forests at peril – ILO chief
Monday, June 6th, 2011
“This year’s theme “Forests – nature at your service” reminds us that we destroy forests at our peril,” Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Juan Sumavia said here Sunday.
“Their fate dramatically illustrates how social development, economic growth and environmental sustainability are inextricably intertwined,” noted Sumavia. “The un-sustainability of the prevailing model of growth has been increasingly laid bare – economically, environmentally, socially and politically.”
Environmental degradation is one manifestation of the imbalances produced by this inefficient model of growth. Another is its failure to yield sufficient opportunities for the decent work that people need.
“The economic crisis which it did produce has forced millions of people out of work and pushed many more back into poverty. Globally, there were 27.6 million more unemployed people in 2010 than before the crisis. The number of workers in extreme poverty in 2009 is estimated to have been over 40 million more than it would have been without the crisis. And the pre-crisis situation was already unacceptable”, he explained.
Environmental degradation and misuse of the forest resource and the deep-seated crisis of jobs and decent work are interconnected.
In an inefficient growth model with a marked deficit of decent jobs, the quest for survival along with the unbridled exploitation of resources fuels unsustainable use of forests with loss of jobs and livelihoods. It also and fosters intolerable labour practices such as forced labour.
Yet forests are at the service of job creation. We must also take steps to ensure that they are at the service of decent job creation.
Tens of millions depend directly on forests for their living. For 60 million indigenous and tribal peoples, forests are not only the economic basis of their survival but also the very foundation of their cultural and spiritual identity. Some 14 million are employed in the formal forestry sector. And the survival of a much larger number depends on informal and often subsistence use of forests.
ILO research has shown that there are significant sustainable employment and income opportunities in Amazon forests. Another study in collaboration with China suggests that reforestation can create several hundred thousand temporary and permanent rural job opportunities.
Under the Green Jobs Initiative involving the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Organisation of Employers and the ILO, “our recent global study “Skills for Green Jobs” highlights the role of training in controlling deforestation (Brazil), job creation for low income and unemployed youth (Republic of Korea), and contributing to poverty reduction (Uganda),” he pointed out.
Brazil is building decent work standards into forest management in the Amazon region. Similarly, programmes for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+) increasingly recognize that the co-benefits of employment, income and local governance are critical for the success of these schemes.
“We must use the opportunity of the Rio UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 to make progress towards an inclusive growth model with policies that are efficient for people, for productive investment and for nature,” concluded Samuvia.
Source: People destroy forests at peril – ILO chief – Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)
Date: 05 June 2011
Rising forest density offsets climate change-study
Monday, June 6th, 2011
- Trees get denser, store more carbon-study
- Forest density can complicate U.N.-led carbon market
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
Rising forest density in many countries is helping to offset climate change caused by deforestation from the Amazon basin to Indonesia, a study showed on Sunday.
The report indicated that the size of trees in a forest — rather than just the area covered — needed to be taken into account more in U.N.-led efforts to put a price on forests as part of a nascent market to slow global warming.
“Higher density means world forests are capturing more carbon,” experts in Finland and the United States said of the study in the online journal PLoS One, issued on June 5 which is World Environment Day in the U.N. calendar.
Trees soak up carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, as they grow and release it when they burn or rot. Deforestation in places from the Congo basin to Papua New Guinea is blamed for perhaps 12 to 20 percent of all emissions by human activities.
The report, based on a survey of 68 nations, found that the amount of carbon stored in forests increased in Europe and North America from 2000-10 despite little change in forest area.
And in Africa and South America, the total amount of carbon stored in forests fell at a slower rate than the loss of area, indicating that they had grown denser. [ID:nLDE75407A]. Forests in Asia became less dense over the same period.
And some countries still had big losses of carbon, including Indonesia and Argentina. The study did not try to estimate the overall trend, saying there was not yet enough data.
Greater density in some countries, including China, was probably linked to past forest plantings, lead author Aapo Rautiainen of the University of Helsinki told Reuters.
“Forests that were established in China a few decades ago are now starting to reach their fast-growing phase. That is a reason for rising density now,” he said.
Global warming, blamed by the U.N. panel of climate experts mainly on human use of fossil fuels, might itself be improving growth conditions for trees in some regions. Warming is projected to cause heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.
The United States has had among the most striking shifts — timberland area expanded by just one percent between 1953 and 2007 but the volume of growing stock surged by 51 percent.
A shift towards farming in the Midwestern United States meant that forests in the east had been left to grow, and get denser.
The report also suggested that forest managers might rotate fellings less frequently since trees kept thickening.
But it could complicate efforts to design market mechanisms to encourage developing nations to safeguard tropical forests. Under the U.N.-led effort, people would get tradeable credits for slowing the rate of deforestation.
Measuring the density of a forest requires more complex monitoring than just measuring the extent of a forest by photographing it from a plane or by satellite.
“There does need to be a greater sampling to be able to come to a legitimate and credible number for the carbon,” said Iddo Wernick, a co-author at the Rockefeller University in New York.
Negotiators from about 180 nations will meet in Bonn, Germany, from June 6-17 to discuss measures to slow global wraming, including the protection of tropical forests. (Editing by David Cowell)
Source: Rising forest density offsets climate change-study – Thompson Reuters Foundation AlertNet
Date: 05 June 2011
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