Tasmanian Times

Economy

Reports from the end of the Stupidocene

Sea level rise is flagged as an end of the century problem in a recent report to Government that identifies coastal areas threatened by inundation under a projected 1.1m sea level rise. They include Sydney Airport, so its not just residential areas.

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Whilst melting of ice will not stop until and unless temperatures return to the ranges of the early industrial age a slow melt may be adapted to although at a cost to Australia at over $63Billion in lost value.

Of course things in nature never follow the simple path, the complex of factors involved lead to all sorts of sudden shifts in trends.

Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are one potential rapid shift.

The behavior of WAIS was theorized, the then available data modeled and then the Larsen Ice Sheet broke up over the last few years in line with modeled predictions.

In 1978 the then decade old theory put the break-up of WAIS in process by 2028. Early models included one of past events published in 1981. Noticeable retreat was recorded in 1998. It appears to be coming a little earlier.

Further study of the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers shows thinning of the ice and retreat of the face of this massive glacial complex that is relatively isolated. Rapid disintegration of this glacier is predicted to follow the Larsen Ice Shelf and measured behavior indicates this is so.

Paleontologists credit this disintegration of this land based complex as responsible for sea level rise of +-6m in the Last Interglacial Maximum, only a short +-125,000 years ago, the Eemian Warming. North of the European Alps temperatures were in the range of 1 to 2 dC warmer than today. Fossil coral reefs were present in WA for 7,000 years.

Today we are almost at 1dC warmer. Senator Fielding’s denial that its not getting hotter seems to fail on 1 simple measure, the actual temperature.

The residents of Byron Bay and other coastal locations concerned about their property values should consider their personal responses to global warming, join an activist group and change the world if they expect their property values not to be drowned.

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And then there is Greenland where rates of ice melt continue to increase

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091112141311.htm

Senators Fielding, Joyce and Minchin should note the science, but they are too taken with the politics, as nature will remind them again and again and again. They and others could read about the Eemian period by doing a Google, there are several papers including this abstract;

http://www.aqua.org.au/AQUA/meetings/Bowlerfest/Esat.html.

Northern Tasmanian Development is drafting a regional plan to draw together the disparate local government planning schemes. We know the temperature will continue to warm and that greenhouse gas emissions will continue even if there is an agreement to mange them. The plan appears to be to arrest that at +-2dC. The evidence is that whatever warming is caused by GHG will that remain for a millennium

A line of retreat from sea level should be drawn and major new long term investment located above that. 15m would seem prudent, it allows for both the West Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets to melt. Failure to arrest temperature increases at about the 2dC mark means a line has to be drawn at 70m above today’s sea level but that will not really matter as the whole world will be re-planned by Nature.

Are the Copenhagen talks really dead. We’ve had the word they are but the leaders of the US and China play a different game on the world stage.

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Is the fact that the red carabeen [Geissois benthamiana] flowering at Elizabeth Town and indicator of a changing climate. Natural distribution for this is from the Manning River in NSW to the QLD Border Ranges and for the genera off into the South Pacific.

A tree to 35m members of the Genera have been grown as far south as Melbourne and it occurs in the rainforests in the Great Dividing Range where temperatures can fall lower then on the coast

Flowering may represent sexual maturity of the specimen although its near relatives in the same garden have been more precocious. Pollination may be determined by the vectors present although bees do work hard in gathering nectar from leatherwoods [Eucryphia species], including Tasmanian species, nearby.

So whilst it remains difficult to draw a conclusion from the behavior of this species it will be interesting if any seed proves viable.

Of course a plant in situ has different message. Pinus longaeva [bristlecone pine] is a species living for thousands of years in a mountain environment. Since 1950 its growth rings have widened. Could Senator Fielding please explain this. Senators Joyce and Minchin do not deny changes but deny the cause and the cure Annex 1 nations can almost agree on.

Figure 1: Median ring-widths (non-overlapping 50-year means) of upper forest border Pinus longaeva from 3 sites in western North America, plotted on first year of interval (from Salzer et al, PNAS, 2009)

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091116163206.htm

For the full study

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/11/13/0903029106.full.pdf

One might ask what happened around 1750BC when the growth ring width almost matched today and then declined. Mount Veniaminof blew its top in a scale 6 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. Did this near arctic eruption set in train a period of cooling at high altitudes in the Rocky Mountains?

Here’s some work for a paleoclimatoldist to do, see if there’s link volcanic eruptions scale and location with plant growth responses to the climate.

Amatuers could align major Holocene eruptions with major swings in the above graph from here

http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/largeeruptions.cfm

At least the effects of gases in the atmosphere is now being considered seriously.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091117102036.htm

There is one gas that we have focused on and the portion remaining in the atmosphere following release has likely risen by 5% since 1959.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091117133504.htm

Such a small volume and such a huge effect, it’s the fossil fuels stupid.

You can’t put a single weather event down to climate change but with predictions of more events each event adds weight to the argument. When the event breaks records then it becomes weightier.

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Negotiations between the 2 old parties continue over the weekend of the 21st/22nd with Turnbull’s attendance denoting its importance to his continued leadership of the Liberals. If an agreement emerges it would go to the Liberal Party Room for consideration

Tony Abbott hedges his numbers on the leadership by sitting firmly on the deniers side of the fence with his cute demand that the government agree to all the amendments the Liberals desired or no deal.

If Turnbull manages to get an agreement that he can convince a majority in the parliamentary party and in both houses to agree to vote for, regardless of the outcome of Copenhagen, he will face an election in 11 months.

In this time the divisions over the climate within the coalition will not have healed and the electorate will very likely have faced a summer of catastrophic fire warnings if not several mega-fires.

Traumatized by these events will the swinging and therefore thinking voter choose a party unable to unite and apparently unable to understand the science?.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Concerned Resident

    November 22, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I believe that a certain amount of the climate change is cyclic but on the other hand the crap that humans pump into the air daily and the deforestation of our natural assets is also a major contributor…While the gov’ts, both federal and states are approving the starting of new coal mines and uranium mines, and also the clearfelling of the forests…I can’t see that having another tax added on to everything is going to improve things at all, except give the gov’ts more money to waste chasing the big corporations to build the ‘economy’ and to entertain more corporate greed.

  2. Jon Sumby

    November 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Hi Phil,
    You are probably as aware as I am the concern about property values and SLR are propoganda; the real effects of global warming will hit earlier and faster in other areas and SLR is very small in comparison but good to scare the population…

    As for sudden changes, look to ‘alternative stable states’ in the ecological literature.
    Chez,
    Jon

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