By Vicky Lam
The issue selected by me for this subject is “Climate change, global warming, biodiversity and coral reefs”. I choose this issue in particular global warming because this is a global issue and a scientific challenge that has adverse impacts on everyone like you and me on Earth if this issue is not recognized or addressed. So, in this subject, I want to explore on this issue through primary and secondary researches on its nature, cause, impact and how to tackle it and develop a design proposition to visual communicate to the audience the importance of addressing to this issue.
Climate change is a change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over a long period of time, say ten years. The cause can be natural (such as Earth’s orbit variations, volcanic eruptions) or caused by human activities (such as global warming mainly due to greenhouse gas emissions or cutting down carbon-absorbing forests) (The Wikipedia 2016).
Global warming refers to rise in the Earth’s average surface temperature over the past century, mostly caused by human activities related to greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane. The rise was about 0.6 to 0.9 degrees Celsius in the past century and the rate of increase has nearly doubled in the last 50 years (Earth Observatory 2016). Most of carbon dioxide comes from burning of fossil fuels.
Impacts of global warming include increased in sea temperature, rise in sea levels, expansion of deserts in sub-tropics, melting of glaciers and sea ice, more frequent extreme weather conditions such as droughts, heavy rainfall with floods, heavy snowfall, ocean acidification, species extinctions (reduced biodiversity), decreasing crop yields (The Wikipedia 2016).
First Article–Carbon emissions: Queensland still biggest emitter but level has been dropped 4.6%
In the first article, which is a recent news from the newspaper Sydney Morning Herald (Moore 2016), when compared Australian state by state and based on the figures updated by the federal government in the year 2014, Queensland is still the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (146.7 million tonnes), whereas New South Wales and Victoria are the second and the third biggest emitters (130.2 million tonnes and 118.0 million tonnes respectively).
Dr. Steven Miles, the Environmental Minister warned that climate change is real as we see increasing sea temperatures are affecting the Great Barrier Reef causing coral bleaching, and the extinction of the first mammal (Bramble Cay melomys) due to human-induced climate change, right here in Queensland, and indicated that the government will increase the state budget over next 4 years to develop strategies to tackle climate change.
This article is factual and, in my opinion, is trustworthy as it contains updated figures of Australia’s 2014 carbon emissions excerpt from the national register of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the federal government, and the impact of global warming on coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef and the extinction of Bramble Cay melomys are some that we all knew or experienced already.
Bramble Cay melomys (Acosta 2016)
Second Article–Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching at 95 per cent in northern section, aerial survey reveals
We can see the impact of global warming on ocean organisms in the second article (McCutcheon 2016), according to another news from ABC News, an aerial survey showed that 95% of the reefs in the Great Barrier Reef were severely bleached. Of the 520 reefs surveyed, only four showed no sign of bleaching. The recovery period for affected corals can take as long as 10 years, and about half of them would die in near future if situation not improved, as highlighted by Professor Terry Hughes, a coral reef expert at James Cook University.
Coral bleaching is caused by increased sea temperatures that kill the tiny marine alga zooxanthellae, which are essential to coral growth and health. Dr. Neal Cantin from the Australian Institute of Marine Science pointed out that this is the third serious global coral bleaching since 1998, and scientists have not found these disasters before the late 20th century.
Hughes was angry with the government of not listening to them although they produced evidence for the past 20 years. He expressed that we need to join the global community in abating greenhouse gas emissions, which induce global warming and hence increased sea temperature.
I agree to Hugh’s suggestion because we need to know the adverse impact of carbon emissions on our planet and see the importance of preserving the Great Barrier Reef, which is an important world heritage natural site.
Coral bleaching at northern Great Barrier Reef (McCutcheon 2016)
Third Article–Queensland’s soaring pollution rate threatens national emissions target
The third article (Robertson 2016), from theguardian, explained why Queensland is the biggest carbon emitter in Australia as an Australian government report shows that Queensland is Australia’s single biggest polluter and is on track for a very significant 35% rise in carbon emissions by the year 2030 if the government takes no positive action to reduce carbon emissions. In this article, the author pointed out Queensland’s high carbon emissions are attributable to its coal mining and industry, and heavy reliance on coal for electricity, and increasing use of fuel for transport, gas processing for export, and a recent surge in deforestation.
Deforestation accounts for 90% of Australia’s emissions, after the former government relaxed the clearing laws. Its land clearing has doubled to 300,000 hectares per annum in 2013- 14, and the same situation is expected for 23014-15, and this is equivalent to half the annual rate of land clearing in Amazon of Brazil. Queensland parliament has to fix the tree clearing laws, as suggested by Tim Seeing (Wilderness Society Queensland’s campaign manager).
At the same time, power stations also reverted back to higher-emitting coal because export gas to other Asian countries was found more profitable than burning it for electricity. Queensland’s environment minister Steven Miles pinpointed that the state government has to limit tree clearing so as to control carbon pollution, and the federal government also need to do more and make appropriate policies and mitigation measures to achieve the targets they set, such as to address the carbon emissions by a cap-and-trade mechanism that sets a price on emissions (carbon tax) and let the economy to accommodate that price. In my view, this article is factual and opinion-based supported by government data and expert’s opinions and thus trustworthy.
Land-clearing surge in Queensland (Robertson 2016)
Fourth Article–Troubling shift in global response to climate change
This article is an editorial (The Sunday Paper 2016), highlighting the global warming in the context of political, environmental and economical issues, which are often in debates based on my research as there does not exist a single regulator with the jurisdiction for the global atmosphere or the global climate, and implementing regulatory policies relies on individual sovereign states, and in each sovereign state, the specific form of the regulatory policy depends on the state’s legal system and rules which are affected by change in social and political perceptions over time.
As highlighted in this editorial, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in his recent trip to Canada, supported Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that “We should do what we reasonably can to limit (greenhouse gas) emissions and avoid man-made climate change but we should not clobber the economy and that is why I’ve always been against a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme, because it harms our economy without necessarily helping the environment”. According to Abbott, there is no sign of emissions trading schemes to offset the carbon emissions being increasingly used amongst the countries.
Haper is of the view that “It’s not that we don’t seek to deal with climate change. We seek to deal with it in a way to protect and enhance our ability to create jobs and growth – not destroy jobs and growth in our countries”.
In the view of the editorial, climate change and global warming are global issues; however, the coalition formed by Harper and Abbott on climate policy is a troubling shift in the global response to climate change – inaction being a “by-product of previous summits but never a stated intention”, and in the eyes of Haper and Abbott, economy is more fragile and hence more important to care about than the physical environment.
The author of this article (McManus 2012) Professor Phil McManus is an expert in urban and environmental geography, and his studies mainly relate to sustainable cities and environmental issues. In this article which is mainly factual, he outlined the geographic and population distribution of Australia state-wise, two biggest cities being Sydney and Melbourne while Queensland and Western Australia being in rapid population growth and hence their impacts on global warming.
He pointed out that Australia was the 15th top emitter in the world in 2003, and the rate of greenhouse gas emissions per person had once been the highest in the world because only 0.3 percent of world’s population lives in Australia.
He also highlighted different governments take different views and hence policies on GHG emissions, and for-or-against climate change had become a major election issue in 2007 federal election between Liberal Party led by John Howard who opposed and Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd who favoured carbon reduction schemes to meet the Kyoto Protocol set up in Japan in 1992.
The author also warned, based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report published in 1997, Australia is very prone to drought, fire occurrence, storm, flooding, insect outbreaks, species extinction and coastal settlement due to sea level rise in future. Apart from coral bleaching in the Reef, I have no particular comment on the author’s position as such predictions need long time period to verify their truth.
Phil McManus (Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney)
Having analyzing the articles, I found there are three positions that are worth investigation: –
- What issues related to the global warming are subject to hot debates, and why?
- What are the impacts of global warming on economy and what are the costs of implementing mitigation measures for reducing carbon emissions?
- Are there any barriers of using renewable energy in lieu of generating electricity from conventional fossil fuels?
I chose the above positions because they are subject to hot debates, and different stakeholders may hold different views.
- ”Global Warming” in The Wikipedia, 2016, viewed 27 July 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming
- Moore, T., 31 July 2016, “Carbon emissions: Queensland still biggest emitter but level has been dropped 4.6%”, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 31 July 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/queensland/carbon-emissions-queensland-still-biggest-emitter-but-level-has-dropped-46-20160730-gqhe7n.html
- “Global Warming”, Earth Observatory, viewed 28 July 2016, http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page2.php
- McCutcheon, P., 28 March 2016, “Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching at 95 per cent in northern section, aerial survey reveals”, viewed 31 July 2016, ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-28/great-barrier-reef-coral-bleaching-95-per-cent-north-section/7279338
- Robertson, J., 4 July 2016, “Queensland’s soaring pollution rate threatens national emissions target”, theguardian, viewed 1 August 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/10/queenslands-soaring-pollution-rate-threatens-national-emissions-target
- “Troubling shift in global response to climate change”, 14 June 2016, Editorial, The Sunday Paper, viewed 29 July 2016, https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/2014/06/14/troubling-shift-global-response-climate-change/1402668000
- McManus, P., 2012, ‘Australia’ in Encyclopedia of Global Warming & Climate Change, 2nd Ed, SAGE Publications Inc., Thousand Oaks, California, Vol. 1, pp. 101-104
- Acosta, D., 1 August 2016, “Queensland Biggest Emitter of CO2 in Australia”, Aussie Network News, viewed 2nd August 2016, http://www.australianetworknews.com/queensland-biggest-emitter-of-co2-in-australia/
- Sydney Environment Institute, The University of Sydney, viewed 1 August 2016, http://sydney.edu.au/environment-institute/contributors/associate-professor-phil-mcmanus/
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