Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 95 E300
Location: Inside my head
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Son of Global Warming
Reef gone in 20 years if warming continues
* Leigh Dayton, Science writer
* April 07, 2007
THE Great Barrier Reef - one of the natural wonders of the world - could be gone in 20 years unless global warming was slowed, scientists warned last night.
FORCE OF NATURE
Effect of climate change on Australia*
2020: Biodiversity drops in Kakadu wetlands, Queensland wet tropics, Great Barrier Reef, southwest Australia, sub-Antarctic islands and alpine national parks
2030-50: Yearly coral bleaching on Great Barrier Reef
2050: Ski season drops by 15-100 days
2050: Flows into Murray-Darling Basin fall by 10 to 25 per cent
2100: Coastal sea levels rise 18cm to 59cm
* If temperatures rise by 1.1C - 6.4C by the end of the century
"With 1C to 2C warming it's stuffed up, and with 3C it's gone, through widespread coral bleaching," Australian climate change expert Geoff Love said from Brussels, where he attended this week's meeting of the UN and World Meteorological Association's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Dr Love's comments reflected a series of dire predictions by the panel about the impact of climate change on plants, animals and people.
Other bad news for Australia involves ever more floods, fires and droughts, disappearing plants and animals, the social and economic repercussions of eroded coastlines, critical water shortages, melting snow and the decline of agriculture and forestry production in the south and east.
According to the CSIRO's Kevin Hennessy, a lead author of a chapter on Australia and New Zealand in the IPCC report, even if global warming was slowed, the continent was "committed" to some dramatic changes, and individuals and governments must take steps to adapt.
"We hear a lot more about the need for reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions than we do about the need to adapt," Dr Hennessy said, also from Brussels.
He said key scientific data must be obtained to enable officials to respond to global temperature rises predicted to range from 1.1C to 6.4C at the end of the century.
He said there was now not enough information about the impacts on water resources to make good management decisions.
"Changes in rainfall and projected increases in evaporation are likely to lead to reduced soil moistures and reduce runoff into rivers," said Dr Hennessy.
"We've only quantified that in a small number of catchments."
University of NSW climate scientist Andy Pitman agreed. He said that it was also critical to establish what were the natural drivers of global warming.
Professor Pitman said that while it was reasonably clear that the climate along the southern fringe of Australia was more at risk from human-induced global warming, the picture along the east coast was more complex.
And the east coast was where increasing numbers of Australians lived, making them subject to sea-level rises, coastal erosion and storms, said coastal geomorphologist Nick Harvey of the University of Adelaide.
Concern about Australia's ability to adapt to climate change was reflected in the report, which said: "More extensive adaptation than is currently occurring is required to reduce vulnerability to future climate change, but there are barriers, limits and costs."