Australia: Super-Cyclones, Dead Rainforest

 

In Australia, hurricanes are called “cyclones.”

ASW

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” … cyclones will be stronger, more frequent and last longer, and the

region of cyclone activity will shift southwards, affecting areas 300km

further south by 2070.”

 

” … possibility the “stressed” forest could shift from being the

‘ultimate carbon sink’ and reverse its role to become a carbon emitter.”

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The Courier-Mail (Australia)

July 25, 2008

 

The future is grim reveals climate change report

By Peter Michael

 

QUEENSLAND will become hotter and super-cyclones will batter the 

coast as far south as Brisbane by 2070, the nation’s top scientists 

have warned. In a top-level ministerial briefing note seen by The 

Courier-Mail, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, the 

co-ordinating body for the nation’s 15 peak scientific bodies, offers 

stark predictions about climate change.

 

The confidential report to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Environment 

Minister Peter Garrett and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong paints 

a bleak picture of stronger and more frequent cyclones, coral 

bleaching and the extinction and loss of flora and fauna.

)

Mr Rudd yesterday fired an angry salvo at climate change sceptics 

saying: “It’s real. Climate change is at work and it is increasing at 

a pace of knots.”

 

Mr Rudd and Senator Wong visited the Great Barrier Reef off Port 

Douglas to see evidence of coral bleaching under global warming, 

where the Prime Minister declared: “We have a real problem on our 

hands.

 

“If you go back into ancient corals, up to 1000 years old, it is only 

in the last 20 to 25 years that you can see coral bleaching.”

 

Under pressure over his carbon emissions scheme, Mr Rudd warned 

climate change sceptics against “digging a hole and burying their 

heads in the sand”.

 

“We need Australia to act locally and globally because, if we fail, 

assets like the Great Barrier Reef will be fatally in peril,” he said.

 

The Australian Government’s Marine and Tropical Sciences Research 

Facility report prepared for Mr Rudd’s visit found north Queensland’s 

$6 billion economy was “highly vulnerable to climate change”.

 

The latest climate change projections predict that by 2030: Average 

annual temperature will increase by between 0.6C and 1.2C, and that 

after 2030, the rate of increase will be highly dependent on emission 

levels.

 

Also, cyclones will be stronger, more frequent and last longer, and 

the region of cyclone activity will shift southwards, affecting areas 

300km further south by 2070. Local sea levels will be 13 to 20cm 

above 1990 levels, and 49 to 89cm above 1990 levels by 2070.

 

The report said global warming could also possibly lead to the 

extinction of vulnerable rainforest vertebrates, while low-lying 

islands in Torres Strait could become uninhabitable. It also painted 

a picture of coral disease and turtles, dugongs and seabirds 

struggling to survive.

 

It comes as new research shows the Daintree, the world’s oldest 

rainforest, may disappear because of global warming. It revealed some 

parts of the 135-million-year-old forest, two hours’ drive north of 

Cairns, already is showing signs of decline under human-triggered 

climate change.

 

Deep in the heart of the Daintree, ecologist Cassandra Nichols has 

spent two years working high above the forest floor studying the 

canopy of the lush tropical rainforest. “This is the lungs of the 

earth,” Ms Nichols, 29, said. “You can taste the oxygen in the air. 

The water that flows out of these mountains is pure, clean and sweet. 

But the scariest part is to think the rainforest may change from this 

to eucalypt scrub, simply because of man-made global warming.”

 

Using a crane, scientists from across the world have been studying 

sentinel plants for signs of climate change. Lead researcher Dr 

Michael Liddell, of James Cook University, said latest studies of a 

hectare of Daintree forest showed the whole ecosystem was at risk of 

irreversible change.

 

CSIRO research showed much of the lowland rainforest could disappear 

and revert to eucalypt, leading to the end of species such as the 

cassowary, he said. Added to this was the possibility the “stressed” 

forest could shift from being the “ultimate carbon sink” and reverse 

its role to become a carbon emitter.

 

Mr Rudd and Senator Wong met with some of the region’s top scientists 

yesterday to discuss the dire warnings.

 

One new study of a palm, the normanbya normanbyi, observed alarming 

differences in fruiting under drought and flooding rains of climate 

change. “At the moment we need some basic data on how the forest 

performs under normal conditions,” Dr Liddell said.

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