The new Great Barrier Reef pollution plan is better, but still not good enough


Jon Brodie, James Cook University; Alana Grech, James Cook University, and Laurence McCook, James Cook University

The draft water quality improvement plan, released by the federal and Queensland governments this week, aims to reduce the pollution flowing from water catchments to the Great Barrier Reef over the next five years.

It is part of the overarching Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan to protect and manage the reef until mid-century.

Water quality is one of the biggest threats to the reef’s health, but the new guidelines still fall short of what’s required, given the available scientific evidence.


Read more: Cloudy issue: we need to fix the Barrier Reef’s murky waters.


The draft plan, which is open for comment until October, presents several important and commendable advances in the management of water quality on the Great Barrier Reef. It addresses all land-based sources of water pollution (agricultural, urban, public lands and industrial) and includes social, cultural and economic values for the first time.

The principal sources of pollution are nitrogen loss from fertiliser use on sugar cane lands, fine sediment loss from erosion on grazing lands, and pesticide losses from cropping lands. These are all major risk factors for the Great Barrier Reef.

The draft plan also presents updated water quality targets that call for reductions in run-off nutrients and fine sediments by 2025. Each of the 35 catchments that feeds onto the reef has its own individual set of targets, thus helping to prioritise pollution-reduction measures across a region almost as large as Sweden.

The reef’s still suffering

The Great Barrier Reef suffered coral bleaching and death over vast areas in 2016, and again this year. The 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement, released with the draft water quality plan (and on which one of us, Jon Brodie, was an author), reports:

Key Great Barrier Reef ecosystems continue to be in poor condition. This is largely due to the collective impact of land run-off associated with past and ongoing catchment development, coastal development activities, extreme weather events and climate change impacts such as the 2016 and 2017 coral bleaching events.

Stronger action on the local and regional causes of coral death are seen to be essential for recovery at locations where poor water quality is a major cause of reef decline. These areas include mid-shelf reefs in the Wet Tropics region damaged by crown of thorns starfish, and inner-shelf reefs where turbid waters stop light reaching coral and seagrass. Human-driven threats, especially land-based pollution, must be effectively managed to reduce the impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

But although the draft plan provides improved targets and a framework for reducing land-based pollution, it still doesn’t reflect the severity of the situation. The 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement reports that “current initiatives will not meet the water quality targets” by 2025.

This is because the draft plan does not provide any major new funding, legislation or other initiatives to drive down land-based pollution any further. As the statement explains:

To accelerate the change in on-ground management, improvements to governance, program design, delivery and evaluation systems are urgently needed. This will require greater incorporation of social and economic factors, better targeting and prioritisation, exploration of alternative management options and increased support and resources.


Read more: The Great Barrier Reef’s safety net is becoming more complex but less effective


The draft plan calls on farmers to go “beyond minimum standards” for practices such as fertiliser use in sugar cane, and minimum pasture cover in cattle grazing lands. But even the minimum standards are unlikely to be widely adopted unless governments implement existing legislation to enforce the current standards.

The draft plan is also silent on the impact of land clearing on water quality, and the conversion of grazing land to intensively farmed crops such as sugar cane, as proposed in the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia.

The federal and Queensland governments have committed A$2 billion over ten years to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Under the draft plan, about half of this (A$100 million a year) will be spent on water quality management. This is not an increase in resourcing, but rather the same level of funding that has been provided for the past seven years.

More than loose change

There is a very strong business case for major increases in funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Even with conservative assumptions, the economics firm Jacobs has estimated that protecting the industries that depend on the reef will require A$830 million in annual funding – more than four times the current level.


Read more: What’s the economic value of the Great Barrier Reef? It’s priceless.


The draft water quality plan acknowledges the need for a “step change” in reef management, and to “accelerate our collective efforts to improve the land use practices of everyone living and working in the catchments adjacent to the Reef”.

This need is echoed in many other reports, both government and scientific. For example, the 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement makes several wide-ranging recommendations.

One of them is to make better use of existing legislation and policies, including both voluntary and regulatory approaches, to improve water quality standards.

This recommendation applies to both Commonwealth and Queensland laws. These include the federal Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, which restricts or bans any activities that “may pollute water in a manner harmful to animals and plants in the Marine Park”, and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which prohibits any action, inside or outside the marine park, that affects the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage values.

Another recommendation is to rethink existing land-use plans. For instance, even the best practice in sugar cane farming is inconsistent with the nitrogen fertiliser run-off limits needed to meet water quality guidelines. One option is to shift to less intensive land uses such as grazing in the Wet Tropics region – a priority area for nitrate fertiliser management because of its link to crown of thorns starfish outbreaks. This option is being explored in a NESP project.

The ConversationThese changes would require significantly increased funding to support catchment and coastal management and to meet the draft plan’s targets. Government commitment to this level of management is essential to support the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef to climate change.

Jon Brodie, Professorial Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University; Alana Grech, Assistant Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, and Laurence McCook, Adjunct Principal Research Fellow, Partner Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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People around the world will act on climate change to create a better society: study


Paul Bain, Queensland University of Technology

If we can convince people that climate change is real and important, then surely they will act: this intuitive idea underlies many efforts to communicate climate change to the public.

Initially it was very successful in increasing public awareness and support, but anyone aware of the protracted climate change “debate” can see that people who are still unconvinced are now very unlikely to be swayed.

In research published in Nature Climate Change today, my colleagues and I show that people will support action on climate change if it helps to create a better society.

Falling support

The importance of climate change as a public issue has been slipping since 2007 in countries such as the United States, and is given a relatively low priority across the world.

To reinvigorate people’s support for climate change action, we may need to look at options other than just convincing people that climate change is real. Rather than trying to persuade people that climate change is more important than their other concerns and goals, perhaps we should start with those concerns and goals and show how they can be addressed through tackling climate change.

For example, if action on climate change reduces pollution or stimulates economic development, people who value clean air or economic growth might support climate change action, even if they are unconvinced or unconcerned about climate change itself. These broader positive effects of climate change action are often called “co-benefits”.

But could such co-benefits motivate people to act? If so, might different co-benefits matter more to people in different countries? These questions have been the focus of our large international research project examining the views of more than 6,000 people from 24 countries.

Through this research, we aimed to identify the key co-benefits that motivate behaviour around the world to help create more effective ways of designing and communicating climate change initiatives.

Fixing climate change, fixing other problems

We asked people whether the social conditions in their country would become better or worse as a result of climate change mitigation, including a wide range of potential co-benefits.

We found that people grouped these co-benefits into larger clusters relating to promoting development (such as economic development, scientific progress) and reducing dysfunction (such as poverty, crime, pollution, disease).

As social psychologists, we were also interested in how addressing climate change could influence people’s character. We asked people how taking climate change action might result in people in society becoming more (or less) caring and moral (benevolence), and capable and competent (competence).

We related these four overarching co-benefits to people’s motivations to engage in behaviours to address climate change. These include public behaviours (such as green voting and campaigning), private behaviours (such as reducing household energy use) and financial behaviours (donating to an environmental organisation).

Around the world, two types of co-benefits were strongly related to motivations to act in public, at home, or in providing financial support.

People were motivated to act on climate change when they thought it would lead to scientific and economic advances (development), and when it would help create a society where people cared more for each other (benevolence).

Yet there was an important difference between who favoured benevolence and development. Making society more caring was a strong motivator for action across the globe, whereas promoting development varied in its effects across countries.

For example, development was a strong motivator in France and Russia, but only a weak motivator in Japan and Mexico. However, we could not identify a systematic reason for this cross-country difference.

Surprisingly, reducing pollution, poverty and disease was the weakest motivator of climate change action, despite issues like pollution and poor health being commonly invoked as co-benefits of addressing climate change, such as the US climate action plan.

Although mitigating climate change will produce these health and pollution benefits, these don’t appear to strongly motivate people’s willingness to act.

Critically, if people thought acting on climate change would improve society in these ways, it didn’t matter if they believed it was happening or not, or whether it was important. And it didn’t matter what political ideology they held.

This shows how these co-benefits can cut across ideological and political divides that are stalling climate change discussions.

Climate policy with something for everyone

The findings can help communicate climate change to the public in more convincing ways, but the real key is to ensure that climate change initiatives can achieve these development and benevolence co-benefits.

While the economic opportunities of addressing climate change already receive public discussion, it may be less obvious how climate change policies could help create communities where people care more for each other.

“Top-down” policies such as a carbon tax or emissions trading aren’t traditionally the stuff that helps build communities. However, policies that support “bottom-up” initiatives have this potential, such as engaging local communities in climate change activities that build friendships and strengthen networks.

Such community initiatives have been used to increase renewable energy use in the UK.

They have also been used with some success in sceptical communities in the US. Expertise and support for building these local initiatives are growing.

There is increasing recognition from the United Nations that successfully meeting the climate change challenge needs both top-down and bottom-up approaches.

These findings should strengthen the hands of those arguing for bottom-up approaches at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December. If climate change policies and initiatives can produce these co-benefits for the economy and the community, people around the world will support action.


Paul will be on hand for an Author Q&A between 12:30 and 1:30pm AEST on Tuesday, September 29, 2015. Post your questions in the comments section below.

The Conversation

Paul Bain, Lecturer in Psychology, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Antarctica: Ozone Hole Healing


The link below is to an article that brings some good news regarding our environment – the ozone hole over Antarctica is healing and should continue to do so. This is a story that shows we can manage the environment in a much better way when nations actively work together to solve the problems we face.

For more visit:
http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2013/02/08/Antarctic-ozone-hole-said-shrinking/UPI-95971360358097/

Blackbutt Reserve


Kevin's Daily Photo, Video, Quote or Link

Since I was unable to visit Gap Creek Falls the other day, I decided I might pop in to have a look at the new animal enclosures at Blackbutt Reserve near Newcastle. I will say straight off the bat that I do have something of a prejudice against Blackbutt Reserve, as I see the place as nothing like a natural bush setting, it being far too ‘corrupted’ by human activity, weeds and the like. Having said that it is a good place for a family or group outing/event. It certainly has its place, but it is not a true nature reserve (in my opinion).

Visitor Centre

ABOVE: Visitor Centre

I do think that some well designed animal and bird enclosures at Blackbutt could lift the value of the reserve dramatically and make it a really great place for families, especially young families. There are opportunities for educational visits for kids, possible environmental…

View original post 182 more words

Our New Look


The New Year has begun and what a great way for the Blog to celebrate the New Year – with a brand new look!

Some of the changes you may have noticed on the Blog include the following:

– The overall theme and appearance of the Blog has been given a major overhaul, with a fresh, new header image. It has taken a little bit of work to get the image right and hopefully you like it. The banner image also includes a bit of self promotion, with the website address appearing on it.

– The sharing options on for each post now include buttons for Tumbler, LinkedIn and Google+

– There is also an option for rating each Blog article.

I am always looking at ways to improve the Blog and 2012 will be no different. Hopefully there will be more regular and better quality articles on the way, with other improvements to the Blog pages and features as well. All this to come in 2012 and beyond.

Australian Wilderness Adventures: Episode 001 – Cathedral Rock National Park


Today I have uploaded the first episode in what will be a growing series of documentary-like videos for my YouTube channel (Kevin’s Wilderness Journeys). This series of videos will focus on national parks and reserves in Australia (especially New South Wales), with a view to providing useful information for people who may be interested in visiting the national park being considered in any particular episode. I am hoping to provide a preview of the main attractions in each national park and the facilities available for visitors. Hopefully these will whet the appetite for those who view the videos and provoke a desire to actually visit the national parks under consideration.

This first episode focuses on the Cathedral Rock National Park, with a look at the Cathedral Rock Track and the Woolpack Rocks Track. There will be more episodes to come, including episodes on Dorrigo National Park, Bongil Bongil National Park and Myall Lakes National Park – among others. Hopefully in time better equipment will improve the quality of videos available – but none-the-less, I do think the videos are useful to some degree as they are.

The actual size of the video I have in my archives for the first video is 2.85 GB, so there is a fair reduction in file size (and therefore quality) to get the videos online and within the limits of YouTube file sizes and length.

 

Latest News on the Web Site


Latest News on the Web Site

My website is currently down – for the most part anyway. I hope to have it back up in the near future. Why is it down? My previous hosting service put their prices up dramatically from the previous renewal of the site. It was nearly doubled and I found that sort of hike unacceptable. I have therefore sought out a new hosting service and believe I now have great value for money, as well as a far better service. The site will now have the same address as it has had for several years:

http://kevinswilderness.com

The site I was intending to move to at WordPress.com, will now become the Blog for site updates, news, etc. It can be found at:

http://kevinswilderness.wordpress.com/

For the time being the site will continue to be down, with improvements being made as the site is transferred across to the new hosting company. Please keep returning to the site as I hope to bring pages back online on a regular basis.