Heron Island Climate Change Observatory video


It is not often you get to work with someone as remarkable as Sir David Attenborough.  Earlier this year, we worked with the BBC to capture the installation of our Free Ocean Carbon Enrichment experiment on the reef crest at Heron Island.

This is a challenging experiment which is a collaboration between our lab, Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in which we are trying to chemically alter water flowing over a living and intact coral reef.  We want to do this for relatively long periods of time.  This is part of our push to establish unrivalled facilities on Heron island for studying the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on coral reefs.

The project it has been led by one of our postdoctoral fellows, Dr. David Kline.  Have a look at the film and I think you understand what a remarkable task of this has been!

Here is a recent press release: The Coral Reef Ecology Lab of the Global Change Institute has developed the world’s first climate change observatory on Heron Island.

Researchers from the Hoegh-Guldberg/Dove Coral Reef Ecology lab, have installed a new experimental system on the Heron Island reef flat to study the impacts of future predicted levels of CO2 on coral reef communities. The Heron Island Climate Change Observatory was funded by an ARC LIEF grant to examine the impact of rising CO2 levels in the coral reef environment for the first time.

The Coral Proto Free Ocean Carbon Enrichment (CP-FOCE) system was designed to add low pH water into experimental chambers on the reef to stimulate pH levels predicted to occur on coral reefs in the next 50-100 years. The experimental system has four chambers that will be used for well replicated, long term studies of climate change impacts on coral reefs. Additionally the system includes a network of over 20 high precision instruments that will allow the monitoring of the already changing water chemistry conditions on coral reefs. The development of this climate change observatory is being led by Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg along with Dr. David Kline, Aaron Chai and Thomas Miard of the Hoegh-Guldberg/Dove lab and Malcolm Marker from UQ engineering

Free Ocean Carbon Enrichment experimentClimate change and ocean acidification are widely recognized as key threats to Australia’s natural ecosystems, yet we are currently ill-equipped to respond due to poor knowledge of the scale/nature of the impacts. The Heron Island Climate Change Observatory will establish key infrastructure that will rapidly improve our understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification which is important to local communities and the nation given that coral reefs support over $6 billion in revenue (and employ 60,000 people) each year. This critically important information is essential to the management and protection of Australia’s coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef.

Featured in the BBC documentary by Sir David Attenborough “Death of the Oceans”


Blue Carbon Around the World

Steven Lutz of Blue Climate Solutions has a great post on the intersection between the 350.org movement and the growing blue carbon movement here.

On October 10, 2010, people all over the world joined in what’s been described as the biggest day of environmental activism in history. Groups from 188 developed and developing nations participated in more than 7,000 activities as part of 350.org’s annual “Global Work Party” to mobilize action on climate change and address greenhouse gas pollution.

The 10/10/10 Global Work Party was not only intended to publicize the need to combat climate change but also to do something about it.

read the whole post here.

California to build world’s largest solar plant

From the LA Times:

October 25, 2010 |  2:51 pm  Tiffany Hsu

What’s the sunny equivalent of “when it rains, it pours”? Because that’s what’s happening in Southern California, as yet another massive solar plant cleared the permitting process Monday.

This time, it’s the Blythe Solar Power Plant, backed by German company Solar Millennium and planned for more than 7,000 acres in Riverside County. The project would be the largest solar installation in the world, doubling the amount of solar electricity the U.S. can produce.

The Blythe installation is the sixth in recent months to be approved for public land. Several proposed solar plants have been fast-tracked through the permitting process as they race to meet the December deadline for federal stimulus funds. One of those, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, is breaking ground Wednesday near Primm, Nev.

Winning final clearance to start construction from the Bureau of Land Management on Monday, after getting the go-ahead from California authorities last month, makes Blythe the first proposal of its kind to be approved for federal public land.

The installation will deliver 1 gigawatt of power using parabolic trough technology. The process involves curved mirrors that gather the sun’s rays, heating liquid that creates steam to run generators.

The multibillion-dollar Blythe project will consist of four separate, 250-megawatt sections that together would be able to power more than 300,000 average homes -– even up to 750,000 residences by some estimates.

The groundbreaking should happen by the end of the year, Solar Millennium said. But first, the company is in “advanced discussions” with the Department of Energy as it attempts to land $1.9 billion in government debt financing for the first two portions of the project, as several other solar projects have done.

Construction is expected to create more than 1,000 direct jobs, as well as thousands more throughout the supply chain, the company said. Once built, the plant will support nearly 300 permanent jobs.

The project, however, will have its share of impact on the environment. So, to mitigate any potential damage, regulators are requiring that Solar Millenium cough up funding to support more than 8,000 acres of habitat for native species such as the desert tortoise, the Western burrowing owl, the bighorn sheep and the Mojave fringe-toed lizard.

Zero Carbon Australia’s invitation to you.

You are invited to attend the Brisbane launch of the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan.

Wednesday 27 October, 6-8pm
Plaza Terrace Room, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Cnr Merivale and Glenelg Streets, South Bank, Brisbane


Welcome and MC: Professor Ian Lowe AO, Emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation

  • Matthew Wright, Executive Director Beyond Zero Emissions
  • Dr Luis Crespo, General Secretary Protermasolar, Spain
  • John Daley, CEO Grattan Institute
  • Premier The Honourable Anna Bligh MP
  • Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, UQ Global Change Institute
  • Prof Mike Sandiford, Melbourne Energy Research Institute
  • Klaus Langer, CEO Latronics Qld
  • Prof John Bell, Assistant Dean, Research, Faculty of Built, Environment and Engineering QUT
  • Larissa Waters, federal senator elect for Queensland

More speakers to be announced…

This cutting-edge plan, the culmination of over 12 months and thousands of hours of pro bono work by engineers, scientists and postgraduate students, is a collaboration between the climate solutions think tank Beyond Zero Emissions, and the University of Melbourne Energy Institute.

This plan is unique in Australia. It is a detailed and costed blueprint for transitioning our stationary energy sector to 100% renewable energy in ten years. The technologies utilised in this plan are commercially available now.

This free public event will cover the details of the plan as well as the state of renewable energy in Australia more broadly. A panel discussion with technical experts will follow the presentations.

Don’t miss out!

To RSVP click here.

For help in finding the venue, click here.

The Brisbane Launch is proudly sponsored by Latronics

Venue kindly provided in-kind by the Queensland University of Technology, The Australian Green Infrastructure Council, and the Cooperative Research Centre for Infrastructure Engineering Asset Management.



Tea Party climate change deniers funded by BP and other major polluters.

Tea Party Express Begins Final Bus Tour Before Mid-Term ElectionsBP and several other big European companies are funding the midterm election campaigns of Tea Party favourites who deny the existence of global warming or oppose Barack Obama’s energy agenda, the Guardian has learned.

An analysis of campaign finance by Climate Action Network Europe (Cane) found nearly 80% of campaign donations from a number of major European firms were directed towards senators who blocked action on climate change. These included incumbents who have been embraced by the Tea Party such as Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, and the notorious climate change denier James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma.

The report, released tomorrow, used information on the Open Secrets.org database to track what it called a co-ordinated attempt by some of Europe’s biggest polluters to influence the US midterms. It said: “The European companies are funding almost exclusively Senate candidates who have been outspoken in their opposition to comprehensive climate policy in the US and candidates who actively deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is caused by people.”

Obama and Democrats have accused corporate interests and anonymous donors of trying to hijack the midterms by funnelling money to the Chamber of Commerce and to conservative Tea Party groups. The Chamber of Commerce reportedly has raised $75m (£47m) for pro-business, mainly Republican candidates.

“Oil companies and the other special interests are spending millions on a campaign to gut clean-air standards and clean-energy standards, jeopardising the health and prosperity of this state,” Obama told a rally in California on Friday night.

Much of the speculation has focused on Karl Rove, the mastermind of George Bush’s victories, who has raised $15m for Republican candidates since September through a new organisation, American Crossroads. An NBC report warned that Rove was spearheading an effort to inject some $250m in television advertising for Republican candidates in the final days before the 2 November elections.

But Rove, appearing today on CBS television’s Face the Nation, accused Democrats of deploying the same tactics in 2008. “The president of the US had no problem at all when the Democrats did this,” he said. “It was not a threat to democracy when it helped him get elected.”

The Cane report said the companies, including BP, BASF, Bayer and Solvay, which are some of Europe’s biggest emitters, had collectively donated $240,200 to senators who blocked action on global warming – more even than the $217,000 the oil billionaires and Tea Party bankrollers, David and Charles Koch, have donated to Senate campaigns.

The biggest single donor was the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which gave $108,100 to senators. BP made $25,000 in campaign donations, of which $18,000 went to senators who opposed action on climate change. Recipients of the European campaign donations included some of the biggest climate deniers in the Senate, such as Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has called global warming a hoax.

The foreign corporate interest in America’s midterms is not restricted to Europe. A report by ThinkProgress, operated by the Centre for American Progress, tracked donations to the Chamber of Commerce from a number of Indian and Middle Eastern oil coal and electricity companies.

Foreign interest does not stop with the elections. The Guardian reported earlier this year that a Belgian-based chemical company, Solvay, was behind a front group that is suing to strip the Obama administration of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The Spanish inquisition continues but the University of Virginia Continues to Stand Up to Ken Cuccinelli’s Politically Motivated Attack on Climate Scientist

WASHINGTON (October 21, 2010) – Yesterday, the University of Virginia made two court filings in its fight against Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s politically motivated investigation of climate scientist Michael Mann.

In its most strongly-worded court filing to date (pdf), UVA characterized Cuccinelli’s investigation as “an unprecedented and improper governmental intrusion into ongoing scientific research” and said that Cuccinelli is targeting Mann because he “disagrees with his academic research regarding climate change.”

UVA also argued that Cuccinelli’s latest demand for documents related to Mann’s research, filed in September, repeated the same exact arguments a county court judge rejected in August and added no new justifications for his investigation. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) examined Cuccinelli’s original argumentsand found they recycled discredited attacks on Mann and his colleagues.

“Scientists are proud of UVA for standing up to this relentless rubbish,” said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program. “This investigation has never been about fraud or the facts. Cuccinelli is abusing his power to fight a public relations war against scientific findings.”

In a separate filing (pdf), UVA also asked the county court to put the case on hold while the Virginia Supreme Court resolves an appeal Cuccinelli filed seeking to overturn a previous August ruling rejecting his investigation. The university argued that putting the case on hold would save the court system time and resources because the cases involve the same parties and the same arguments. UVA already has spent $350,000 fighting Cuccinelli’s investigation.

“UVA realizes more than anyone – save perhaps Michael Mann – what a waste of time and resources this investigation has become,” Grifo said. “It’s ironic that Ken Cuccinelli, who so vociferously opposes increased government spending, can waste taxpayer money with an entirely gratuitous investigation.”

2010 Caribbean and SE Asia coral bleaching could be worst ever

The hottest January – September 2010 period on record has driven a massive coral bleaching event in the northern hemisphere.

Eli Kintisch reports at Science online:

“Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have dealt a blow to shallow and deep-sea corals that is likely to top the devastation of 2005, when 80% of corals were bleached and as many as 40% died in areas on the eastern side of the Caribbean.”

The situation is equally grim in South-East Asia. Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University reports that across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and including reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia:

“It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science. So far around 80 percent of Acropora colonies and 50 percent of colonies from other species have died since the outbreak began in May this year.”

It remains to be seen whether the extreme water temperatures experienced during the northern hemisphere summer will continue into the southern hemisphere 2010/2011 summer and affect coral reefs south of the equator such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Hat-tip: Joe Romm at Climate Progress

Related posts: Coral reefs are bleaching worldwide

Resisting the Green Dragon

The Wonk Room at Think Progress has an amazing piece about the Cornwall Alliance, a big-oil funded organization dedicated to convincing Christians that global warming is a hoax.  The Cornwall Alliance has a new Campaign called “Resisting the Green Dragon” complete with a spiffy web site and slick videos where we learn “radical environmentalism is striving to put America and the world under it’s destructive control”


The video and the overall campaign rely heavily on the old false argument pitting the well-being of nature against human interests.  The poor of the world, hundreds of millions of which live within coastal zones that are going to be flooded in the coming decades and centuries due to anthropogenic sea level rise, probably don’t see it that way.   Global warming is going to be the destructive force in their lives, not tree-hugging nature freaks (like me).

Remember, this is a PR campaign designed and funded by oil companies and beltway conservative operatives that is preying on religious piety for economic and political gain. Sick.

The Cornwall Alliance website even has an “Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming” that sounds a lot more like a libertarian free market manifesto that a theological document (my emphasis in red):

As governments consider policies to fight alleged man-made global warming, evangelical leaders have a responsibility to be well informed, and then to speak out. A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming demonstrates that many of these proposed policies would destroy jobs and impose trillions of dollars in costs to achieve no net benefits. They could be implemented only by enormous and dangerous expansion of government control over private life. Worst of all, by raising energy prices and hindering economic development, they would slow or stop the rise of the world’s poor out of poverty and so condemn millions to premature death.


  1. We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory.  Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.
  2. We believe abundant, affordable energy is indispensable to human flourishing, particularly to societies which are rising out of abject poverty and the high rates of disease and premature death that accompany it. With present technologies, fossil and nuclear fuels are indispensable if energy is to be abundant and affordable.

It is strange they are conflating fossil and nuclear fuels here and elsewhere: the latter obviously don’t cause climate change and a lot of scientists, including myself, believe nuclear energy is an important solution to the global warming problem.

  1. We believe mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, achievable mainly by greatly reduced use of fossil fuels, will greatly increase the price of energy and harm economies.
  2. We believe such policies will harm the poor more than others because the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on energy and desperately need economic growth to rise out of poverty and overcome its miseries.


  1. We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.
  2. We deny that alternative, renewable fuels can, with present or near-term technology, replace fossil and nuclear fuels, either wholly or in significant part, to provide the abundant, affordable energy necessary to sustain prosperous economies or overcome poverty.
  3. We deny that carbon dioxide—essential to all plant growth—is a pollutant
  4. Reducing greenhouse gases cannot achieve significant reductions in future global temperatures, and the costs of the policies would far exceed the benefits.
  5. We deny that such policies, which amount to a regressive tax, comply with the Biblical requirement of protecting the poor from harm and oppression.


In light of these facts,

  1. We call on our fellow Christians to practice creation stewardship out of Biblical conviction, adoration for our Creator, and love for our fellow man—especially the poor.
  2. We call on Christian leaders to understand the truth about climate change and embrace Biblical thinking, sound science, and careful economic analysis in creation stewardship.
  • We call on political leaders to adopt policies that protect human liberty, make energy more affordable, and free the poor to rise out of poverty, while abandoning fruitless, indeed harmful policies to control global temperature.
  • All in the name of the poor.  sure.
    And take a look at the “Stewardship Notes” on the Alliance homepage; there are links to a series of YouTube videos by none other that Lord Monckton and an article bashing wind power!  If this is where theologians are getting their information about climate change, it explains a lot.  I’d like to direct them here for a critique (by actual scientists) of Monckton’s false testimony to the US Congress.  Also, what is the problem with wind power?  Didn’t got create wind?

    Seagrasses may prosper under high CO2.

    There is some evidence that seagrasses may do well at higher CO2.  Richard Zimmerman and others have found positive responses to CO2 enrichment in seagrasses, consistent the response of other higher plants.  Here is an article that describes further evidence (provided by Dr Richard K.F. Unsworth).

    Research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences published in the Journal of Integrative Plant Biology (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-7909.2010.00991.x/pdf ) has found that the abundant Indo-Pacific seagrass species Thalassia hemprichii may actually prosper under conditions of Ocean Acidification. There has been much debate as to whether seagrass under conditions of ocean acidification will be released from present day carbon limitation, however until now most evidence for this has come from the study of the temperate seagrass Zostera marina.

    The research by Zhi Jian Jiang et al. finds Thalassia hemprichii to have higher photosynthetic productivity and a lower saturating irradiance under conditions of elevated aqueous CO2 (and reduced pH). Although the conditions studied are mostly those expected in the next few centuries, the analysis does include one treatment at a pH of 7.75 that represents a potential condition in 2100.

    Having a lower saturating irradiance is critically important, as the majority of seagrass loss over the last century has been the result of poor water quality reducing light availability (see Waycott et al 2009 –http://www.pnas.org/content/106/30/12377.abstract). If seagrasses under high CO2 can be more productive under lower light conditions, this indicates the potential for at least one tropical seagrass to be one of the ‘winners’ in a future ocean environment. Although these are credible findings, how such elevated productivity interacts with elevated temperature and more extreme weather events remains poorly understood. Understanding the potential viability of different species to future environments is important for setting realistic long-term conservation objectives for marine ecosystems.

    Picture: Thalassia hemprichii in Guam (From Guamreeflife.com)

    Climate Change Confuses Most Americans

    One of the issues we have been profiling here at climateshifts is the growing gulf between what the science of climate change is telling us, and what the public and politicians understand.  Putting aside the criminal activities associated with the spin doctors of special interest, delivering and gaining impact on the basis of this expert knowledge is becoming more and more urgent.  Here is a recent survey undertaken by Yale University which exposes these problems within the American population.

    PC magazine, Oct 18 2010, by  Leslie Horn

    Americans don’t understand climate change, a Yale study has shown. Of the 63 percent of U.S. adults that believe that global warming is happening, only one in 10 say they are “very well informed” on the issue.

    Yale’s Americans’ Knowledge of Climate Change report takes a look at what people know about global warming and climate change, including its impacts, causes, and possible solutions. Funded by the National Science Foundation, it surveyed a demographic mix of 2,030 American adults.

    It “found important gaps in knowledge and common misconceptions about climate change and the earth system. These misconceptions lead some people to doubt that global warming is happening or that human activities are a major contributor, to misunderstand the causes and therefore the solutions, and to be unaware of risks,” the report said.

    Half of Americans recognize that global warming is a result of human actions. Fifty-seven percent understand that the greenhouse effect describes gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere, and 45 percent know that carbon dioxide traps heat from the surface of the Earth. Just a quarter know about coral bleaching and ocean acidification, the study revealed.

    Not many Americans would make the grade if tested on climate change. Just 8 percent know enough to score an A or a B, 40 percent would make a C or D, and 52 percent would fail.

    That said, most Americans see that car emissions and the burning of fossil fuels are part of the issue. Seventy-five percent of people surveyed said they would like to know more about it, and 68 percent would like to see climate change education in schools.