Saturday, November 2, 2013

WA moves to streamline environmental approvals | Mining Australia

WA moves to streamline environmental approvals | Mining Australia

Western Australia has joined its eastern counterparts to become the latest state government to announce it is reforming its mining approvals process.
On Wednesday Western Australian Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion said the State Government will this week introduce a new mining bill said to reduce red tape, improve transparency and encourage investment in WA’s resources sector.
Marmion described the legislation as the first step in a “major revamp” of WA’s approvals system.
“The resources sector is a major contributor to our economy, and the flow-on benefits it provides to all West Australians is front and centre of the State Government’s reform agenda,” Marmion said.
“We are introducing reforms that make it clearer, easier, and cheaper to do business in WA, whilst maintaining strict environmental standards.”
But Marmion said streamlining the approvals process will not mean development at any cost.
“Let me be clear, this does not mean development at any cost. However, I do want to see a transparent approvals process that encourages further investment, and therefore more jobs, for West Australians.”


  1. Bill Marmion says the legislation will boost the state's attractiveness as a global mining investment destination.

    "What we'll be able to do now for companies going through environmental approvals, they'll be able to find out what environmental data is available close by to perhaps where their mine is and so they won't have to duplicate as much information because they'll see that it's been done before."

    I guess that means old science will do.

    The thing that struck me about todays headlines is just how big the rift is now between those who believe the science and those who don't.

    Here are the competing views.

    First up The Australian.

    Climate changers all hot air

    MEET the fantasists of the Climate Change Authority - an institution spawned by the deal between former prime minister Julia Gillard and her climate change minister Greg Combet with former Greens leader Bob Brown; and, hopefully, to be as short-lived as its fellow blot on the public policy landscape, the already terminated Climate Commission.

    The CCA's nine members are slightly less horsemen, and women, of the coming Climate Apocalypse, and somewhat more, judging on their draft drivel -- apologies, draft report -- issued during the week, keepers of the modern-day climate cringe.

    The 177 pages that led to the conclusion that we should at least triple our target for cutting emissions of life-enhancing carbon dioxide by 2020 from 5 to 15 per cent, could be distilled down to one simple, and that word is used advisedly, argument.

    If we didn't, in echoes of the original cultural cringe of the mid-20th century, "they" -- the elites of the true metropolitan world, principally Europe -- would think the less of us. We wouldn't be doing "our share".

    The nine, led by former prime minister Paul Keating's former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser, Gillard's chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb, former prime minister Kevin Rudd's favourite business lobbyist Heather Ridout, Dr Lynne Williams, John Marlay, Elana Rubin, and anchored by the trio of professorial climate hysterics Hamilton (Clive), Karoly (David) and Quiggin (John), apparently live in an alternative universe.

    In that universe, the 40,000 free-loading CO2-spewing climate main-chancers who descended on rapidly warming -- actually, as I pointed out at the time, absolute brass monkeys frozen -- Hopehagen aka Copenhagen, back in 2009, did not slink away, deflated, from Copenfloppen.

    The "absolute last chance" to strike a binding global deal to cut CO2 emissions has gone. Despite the best efforts of then PM Rudd and his caravan of 119 Down Under summiteers.

    ............Never mind, most of all, that our seemingly puny 5 per cent cut is actually extremely punitive on a per capita basis, given our very rapid population growth -- versus a Europe where population growth is static or even falling. There's an interesting, largely unidentified, depressing and ultimately damning link between the two most disastrous policies ever initiated by an Australian government: Rudd's National Broadband Network and Gillard's carbon tax.

    They share a central lie. In the case of the NBN, it's a lie to claim its rollout a "success".

    In the case of the carbon tax, it's purported validation.

    ...........If the world really did get with the CO2 cutting program, everyone would be after suddenly scarce as hen's teeth permits; their price would rocket.

    But I wax too cynical. I should regain the faith by absorbing the dedication of Gillard and Combet.

    They've both put their money where their climate change mouths were; both buying sea-side properties. One can only presume to watch at first hand as the warmed waters rise.

    Along with, I might note, the former alarmist-in-chief Tim Flannery. Presumably they will now be joined by one or more of the CCA nine.

  2. The Australian...............cont..........

    Burnout is no cause for alarm

    LAST week in this newspaper I pointed out that global warming is actually a net benefit for the world and for Australia, at least until 2050. This is because the benefits of agricultural CO2 fertilisation are much bigger than the costs of increased water stress, and because fewer cold deaths outweigh extra heat deaths.

    This is documented in the latest and most comprehensive, peer-reviewed article, collecting all published estimates showing an overwhelming likelihood that global warming below 2C is beneficial.

    This does not imply that global warming is not a long-run problem. Moreover, cost-effective solutions are still warranted for the adverse effects by the year 2100 and beyond. But it shows we need less scaremongering in the climate debate. To many, the information was genuinely new in a debate entirely focused on one-sided negatives.

    To others, the information was genuinely outrageous. Environment Victoria's campaign director suggested I was "shameless" for making my case while "NSW is burning". But while the bushfires are definitely detrimental, they simply do not cancel out everything else.

    Yet in the past weeks they have been used as the latest cudgel to showcase the dangers of global warming and argue for strong carbon cuts.

    UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres told CNN that global warming and bushfires were "absolutely" connected, and former US vice-president Al Gore made it even clearer on the ABC:

    "When the temperature goes up and when the vegetation and soils dry out, then wildfires become more pervasive and more dangerous. That's not me saying it, that's what the scientific community says.

    " The problem is, that is simply not what the science says. The latest peer-reviewed study on global fire, run with a record 16 climate models, tells us that sometimes heat and dryness lead to more fire, but sometimes lead to less fire.

    This is because with less precipitation the biomass burns more easily, but with less precipitation there is also less growth and hence less biomass to burn.

    For Mediterranean-type ecosystems, such as southwest and south Australia, it turns out that more than half the time, future drying means less fire. Gore's generalisation is simply wrong.

    ..............Yet dramatic CO2 cuts would likely be one of the least effective ways to help fire. If we could get the entire rich world to cut emissions to the extent the EU has already promised for 2020, the cost would be at least $500 billion annually. Yet, towards the end of the century we would have spent more than $30 trillion, and reduced temperatures by only an immeasurable 0.1C.

    It would have virtually no impact on fire, even in 100 years. Phil Cheney, a former head of CSIRO Bushfire Research, points out the main problem is the increasing fuel loads that dramatically increase fire danger.

    The obvious solution is "to increase the amount of prescribed burning and fuel management". Such simple, smart and cost-effective solutions to bushfires don't negate the need to tackle global warming.

    But they underline how alarmist rhetoric often leads to bad policies. Bushfires are very poor arguments for climate policies, and strong, immediate carbon cuts are costly ways to achieve tiny temperature reductions.

    Smart climate policies need to focus on the most cost-effective solutions because green policies will be sustainable only if they are economical. We need to focus on R&D to create innovations that will bring down the price of green energy so it can eventually outcompete fossil fuels.

    It is not shameless to correctly point out that global warming will likely be a net benefit till after 2050. Hopefully that fact can cool the climate conversation, so we can choose the better solutions.

    Bjorn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, directs the Copenhagen Consensus Centre.

  3. The Australian...............cont..........

    Reef audit sees no threat in dredging

    DREDGING has not been listed as a specific threat to the Great Barrier Reef in a strategic assessment of the health of the reef released yesterday. Conservationists feel it may open the way for the federal government to approve the dredging of the coal port of Abbot Point in North Queensland.

    Environment Minister Greg Hunt is to make a decision within the next month on whether or not Abbot Point will be dredged to allow extra docks at the port, which in turn will support the expansion of the coalmining industry in Queensland.

    Mr Hunt has been in North Queensland this week and has visited Bowen, the closest town to Abbot Point, and yesterday he released the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's strategic assessment of the health of the reef, which has been under way for two years.

    It confirms the previous view that the greatest threats to the reef are climate change and the run-off of chemicals used in farming, with one side-effect of the latter being the promotion of the coral-eating Crown of Thorns starfish. But there has been a strong campaign from conservation groups to stop the dredging of 3 million cubic metres of seabed from around Abbot Point, which they claim will put the reef in danger.

    The report says only that there are several proposals for the expansion of ports in areas adjacent to the marine park, and "while dredging and sea dumping do not introduce additional loads, these activities redistribute and re-suspend sediments and nutrients in inshore areas".

    It stops short of any recommendations on how to deal with the impact of wide-scale dredging, saying only "it is clear that a business-as-usual approach to managing these impacts will not be enough.

    "Additional management intervention is required to protect matters of national environmental significance.

    "WWF Australia spokesman Nick Heath said he thought the report should have been stronger on the issue of dredging, but the scientific elements of the report showed quite clearly that the inner parts of the reef where those areas under the most pressure.

    One recommendation of the report was that assessments would not look at individual impacts on the reef in isolation but would look at the cumulative impact of certain actions.

    "We understand that the Crown of Thorns, chemical run-off and climate change are bigger impacts than dredging, so while dredging might not be the biggest risk to the reef, at the moment, it's the most avoidable.

    "It would take literally hundreds of years to undo the damage caused by chemical run-off, but avoiding the effects of dredging is something that we can do right now," he said. "We're concerned that this report will allow dredging at Abbot Point."

    ...............The report found that the reef was healthiest in its northern sections, especially those north of Cooktown, where there is little farming activity on land and therefore little chance of agricultural chemicals running into rivers that then run into the sea around the reef.

    UNESCO officials have twice visited Australia to inspect the World Heritage-listed reef, and on each occasion have declined to put the reef on its "at-risk" list, although they warned that such a condition may be possible unless there were changes to the management of the reef.

  4. Sydney Morning Herald.............

    Fears for reef over port developments

    Much of the Great Barrier Reef is continuing to degrade, especially areas closest to the mainland, where new port developments are awaiting approval from the federal government.

    The latest strategic assessment of the reef confirmed that, while there were pockets of good news, hard coral had declined by half since 1986 in the bottom two-thirds of the reef, south of Cooktown.

    The report also found increased turbidity in the inshore areas of the reef, the result of increased sedimentation caused by run-off and development.

    ''The Great Barrier Reef is in decline in a significant way,'' Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman Russell Reichelt said.

    Launching the report, Environment Minister Greg Hunt had a more optimistic assessment of ''the jewel in Australia's environmental crown''. ''This great reef is in good condition but with challenges in different parts. It can be better,'' he said.

    Mr Hunt will rule on Abbot Point before the end of the year.

    Environmentalists said the report reaffirmed that the developments should not proceed.

    Nick Heath, from wildlife preservation group WWF, said: ''This report appears to give no room to approve dredging and dumping in the inshore waters of the reef....

    ''Two wrongs don't make a right. With the reef in such a state already, often as a result of fertiliser pollution, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to dump in reef waters.''

    The report said the impact of dredging - required on a huge scale to build the ports - was hard to ascertain but remained a concern.

    Mr Hunt said the report's recommendation that the negative impact of development and other factors on the reef had to be assessed for their ''cumulative impact'' had been accepted and would mean tougher standards.

    But he declined to rule out approving the port.

    ''Cumulative impact. That is a tougher standard, and we make no apology for applying that tougher standard going forward.''

    .................The assessment found seagrass meadows had also been affected, hurting populations of dugongs and turtles. All up, it said there was ''reduced underwater aesthetic value''.

    ''This, in turn, affects the image and human experiences of the reef.''

    It said the reef generated $6 billion in annual income and supported 69,000 jobs, mostly through tourism.


    The Guardian................

    The Reef: A Passionate History, by Iain McCalman – book review

    The tone shifts from the boy's own adventure to scientific excitement and dizzying disaster-epic suspense.

    ...............McCalman writes about European shipwreck survivors and the Indigenous clans they encountered....And he ends with the life story of Charlie Veron, the marine scientist who frightened a hushed audience at the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society in London in 2009 with a powerful warning that the Great Barrier Reef is dying.

    Climate change, melting polar ice caps and changes in the carbon cycles are resulting in seawater acidification, which causes mass extinction of coral reefs. This is already in a phase scientists call "commitment" – meaning "unstoppable inevitability", McCalman writes.

    The coral reefs are the canary in the coalmine for planetary health, and they are dying. "It's real, day in, day out, and I work on this, day in, day out," ...

    And his respect for Indigenous people is a model of intercultural translation. He carefully names language groups and clans, giving a glimpse of what existed before white people dispossessed the original owners.

    He describes the Indigenous view of events without exoticising the individuals he talks to. Nostalgia permeates the book, for ancestral lands lost and for what we all might be losing now.

  5. The New York Times..........

    Panel Warns of Risks to Food Supply From Climate Change

    An international scientific panel has found that climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially reducing output and sending prices higher in a period when global food demand is expected to soar.

    That finding is by far the starkest warning that the United Nations-appointed group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has ever issued regarding the food supply. Its last report, in 2007, was more sanguine, essentially finding that climatic warming and the rising level of carbon dioxide in the air would boost agricultural production across large areas, though that report did cite some risks.

    The warning is contained in a draft report that leaked on Friday. The document is not final and not scheduled for release until after an editing session in Yokohama, Japan in March.

    The draft report warns that sweeping impacts from climate change are already being seen across the planet, and that these are likely to intensify as human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise.

    Echoing past findings, the draft report points out that land ice is melting worldwide, leading to a rise of the sea that is putting coastal communities at increased risk of flooding. It describes a natural world in turmoil as plants and animals attempt to migrate to escape rising temperatures, and warns that many could go extinct. Saving a significant fraction of the world’s biological diversity may require far more aggressive human management of natural systems, the report declares.

    Efforts to adapt to climate change have already begun in many countries, the report found; President Obama on Friday signed an executive order to step up such efforts in the United States. But these efforts remain inadequate compared with the risks, the report says, and far more intensive — and expensive — adaptation plans are likely to be required in the future.

    The report found that it is not too late for cuts in emissions to have a strong impact on the future risks of climate change, though the costs would be incurred in the next few decades and the main benefits would likely be seen in the late 21st century and beyond.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the principal scientific body charged with reviewing and assessing climate science, then issuing reports about the risks to the world’s governments. Its main reports come out every five to six years. The group won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Al Gore, in 2007 for its efforts to alert the world to the risks.

    Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent every year to reduce emissions, in direct response to past findings from the group, though many analysts have said these efforts are so far inadequate to head off drastic climatic changes later in the century.

    On the food supply, the new report finds that benefits from global warming may be seen in some areas, such as northern lands that are now marginal for food production. But it added that over all, climate change could reduce agricultural output by as much as 2 percent per decade for the rest of this century, compared with what output would be without climate change.

    During that period, demand is expected to rise as much as 14 percent each decade, the report found, as billions of people in developing countries acquire the money to eat richer diets. Rising food prices would likely hit the world’s poor hardest, as has already occurred from sharp price increases of recent years — spikes caused to a large extent by certain types of weather extremes, like severe heat waves, that have been linked to climate change.

    The agricultural risks “are greatest for tropical countries, given projected impacts that exceed adaptive capacity and higher poverty rates compared with temperate regions,” the draft report finds.

  6. NYT .....cont...........

    If the report proves to be correct, global food demand might have to be met – if it can be met – by putting new land into production. That could entail chopping down large areas of forest, an action that would only accelerate climate change by sending substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the air from the destruction of trees.

    The leak of the new draft occurred on a blog hostile to the scientific panel.

    “It’s a work in progress,” said Jonathan Lynn, a spokesman for the intergovernmental panel. “We don’t have anything to say about the contents. It’s likely to change.”

    But in a brief interview, Mr. Lynn did not dispute the authenticity of the document. In the Internet era, the group’s efforts to keep its drafts secret are proving to be a failure, and some of the scientists involved have called for a drafting process open to the public.

    A report about the physical science of climate change leaked in August, then underwent only modest changes before its final release in Stockholm in late September. The new report covers the impacts of climate change, efforts to adapt to it, and the vulnerability of human and natural systems.

    A third report, analyzing potential ways to limit the rise of greenhouse gases, is due for release in Berlin in April.


    The Guardian.

    Oceans heating up faster now than in the past 10,000 years, says new study

    Data from Indonesia suggest that human greenhouse gas emissions are causing unnaturally rapid ocean warming

    If the latest research is correct, our oceans are heating up much faster now than they have in the past 10,000 years. This is one of the conclusions that is drawn from a recently published paper in Science.

    The story begins in a remote location in the western equatorial Pacific. Using sediments along the Makassar Straight and the Flores Sea in Indonesia, the researchers extracted benthic foraminifera, which are small creatures that live near or at the bottom of the ocean waters. The chemical signatures in the shells of these creatures can provide valuable information about the ocean temperature in the recent or long past.

    .....The study took place in the equatorial Pacific Ocean where these stream of water traveled from the poles. The sediments allowed the researchers to deduce temperatures in the ocean depths, which could be connected with surface waters.

    After analyzing the foraminifera shells, the authors concluded that ocean waters at mid-depths were warmer during the early/middle Holocene (about 10,000 to 8,000 years ago) then they are today. Over the next few thousand years, the oceans cooled. Then, in recent decades, there was a significant change as the oceans began to heat quickly.

    Here is what the author himself had to say:

    "It is clear that much of the heat that humans have put into the atmosphere through greenhouse gas emissions will be absorbed by the ocean. But the absorption time takes hundreds of years, much longer than the current rate of warming and the planet will keep warming. Our study puts the modern observations into a long-term context. Our reconstruction of Pacific Ocean temperatures suggests that in the last 10,000 years, the Pacific mid-depths have generally been cooling by about 2 degrees centigrade until a minimum about 300 years during the period known as the Little Ice Age.

    After that, mid-depth temperatures started warming but at a very slow rate. Then, since about 1950, temperatures from just below the sea surface to ~1000 meter, increased by 0.18 degrees C. This seemingly small increase occurred an order of magnitude faster than suggested by the gradual change during the last 10,000 years thereby providing another indication for global warming. But our results also show the temperature of the ocean interior is still much colder than at any time in the past 10,000 years thus, lagging the changes we see at the ocean surface."

  7. The Guardian.

    Climate scientists want business leader to apologise for 'serious slur'

    Climate scientists have called on one of Australia’s highest profile business leaders to apologise for accusing their profession of lacking integrity.

    The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society described as a “serious slur” the remarks of David Murray, former head of the Commonwealth Bank and the inaugural chairman of Australia’s multi-billion dollar future fund.

    Murray told the ABC’s Lateline he believed there had been a “breakdown in integrity” in the science of climate change.

    Murray, who was in charge of $75bn of government assets during his final year as the future fund chairman, said “the climate problem is severely overstated”.

    He said he had seen no evidence of “integrity” among climate scientists.

    In an open letter, AMOS president Blair Trewin wrote: “The society regards the remarks of Mr Murray as being a serious slur on the integrity of the many Australian and international authors of the IPCC report, and views them as highly offensive to those authors and to the profession at large. The society calls upon Mr Murray to withdraw the remarks.”

    During the interview, host Emma Alberici pointed out the work of scientists who had contributed to the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

    Murray was asked what it would take to “convince him” on the science of climate change.

    Murray answered: “When I see some evidence of integrity amongst the scientists themselves. I often look at systems and behaviours as a way of judging something, and in this case, to watch the accusations that fly between these people suggests there’s been a breakdown in integrity in the science.”

    In 2011, Murray was reported to have said there was “no correlation” between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming and that the world’s glaciers were not melting.

    The IPCC said in September it was “extremely likely” that human emissions of greenhouse gases had been the dominant force behind the global warming observed since the 1950s.

    The IPCC report also found that between 1993 and 2009 about 275bn tonnes of ice were melting from the world’s glaciers every year.

    During the interview, Murray confirmed he had been in early discussions with the government to head an inquiry into the finance industry.


    Delegates frustrated as talks to create huge Antarctic marine reserves fail

    Russia, Ukraine and China scupper plans to protect 'last intact ocean ecosystem on earth'

    Talks to create the world's two largest marine reserves in the Antarctic have broken down, with conservationists branding Russia a "repeat offender" for blocking an international agreement.

    Delegates from 24 nations and the European Union have been locked in talks in Hobart for the past 10 days at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

    But the negotiations have ended in frustration for the nations, including Australia and the US, that proposed vast protected zones around Antarctica, with Russia, Ukraine and China refusing to back the plans.


    The failure of the talks is the third time in the past year that the proposals for protected zones have failed to find agreement among the commission's nations. Previously, Russia and Ukraine questioned the legal status of the protected areas.

    Andrea Kavanagh, the director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Southern Ocean sanctuaries project, told Guardian Australia that the failure of the talks was "incredibly disappointing".

    "It's a bad day, not just for Antarctica but for the world's oceans, because so many fisheries are over-exploited and this was the one place we could create a reserve," she said. "The fact it can be blocked by a few nations with interests in fishing is very hard to take.

    "Russia and Ukraine filibustered until the end. They wanted to open up more areas for fishing and set a time limit of 10 years.

  8. The Guardian.

    Labor is right: it should not help Tony Abbott dismantle its credible scheme

    The government must show how Direct Action can deliver, how much it will cost and how it can work in the long term

    Labor has made the right decision by refusing to help dismantle its own credible scheme to reduce carbon emissions in favour of a scheme that, in its current form, is not credible at all.

    It is the right decision on policy grounds. The Coalition has managed pretty successfully so far to present its own climate policy as the political version of a free lunch – a pain-free, easy solution with some nice wholesome tree-planting on the side.

    But in government it will actually have to show how Direct Action can deliver emissions reductions, how much it will cost and how the policy can work in the long term, given that Australia’s greenhouse gas reduction obligations aren’t just going to stop in 2020 when Direct Action does.

    All the independent modelling and analysis says Direct Action will struggle to reach even Australia’s current 5% emissions reduction target for 2020. The Climate Change Authority report on Tuesday told the government it was certainly going to have to cut much deeper than 5%.

    It should have been a wake-up call for the Coalition. But that wasn’t the message the environment minister, Greg Hunt ,was getting. Nope, he went straight to P107 of the modelling to discover that “it shows a 50% increase in the carbon price” and therefore concluded that the report was a wake up call for “electricity Bill [Shorten]”.

    ...By actually standing and fighting for a credible climate policy, Labor may just be able to focus attention on the fact that a $54 a tonne carbon price in 2030 pales in comparison to the drain on the budget if Direct Action was trying to do the same job – an argument Malcolm Turnbull has regularly made.

    ....Having lost so much fighting for a credible climate policy Labor really would stand for nothing if it abandoned it now.


    Noam Chomsky slams Canada's shale gas energy plans

    Canada's rush to exploit its tar sands and shale gas resources will destroy the environment "as fast as possible", according to Noam Chomsky.

    He said: "It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it's shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result."

    But indigenous peoples in Canada blocking fossil fuel developments are taking the lead in combatting climate change, he said.

    ...."It is pretty ironic that the so-called 'least advanced' people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction," said Chomsky.

    Chomsky expressed concern about an indigenous community in New Brunswick whose encampment blockading shale gas exploration was raided by a heavily armed Canadian police force two weeks ago.

    Those protests come on the heels of the indigenous-led Idle No More movement that sprang up in late 2012 in response to the Harper government's repeal of numerous environmental protections and aggressive promotion of resource projects, often on indigenous lands.

    He told the Guardian that progressives "should work climate change into their efforts to organise", but in a way that emphasises how addressing climate change can improve rather than worsen peoples' lives.

    "If it's a prophecy of doom, it will act as a dampener, and people's reaction will be ok, I'll enjoy myself for a couple of years while there's still a chance. But as a call to action, it can be energising. Like, do you want your children, and grandchildren, to have a decent life?"

  9. ABC.

    Study to focus on Arctic after Greenland Sea found to have warmed 10 times faster than global ocean

    Scientists have revealed plans to examine temperature changes in the Arctic Ocean after a long-term study found the Greenland Sea is warming 10 times faster than the global ocean.

    Scientists from Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) analysed temperature data from the Greenland Sea between 1950 and 2010.

    Their results show that during the past 30 years water temperatures between two kilometres deep and the ocean floor have risen by 0.3 degrees Celsius.

    Dr Raquel Somavilla Cabrillo, AWI scientist and lead author of the study, says researchers are surprised by the results.

    "For a long time it was considered that the deep Arctic region was in a stationary state ...[but] much more than we thought is changing," she said.

    Dr Somavilla says that the contribution from the Greenland Sea to global rising sea levels is greater than expected, and that scientists must now examine the Arctic Ocean in more detail to fully understand how the world's oceans react to climate change.

    "Because the changes in temperature are so fast - faster than the average of the rest of the ocean - then the contribution [to rising sea levels] is larger than expected for this region," she said.

    "That is the reason that we have to look to the rest of the Arctic, because it may be similar, and then we will have to recalculate the contribution of the whole area."

    Dr Somavilla says warmer water has been flowing from the Arctic Ocean into the Greenland Sea and the new research will focus on this area.

    Degree of warming a cause for concern

    Dr Somavilla says the Arctic region is a leading indicator of climate change.

    "It has one of the highest sensitivities to climate warming, that is clear," she said.

    "It is suffering sea ice retreat, sea surface temperature is warming faster than in other areas, so the sensitivity is higher than in other places."

    She says a deep water temperature increase of 0.3 degrees Celsius may sound like a small number, but it needs to be seen in relation to the large mass of water that has been warmed.

    "The amount of heat accumulated within the lowest 1.5 kilometres in the abyssal Greenland Sea would warm the atmosphere above Europe by 4 degrees Celsius," she said.

    "The Greenland Sea is just a small part of the global ocean. However, the observed increase is 10 times higher than the temperature increase in the global ocean on average."

  10. Study to focus on Arctic after Greenland Sea found to have warmed 10 times faster than global ocean


    Dr Somavilla says deep oceans are heat buffers for climate warming and have the capacity to regulate temperature increases experienced on land.

    "The warming that we can expect as a result of the increase in greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere can be accumulated in the atmosphere, in the upper layers of the ocean or in the deep ocean," she said.

    "We have to keep in mind, that 90 per cent of all this warming that we are generating is accumulated in the ocean."

    Temperature increases related to convection and inflow

    Dr Somavilla says the rise in temperature is caused by the inflow of warmer water from the Arctic Ocean as well as the cessation of deep convection in the Greenland Sea.

    "Until the early 1980s, the central Greenland Sea has been mixed from the top to the bottom by winter cooling at the surface making waters dense enough to reach to sea floor," she said.

    "This transfer of cold water from the top to the bottom has not occurred in the last 30 years.

    "After the '80s it seems that winter heat losses - how much heat is lost from the ocean to the atmosphere - has decreased.

    "The waters at the surface are lighter during the wintertime than before. They don't reach the necessary density to reach the bottom of the Greenland Sea."

    Dr Somavilla says observations made during the last 100 years reveal rates of deep convection in the Greenland Sea are cyclical.

    "There were previous cycles when deep convection was more intense or less intense. But it seems that this cycle is the longest of all of them and the temperature increase has also been the highest of all them," she said.

    She says if current trends continue the density, temperature and salinity levels of deep water in the Greenland Sea will reach the same levels of those in the Arctic Ocean.

    "The Greenland Sea is getting lighter ... It will reach the same density of the waters that are coming in," she said.

    "When they reach the same density we don't know what will happen. [Temperature and salinity] are the same. They will keep increasing until they reach the same level ... [then] they will probably continue rising, but at other rates," she said.

    The AWI study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

  11. Surprise visit gives gas campaigner hope PM will change rules

    Queenslander Debbie Orr was sceptical Tony Abbott would live up to his promise to visit within six weeks of becoming prime minister and listen to her complaints about coal seam gas making her children sick.

    As recently as Friday - six weeks after Mr Abbott won the election - the mother of six laughed when asked if she had heard from the Prime Minister, who made his vow on Alan Jones' radio show.

    But on Friday afternoon, the anti-coal seam gas activist, who lives in Tara, 250 kilometres west of Brisbane, got a phone call from her local MP, Bruce Scott.

    And the ''senior minister'' Mr Scott said he would bring to morning tea on Saturday at Tara's council chambers turned out to be no one less than the Prime Minister.

    For half an hour, Mr Abbott sat with Ms Orr and heard about the health problems in her community that she blames on five coal seam gas wells.

    Ms Orr showed Mr Abbott photographs of rashes and nose bleeds suffered by children in the area.

    ''He nodded a lot,'' she said.

    Coal seam gas is a troublesome issue for Mr Abbott, with positions ranging from Jones' fierce opposition and farmers barricading their properties against mining companies, to Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane vowing to ramp up CSG production to deal with a ''gas crisis'' in NSW.

    Ms Orr said Mr Abbott made three promises during their conversation on Saturday.

    First, he said he would see to it that more environmental health testing was done in Tara to check whether there were links between the coal seam gas wells and the sickness being reported by Ms Orr and her neighbours. So far, Queensland Health has studied Tara and found no proven link between gas drilling and health problems in the district.

    But Ms Orr believes the air, soil and water testing - much of which was done by the coal seam gas company QGC - has been inadequate. QGC has been contacted for comment about the claims.

    Second, Ms Orr said the Prime Minister assured her ''it won't happen again'' that a gas well is built so close to residential areas.

    She said Mr Abbott told her coal seam gas mining ''should never be allowed in residential areas''.

    Third, Ms Orr said Mr Abbott told her ''nobody should be forced to have a gas well on their property''.

    Whether Mr Abbott agrees with Ms Orr's account of their meeting is unclear. A much less detailed statement came from his office. ''The Prime Minister delivered on his commitment to visit Ms Orr, and listened to her concerns. It was a constructive meeting,'' was the office's response.

    The genesis of the weekend visit occurred when Mr Abbott appeared on the Jones program last December, as the broadcaster read out Ms Orr's letters asking for help.

    ''I will visit this woman,'' Mr Abbott replied. ''Within six weeks of the election … I will go there, I will take the relevant public servants, I will see for myself, I will experience for myself, and if things are as Mrs Orr says, we will change it.''

    Ms Orr said Mr Abbott has kept his word, and she hopes he follows through on his commitments. ''I'm pleased that even though the situation here isn't good, from what he [Mr Abbott] is saying he won't allow gas wells in residential areas,'' she said. ''So what happened here won't happen again.''