[ASC-media] CSIRO: Ecos examines the debate on sea level rise

Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au
Tue Jul 10 01:57:08 CEST 2007

July 10 2007
Ref: 07/127
Ecos examines the debate on sea level rise

The latest Ecos magazine, published by CSIRO, examines the scientific
debate that followed the release of the 2007 report of the IPCC
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

The report indicated that, by the end of the 21st century, sea levels
could rise higher than previously predicted due to accelerated melting
of polar ice sheets, highlighting a critical gap in our understanding of
how polar ice sheets will respond to global warming.

As a result, the IPCC has added a polar ice 'caveat' to its latest
estimates that takes into account the wide range of possible responses
of the polar ice sheets.

The Greenland ice sheet holds the equivalent of 7m sea level rise, while
complete melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet would add another 5 to
6m to current levels.

Factors that could accelerate polar ice sheet melting include more rapid
heat absorption as the white surface is replaced by darker wet ice,
melting rates exceeding snowfalls, and direct contact of warmer seawater
with the underside of ice sheets.

Some leading climate researchers including the CSIRO's Dr John Church
say that recent trends in global sea level suggest we are tracking
towards the upper trajectory of the IPCC's 2001 projections - an 88cm
rise by 2100, consistent with the projected upper limit in the 2007 IPCC

Ecos outlines some actions being taken in Australia by federal, state
and local governments to prepare for sea level rise and higher storm

Damage caused by sea level rise and stronger storms is likely to impact,
among other things, wetland habitat and biodiversity, coastal properties
and infrastructure, tourism, traditional culture, real estate prices,
insurance premiums, and emergency planning.

Ecos also reports on the need to improve the monitoring, regulation and
management of Australia's vast underground water resource.

Groundwater supplies many streams, rivers and lakes. However, large
volumes of bore water are consumed without metering or charge, and its
use is often unrestricted.

As a result, authorities don't know how much is extracted by farmers,
mining and industry users, households, local councils and sports

Excessive use and pollution are leading to lower water tables, reduced
flows to wetlands, groundwater salinisation and land subsidence.

Elsewhere in Ecos is a report on the plight of an internationally
significant wetland - the Macquarie Marshes near Bathurst, NSW.  

The 220,000ha wetland, registered under the Ramsar Convention as a site
of global ecological significance, once boasted Australia's greatest
diversity of waterbirds.

Today, much of the wetland is degraded due to the recent drought and
allocation of water from the Macquarie River for irrigation. 
Other stories in Ecos 137 include:

* Men of the trees: A volunteer organisation in Western Australia is
helping farmers and others put 600,000 trees a year back into the
landscape. Men of the Trees was inspired by Richard St Barbe Baker, an
early 20th century environmentalist whose legacy lives on today.

* Whale shark conservation wins: Brad Norman, who won a Rolex Award for
Enterprise for his whale shark research in 2006, is using the prize
money and publicity from the awards to pursue his dream of setting up
localised whale shark conservation 'nodes' around the world.

* Triple bottom line pays dividends: Market research shows that
companies who put a value on social, environmental and community issues
are registering above-average financial performance. Of the top five
performing funds in Australia in 2006, three were socially responsible
investment (SRI) funds. 

* Indonesian marine reserve declared off West Papua: Indonesia has
established a network of seven protected area off West Papua, which
harbour some of the world's most biologically diverse coral reefs,
mangrove forests and other coastal ecosystems.

ECOS MAGAZINE - Issue 137 is available at major national newsagents or
online at: www.publish.csiro.au/ecos

ECOS is a bimonthly colour subscriber publication covering environmental
and sustainable development issues relevant to Australia and the
Asia-Pacific region.

Media Assistance:

Mary-Lou Considine, Acting Managing Editor Ecos
Ph: 03 9662 7604 or 9662 7575
mary-lou.considine at csiro.au
If you would like to be removed from this mailing list, please contact
CSIROMedia at csiro.au, or telephone us on 02 6276 6479.

Beck Eveleigh
Media Assistant
CSIRO Media Liaison
6276 6451
0409 395 010

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