Sydney Morning Herald: The figures speak for themselves. Earth’s veil of atmosphere has warmed by 0.8 degrees since the middle of the 18th century when smoke billowing from furnaces of the Industrial Revolution began.
The temperature rise might not sound like a great deal, but make no mistake: the carbon dioxide being churned out today will linger for centuries to come, scientists say.
The polar icesheets, in particular, are vulnerable to a positive feedback loop that tends to boost the speed at which melting occurs. This, in part, is why the Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its smallest extent yet, raising concerns that Arctic summers might be largely free of ice by the 2030s.
Melting of sea ice does not, in itself, lead to a rise in sea level – but the melting of continental ice sheets, such as the Greenland ice cap in the Arctic, does, explains Monash University plant physiologist Roslyn Gleadow.
“Ice is white and reflects sunlight, ensuring that our polar regions keep cold,” Associate Professor Gleadow explains. “Areas that are ice-free are darker in colour and thus absorb sunlight; they also warm faster than if they were covered with ice.” This positive feedback mechanism serves to increase the initial warming.
To discuss these and related matters, the Royal Society of Victoria is hosting a climate change symposium that opened last night in Melbourne with a free public lecture entitled “Addressing the myths of climate change”.
Today, the symposium begins in earnest with world experts discussing each of three key areas of research: science, impacts and adaptation.
“The symposium aims to provide a forum where experts can engage with the community about issues without the need for overly technical language or political hype,” says co-organiser Associate Professor Gleadow.
The first session this morning will review the welter of evidence for climate change, how it is measured and what is understood about these changes. It will then move to describe projections for the future.
The second session will address impacts on Victoria, along with matters such as water supply, sea-level inundation, agricultural productivity and extreme-weather expectations.
The symposium’s final session will consider options for adaptation to reduce exposure to climate-change impacts. “This is really important because there are opportunities as well as challenges ahead, and we need people from all walks of life to be engaged in this process if we are to arrive at the best possible outcomes,” Associate Professor Gleadow says.
The projected effects of sea level rise are of intense interest worldwide.
NASA satellite measurements show that coastal regions of the East Antarctic ice sheet, including long stretches of the Australian Antarctic Territory, have been losing about 57 billion tonnes of ice each year for the past three years. The complete loss of the sheet, the world’s biggest expanse of frozen water, would raise sea levels by roughly 50 metres, polar scientists believe.
The West Antarctic ice sheet, in particular, is losing about 132 billion tonnes of ice a year. Global ice losses now contribute an estimated 1.8 millimetres a year to rises in sea level.
Such calculations have given rise to reports suggesting that more than 250,000 homes in Australia could be damaged or lost due to storm surge and sea level rise in coming decades.
Claims that up to 45,000 homes in Victoria alone – worth more than $10 billion – would be threatened by rising sea levels by 2100, were followed by two CSIRO reports that suggest sea levels during storms are likely to be about 15 centimetres higher in 2030 than today.
Another report will consider four sea-level scenarios by 2100, including two based on rises of 80 centimetres, one of 110 centimetres and one of 140 centimetres. Victorian planning regulations currently forecast a rise in sea level of 80centimetres by the end of the century.
Australia contributes significantly to its own potential problems. The nation’s “ecological footprint” is estimated to be something like 7.8 global hectares per person – 2.8 times the average global footprint.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>