July 25, 2012

Climate Science and Solutions

Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation


Observations


Almost all of Australia has warmed over the 50 years since 1960. …
The long-term trend in Australia-wide average temperature … is clear and distinct [against] the observed background variability.
(p 3)

It is extremely unlikely that the observed global-scale warming is due to natural variability.
(p 6)


Greenhouse Gases


Climate change is a risk management issue — the longer we take to act and the weaker our actions, the greater the risk of dangerous outcomes.
(p 15)


Response

  • Action within the next decade to lower greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the probability and severity of climate change impacts.
  • Agriculture and forestry hold great potential for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through afforestation, soil carbon management, and better management of livestock and cropping emissions.
  • Making the right energy choices for Australia’s future from among our abundant options will often be a matter of choosing the energy source, or combination of sources, for a particular context.
  • Practical and sometimes beneficial low cost actions can make significant progress in tackling climate change.

[Proactive] adaptation to these challenges can create future opportunities for growth, development, and sustainability.
(p 135)


Contents


Introduction

Science
Impacts

Adaptation
Mitigation
Response


COMMONWEALTH SCIENCE AND INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH ORGANISATION (CSIRO)

  • Climate Change: Science and Solutions for Australia, 2011.
    Helen Cleugh, Mark Stafford Smith, Michael Battablia and Paul Graham (Editors).

    INTRODUCTION


    Bruce Mapstone: CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.

    The Earth in the distant past has been both warmer and cooler than today.
    The Cretaceous Period (120 to 65 million years ago) was 5º to 7ºC warmer than today and CO2 concentrations were much higher. …
    The past million years has generally seen a series of changes from major ice ages (glacial periods) to interglacial periods about every 100 000 years …

    The modern climate is changing far more quickly than in the geological past.
    There is now strong evidence that recent rapid climate changes are driven largely by a range of human activities.
    Greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, clearing forests, cement manufacture, and by many other industrial and agricultural activities, thereby increasing the amount of radiation trapped near the Earth’s surface and driving accelerated warming.
    (p x)

    Some of those changes may be beneficial in some areas, but it is expected that most will cause more harm than good.
    Most of these human contributions to climate change have occurred over the last 200–300 years, following the agricultural and industrial revolutions. …

    Historical records of temperature show that although temperatures vary naturally between ice ages and warm periods there is no record of temperatures within human history ever having increased as rapidly as they have over the past 100 years. …

    Humans have responded and adapted to small variations in climate for thousands of years …
    [However, the] 150 million people [now] living permanently within 1 m of existing sea level [cannot] easily relocate to avoid rising sea level and storm surges, as many cultures might have done in the past.
    (p xi)

    Modern climate change [presents] many new challenges for this generation and for those to come.
    Climate change will mean that the underlying conditions that affect almost every aspect of our lives and the environment in which we live, and on which we depend, will become consistently different.
    Increasingly, it will influence the year-to-year variations with which we have become familiar.

    This book describes
    • what the recent changes have been,
    • what we understand future changes are likely to be,
    • how those changes will affect us, and
    • what we may need to do to live in a world different from anything we have experienced before.
    (p xii)


    RESPONDING TO A CHANGING CLIMATE


    Helen Cleugh: CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.
    Mark Stafford Smith: CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship.
    Michael Battaglia: CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship.
    Paul Graham: CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship.


    [Australia has a] relatively high per capita emissions intensity and energy use per unit of GDp
    This is a function of the structure of our economy, which includes low-cost fossil fuel and mineral resource extraction and processing industries.

    … Australia is endowed with a very wide array of low-carbon energy resources.
    Exploiting these resources would create new industries, and may have other co-benefits such as improved energy security. …

    Many global economies are leading Australia in their responses to climate change and are using these responses to create new economic opportunities. …


    The science of climate change, and the role of humans, is clear


    There is [unequivocal] evidence from many different sources that the Earth’s climate has warmed over the last century.
    It is very likely that the primary cause of this warming is the emission of greenhouse gases … by human activities.
    (p 136)


    Australia is highly vulnerable to climate change


    [It] is very likely that warming and other climate changes will continue and also accelerate through the coming century if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase.
    [Changes] can now be clearly seen in stresses on our water supplies and farming, changed natural ecosystems, reduced seasonal snow cover, and extreme events.


    Adaptation can reduce the impacts of climate change that are already locked-in


    Significant climate change impacts are unavoidable …
    The impacts of climate change will pose a large risk to human wellbeing …
    Adaptation on a scale far more extensive than is currently occurring will be essential … if we are to limit the social, economic, and environmental impacts of climate change.
    (p 137)


    Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can limit the impact of climate change


    Adaptation alone cannot absorb all the projected impacts of climate change …
    [Some impacts can be] avoided, reduced, or delayed by effective reduction in global net greenhouse gas emissions.

    [Human-driven] climate change is real …
    [It] is already happening …
    [And] its impact on our society, economy, and environment will be far-reaching.
    The timeframe for [response] is limited.
    [Research] shows that there continues to be support within the Australian community and industry for addressing climate change and capturing the opportunities.
    (p 138)

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