Understanding Climate Change
What is happening? The greenhouse gas story.
Why is it happening? Where does greenhouse gas pollution come from?
CSIRO research graph on greenhouse gas levelsThe history of CO2 release - Pre industrial revolution. Industrial revolution. Present day. Graphs of CO2
Soils are at risk of leaking 'old carbon' back into the atmosphere in a high-emissions world.
The amount of carbon sequestered by the delicate roots of plants remains hugely uncertain, suggests a new study.
Forests – Just a timber resource or something more? Forest values
The experiment, today known as the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, found that the most seriously degraded forest with the least diversity were the smallest, one- hectare reserves, while the reserves that retained the most diversity were the ones of the largest area. In the smaller reserves, drying winds reached the interior, affecting tree species and resulting in more tree falls. Gaps in the canopy allowed more sunlight to reach the forest floor, further altering the understory microclimate and causing changes in the makeup of resident species. Larger herbivores left the patches since the limited number of trees could not provide sustenance, soon followed by predators, which could not cope with the loss of prey. The loss of predators caused an imbalance in the food chain, and the populations of small herbivores and omnivores increased, adding pressure on forest seed banks and impairing the reproducing ability of forest trees. Troops of army ants could not be supported by meager forest patches and they too left, along with the bird, butterfly, and other insect species that depended on the troop. Shade- loving plants and animal species died off as more sunlight penetrated the diminished canopy, and "gap" species, like vines and certain bird and insect species, proliferated. These losses continued to set off a chain reaction that caused profound changes in the system, eventually resulting in its collapse.
Do deserts play a part? New research shows deserts exchange carbon dioxide at a rate similar to that of forests.
Water, and increasing precious but dwindling resource. A Wilderness Society report.
Weeping for Wateran excellent summary of the world's current water problem
By Garda Ghista
The Public Perception of Potable Water
Is water from natural sources as pure as you would believe. This programme relates an experiment with recycled and treated water compared with water from natural sources.
The Public Perception of Potable Water
Ockham's Razor ABC Radio June 15th 2008
Emma Pratt is a science student at the University of New South Wales and her passion is water and how we're running out of it. Here she talks about how the public perceives the use of recycled water.
Robyn Williams: Regular listeners to Ockham's Razor will be aware that our patron, William of Ockham, probably died of plague some 660 years ago, which makes him the oldest contributor to this program. Other presenters tend to be, shall we say, mature, so it's good to hear a youthful voice now and then, and today may well be the most youthful in our 25-year history.
Emma Pratt is still a science student at the University of New South Wales. Her abiding interest is water, and how we're running out of it, despite the odd heavy shower. She wants to invite you to choose now between two beakers, one full of wrigglies, one pure as a vestal virgin. Which one for you?
Emma Pratt: Take two beakers of water and zoom in. In beaker No.1 a dizzying swirl of microbes fills your lens. Tiny hair tubes of e-Coli wriggle past, brilliant green specks of algae flicker in the light, soil particles settle on the bottom of the beaker and a few nasty looking chemicals linger in the soup of microscopic goodies. Beaker No.2 contains happy H2O molecules bouncing into each other. Which one would you like to drink? Beaker 1 was taken from Sydney's Warragamba catchment area, and will eventually find its way into your kitchen tap. Beaker 2 was recycled effluent, water that had probably already been through a couple of sets of kidneys and treated with a series of purification steps.
The debate on using recycled water is a lively one. However the science behind it is conclusive. Filtration systems are so effective they can remove particles as small as viruses from water. Australia's growing population is placing increasing demands on the country's water supply. Some parts of Australia are using water at a rate that is unsustainable and this is a worrying trend. As demand grows and the drought persists, our conventional stocks of water are depleting. Innovative solutions are required to quench Australia's thirst. Councils across the country are looking to water recycling to replenish drying dams. As Miller put it, 'droughts are water re-use's best friend'. Water purification technology allows us to recycle water to a potable standard, yet we don't do it. The plebiscite in Toowoomba in 2006 saw a water recycling plan rejected by the community. Residents had all the facts about the safety of the water but this wasn't enough for them to want to see it in their glass.
Public perception of science on an issue that immediately affects their lives is vital. If the public does not trust the science, then they will not accept it. This is an interesting topic as the science is static. However, the difference between rejection and acceptance by the public has little to do with the actual science. How the public is engaged with science is what makes the most difference. Toowoomba's No vote is evidence of this.
Recycled water is waste water that has been treated to meet stringent quality standards for use in homes, agriculture or industry. The process of recycling water typically involves four steps: ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet light disinfection, and oxidation.
The first stage, ultrafiltration, utilises membrane filters. These filters have microscopic pores and are able to remove tiny suspended particles as small as one hundredth of a micron. That's fine enough to remove those nasty parasites, Giardia and Cryptosporidium as well as bacteria such as e-Coli from the water. Next the water undergoes reverse osmosis; even finer membrane filters are used and the water is sucked through pores of .0001 of a micron. This process traps viruses, and large molecules like drugs and hormones, from the water. Only H20 molecules and tiny organic molecules can fit through the pores of a reverse osmosis filter. Next, UV light is applied as a precautionary step to ensure all bacteria and viruses are killed. Finally, those tiny organic molecules that slipped through the membrane filters are taken out of the water by oxidation. Oxidation involves adding hydrogen peroxide which degrades into hydroxyl radicals which oxidise organic molecules. The product: pure water.
A proposal was put to the residents of Toowoomba in 2006 to have such treated recycled water released into the Cooby Dam where it would mix with the town's potable water supply. This water would then undergo the regular treatment process before being pumped along to the consumer. Assurances that the water was safe were coming from scientists across the country. Megan Hargreaves from Queensland University of Technology, stated that the water must reach Australian standards for drinking water, 'so in terms of public safety there can be no microbiological problems with drinking purified, recycled water.' Despite being well informed of the science, Toowoomba's plebiscite returned a resounding No vote from over 60% of voters. The science was there, but public support behind it, was not.
The consumers of recycled water are understandably wary. Residents who were against the Toowoomba recycled water proposal cited other examples where the science got it wrong, such as asbestos and thalidomide. They use an incorrect understanding of Popper's falsifiability criteria to support their fears: the science is right until it is proven wrong.
The complimentary statement, that the lack of disconfirming evidence provides support for the science, is not considered. In addition to being cautious of the science, there is an inescapable 'yuk' factor associated with recycled water. Potable or not, the water in your glass could have originated in somebody's toilet bowl. Attitudes towards recycled water are highly dependent on one's perception. Those who trust the science reason that it's simply the natural water cycle sped up a little. No voters have an alternate view. 'Wastewater effluent is perceived as being irretrievably and hopelessly contaminated while water flowing in a river, no matter the quality, is natural.' Tackling the distrust of scientific evidence is difficult. The approach Toowoomba Council took to promote its water recycling plan did not achieve the desired outcomes; they only managed to convince 38% of residents.
Toowoomba Council employed a DAD method: Decide, Advise and Defend, in marketing their water strategy. The Council did the research, told the community what was going to happen and proceeded to refute any criticisms to the plan. Such an approach bears the hallmark of ideas put forward by Bauer, Allum and Miller in their 'Public Understanding' paradigm which aims to characterise how the public and science have interacted since the '60s. The Public Understanding paradigm, prominent from 1985 to the 1990s, suggests that the public has unfriendly attitudes towards science simply because they don't know enough about it. 'Lack of knowledge is the driver of negative attitudes and biased risk perceptions.' Taking this concept on board, Toowoomba Council proceeded to market the science to a public that would presumably come around once they knew enough about it. Not the case. As Bauer notes, 'knowledge allows the formation of attitudes, it does nothing to influence the nature of those attitudes.' Knowing all there is to know about how the water in your glass has been treated and seeing the figures and graphs that tell you how much cleaner it is than the 'natural' water from the dam, does nothing to shift the image in your mind that this very water may have once been used to wash that filthy car that is parked next door.
The solution to such a dilemma is found in the next paradigm Bauer describes: Science and Society. Here 'up-stream public engagement' is said to foster public trust and prevent the formation of hostile attitudes. The immediacy of water re-use makes it an issue where community involvement is paramount. Marks argues that water recycling initiatives must seek public consultation, as it fosters 'respectful deliberation.' According to these ideas, a more appropriate way to get the public onside would be for councils to speak to residents initially and say, 'We are facing a water crisis and are calling for public input on how to best tackle this issue.' This is in stark contrast to the DAD method, utilised in Toowoomba, where little public input was requested. According to Marks and Bauer, the very same solution may be reached (drinking recycled water) utilising the same scientific evidence and techniques, yet it will be more widely accepted as correct, simply because more of the community was involved in the development stage. This theory does stand to reason. If more people are involved, then they will be more informed and they will have had a chance to voice their concerns earlier on in the piece, rather than when it's time to vote. Goulburn Council has taken these ideas on board and is currently in consultation with residents on how best to solve their water shortage problems. They are encouraging community dialogue and even state that the problem cannot be solved without contributions and suggestions from the community. The outcome in Goulburn will provide a case study for the ideas put forward by Marks and Bauer. If they are successful in implementing an effective water recycling program, their method of community involvement will provide a template for other communities in Australia.
'Water, water everywhere', but we are too wary to filter it, so there's 'not a drop to drink.' I am interested in water recycling as we could be facing a water crisis if solutions aren't found soon. I think water, or the lack of it, is something all Australians think about and we are doing well in cutting our usage, but as the drought lingers and water restrictions tighten, the real value of water becomes all too apparent. It is baffling that we could be recycling so much of our wastewater and in turn be preventing record low levels of water in our catchment areas, but we don't do it because the science has not been communicated, or rather integrated, well enough with the public. The failure in Toowoomba to gain public approval was disappointing, but it provided a clear example of how not to approach the water recycling issue. It indicated a path that does not work and has allowed Marks' ideas of public engagement to filter through, and they are being put to practical use in Goulburn. The future for Australia doesn't have to be so dry. With greater public engagement in water recycling initiatives, it may not be too far into the future until we are utilising the contents of Beaker No.2.
Press article from The Scotsman in 2002 warns of glacial melting evidence
Kashmir is a mostly mountainous region that has been fought over by Pakistan and India for the past 60 years. The area is sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of the East” due to its fertile valley and snow-capped mountains. Due to the effects of global climate change the glaciers, whose melt keeps the valley fertile and is the source for many of the regions’ important rivers, are melting, jeopardizing water supplies for the region. There is already conflict between India and Pakistan, as India currently controls the area that is the source of Pakistan’s vital water resources. As a result, there is potential for an already tumultuous situation to become even bloodier as the affects of global climate result in shrinking water supplies and a scramble for control over the remaining water resources.
"The Gangotri glacier, the principal glacier that feeds The Ganges River is melting at an accelerated rate and could disappear entirely in a matter of decades" Lester Brown Read Plan B 3.0 Ch1 "Entering a New World"
The Andes (NB Bolivia)
"When Ice Turns to Water"- article from The Economist July 12th 2007
The future for the millions of people dependant on these rivers.
Wind, rain, storms and droughts – The effects of global warming.
Why are there more cyclones?
Potential changes in tropical cyclone occurrence and intensity are discussed in detail in the 2007 report, Climate Change in Australia, Technical Report - Chapter 5: Regional climate change projections (8.9MB) See: Chapter 5.9.1 Severe weather: Tropical cyclones. There is substantial evidence from theory and model experiments that the large-scale environment in which tropical cyclones form and evolve is changing as a result of greenhouse warming. Projected changes in tropical cyclones are subject to the sources of uncertainty inherent in climate change projections. These include errors in the modelled tropical cyclone climatology and regional patterns and magnitude of change for various fields and climate patterns such as ENSO. Consequently there is large uncertainty in the future change in tropical cyclone frequency projected by climate models.
Why a cyclone destroyed the banana crops but saved The Great Barrier Reef.
"Cyclone economy" Report
Whose water is it anyway? Moral issues.
Who owns water? "Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century: the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations." -- Fortune
Growing deserts. Shrinking seas.- an article to stimulate discussion from The Earth Policy Institute.
Dams. Risks, benefits, limitations, and consequences.
By damming rivers, humans have masked the full extent of surging sea levels, a new study finds.
Loss of fertile deltas.
Climate Change in Delta Regions The effects of intensive urbanisation. There are some excellent points made in the section of this document in the section headed Ten Golden Rules
Distribution and importance of coral reefs and the probable effects of climate change.
Seeding the ocean surface with iron could hold promise for storing carbon dioxide in the deep sea
Engineered storage of carbon dioxide deep in the ocean has been suggested as a way of mitigating climate change, but some anthropogenic carbon dioxide has already begun to make its way to the ocean floor naturally.
A new study, based on real-world observations, supports the predictions of climate models that the ocean will become oxygen-depleted as a consequence of global warming.
Computer models of climate change have overstated Antarctic warming, say scientists.
By 2050, there will be an estimated 9 billion humans on the planet. Kerri Smith asks whether curbing the world's burgeoning population could help in tackling climate change.
Site map of The Murray Darling Basin Commission
A rising population requiring more resources, exacerbated by a desire for affluence.- article by Kellie Tranter , a lawyer and political commentator. She is Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Legislation for BPW International
Population growth, population control. -By 2050, there will be an estimated 9 billion humans on the planet. Kerri Smith asks whether curbing the world's burgeoning population could help in tackling climate change.
Contraception. Education of women.
End of poverty cycle.
Health care. State programs – Chinese 1 child policy.
With warming expected to worsen public health problems, policymakers are being urged to fight disease and climate change simultaneously.
Mass human migration. Why will it happen? How will we cope? What are the costs?
Civilizations that died when they outstripped their resources and altered the local climate – Mayan. Angkor Wat. Lessons to be learned and applied.
Where should we build our houses? Rising sea levels. Loss of agricultural land. Cities.
Architectural design (All new buildings in UK must be “carbon neutral” by 2016)
Living with nature.
How Weather Affects World Climate- an activity for developing understanding
How Weather Influences World Climate
Understanding relationships: World Futures
- Understanding Systems
Students who understand systems:
Recognise interconnections within and between systems.
Understand the connections between local and global environments ( social, natural and constructed).
By exploring the ways in which scientists observe weather patterns and make judgements about climate effects, students will
gain an understanding of casual relationships in systems including some of their effects on people.
What is weather? Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/whatisweather/aboutweather/flash_menu.shtml and complete the interactive activities to develop a little understanding of the vocabulary.
What is Climate?
Visit http://www.econet.org.uk/weather/whatis.html to find an explanation of this.
Grade 5/6 Science quiz http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/dynamo/lab/quiz/12b.htm interactive quiz on science knowledge.
Weather & Climate Quiz: http://www.ecokids.ca/pub/eco_info/topics/climate/quiz/play_climatequiz1.cfm
World temperature extremes
World temperature extremes: http://members.iinet.com.au/~jacob/worldtp.html
What is the lowest temperature ever recorded in Australia. At which city was it recorded?
What is the highest temperature ever recorded in Australia. At which city was it recorded?
Find these places on the map of Australia. Are they near the coast or inland? Is there a difference?
Discuss this in small groups and report back to your teacher.
What are your findings. Is there a pattern as to where the extreme temperatures occur?
Discuss this with your teacher.
Form an hypothesis as to where extremes in temperature occur.
Scientists form hypotheses to predict what will occur. They then test these hypotheses by designing an experiment to prove or disprove their hypotheses.
With your teacher, discuss how you would prove or disprove the hypotheis
that "extremes of temperature occur in inland areas of a continent"
The Mallee duststorm of February 1983
The red soils of the Mallee vegetation type in central and northern Victoria are rich and sandy. They have been cleared of their native vegetation by farmers from the 1850s to develop areas suitable for grain growing. The soils are sandy, and in times of severe drought they can move under severe weather conditions as the roots of plants. Go to http://www.bom.gov.au/lam/climate/levelthree/c20thc/storm7.htm and read
http://www.bom.gov.au/lam/climate/levelthree/c20thc/tas.htm Extremes of climate in Tasmania
Visit these sites to find out about El Nino.
How do scientists think El Nino affects the weather in Australia?
What is permafrost? Visit this link then make a brief summary for your group discussion.
What do scientists think is happening to the permafrost areas of Iceland?
Wildlife & Climate Quiz: http://www.ecokids.ca/pub/eco_info/topics/climate/quiz/quiz2.cfm
Causes of Climate Change: http://www.ecokids.ca/pub/eco_info/topics/climate/quiz/quiz3.cfm
Effects of Climate Change: http://www.ecokids.ca/pub/eco_info/topics/climate/quiz/play_climatequiz4.cfm
Local power generation vs. national grid.
Nuclear power. Risks and benefits. Dealing with waste. History of accidents and leaks.
Carbon sequestration – What is it? Where can it be applied? Is it a practical solution on a large scale?
Coal and climate change- the industry looks at the cost of closing down.
Continuing with coal- the industry is confident and is predicting good returns out to 2050. Is it ethical to be exporting material to other countries that will ultimately damage their sustainability?
Coal fired power stations - an animation of the process
The potential cost of pursuing the reliance on oil for transport
Alternative (renewable) fuels.
Bio-diesel, and alcohol. What are the benefits? What are the risks? How will it impact on food production and the environment. What happens if it involves land clearing?
Alternative technology to reduce green house pollution.
Cars and Carbon dioxide-
Did you know that for every litre of petrol used, more than two kilograms of carbon dioxide is released from your vehicle's exhaust?
That's over 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year for the average car.
Transport. Saving energy. The effect of jet aircraft on global worming.
Jet aircraft emit high levels of nitrous oxides, a
greenhouse gas 320 times more potent than CO2, and other greenhouse gases into
the upper atmosphere.
For this reason, aircraft emissions have about three times more global warming effect than the CO2 emitted by a road vehicle from the same amount of fuel.
Energy saving technology and devices.
The future of Natural Gas in Australia. A CSIRO report.
Living Carbon neutral.
Knowing the carbon cost of all we do and all we buy.
Carbon trading systems.
Identifying the environmental influences on sinks could help to explain fluctuations in atmospheric concentrations of methane, which remain poorly understood.
New research challenges the assumption that an increase in ocean temperatures associated with climate change will promote future jellyfish outbreaks.
The costs of climate change.
What are the costs of doing nothing?
What are the economic benefits of acting now?
The effect of consumerism.
Politics and pollution. Who pays?
How can countries work together?
What will make people and politicians put aside immediate self interest?
Custodian, exploiter or consumer?
Man, a part of nature or authority over it?
Who speaks for those that can not speak? (The animals, the marginalized, the planet)
Who owns the land?
What are the consequences of loss of biodiversity? Why is it important?
Wildlife, wilderness and natural spaces, an esthetic luxury or beyond value?