Sharma calls for Australia to play a bigger international role on climate


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Liberal candidate in Wentworth, Dave Sharma, has called for
Australia to do more on the international stage to address climate change, declaring this is “where our efforts can have the biggest impact”.

These efforts should include trying to turn around the United States’ decision to leave the Paris agreement, Sharma told the Coalition for Conservation on Tuesday night.

As Scott Morrison this week has sought to boost his government’s
credentials on the climate issue, Sharma said a small improvement in the emissions trajectories of large emitters such as China would have much greater impact than anything Australia could itself do.




Read more:
Morrison to announce $2 billion over 10 years for climate fund


Australia produced only 1.3% of global CO2 emissions. “This is not an argument for doing nothing. We need to be credible in our own efforts to reduce our emissions. But it does make clear that Australia cannot solve climate change by ourselves,” he said.

“This [international effort] is where Australia should be more ambitious and invest greater effort. In the diplomacy and the negotiations to ensure all countries keep their Paris commitments. In helping to raise the level of ambition over time, as technology allows.

“And in persuading countries that have pulled out of the Paris
agreement – including the United States – to come back in.

“This is where we should be investing additional effort, and where I believe my own experience in multilateral negotiations could help us,” said Sharma, a former diplomat.

Sharma, who last year lost in the Wentworth byelection to independent Kerryn Phelps, is running again in Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat. The Liberals believe they have some hope of regaining the seat, on the assumption the savage protest vote against the ousting of the former prime minister is likely to have diminished.

Climate change was an important issue in the byelection campaign, and Sharma presents as one of the more progressive voices in the party on it.

This week Morrison announced initiatives including A$2 billion over a decade to extend the emissions reduction fund that Tony Abbott established, now rebadged as the Climate Solutions Fund, $1.38 billion towards building the Snowy 2.0 scheme, and support for a new interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland.




Read more:
The government’s $2bn climate fund: a rebadged rehash of old mistakes


Sharma said: “We need to be serious and credible in addressing the risk posed by climate change, and for that we – and I mean the whole world here – need to be lowering our emissions and reducing our carbon footprint”.

“We are in the midst right now of a technology-driven energy transition.

“From centralised, fossil-fuel based power generation, with a ‘dumb’ one-way grid.

“To a more decentralised network, with greater renewables generation, backed by storage, and a ‘smart’ two-way grid where households are both consumers and suppliers of power.

“This transition is being driven by market forces, competitive
pressures, consumer and corporate behaviour, and capital markets.”

Coal would continue to have a role during this transition. Sharma said. “But market forces are pushing coal out of the energy mix,” and not just in Australia.

“In Australia, new coal-fired power generation simply cannot compete with the cost of renewables plus storage.

“And – whether people like it or not – carbon risk is real and is already being factored in by banks, investors and the markets. Glencore’s announcement last week is illustrative.”

But if coal was closed down with haste, power bills would go up and the lights would go out, he said.

“A steady transition to greater renewable energy sources is feasible and practical — but an overnight switch is not”.

The energy markets were headed in the right direction, Sharma said.

“If we work with the grain of market forces, help smooth out the
necessary transition, and ensure clear signals are sent to investors, then we can meet our Paris emissions reduction targets in the electricity sector without having an impact on price or reliability”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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South Africa’s role in the trade in lion bones: a neglected story


File 20180820 30593 gq31sy.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Most lion bones in South Africa come from captive-bred lions.
Author supplied

Ross Harvey, South African Institute of International Affairs

Africa’s wild lion population is estimated to be between 20 000 and 30 000. Researchers have good reason to believe that the real number is closer to 20 000. This puts lions in the “vulnerable” category of threatened species.

The categorisation masks important realities. The only growing populations are those in fenced reserves with small wild managed populations. This is not only a species crisis. It’s also an ecological and economic crisis. Lions are apex predators, which means that entire food chains and ecological systems depend on healthy populations. Lions are also a significant tourism drawcard, and tourism is a significant employer.

South Africa, uniquely, also allows the breeding of lions in captivity, most of which have no conservation value. It has an estimated 7000 to 8000 lions in captivity across roughly 300 facilities. These lions are predominantly bred for canned hunting and the Asian predator bone market.

But, following a global campaign, the demand for canned hunting has plummeted in the last few years. Environmental lobby groups argue that lions are now increasingly being killed for the bone trade.

A report prepared by by EMS, an activist charity, and the lobby group Ban Animal Trading, shows that lion bones are sold on the black market as tiger bones. The bones are dropped into rice wine vats and sold as tiger bone wine which is promoted in Asian markets as a treatment for rheumatism and impotence. The bones are also used to produce tiger bone cakes, an exotic small bar of melted bones mixed with additives like turtle shell.

The report argues that most lion bones come from captive-bred lions in South Africa.

Captive breeding is perfectly legal, if distasteful. But there are limits on the trade of lion bones. In 2016 the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties decided that no bone exports should be allowed from wild lions. But the conference also agreed that South Africa should establish a quota for skeleton exports from captive-bred lions. Captive breeding only occurs at scale in South Africa, so no other country is permitted to export lion bones.

A year later the Department of Environmental Affairs set an annual lion skeleton export quota at 800. It raised this to 1500 in July 2018. It did so without public consultation or the support of research. Even an interim report prepared for the department by the South African National Biodiversity Institute did not specify grounds on which to establish, or expand, a quota.

On top of this, there’s poor regulation of lion breeding facilities. The department doesn’t have a working database so doesn’t know how many facilities there are, or what the total number of captive-bred predators is.

How it works

In my new report, I discuss how breeding facilities are linked to the trade in lion bones.

The facilities arrange hunts that cost in the region of $22 000 for a male and female combination. Wildlife researcher, Karl Amman, describes how trophy taxidermists then sell the lion skeletons (without the skull) on to buyers. These are usually in Asian countries. A skeleton can fetch $1500.

The importer then sells the bones on for between $700 and $800 per kg. A 100kg lion yields about 18kgs of bone, worth roughly $15 000 at this point in the supply chain. The bones are then imported into Vietnam, boiled down in large pots to yield 100g bars of cake which are sold for roughly $1000.

Conservationists are concerned that South Africa’s quota provides an incentive to breed lions not only for the bullet, but also for the bone trade.

The 2017 quota was fully subscribed within weeks while a newly released report prepared for CITES suggests that 3469 skeletons were exported that year, nearly double the allocated number.

This rise in the trade of lion bones shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 2016 the US banned the import of captive-origin lion trophies from South Africa. Breeding facilities began looking for alternative markets. Selling lion carcasses was an obvious option given that a lioness skeleton fetches roughly R30 000, and a male skeleton about R50 000, when sold to a trader.

The predator breeding industry in South Africa argues that captive lion populations serve as a buffer against wild lion poaching because it can satisfy the demand for bones.

But those who oppose the trade in lion bones cite evidence that suggests the opposite is true. If anything, the quota could fuel the demand for lion products and provide a laundering channel for illegally sourced wild lion parts. This may imperil already vulnerable wild lion populations elsewhere in Africa. It also makes law enforcement extremely challenging: officials cannot be expected to distinguish between legal and illegally sourced bone stock.

What is being done about it?

The public outcry over an apparently arbitrary quota has been notable. The backlash against canned hunting and the bone trade has been similarly vocal.

The arguments against the trade have been put on the table at a two-day colloquium in South Africa’s parliament. The question being asked is: does the captive lion breeding industry harm, or promote, South Africa’s conservation image?

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The Conversation

Ultimately, it is parliament’s job to hold the government to account. The colloquium may go some way towards doing so. It may even end the brutality of captive predator breeding.

Ross Harvey, Senior Researcher in Natural Resource Governance (Africa), South African Institute of International Affairs

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

A year of records: the human role in 2014’s wild weather


Mitchell Black, University of Melbourne; Andrew King, University of Melbourne, and David Karoly, University of Melbourne

Australia has just had its hottest October, and we can already say that human-caused climate change made this new record at least ten times more likely than it would otherwise have been.

But if we turn our eyes to the past, what role did climate change play in the broken records of 2014? Last year was the hottest on record worldwide, and came with its fair share of extremes.

As part of the annual extreme weather issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society released today, five papers by Australian authors including us, investigate the role of climate change in extreme weather in 2014.

Year of records

Australia was hit hard in 2014 (although perhaps not quite as hard as 2013, which was Australia’s hottest year ever).

The year started with a bang when the international spotlight fell on southeast Australia as Melbourne was baked by the infamous “Australian Open heatwave”. It led into 12 months that saw the country experience a 19-day heatwave in May, the hottest spring on record, and unusually hot weather in Brisbane during November, right in the middle of the G20 World Leaders Forum.

The Australian Open heatwave of 2014 saw several days above 40C in southern Australia.
Author provided

In August, a record high pressure system stalled to the south of Australia and brought some unusual winter weather, including severe frosts.

So did human-caused global warming play a role in this “weirding” of Australian weather?

Revealing the role of climate change

The annual extremes issue centres on one of the fastest developing areas in climate change research, the role of climate change in recent extreme weather events.

While the link between human activities and climate change has been firmly established for several decades, attributing a single event to human influence isn’t easy. This is because individual events may be the result of natural climate variation.

To get to the heart of how climate change is influencing these extreme events, scientists try to determine how much more likely individual extremes are as a result of climate change. Using climate models they compare the world of today with a parallel world without human greenhouse gas emissions.

These scenarios are often run on models thousands of times in an effort to recreate events that are of a similar scale. By comparing the results of modelled climates with and without human-produced greenhouse gases, researchers can determine how much more likely it is that an extreme weather event occurred as a result of human-caused global warming.

This approach is similar to the way epidemiologists investigate whether smoking increases the likelihood of lung cancer.

Interestingly, there was a significant citizen science role in three of the Australian peer-reviewed studies reported in the extremes issue. Using a large number of climate simulations run on thousands of home computers as part of the Weather@home project, the scientists were able to examine local-scale extreme events such as the January heatwave in Melbourne.

Citizen computing power has helped crunch the numbers and simulate climate extremes.
Weather@home

What we found

The first study, led by Mitchell Black, focused on the prolonged heatwave in southeast Australia in January 2014. During this event Adelaide recorded five consecutive days above 42°C (13–17 January) while Melbourne recorded four consecutive days above 41°C (14–17 January) during the Australian Open tennis tournament.

This study found that human influence very likely increased the chance of prolonged heatwaves in Adelaide by at least 16%. Meanwhile, the influence for Melbourne was less clear.

The second study, led by Andrew King, examined an extreme temperature event caught in the spotlight of international media attention – the unseasonably hot weather in Brisbane during the G20 summit in mid-November. While the hot temperatures were not record-breaking in Brisbane at this time, they were well above average.

This study found that human influence increased the likelihood of hot (above 34°C) and very hot (above 38°C) November days in Brisbane by at least 25% and 44%, respectively.

The third study, led by Michael Grose at CSIRO, examined the exceptionally high surface pressure to the south of Australia during August 2014. This was associated with severe frosts in southeast Australia, lowland snowfalls in parts of Tasmania, and reduced rainfall in the southern parts of both Australia and New Zealand.

The findings suggested that the likelihood of these pressure anomalies had roughly doubled due to human-induced climate change.

The remaining two studies published today used independent sets of climate model simulations.

The fourth study, led by Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick from the University of New South Wales, investigated the late-autumn heatwave (May 8-26) that resulted in Australian-averaged maximum temperatures being 2.52°C above the monthly average. Although this heat event occurred during the cooler months, events of this nature are important because they can affect agricultural productivity through changing crop cycles.

The study found that this kind of cool-season heatwave was 23 times more likely as a result of increased greenhouse gasses.

Pandora Hope from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology led the final study, which examined Australia’s hottest spring on record. The study concluded that the record heat would likely not have occurred without increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 50 years working in concert with anomalous atmospheric patterns.

Year on year, in the extremes issues and through various other investigations reported in the peer-reviewed literature, these attribution studies continue to show that climate change is no longer something that will occur in the future. The rise of human-caused global warming is here, now, and it is already causing changes to extreme weather events that we can see and feel.

The Conversation

Mitchell Black, PhD Candidate, University of Melbourne; Andrew King, Climate Extremes Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, and David Karoly, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Melbourne

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

Antarctica: Grand Canyon Landscape Fuelling Ice Melt


The link below is to a very interesting article concerning a landscape buried beneath the Antarctic ice that is similar to the Grand Canyon in size. It also plays a significant role in the current Antarctic ice melt.

For more visit:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18959399