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Corporate Governance

6 December 2021 at 01:41
By: rbaker

Corporate Governance

Cool Australia Limited is a public company limited by guarantee, which acts as The Trustee of the Cool Australia Trust (ABN 52435794034). The primary obligation of Cool Australia Limited as trustee is to ensure that the Cool Australia Trust is prudently managed and that its actions, activities and the ways it uses its funds serves to further its stated purposes and objectives.

The Cool Australia Trust has endorsement as a deductible gift recipient (DGR) https://www.abr.business.gov.au/ABN/View/52435794034.

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission ACNC

Cool Australia is a registered charity with the ACNC. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is the national regulator of charities. They register and regulate Australia’s charities. They help charities understand and meet their obligations and help the public understand the work of the not-for-profit sector.

United States Equivalency Determination Certification

Cool Australia has completed a comprehensive Equivalency Determination with NGOsource and is certified as being equivalent to a U.S. public charity. With this certification U.S. grant-makers can confidently meet their tax compliance requirements when donating to Cool Australia. U.S. funders are able to go through NGOsource to access the Equivalency Determination for Cool Australia.

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Climate change pushed ocean temperatures to record high in 2020, study finds

18 January 2021 at 07:59

The world’s oceans absorbed 20 sextillion joules of heat due to climate change in 2020 and warmed to record levels, a study has found.

Key points:

  • Last year the world’s oceans absorbed 20 zettajoules of heat
  • Higher ocean temperatures can lead to an increase in extreme weather
  • Seas are warming at twice the global average in Australia’s south-east

That quantity — expressed numerically as 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules — is equivalent to the energy from 10 Hiroshima atomic bombs being released every second of the year.

Report co-author Kevin Trenberth, from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, said oceans absorbed more than 90 per cent of the solar energy trapped by greenhouse gases.

“There’s a tremendous amount of energy that’s actually involved in this — it’s not surprising that it has consequences,” he said.

“Since about the mid-1990s, at least, the oceans have been warming very steadily.

A graph showing the rising temperature of the world's oceans.
The mercury has been rising steadily since the 1990s.(Supplied: Kevin Trenberth)

Danger by degrees

The study came as scientists confirmed that global air temperatures in 2020 were equal to 2016 — the hottest on record — and as Australia experienced its fourth hottest year on record.

“The ocean is a key controller of the climate that we see on the continent of Australia,” CSIRO oceanographer Bernadette Sloyan said.

She said warmer oceans could lead to increases in extreme weather.

A heat map of Australia showing the temperature of the oceans.
The seas to the north-east of Australia (yellow and red) are warmer than average water because of La Niña.(Supplied: Earth.Nullschool.Net)

“That heat is actually providing the fuel that can bring in monsoons, rains and tropical cyclones,” Dr Sloyan said.

“That’s because the oceans have the heat and will slowly release it back to the atmosphere and impact weather and severe weather events.”

She said increased heat was also directly affecting ecosystems like coral reefs.

“Corals live within a really small temperature range,” Dr Sloyan said.

“Once we exceed those temperature ranges – and if we exceed them for long periods of times – we have significant coral bleaching.”

A scuba diver swims over a bleached coral reef.
Coral bleaching is a direct result of increased ocean temperatures.(Supplied: The Ocean Agency)

Simmering south-east

Australia’s south-east has been identified as an ocean surface warming hotspot, according to Jessica Benthuysen, an oceanographer with the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

“We’ve had a number of dramatic marine heat waves in the Tasman Sea over the past five years, including in 2016,” she said.

“That was the longest, most intense marine heat wave on record — and that was associated with a shift in fish species and Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome for the first time.”

A map showing the temperatures of the seas around Australia.
Sea surface temperatures to the south-east of Australia are increasing at twice the global average.(Supplied: Bureau Of Meteorology)

In its State of the Climate 2020 report, the Bureau of Meteorology said the average sea surface temperature in the Australian region had warmed by more than one degree Celsius since 1900.

Eight of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2010.


This story was originally published by ABC News. Read the original story here.


Featured Image: Betty x1138, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Worried about Earth’s future? Well, the outlook is worse than even scientists can grasp

15 January 2021 at 00:22

Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Flinders University; Daniel T. Blumstein, University of California, Los Angeles, and Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University

Anyone with even a passing interest in the global environment knows all is not well. But just how bad is the situation? Our new paper shows the outlook for life on Earth is more dire than is generally understood.

The research published today reviews more than 150 studies to produce a stark summary of the state of the natural world. We outline the likely future trends in biodiversity decline, mass extinction, climate disruption and planetary toxification. We clarify the gravity of the human predicament and provide a timely snapshot of the crises that must be addressed now.

The problems, all tied to human consumption and population growth, will almost certainly worsen over coming decades. The damage will be felt for centuries and threatens the survival of all species, including our own.

Our paper was authored by 17 leading scientists, including those from Flinders University, Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles. Our message might not be popular, and indeed is frightening. But scientists must be candid and accurate if humanity is to understand the enormity of the challenges we face.

Getting to grips with the problem

First, we reviewed the extent to which experts grasp the scale of the threats to the biosphere and its lifeforms, including humanity. Alarmingly, the research shows future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than experts currently believe.

This is largely because academics tend to specialise in one discipline, which means they’re in many cases unfamiliar with the complex system in which planetary-scale problems — and their potential solutions — exist.

What’s more, positive change can be impeded by governments rejecting or ignoring scientific advice, and ignorance of human behaviour by both technical experts and policymakers.

More broadly, the human optimism bias – thinking bad things are more likely to befall others than yourself – means many people underestimate the environmental crisis.

Numbers don’t lie

Our research also reviewed the current state of the global environment. While the problems are too numerous to cover in full here, they include:

  • a halving of vegetation biomass since the agricultural revolution around 11,000 years ago. Overall, humans have altered almost two-thirds of Earth’s land surface

  • about 1,300 documented species extinctions over the past 500 years, with many more unrecorded. More broadly, population sizes of animal species have declined by more than two-thirds over the last 50 years, suggesting more extinctions are imminent

Read more: What is a ‘mass extinction’ and are we in one now?

  • about one million plant and animal species globally threatened with extinction. The combined mass of wild mammals today is less than one-quarter the mass before humans started colonising the planet. Insects are also disappearing rapidly in many regions

  • 85% of the global wetland area lost in 300 years, and more than 65% of the oceans compromised to some extent by humans

  • a halving of live coral cover on reefs in less than 200 years and a decrease in seagrass extent by 10% per decade over the last century. About 40% of kelp forests have declined in abundance, and the number of large predatory fishes is fewer than 30% of that a century ago.

State of the Earth's environment
Major environmental-change categories expressed as a percentage relative to intact baseline. Red indicates percentage of category damaged, lost or otherwise affected; blue indicates percentage intact, remaining or unaffected. Frontiers in Conservation Science

A bad situation only getting worse

The human population has reached 7.8 billion – double what it was in 1970 – and is set to reach about 10 billion by 2050. More people equals more food insecurity, soil degradation, plastic pollution and biodiversity loss.

High population densities make pandemics more likely. They also drive overcrowding, unemployment, housing shortages and deteriorating infrastructure, and can spark conflicts leading to insurrections, terrorism, and war.

Read more: Climate explained: why we need to focus on increased consumption as much as population growth

Essentially, humans have created an ecological Ponzi scheme. Consumption, as a percentage of Earth’s capacity to regenerate itself, has grown from 73% in 1960 to more than 170% today.

High-consuming countries like Australia, Canada and the US use multiple units of fossil-fuel energy to produce one energy unit of food. Energy consumption will therefore increase in the near future, especially as the global middle class grows.

Then there’s climate change. Humanity has already exceeded global warming of 1°C this century, and will almost assuredly exceed 1.5 °C between 2030 and 2052. Even if all nations party to the Paris Agreement ratify their commitments, warming would still reach between 2.6°C and 3.1°C by 2100.

The danger of political impotence

Our paper found global policymaking falls far short of addressing these existential threats. Securing Earth’s future requires prudent, long-term decisions. However this is impeded by short-term interests, and an economic system that concentrates wealth among a few individuals.

Right-wing populist leaders with anti-environment agendas are on the rise, and in many countries, environmental protest groups have been labelled “terrorists”. Environmentalism has become weaponised as a political ideology, rather than properly viewed as a universal mode of self-preservation.

Financed disinformation campaigns, such as those against climate action and forest protection, protect short-term profits and claim meaningful environmental action is too costly – while ignoring the broader cost of not acting. By and large, it appears unlikely business investments will shift at sufficient scale to avoid environmental catastrophe.

Changing course

Fundamental change is required to avoid this ghastly future. Specifically, we and many others suggest:

  • abolishing the goal of perpetual economic growth

  • revealing the true cost of products and activities by forcing those who damage the environment to pay for its restoration, such as through carbon pricing

  • rapidly eliminating fossil fuels

  • regulating markets by curtailing monopolisation and limiting undue corporate influence on policy

  • reigning in corporate lobbying of political representatives

  • educating and empowering women across the globe, including giving them control over family planning.

Don’t look away

Many organisations and individuals are devoted to achieving these aims. However their messages have not sufficiently penetrated the policy, economic, political and academic realms to make much difference.

Failing to acknowledge the magnitude of problems facing humanity is not just naïve, it’s dangerous. And science has a big role to play here.

Scientists must not sugarcoat the overwhelming challenges ahead. Instead, they should tell it like it is. Anything else is at best misleading, and at worst potentially lethal for the human enterprise.

Read more: Mass extinctions and climate change: why the speed of rising greenhouse gases matters The Conversation

Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University; Daniel T. Blumstein, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, and Paul Ehrlich, President, Center for Conservation Biology, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Hira Farooq, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Up to 90% of electricity from solar and wind the cheapest option by 2030: CSIRO analysis

15 December 2020 at 18:33

Paul Graham, CSIRO

With the cost of energy generated from wind and solar now less than coal, the share of Australia’s electricity coming from renewables has reached 23%. The federal government projects the share will reach 50% by 2030.

It is at this point that integrating renewables into the energy system becomes more costly.

We can add wind and solar farms at little extra cost when their share is low and other sources – such as coal and gas generators now – can compensate for their variability. At a certain point, however, there comes a need to invest in supporting infrastructure to ensure supply from mostly renewable generation can meet demand.

But by 2030, even with these extra costs, adding new variable renewable generation (solar and wind) to as high as a 90% share of the grid will still be cheaper than non-renewable options, according to new estimates from the CSIRO and Australian Energy Market Operator.

Calculating energy costs

International research, including from the International Renewable Energy Agency, suggests solar and wind power are now the cheapest new sources of electricity in most parts of the world.

Our estimates, made for the third annual “GenCost” report (short for generation cost), confirm this is also now the case in Australia.

We compare the cost of new-build coal, gas, solar photovoltaics (both small and large scale), solar-thermal, wind and a number of speculative options (such as nuclear).

What we’ve been able to more accurately estimate in the new report is the cost of integrating more and more renewable energy into the energy system, as coal and gas generators are retired.

The two key extra integration costs are energy storage and more transmission lines.

Read more: Sure, no-one likes a blackout. But keeping the lights on is about to get expensive

Storage costs

For any system dominated by renewables, storing energy is essential.

Storage means renewable energy can be saved when it is overproducing relative to demand – for example, in the middle of the day for solar, or during extended windy conditions. Stored energy can then be used when renewables cannot meet demand – such as overcast days or at night for solar.

Among options being considered for large-scale investment in Australia are batteries and pumped hydro energy storage (using excess renewable power to pump water back up to dams to again drive hydroelectric turbines).

Capital costs of storage technologies in $/kWh (total cost basis). Aurecon and Entura are engingeering businesses who publish project cost estimates. AEMO ISP is the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan, which also includes technology cost estimates. CSIRO

Pumped hydro sites can provide storage for hours or days. There are three schemes in Australia: Talbingo and Shoalhaven in New South Wales, and Wivenhoe near Brisbane.

Battery costs have been falling steadily and tend to be most competitive for storage electricity for less than eight hours. South Australia’s big battery (officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve) is the most obvious example.

Transmission costs

The other key cost to integrate more renewable energy generation into the electricity grid is building more transmission lines. Right now those lines mostly run from coal and gas power stations near coal mines.

But this not where new large-scale renewable generation will be. Solar farms are best placed inland, where there is less cloud cover, and in the mid to northern regions of Australia. Wind farms are generally better located in elevated areas and in the southern regions. We’ll need to build new transmission links to these “renewable energy zones”.

Transmission links between the states in the National Electricity Market (Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia) will need to be improved so they can better support each other if one or more are experiencing low renewable energy output.

Read more: After two decades, the national electricity market is on its way out, and that’s alright

Total integration costs

So how much extra will it cost for Australia to have a higher share (up to 90%) of electricity from wind and solar (variable renewable energy)? The following graph summarises our findings based on 2030 cost projections.

Projected renewable generation and integration costs by variable renewable energy share in 2030.
Projected renewable energy generation and integration costs by variable renewable energy share in 2030. CSIRO

The cost of generating energy from wind and solar (shown in light blue) is about A$40 per megawatt-hour (MWh). This is is slightly below current average market prices.

A higher share of renewable energy adds storage costs (in black) and transmission costs (grey and dark blue). These integration costs increase from A$4/MWh to A$20/MWh as the variable renewable energy share increases from 50% to 90%.

At 90% renewable energy, the total cost is A$63/MWh. But that’s still cheaper than the cost of new coal and gas-fired electricity generation, which is in the range of A$70 to A$90/MWh (under ideal assumptions of low fuel pricing and no climate policy risk).

The 2020-21 GenCost report is now in the formal consultation period with stakeholders including industry, government, regulators and academia. The final report is due to be published in March 2021.The Conversation

Paul Graham, Chief economist, CSIRO energy, CSIRO

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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These are the plastic items that most kill whales, dolphins, turtles and seabirds

15 December 2020 at 18:29

Lauren Roman, CSIRO; Britta Denise Hardesty, CSIRO; Chris Wilcox, CSIRO, and Qamar Schuyler, CSIRO

How do we save whales and other marine animals from plastic in the ocean? Our new review shows reducing plastic pollution can prevent the deaths of beloved marine species. Over 700 marine species, including half of the world’s cetaceans (such as whales and dolphins), all of its sea turtles and a third of its seabirds, are known to ingest plastic.

When animals eat plastic, it can block their digestive system, causing a long, slow death from starvation. Sharp pieces of plastic can also pierce the gut wall, causing infection and sometimes death. As little as one piece of ingested plastic can kill an animal.

About eight million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year, so solving the problem may seem overwhelming. How do we reduce harm to whales and other marine animals from that much plastic?

Like a hospital overwhelmed with patients, we triage. By identifying the items that are deadly to the most vulnerable species, we can apply solutions that target these most deadly items.

Some plastics are deadlier than others

In 2016, experts identified four main items they considered to be most deadly to wildlife: fishing debris, plastic bags, balloons and plastic utensils.

We tested these expert predictions by assessing data from 76 published research papers incorporating 1,328 marine animals (132 cetaceans, 20 seals and sea lions, 515 sea turtles and 658 seabirds) from 80 species.

We examined which items caused the greatest number of deaths in each group, and also the “lethality” of each item (how many deaths per interaction). We found the experts got it right for three of four items.

Plastic bag floats in the ocean.
Film plastics cause the most deaths in cetaceans and sea turtles. Shutterstock

Flexible plastics, such as plastic sheets, bags and packaging, can cause gut blockage and were responsible for the greatest number of deaths over all animal groups. These film plastics caused the most deaths in cetaceans and sea turtles. Fishing debris, such as nets, lines and tackle, caused fatalities in larger animals, particularly seals and sea lions.

Turtles and whales that eat debris can have difficulty swimming, which may increase the risk of being struck by ships or boats. In contrast, seals and sea lions don’t eat much plastic, but can die from eating fishing debris.

Balloons, ropes and rubber, meanwhile, were deadly for smaller fauna. And hard plastics caused the most deaths among seabirds. Rubber, fishing debris, metal and latex (including balloons) were the most lethal for birds, with the highest chance of causing death per recorded ingestion.

Read more: We estimate up to 14 million tonnes of microplastics lie on the seafloor. It’s worse than we thought

What’s the solution?

The most cost-efficient way to reduce marine megafauna deaths from plastic ingestion is to target the most lethal items and prioritise their reduction in the environment.

Targeting big plastic items is also smart, as they can break down into smaller pieces. Small debris fragments such as microplastics and fibres are a lower management priority, as they cause significantly fewer deaths to megafauna and are more difficult to manage.

Image of dead bird and gloved hand containing small plastics.
Plastic found in the stomach of a fairy prion. Photo supplied by Lauren Roman

Flexible film-like plastics, including plastic bags and packaging, rank among the ten most common items in marine debris surveys globally. Plastic bag bans and fees for bags have already been shown to reduce bags littered into the environment. Improving local disposal and engineering solutions to enable recycling and improve the life span of plastics may also help reduce littering.

Lost fishing gear is particularly lethal. Fisheries have high gear loss rates: 5.7% of all nets and 29% of all lines are lost annually in commercial fisheries. The introduction of minimum standards of loss-resistant or higher quality gear can reduce loss.

Read more: How to get abandoned, lost and discarded ‘ghost’ fishing gear out of the ocean

Other steps can help, too, including

  • incentivising gear repairs and port disposal of damaged nets

  • penalising or prohibiting high-risk fishing activities where snags or gear loss are likely

  • and enforcing penalties associated with dumping.

Outreach and education to recreational fishers to highlight the harmful effects of fishing gear could also have benefit.

Balloons, latex and rubber are rare in the marine environment, but are disproportionately lethal, particularly to sea turtles and seabirds. Preventing intentional balloon releases and accidental release during events and celebrations would require legislation and a shift in public will.

The combination of policy change with behaviour change campaigns are known to be the most effective at reducing coastal litter across Australia.

Reducing film-like plastics, fishing debris and latex/balloons entering the environment would likely have the best outcome in directly reducing mortality of marine megafauna.

Read more: Newly hatched Florida sea turtles are consuming dangerous quantities of floating plastic The Conversation

Lauren Roman, Postdoctoral Researcher, Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIRO; Britta Denise Hardesty, Principal Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, CSIRO; Chris Wilcox, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO, and Qamar Schuyler, Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmospheres, CSIRO

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured Image: epSos.de, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Ancient stories and enduring spirit: Loving Country reminds us of the wonders right under our noses

15 December 2020 at 18:23

Shannon Foster, University of Technology Sydney

Review: Loving Country by Bruce Pascoe and Vicky Shukuroglou (Hardie Grant Travel)

Travelling through the Australian landscape is an often breathtaking experience raising many questions in the traveller’s mind — none of which can be answered by an online search engine when your internet connection fails.

What everyone needs is a travel companion like Loving Country, co-authored by Aboriginal Elder Bruce Pascoe and artist Vicky Shukuroglou. At first glance, it is a travel guide to some of Australia’s most beautiful Country but on closer inspection, it reveals honest, riveting yarns about the true stories of Country told by the people who know her best: the local Aboriginal people with ancestral connections.

Bruce Pascoe. Linsey Rendell

In Loving Country, the pair travel across the continent visiting 19 locations including Bruny Island in Tasmania, the Western Desert region, Margaret River, Alice Springs, Broome and Kangaroo Island.

Connecting with local Aboriginal people sounds common sense but in so many instances, visitors will grab the closest Aboriginal person, even if they are not from the area, and with a “you’ll do” mentality, recklessly erase local knowledges.

Loving Country highlights the inadequacy and tokenism of this “tick-a-box” approach, as it tells the rich and complex stories of local Aboriginal peoples and their unique understanding of Country, born of thousands of generations connected to place.

In Wiluna, at the edge of the Western Desert, the local Martu ladies love a yarn, telling ancient stories as readily as they share the contemporary love story of Warri and Yatungka, a couple who fell in love despite their relationship being forbidden by tribal laws. In Queensland’s Laura Basin, local Indigenous rangers and Elders share their living culture, teaching the young ones how to catch cherabin (yabbie).

The generosity of custodians and storytellers at each location is what makes Loving Country unique. The book also provides invaluable information on how to connect with local people and knowledge: a necessity for meaningful experiences with Country and culture.

Mparntwe (Alice Springs) in the heart of Australia, roughly 1500 kilometres south of Darwin. Arrernte language group. Photographer: © Vicky Shukuroglou taken from Loving Country by Bruce Pascoe and Vicky Shukuroglou

Complex and nuanced

Loving Country consistently reiterates that Aboriginal cultures are as complex and nuanced as the Country we call “Mother”. The subtext here is that there is no pan-Aboriginality.

In any given place it is not one people, one place, one language. Single ownership is founded in the Eurocentric possession of land and resources — a colonial imposition on the complex kinship systems of Indigenous cultures and their approaches to care and custodianship of Country.

Loving Country will be important for Aboriginal people connected to a common body of Country but who come from multiple nation and clan groups. For others, if you are hearing just one group name, please look beyond it and take the time to find out if there are others. You will find contradictions, ambiguities and inconsistencies but that’s OK. Embrace them all. Country means different things to different people but it will always be the one uniting force between us.

Read more: Friday essay: this grandmother tree connects me to Country. I cried when I saw her burned

My only disappointment in the book was that Country was not capitalised. For Aboriginal people, the word Country is a proper noun, a name for the spiritual entity we understand her to be. Country does not just describe the physical landscape as it would for others. Country is our mother, we do not own her, we belong to her.

Rage and frustration

In Australia, we collectively idolise overseas tourist destinations for their apparent “antiquity”. Loving Country points out that as a nation, we give heritage listing to fence wire and bronze memorials to genocidal murderers. We then destroy sacred sites containing evidence of Aboriginal culture tens of thousands of years old.

Read more: Juukan Gorge: how could they not have known? (And how can we be sure they will in future?)

Pascoe’s rage and frustration at Australia’s ambivalence towards the astounding Country and culture right under our noses is palpable.

He writes that Moyjil (Point Ritchie) in Warrnambool, for instance, has memorials to colonial heritage and agriculture, the success of which relied heavily on the exquisitely fertile soils created and managed by Aboriginal communities for millennia prior.

The local Gunditjmara people have always spoken of an ancient site on the Hopkins River. Pascoe describes recent research undertaken on the blackened stones of an ancient hearth there providing evidence of human occupation for 80,000 years.

Brewarrina on the banks of the Barwon River in north-west New South Wales. Ngemba, Murrawarri, Yuwaalaraay, Wayilwan Language groups. Photographer: © Vicky Shukuroglou taken from Loving Country by Bruce Pascoe and Vicky Shukuroglou

In Brewarrina, north-west New South Wales, 40,000-year-old stone fish traps are, he writes, “arguably the oldest human construction on earth”.

Just 80kms south-east, in Cuddie Springs, writes Pascoe, a stone dish was being used to grind grain for bread 35,000 years ago. Soon after this find, he notes, a seed-grinding stone was found in Arnhem Land, dated at 65,000 years old.

Read more: Friday essay: Dark Emu and the blindness of Australian agriculture

Loving Country reveals page after page of both the ancient and contemporary knowledges of these magnificent places, leaving you feeling equal parts wonder and despair. It is a beautifully composed, riveting read scaffolded by Pascoe’s signature commitment to watertight research of the colonial archives.

Shukuroglou’s unpretentious photography showcases the raw, intrinsic beauty of Country. This book will leave you famished for red earth, rainforests, billabongs and big sky Country.

By all means, revel in these far off and dreamy locations but please keep in mind, Sacred Country is everywhere. It doesn’t matter how much concrete, glass or steel you lay down, Country is still here. Her ancient stories and enduring spirit live on in the hearts of local Aboriginal people across the continent.The Conversation

Shannon Foster, D’harawal Knowledge Keeper PhD Candidate and Lecturer UTS, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Australia-first research reveals staggering loss of threatened plants over 20 years

15 December 2020 at 18:16

Ayesha Tulloch, University of Sydney; Elisa Bayraktarov, The University of Queensland; Hugh Possingham, The University of Queensland; Jaana Dielenberg, Charles Darwin University; Jennifer Silcock, The University of Queensland; Micha Victoria Jackson, The University of Queensland, and Nathalie Butt, The University of Queensland

When it comes to threatened species, charismatic animals usually get the most attention. But many of Australia’s plants are also in grave danger of extinction, and in many cases, the problem is getting worse.

New Australia-first research shows the population sizes of our threatened plants fell by almost three-quarters, on average, between 1995 and 2017. The findings were drawn from Australia’s 2020 Threatened Species Index, which combines data from almost 600 sites.

Plants are part of what makes us and our landscapes unique. They are important in their own right, but also act as habitat for other species and play critical roles in the broader ecosystem.

This massive data-crunching exercise shows that a lot more effort is needed if we want to prevent plant extinctions.

Plants, such as WA’s Endangered Foote’s grevillea, make our landscape unique. Andrew Crawford / WA Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions

Spotlight on plants

Australia’s plant species are special – 84% are found nowhere else in the world. The index shows that over about 20 years up to 2017, Australia’s threatened plant populations declined by 72%. This is faster than mammals (which declined by about a third), and birds (which declined by about half). Populations of trees, shrubs, herbs and orchids all suffered roughly similar average declines (65-75%) over the two decades.

Of the 112 species in the index, 68% are critically endangered or endangered and at risk of extinction if left unmanaged. Some 37 plant species have gone extinct since records began, though many others are likely to have been lost before scientists even knew they existed. Land clearing, changed fire regimes, grazing by livestock and feral animals, plant diseases, weeds and climate change are common causes of decline.

Read more: Undocumented plant extinctions are a big problem in Australia – here’s why they go unnoticed

Vulnerable plant populations reduced to small areas can also face unique threats. For example, by the early 2000s Foote’s grevillea (Grevillea calliantha) had dwindled to just 27 wild plants on road reserves. Road maintenance activities such as mowing and weed spraying became a major threat to its survival. For other species, like the button wrinklewort, small populations can lead to inbreeding and a lack of genetic diversity.

Fire, interrupted

Threatened plant conservation in fire-prone landscapes is challenging if a species’ relationship with fire is not known. Many Australian plant species require particular intensities or frequencies of burns for seed to be released or germinate. But since European settlement, fire patterns have been interrupted, causing many plant populations to decline.

Three threatened native pomaderris shrubs on the NSW South Coast are a case in point. Each of them – Pomaderris adnata, P. bodalla and P. walshii – have failed to reproduce for several years and are now found only in a few locations, each with a small number of plants.

Experimental trials recently revealed that to germinate, the seeds of these pomaderris species need exposure to hot-burning fires (or a hot oven). However they are now largely located in areas that seldom burn. This is important knowledge for conservation managers aiming to help wild populations persist.

Endangered sublime point pomaderris (Pomaderris adnata) requires high fire temperatures to germinate. Jedda Lemmon /NSW DPIE, Saving our Species

Success is possible

A quarter of the species in the threatened plant index are orchids. Orchids make up 17% of plant species listed nationally as threatened, despite comprising just 6% of Australia’s total plant species.

The endangered coloured spider-orchid (Caladenia colorata) is pollinated only by a single thynnine wasp, and relies on a single species of mycorrhizal fungi to germinate in the wild.

Yet even for such a seemingly difficult species, conservation success is possible. In one project, scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, aided by volunteers, identified sites where the wasp was still naturally present. More than 800 spider orchid plants were then propagated in a lab using the correct symbiotic fungus, then planted at four sites. These populations are now considered to be self-sustaining.

In the case of Foote’s grevillea, a plant translocation program has established 500 plants at three new sites, dramatically improving the species’ long-term prospects.

Orchid flower
The coloured spider orchid, found in South Australia and Victoria,   is endangered. Noushka Reiter/Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

But we aren’t doing enough

Our research found threatened plant populations at managed sites suffered declines of 60% on average, compared to 80% declines at unmanaged sites. This shows that while management is beneficial, it is not preventing overall declines.

New data on threatened species trends are added to the plant index each year, but many species are missing from the index because they aren’t being monitored.

Read more: Australia’s threatened birds declined by 59% over the past 30 years

Monitoring of threatened species is undertaken by government and non-government groups, community groups, Indigenous organisations, citizen scientists, researchers and individuals. Without it, we have no idea if species are recovering or heading unnoticed towards extinction.

Woman measuring the height of a plant
Monitoring is essential to know if conservation actions are working. Rebecca Dillon / WA Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions

Australia has about 1,800 threatened species. Of these, 77% – or 1,342 species – are plants. However the index received monitoring data for only 10% of these plants, compared to 35% of threatened birds, which make up only 4% of threatened species.

If you’re keen to get involved in plant monitoring, it involves just a few simple steps:

  • find a local patch with a threatened plant species

  • revisit it once or twice a year to count the number of individuals in a consistent, well-defined area

  • use the same method and the same amount of effort each visit

  • take great care to not disturb the plant or its habitat when looking for it

  • contribute your data to the index.

Saving Australia’s flora

Australia must urgently change the way we prioritise conservation actions and enact environment laws, if we hope to prevent more plant extinctions.

Critical actions include stopping further habitat loss and more funding for recovery actions as well as extinction risk assessments. It is important that these assessments adhere to consistent IUCN criteria – something that will be facilitated by the Common Assessment Method that has been agreed to by all States and Territories.

Finally, more funding for research into the impacts of key threats (and how to manage them) will help ensure our unique flora are not lost forever.The Conversation

Prof Hugh Possingham and Dr Ayesha Tulloch discuss the 2020 findings of the Threatened Plant Index.

Ayesha Tulloch, DECRA Research Fellow, University of Sydney; Elisa Bayraktarov, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Conservation Biology, The University of Queensland; Hugh Possingham, Professor, The University of Queensland; Jaana Dielenberg, University Fellow, Charles Darwin University; Jennifer Silcock, Post-doctoral research fellow, The University of Queensland; Micha Victoria Jackson, Postdoctoral research fellow, The University of Queensland, and Nathalie Butt, Postdoctoral Fellow, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured Image: Brisbane City Council, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The post Australia-first research reveals staggering loss of threatened plants over 20 years appeared first on Cool Australias.

Australian Marine Conservation Society Highlights New Federal Laws Banning Plastic Waste Won’t Save Wildlife

10 December 2020 at 19:28

Australia’s peak marine conservation body, Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has welcomed the passing of new Federal laws that will end the practice of shipping Australia’s waste overseas but highlights that the laws would not solve the plastic pollution problem in Australia.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 will give effect to a ban on exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres agreed by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments in March.

AMCS praised the Federal Government for putting an end to the practice of shifting our plastic burden to other countries, but said the laws would not solve the plastic pollution problem in Australia.

AMCS plastics spokesperson Shane Cucow advised “the laws themselves will not reduce the plastic flowing into our oceans and harming marine wildlife like turtles, seabirds and seals.

“To really deal with the plastic pollution crisis in Australia we must make targets to cut plastic packaging mandatory. For years we have had voluntary targets for cutting plastic packaging and they haven’t worked.

“We need a nationwide framework for eliminating the most lethal plastics for ocean wildlife, like plastic bags, straws and cutlery.

“Every day we wait, more ocean animals are killed by the plastic in our oceans.”

Cucow said it was disappointing that amendments moved by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson to ban single-use plastics and make plastic packaging targets mandatory had been defeated in parliament.

The legislation follows on from action on single-use plastics in some of Australia’s States and Territories. South Australia’s ban on single use plastics is due to begin early next year. The ACT and Queensland governments have both tabled legislation banning single use plastics that are thought will pass in February. Western Australia has announced plans to introduce a ban by 2023.

However single-use plastics bans are yet to be introduced into parliaments in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.


This article was originally published by Australasian Leisure Management

Featured Image: Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The post Australian Marine Conservation Society Highlights New Federal Laws Banning Plastic Waste Won’t Save Wildlife appeared first on Cool Australias.

Prepare for hotter days, says the State of the Climate 2020 report for Australia

10 December 2020 at 18:55

Michael Grose, CSIRO and Lynette Bettio, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

The Australian State of the Climate 2020 report reveals a picture of long-term climate trends and climate variability.

The biennial climate snapshot draws on the latest observations and climate research from the marine, atmospheric and terrestrial monitoring programs at CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology.

We are all still dealing with the lasting impacts of Australia’s hottest and driest year on record in 2019. It was a year of intensifying drought over eastern Australia, high temperature records and the devastating bushfires of summer 20192020.

State of the Climate 2020 puts all these events into the longer-term context of climate change trends and key climate drivers.

Australia’s hottest year on record

Using the best available data, the Bureau of Meteorology estimates Australia has warmed on average by 1.44℃ (±0.24℃) between 1910 and 2019.

Read more: Weather bureau says hottest, driest year on record led to extreme bushfire season

Global rates of warming are lower due to the inclusion of the oceans in the global average, with the oceans experiencing a relatively slower rate of warming than continental areas.

The long-term warming trend increases the likelihood of extreme events beyond our historical experience. In 2019, natural climate phenomena that drive our weather, including a strong Indian Ocean Dipole and a negative Southern Annular Mode, added to the local warming trend, setting a record for the Australian average annual temperature.

This annual temperature for Australia is similar to what we might expect in an average year if the world reaches the +1.5℃ warming since pre-industrial times.

The long-term warming trend is also increasing the frequency of extreme warm days. We have seen a rise in the number of days when the Australian average temperature is within the top 1% ever recorded.

A graph showing rising mean temperatures for Australia
Extreme daily mean temperatures are the warmest 1% of days for each month, calculated for the period from 1910 to 2019. CSIRO/BoM, Author provided

The long-term temperature trend is also lowering the frequency of cooler years. The annual mean temperatures of Australia in the seven years from 2013 to 2019 all rank in the nine warmest years since national records began in 1910.

Barring unpredictable events such as major volcanic eruptions, projections show Australia’s average temperature of 2020-2040 is very likely to be warmer than the average in 2000-2020, as the climate system continues to warm in response to greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere.

What’s driving our changing climate?

Australia’s Cape Grim atmosphere monitoring station, in north-west Tasmania, is one of several critical global observing sites for detecting changes in the gas concentrations that make up our atmosphere.

An aerial view of the testing station at Cape Grim, Tasmania.
The Bureau and CSIRO’s atmospheric monitoring station at Cape Grim, Tasmania. CSIRO, Author provided

The increase in greenhouse gas concentrations has been the predominant cause of global climate warming over the last 70 years.

In 2019 the global average CO₂ concentration reached 410ppm, while all greenhouse gases combined reached 508ppm CO₂-equivalent, levels not seen for at least 2 million years.

Emissions of CO₂ from burning fossil fuels are the major source of the increase, followed by emissions from changes to land use. While the ocean and land have absorbed more than half the extra CO₂ emitted, the rest remains in the atmosphere.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced fossil fuel CO₂ emissions in many countries, including Australia.

Over the first three months of 2020, global CO₂ emissions declined by 8% compared to the same three months in 2019. But CO₂ is still increasing in the atmosphere.

Recent reductions in emissions due to COVID-19 have only marginally slowed the current rate of CO₂ accumulation in the atmosphere, and are barely distinguishable from natural variability in the records at sites such as Cape Grim.

Oceans warming and sea levels rising

Similar to surface temperatures over the continents, the State of the Climate report says sea surface temperatures are showing a warming trend that is contributing to an increase in marine heatwaves and the risk of coral bleaching.

State of the Climate 2020 report cover.
CSRIO/BoM, Author provided

Important changes are also happening below the ocean’s surface. The global oceans have a much higher heat capacity than either the land surface or atmosphere. This means they can absorb much more of the additional energy from the enhanced greenhouse effect, while warming at a relatively slower rate.

Currently, the oceans are absorbing around 90% of the excess energy in the Earth system associated with increasing greenhouse gases. The related increase in total heat content provides another important way to monitor long-term global warming.

Warmer temperatures cause the water in our global oceans to expand. This expansion, combined with the additional water from melting ice sheets and glaciers, is causing sea levels to rise.

Total global average sea level has now risen around 25cm since 1880, with half of this rise occurring since 1970. The rate of sea level rise varies around Australia, with larger increases observed in the north and the southeast.

A map of Australia showing areas where sea level is rising.
The rate of sea level rise around Australia measured using satellite data, from 1993 to 2019. CSIRO/BoM, Author provided

The oceans are also acidifying due to changes in the chemistry of seawater, related to excess CO₂. The effect of this pH change is detectable in areas such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Southern Ocean.


The wetter and drier parts of Australia

The State of the Climate report shows the trend in recent decades has been for less rainfall over much of southern and eastern Australia, particularly in the cooler months of the year.

The longer-term drying trend is likely to continue, particularly in the southwest and southeast of the continent. Most areas of northern Australia have had an increase in average rainfall since the 1970s.

Natural variability has always been, and will continue to be, part of Australia’s rainfall patterns.

Fire seasons: longer and more intense

The fires of 2019-20 are still very much on everyone’s minds, and the State of the Climate report puts the weather component of fire risk into a longer-term perspective.

Since the middle of last century there has been a significant increase in extreme fire weather days, and longer fire seasons across many parts of Australia, especially in southern Australia.

Map of Australia showing areas where there is a risk of increased fire days.
There has been an increase in the number of days with dangerous weather conditions for bushfires. CSIRO/BoM, Author provided

The 2020 report highlights many recent changes in Australia’s climate. Most are expected to continue and include:

  • warmer air and sea temperatures
  • increased numbers of very hot days
  • ongoing sea level rise
  • more periods of dangerous fire weather
  • longer and warmer marine heatwaves.

When these extremes occur consecutively within a short timeframe of each other, or when multiple types of extreme events coincide, the impacts can compound in severity.

Read more: Earth may temporarily pass dangerous 1.5℃ warming limit by 2024, major new report says

Understanding these climate risks and how they might affect us will help to ensure the future well-being of our Australian communities, ecosystems and economy.

Hotter, wetter, drier and more bushfires.

State of the Climate 2020 can be read on either the Bureau of Meteorology or CSIRO websites. The online report includes an extensive list of references and useful links.The Conversation

Michael Grose, Climate Projections Scientist, CSIRO and Lynette Bettio, Senior Climatologist, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured Image: Neil Harits S, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The post Prepare for hotter days, says the State of the Climate 2020 report for Australia appeared first on Cool Australias.

Climate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, over 120 researchers say

10 December 2020 at 18:23

Celia McMichael, University of Melbourne; Ilan Kelman, UCL; Shouro Dasgupta, Università Ca’Foscari, and Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, United Nations University

Climate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, and no country is immune, a major new report from more than 120 researchers has declared.

This year’s annual report of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, released today, presents the latest data on health impacts from a changing climate.

Among its results, the report found there were 296,000 heat-related premature deaths in people over 65 years in 2018 (a 54% increase in the last two decades), and that global yield potential for major crops declined by 1.8–5.6% between 1981 and 2019.

We are part of the Lancet Countdown sub-working group focusing on human migration in a warming world. We estimate that, based on current population data, 145 million people face potential inundation with global mean sea-level rise of one metre. This jumps to 565 million people with a five metre sea-level rise.

Read more: Coronavirus is a wake-up call: our war with the environment is leading to pandemics

Unless urgent action is taken, the health consequences of climate change will worsen. A globally coordinated effort tackling COVID-19 and climate change in unison is vital, and will mean a triple win: better public health, a more sustainable economy and environmental protection.

Drought, fires and excessive heat

The 2020 report brings together research from a range of fields, including climate science, geography, economics and public health. It focuses on 43 global indicators, such as altered geographic spread of infectious disease, health benefits of low-carbon diets, net carbon pricing, climate migration and heat-related deaths.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: 2020 report.

The five hottest years on record have occurred since 2015, and 2020 is on track to be the first or second hottest year on record.

The 2020 Lancet Countdown report found extreme heat continues to rise in every region in the world and particularly affects the elderly, especially those in Japan, northern India, eastern China and central Europe. It is also a big problem for those with pre-existing health conditions and outdoor workers in the agricultural and construction sectors.

Read more: The world endured 2 extra heatwave days per decade since 1950 – but the worst is yet to come

While attributing heat-related deaths to climate change isn’t straightforward, rising temperatures and humidity will mean we can expect heat-related deaths to increase further.

Climate change is also an important contributing factor to drought. The report found that in 2019 excess drought affected over twice the global land surface area, compared with the 1950-2005 baseline.

Drought and health are intertwined. Drought can cause dwindling drinking water supplies, reduced livestock and crop productivity, and an increased risk of bushfire.

Mental health is also at risk, as Australian research from earlier this year confirmed. This looked at the declining mental health of drought-affected farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin over 14 years.

Further, the Lancet Countdown report found that between 2015 and 2019, the number of people exposed to bushfires increased in 128 countries, compared with a 2001-2004 baseline.

Read more: Climate change is bringing a new world of bushfires

Climate change worsens risk factors for more frequent and intense bushfires. We need only look to last summer’s unprecedented bushfires in Australia as a stark illustration. The number of people exposed to the bushfires was amplified by expanding settlements and inadequate risk reduction measures.

Sea level rise, human migration and health

As the world warms and the sea rises, millions of people will be exposed to coastal changes, including inundation and erosion.

Sea-level rise has direct and indirect consequences for human health. In some places, water and soil quality and supply will be compromised due to the intrusion of saltwater. Flooding and wave power will damage infrastructure, including drinking water and sanitation services. And disease vector ecology will also change, such as higher mosquito densities in coastal habitats, potentially causing greater transmission of infectious diseases like dengue or malaria.

However, people and communities may adapt by moving away. In Fiji, for example, at least four communities have relocated in response to coastal changes. The Fijian government notes planned relocation will be a last resort only when other adaptation options are exhausted.

Read more: Climate change forced these Fijian communities to move – and with 80 more at risk, here’s what they learned

Relocation might also lead to health threats . This includes physical health consequences from altered diets, as fishing and subsistence agriculture may be disrupted. There are also mental health impacts from people losing their attachments and connections to their places of belonging.

But sometimes, migration responses to climate change can have health benefits. Moving from vulnerable coastlines might reduce exposure to environmental hazards such as flooding, be an impetus to seek healthier livelihoods and lifestyles, and improve access to health services.

Our estimation of the number of people facing potential inundation is based on projections of global mean sea-level rise and on current population data.

In a high emissions scenario with warming of 4.5℃, seas could rise by one metre by 2100 relative to 1986–2005. This would see 145 million people face potential inundation.

A collapse of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet could cause five to six metres of sea level rise. Under this extreme scenario, 565 million people may be inundated.

Read more: How many people will migrate due to rising sea levels? Our best guesses aren’t good enough

It is important to note, however, that uncertainties constrain our ability to forecast migration numbers due to sea-level rise. These uncertainties include future environmental and demographic factors and potential adaptation (and maladaptation) responses, such as living with water or coastal fortification.

So is there any good news?

The 2020 Lancet Countdown report notes improvements in some instances, as some sectors and countries take bold steps to respond to climate change.

We are seeing, for example, health benefits emerging from the transition to clean energy. Deaths from air pollution attributed to coal-fired power have declined from 440,000 in 2015 to 400,000 in 2018, despite overall population increases.

But more must be done: we need sustained greenhouse gas emission cuts, increased greenhouse gas absorption and proactive adaptation actions. Yet global efforts to address climate change still fall short of the commitments made in the Paris Agreement five years ago.

We cannot afford to focus attention on the COVID-19 pandemic at the expense of climate action.

If responses to the economic impacts of COVID-19 align with an effective response to climate change, we’ll see immense benefits for human health, with cleaner air, healthier diets and more liveable cities.The Conversation

Celia McMichael, Senior Lecturer in Geography, University of Melbourne; Ilan Kelman, Professor of Disasters and Health, UCL; Shouro Dasgupta, Lecturer in Environmental Economics, Università Ca’Foscari, and Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, Senior Researcher, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), United Nations University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The post Climate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, over 120 researchers say appeared first on Cool Australias.

The Blue Mountains World Heritage site has been downgraded, but it’s not too late to save it

10 December 2020 at 17:59

Ian Wright, Western Sydney University; Anthony Capon, Monash University, and Leo Robba, Western Sydney University

Twenty years ago, UNESCO inscribed the greater Blue Mountains area on the World Heritage List for having “outstanding universal value”.

If you’ve travelled to the Blue Mountains, with its rugged sandstone cliff faces, hidden waterfalls and rich diversity of life, this value is undeniable. The Dharug and Gundungurra traditional owners long understood this value as they lived within and cared for Country (Ngurra) and, in turn, were nourished by it.

But after fires ripped through 71% of the greater Blue Mountains area, the condition of the World Heritage site has officially been downgraded.

Read more: ‘Severely threatened and deteriorating’: global authority on nature lists the Great Barrier Reef as critical

Last week, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — the official advisor to UNESCO — rated the site as being of “significant concern”, a drop from “good with some concerns”. It’s now in the second-lowest category.

The news may be grim, but there are signs of hope. Despite threats of climate change, bushfires and decades of pollution, efforts are being made to minimise lingering impacts, and results are encouraging.

Ancient trees and unique animals

The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area covers just over one million hectares, divided into eight protected areas.

The largest protected area is Wollemi National Park (499,879 ha) in the north. This park is, famously, home to the last wild population of Wollemi Pine. These trees have a deeply ancient lineage tracing back to when the Earth’s land masses were all part of the supercontinent Gondwana over 100 million years ago.

Read more: Wollemi pines are dinosaur trees

The World Heritage area harbours 1,500 plant species, and 127 of them are rare or threatened. And in an outstanding example of the area’s uniqueness, it also contains more than 90 Eucalypt species — 13% of the global total.

The World Heritage area is also an important habitat for many rare and threatened animal species.

One celebrated seasonal visitor is the critically endangered regent honeyeater. Also under threat, and unique to the Blue Mountains, is the leura skink, which survives only in a handful of sensitive and vulnerable wetland communities.

Current threats

In its new report, the IUCN lists eight current threats undermining the greater Blue Mountains area. The most worrying – those considered “very high threats” in the report — are climate change and bushfires.

The severe fires of last summer inflicted long-lasting damage to many Blue Mountains species that contribute to the unique biodiversity of the area. And climate change is an emerging environmental pressure threatening the delicate ecology of the region through rising temperatures and changes to rainfall.

The IUCN also rated invasive plant and animal species, such as foxes, feral cats, horses, cattle and deer, as a high threat. Mining and quarrying, habitat alteration and several specific aspects of climate change (storms, drought, temperature extremes) were also listed.

The IUCN also named potential threats from planned operations, including future noise pollution from the new international airport in Western Sydney. Another is the impact of periodic flooding from a proposal to raise the wall of Warragamba Dam for flood mitigation purposes.

Cleaning up their act

Climate change and bushfires require massive, coordinated national and international responses, but some major issues in the Blue Mountains can start to be resolved on relatively smaller scales.

For decades, the Blue Mountains have been flogged by a number of human pressures, such as an outdated sewage system from the City of the Blue Mountains and pollution from coal mining. While the environment hasn’t fully recovered, we’re pleased to see successes in the recovery efforts.

For decades, inadequate sewerage systems polluted multiple streams and rivers in the Blue Mountains.

In 1987, the Sydney Water Corporation started a 25-year, $250 million scheme to reduce water pollution from this inadequately treated sewage. And by 2010, a massive upgrade to the region’s sewage system closed 11 antiquated treatment plants.

All Blue Mountains wastewater is now treated to a higher standard at Winmalee in the lower Blue Mountains and is released away from waterways in the World Heritage area.

Another important pressure in the Greater Blue Mountains Area is from coal mining, with UNESCO expressing concerns in 2001 about water pollution from mines, such as the one operated by Clarence Colliery.

The author, Ian Wright, sampling water in the contaminated Wollangambe River.
The author, Ian Wright, sampling water in the contaminated Wollangambe River. Ian Wright, Author provided

This mine is in state forest adjacent to the World Heritage area boundary. Research from 2017 found wastewater discharging from the mine was severely contaminating water quality of the Wollangambe River and damaging the ecology for more than 20 kilometres.

Read more: How our research is helping clean up coal-mining pollution in a World Heritage-listed river

Two years earlier, Clarence Colliery, owned by Centennial Coal, was prosecuted after more than 2,000 tonnes of coal material (a slurry of water and coal particles) spilled into the Wollangambe River.

Centennial Coal agreed to comply with a new EPA licence in 2017 requiring the disposal of less polluting wastes.

The latest results from October of this year are very encouraging. They show an enormous reduction (more than 95%) in the zinc concentration in mine waste, compared to 2012 levels.

Read more: Cutting ‘green tape’ may be good politicking, but it’s bad policy. Here are 5 examples of regulation failure

Embracing ‘planetary health’

For an internationally important site like this, which is home to more than 80,000 residents, all levels of government must adopt the concept of “planetary health”. This recognises that human health entirely depends on the health of natural systems and embraces Indigenous knowledge.

We’re pleased to see the Blue Mountains City Council is already on board. It recently announced plans to establish a planetary health leadership centre in Katoomba in partnership with universities and other educational institutions.

So while there is much to grieve, we can celebrate small successes in the Blue Mountains’ journey, which show it is indeed possible for a diverse array of parties and the broader community to work cooperatively, and start to better protect it.The Conversation

Ian Wright, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science, Western Sydney University; Anthony Capon, Director, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, and Leo Robba, Lecturer, Visual Communications / Social Design, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured Image: “Blue Mountains, Australia” is licenced under CC BY 3.0

The post The Blue Mountains World Heritage site has been downgraded, but it’s not too late to save it appeared first on Cool Australia.

Topic: Ocean Conservation

7 September 2021 at 00:01


Blue is a feature documentary film charting the drastic decline in the health of our oceans. With more than half of all marine life lost and the expansion of the industrialization of the seas, the film sets out the challenges we are facing and the opportunities for positive change. Blue changes the way we think about our liquid world and inspires the audience to action. Find out how to screen or download the film here. Along with the film is an ambitious global campaign to create advocacy and behaviour change through the #oceanguardian movement. To become an ocean guardian, see the website.

Cool Australia and Northern Pictures would like to acknowledge the generous contributions of GoodPitch² Australia, Shark Island Institute, Documentary Australia Foundation, The Caledonia Foundation and Screen Australia in the development of these teaching resources.

© Northern Pictures and Cool Australia


Infographics and Factsheets

Hello world!

11 July 2021 at 19:40
By: user

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

Rewriting My Own Story

26 February 2019 at 01:44

Like most people I have often struggled to find what I should really  be doing with my life. I would go to work and come home feeling like it wasn’t the best use of my time. I would ask myself what do I really like to do. I went back and forth but I always came back to writing and exploring my creative side. It would be hard for me to take it seriously because I would always think of myself as average and not having the necessary education/experience. I was going through life as if my story was already written.

In the past few months I have in many ways started to wake up and become more focused. I have been on a journey to become the best version of myself and instantly I felt like I was on the right path. I felt the key was day to day progress and doing what truly makes me happy. I have become much healthier inside and out. I always kind of overlooked the effects of working out and eating right but I have seen the changes. When you see yourself improving it can effect your mood in great ways. As far as improving how I feel inside I have started going back to school and wanting to write more.

As I go after my goals I hope it can inspire others to reach their full potential. You can’t be afraid to dream. Whatever it is that you want to do you always have the ability. You won’t even have the chance if you don’t bet on yourself. So go out and take a chance and you will surprise yourself. Be a dreamer and fight everyday to reach your goals. I never understood the idea behind “realistic dreams”. Its okay if your dreams seem like a longshot because after all anything worth having is worth fighting for. I don’t have this great education or experience I can fall back on. In many ways I am just a normal person with some big dreams. I know its a longshot that writing will ever become more than a hobby but thats what will make me feel so grateful when my dreams are realized. It all has to start somewhere no matter what you wish to achieve. Nothing is impossible as long as you continue to fight. I hope that you realize that its never to late to rewrite your own story.



New year and new changes

25 December 2018 at 20:20

Soon it will be a new year and it has me feeling quite optimistic on what is to come. I have decided to stop putting it off and finally go back to school. It will be a challenge balancing everything in my life but it is a challenge I look forward to. I hope to write more about this challenge as I go forward.

What are some of your plans for the new year? New years traditions? Let me know in the comments! I wish everyone luck in the new year!


Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone

6 May 2018 at 17:33

Sometimes in life we stop challenging ourselves because we get too comfortable. It is easy to stay in our Bubble because it seems safe. The thing is if you never challenge yourself you will never become the best version of yourself. It may be easy to keep toing the same things but then you won’t grow as a person.

Take the leap and challenge yourself and grow into the person you were meant to be. It easy to be scared of going for it because you are afraid to fail but remember anything worth having is worth fighting for. It also seems like people are afraid to dream and go after what they want just because it doesn’t seem realistic. There is nothing wrong with being a dreamer. After all we have one life don’t spend it settling for things you don’t want.

Go after the things you want even if it feels risky. Most importantly plan everything out and make a good attack plan for going after your goals. What you shouldn’t do is totally dismiss your dreams just because it is hard to accomplish. Success wouldn’t mean as much if it was easy. If you don’t give up on your dreams you can look back and know it was a long hard journey but you will be glad you stuck with it. Always be smart about your plans but don’t settle for a life you don’t want. Everything is still possible you just need to take a risk every once in awhile and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.


Save Yourself

6 May 2018 at 01:23

I used to always feel lost or feel like I was stuck. I would feel like everything in my world was mediocre and I would never be able to turn the tables. I would often wish I had a Mentor to help guide me to a better life. I would think if I had that everything would be okay. It was like I wanted someone to save me from the life I was living.

Then I got older and I never really found that person to guide me. I realized I had to guide myself to my own success. That is really the only way to accomplish your dreams is to save yourself. Trust me I get that you may feel stuck but there is always an alternate decision you can make. If you find yourself miserable in your job don’t worry there are choices to be made. Try going to school again and learn as much as you can to give yourself more choices. It will certainly help with feeling for fulfilled in your life.

The biggest thing to getting yourself out of a bad situation is planning. Try your hardest to plan out the details and find a escape plan. Plan your money and time and you will find a better option. Don’t under estimate the power of a fresh start. If you move to a fresh city and fresh career it will be like starting all over. If your feeling lost a fresh start could be just what the doctor ordered. Most importantly just remember its not to late to save yourself. There is a whole different side to your life waiting for you. Plan for your future and it will be everything you always wanted.


How Things Used To Be

5 May 2018 at 02:25

It is so easy to look back at a different time in your life and say you were so much happier. You may catch yourself wishing you could go into the past and relive these great moments of your life. You can’t stop change and it can be difficult to deal with change in your life. I know I have been guilty of looking back and feeling down because certain people fell out of my life. It happens to everyone as people drop in and out of our lives.

The question becomes how do you deal with these changes. For me I just view it as your world is ever changing and you have to evolve each and every day. You can’t dwell on the past because there’s nothing you can do. What you can do is control your present self and give your future self the best shot at happiness. I think everyone should take time to think about what they are thankful in their life. Who in your life are you grateful to have around? It could be anybody personal or professional. Take time to appreciate them because you never know if you will have another chance.

As they say the Tide is always changing and all you can do is evolve right with the world around you. Lets not look in the past but instead be hopeful for the future. Why think about how things used to be and instead lets ask ourselves how are things going to be? As always I hope this was helpful and we all learn to cope with the change in our life. I would love to hear from others and feel free to sound off in the comments. Let me know how you deal with difficult changes. Have a great day and lets spread the positive vibes!


Getting Noticed

4 May 2018 at 02:37

When going towards your goals one of the most difficult things to handle is not getting noticed. You may be a tireless worker who says and does all the right things but at the end of the day you feel no one noticed. This is a horrible feeling as you feel as you are getting nowhere. You have to be mentally tough to avoid this feeling as it can cause you to feel depressed.

So how do we get people to Observe the hard work you put out there? Its not easy because you have no control over the situation. What you can do is look for any chance to leave a positive impression. Also try to connect with people who seem to notice you and go from there. Everyone is different but there will always be some people who will notice you and be willing to give you chances.

The most important thing is to not get discouraged when you feel that you are being overlooked. As long as you are looking for all the chances you can and trying to do the right thing then you have nothing to be ashamed of. The world is full of chances you just got to be in the right place at the right time. You may feel that peoples eyes aren’t seeing you but the good news is that there are eyes everywhere. Every business has different people in charge. Every city has different chances. Every year of your life brings different scenarios. If you are feeling overlooked have peace of mind knowing that this situation is isolated and there are chances everywhere. Have faith and know your chance is coming and it will change your life. The only reason you are being overlooked is that you aren’t in front of the right eyes. The right eyes will find you and you will be exactly what they were looking for.