Farewelling the Great Barrier Reef

In January this year when David Spratt took a look at whether tipping points had already been passed for critical climate systems he found that coral reefs were in death spiral. From reef ecology scientists:

    “The time between recurrent events is increasingly too short to allow a full recovery of mature coral assemblages, which generally takes from 10 to 15 years for the fastest growing species and far longer for the full complement of life histories and morphologies of older assemblages.”

Mass bleaching occurred in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020.

    Multiple lines of evidence suggest the current physical conditions will cause decreasing extent and ecosystem collapse along the Great Barrier Reef at the current level of warming:

  • Melbourne-based researchers showed in 2017 that the hotter water conditions that drove the severe bleaching in 2016 will occur on average one year in three at 1.2°C, and two years in every three at 1.5°C.
  • In 2021, researchers concluded that at 1.5°C, severe bleaching events would occur on average three times per decade.

See also David Spratt and Ian Dunlop Climate Dominoes: Tipping point risks for critical climate systems

Now in 2022, during a La Niña event, there has been further bleaching, plus a Reef survey which ostensibly showed recovery in ‘reef cover’. Imogen Zethoven addresses this ostensible counter-intuitive information in The Great Barrier to understanding the Reef.

The answer is simple. Regrowth has come from one group of species: Acropora. They grow rapidly after disturbance, but are also the most vulnerable to damage from cyclones and further coral bleaching. Moreover they are the preferred diet of the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns starfish.

So the ‘recovery’ reduces diversity and increases vulnerability.

For further detail see Annual Summary Report of Coral Reef Condition 2021/22 which may be found on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Reef health site.

On February 2 this year Zethoven tore into the Morrison Government in Biggest barrier to saving the Reef is a political class in climate denial. The government had just announced an extra $1 billion to spend over nine years on the GBR, strategically just ahead of official visits by representatives from UNESCO and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) acting as advisors to the World Heritage Committee who are due to make a decision on whether the GBR will be included on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Readers will recall that last year the Morrison government had sent Minister for Environment Sussan Ley scurrying around Europe, lobbying to prevent such a listing. Zethoven says:

    There was no moment of self-consciousness, no flicker of unease when the Prime Minister announced that “We’re investing in this Reef for generations and generations to come.”

    The PM was announcing $1 billion over nine years for the Great Barrier Reef. Hoping that no-one would mention his government’s climate policies that will drive the Reef to extinction in our lifetimes (that is, if every other country made the same effort as his government), he chose to focus on all the other issues.

    A few days earlier, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) had just confirmed December 2021 as the hottest December on the Reef since records began.

As Zethoven reports, the mission duly arrived in March, and was shepherded around the reef to see restitution and protection initiatives, were not available to be interviewed unminded, and visited just two reefs, which Zethoven says were “green”. I assume that meant green as in this image, which showed the results of a survey after the bleaching event, which occurred from 12-23 March:

There was plenty going on in late March. A few days into the mission PM Scott Morrison and his Deputy Barnaby Joyce were announcing $6 billion worth of new and expanded dams at Hells Gate on the Upper Burdekin and Urannah Dam on the Bowen River also in the Burdekin region. Meanwhile:

    On day two of the mission, Resources Minister Angus Taylor visited Gladstone to announce $50.3 million for seven “priority” gas projects while reports of Reef bleaching were coming in thick and fast. The Minister made his announcement the day after the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres named Australia as a “hold out” amongst a group of nations that had announced meaningful emission reductions by 2030 to keep alive the Paris Agreement’s warming limit of 1.5°C.

Zethoven does cite the 2018 IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C which says that limiting to 1.5°C will result in a further 70-90 per cent loss of the world’s coral reefs. Strangely she did not cite new research which has found that with 1.5°C, highly likely from 2030, coral reefs all over the world will die off. See Adele M Dixon et al Future loss of local-scale thermal refugia in coral reef ecosystems:

See also Last refuges for coral reefs to disappear above 1.5C of global warming, study finds:

    The study projects that, at 1.5C, coral reefs will be able to survive marine heatwaves in only two locations: Polynesia and the Coral Triangle, a marine area in the Pacific Ocean including the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.

Australia’s reef scientists were not involved, but agree with the findings.

I have heard Zethoven say on radio that with 1.5°C the GBR would be alright, or similar. Certainly Adam Bandt and Larissa Waters have been saying the 1.5°C will save the reef.

This is offering false hope. I’m with David Spratt, coral reefs are in a death spiral. That is not 100% certain, but is way more than likely.

There is immense sadness in realising that the planet has changed irrevocably in the Anthropocene. Amy Brady and Tajja Isen asked 19 writers express their thoughts and feelings about places they have loved which have now gone forever:

See ‘The World as We Knew It’: Sadness and grief eloquently expressed:

    Starting from the premise that the personal is planetary and that the planet has changed irrevocably, this collection of essays considers the climate crisis from the perspective of the individual.

    What does climate change mean at the level of the everyday when the places we love and the geographies that shaped us are changing in real time?

    Amy Brady and Tajja Isen invited 19 writers to take this question and run with it, making the end result an eclectic and beautifully written anthology marked by sadness and grief.

There’s wonder too, and occasional glimpses of possibility, but in the end:

    these compelling and at times heartbreaking essays cover a lot of ground, but they start from the same assumption: the world as we knew it is gone. To quote Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

    But there’s no yellow brick road for us. And if even if there were, what’s to go home to? As Amy Brady and Tajja Isen remind us, temperatures now regularly reach the upper nineties in the Sunflower State. And in the coming decades, Kansas is expected to see a lot more days above 100°F.

There is an issue here as to how we cope when hope is becoming more difficult. Bill McGuire looking at our dilemma more pragmatically says:

    A middle of the road route would be to no one’s advantage – so, as for most situations wherein the risk is hard to quantify, there is only one sensible way forward: to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst.

There is nothing wrong with trying to restore and hang onto the past, but our stewardship should also be looking for the best outcomes in the future. This is out of my patch but for some time I have had the thought that we should we look at a larger scale ‘botanical gardens’ concept either in aquariums, or in situ, which preserves reef species to rebuild as well as continuing the tourist industry. Obviously we can’t keep 3,000 reefs spread over the size of Italy, but isolated experiments in labs and at selective reef stations seem inadequate.

I had thought of government funding, but now IBM and Microsoft have come up with a new startup, The Reef Company. It plans 2500 reefs, each measuring 4 square kilometres, over the next 10, with the first in the water by December 2022.

The company is based in Portugal and supported by an investor group from Costa Rica. One of the planned reefs is in Malaysia. No mention of the GBR.

See Start-up plans 2500 artificial coral reefs to fight climate change (probably pay-walled).

I wonder whether we have told them that it’s all AOK here, that the mighty GBR is not in danger.

Update September 4, 2022:

The CarbonBrief Q&A The IPCC’s sixth assessment on how climate change impacts the world of 22 February 2022 cites the IPCC AR6 WG2: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability saying:

    Climate change has already caused “substantial damages and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems”.

On coral reefs:

    There is high confidence that with warming above 1.5C, reefs are “under threat” of reaching erosion rates that are larger than the rate at which new corals can grow.

And, as an example of a regional case study:

    the Australasia chapter includes a box entitled “The Great Barrier Reef in Crisis”, which states with high confidence that the world’s largest coral reef “is already severely impacted by climate change”.

Time to face reality and work on Plan B.

33 thoughts on “Farewelling the Great Barrier Reef”

  1. I need to get off my tail and start doing something.
    Housing policy is my current area of interest.

  2. Go for it, John!

    Just now I’ve been diverted by looking at the Roadmap for Climate Reform published by the Climate Defenders Office, and the Report of the Senate Committee reviewing the Climate Change Bill 2022.

    I’ve sampled some of the 180 or so submissions. So far David Karoly’s (no. 167) has been the best, but lots worthy of looking at still to go. I wasn’t impressed with Zali Steggall. Good lawyer, but not fully up to speed on climate.

    Nor are some of the climate professors they spoke to.

    I think everyone should take a look at what Will Steffen told the Kiwis back in 2017 (scroll through to the 20 minute mark). If he is still of the same view, and I assume he is, we are in deep doo-doos.

  3. OK, glaciers are not the reef but it is worth reading “Antarctica’s Doomsday Glacier “hanging on by its fingernails”
    The doomsday glacier is the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, “groundbreaking seafloor imagery highlighting its precarious state in concerning new detail. The research reveals the glacier has undergone spurts of rapid retreat in the past that scientists now expect to see again in the future, which could have important ramifications for global sea levels.

    Around the size of Florida, the Thwaites Glacier is known as the “Doomsday Glacier” owing to its status as one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica. Its melt rate is accelerating, with its outflow speed doubling in the last 30 years, and some studies suggesting it could be just years away from a complete collapse. Were that to happen, the amount of water released from the giant ice stream would be enough to drive up global sea levels by several meters.” Would make the Lismore floods look like a doddle, and, more to the point make us wish we had stayed in Chapel Hill. (Current dwelling about 4 m above high tide mark.)

  4. John, yes I saw that. The whole glacier will not simply slide into the sea. However, it reminds us that multi-metre SLR by 2100 is possible, and the risk of it happening is unsettling to say the least.

    Have a look at Stefan Rahmstorf’s Sea level in the IPCC 6th assessment report (AR6).

    The short story is that the IPCC has traditionally not taken into account what could happen with rapid deglaciation. This time they have put in a dotted line and called it a “low-likelihood, high-impact story line”. He’s not impressed:

      At least with this Paris scenario and a good portion of sheer luck, we may get away with less than a meter rise. But with further unmitigated increase in emissions, a disastrous 2 meter rise is about as likely as an utterly devastating 7 meter rise. What would our descendants think we were doing?

    Around the US they are commonly expecting 12 to 29 inches by 2050, which will be troublesome enough.

  5. This is very sad, but predictable.

    Add that to the rise of the Irukanji and that whole fabulous treasure will live mostly in the memories of ever fewer aging Australians.

    That is perhaps a little gloomy, the reef will adapt over time. Sea level rise will help the reef to recover and the Reef will be stronger at the Southern end over time I suspect.

  6. King Charlie was attacked in the past for his idealism and his support for environmental issues. Does this make him a Green Head of State?

  7. bilb, Will Steffen says that what we are doing in terms of the earth system’s long-term history is smashing it like it never has before, with the possible exception of the asteroid strike 65 million years ago.

    My memory was the coral reefs were around 250 million years ago and after the Permian-Triassic extinction 252.6 mya they took 4 million years to recover. Seems I am out of date. According to this research in 2011 they made a rapid recovery of less than 2 million years.

  8. Barring multiple nuclear weapons airbursts, major volcanic eruptions, and/or major meteor surface impact event(s) here on Earth, compelling evidence/data I see indicates the Earth System will inevitably breach the +1.5 °C global mean surface temperature threshold (relative to 1880–1920 mean), and likely do so before 2035.

    The atmosphere in 2021 contained GHGs with CO₂-equivalent of 508 ppm, of which 415 is CO₂ alone. Humanity has now entered climate territory not encountered for millions of years.

    Unfortunately, the Earth System is already transitioning to a state where coral reefs will be beyond their viability threshold.

    ICYMI/FYI:

    From Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Dr James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy, in one of their commentary communications titled Global Temperature in 2021, published 13 Jan 2022, included:

    Global surface temperature in 2021 (Fig. 1) was +1.12°C (~2°F) relative to the 1880-1920 average in the GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies) analysis. ¹ ² ³ 2021 and 2018 are tied for 6th warmest year in the instrumental record. The eight warmest years in the record occurred in the past eight years. The warming rate over land is about 2.5 times faster than over the ocean (Fig. 2). The irregular El Nino/La Nina cycle dominates interannual temperature variability, which suggests that 2022 will not be much warmer than 2021, but 2023 could set a new record. Moreover, three factors: (1) accelerating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, (2) decreasing aerosols, (3) the solar irradiance cycle will add to an already record-high planetary energy imbalance and drive global temperature beyond the 1.5°C limit – likely during the 2020s. Because of inertia and response lags in the climate and energy systems, the 2°C limit also will likely be exceeded by midcentury, barring intervention to reduce anthropogenic interference with the planet’s energy balance.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2022/Temperature2021.13January2022.pdf

    In the YouTube video titled SR Australia – Social and Earth System Tipping Points | Prof. Will Steffen + Dr. Nick Abel, published 3 Apr 2022, executive director of the Australian National University (ANU) Climate Change Institute, Professor Will Steffen said from time interval 0:19:12:

    So, if you look at the projected temperature rise from the IPCC, by 2050 – middle of the century – thirty years out – even under the most, ah… drastic emission reduction scenario they assess, we’ll still hit 1.6 [°C]. This is dangerous territory. As I said before, we’re on track to reach somewhere around 2.7 to 3 [°C], by the end of the century. But these other scenarios will reach 2, or have reached 2 [°C], ah… at mid… even by 2050. So, um… the… Even the IPCC is saying we’re entering dangerous territory, unless we do something really drastic. So, it’s virtually certain that we will breach 1.5 [°C] before the… ah, before the middle of this century. Some people think even by 2035, we can reach 1.5 [°C].



    In the YouTube video titled ‘Biggest Scandal in Climate Policy’ – David Spratt on Tipping Points, IPCC, IAMs and Risks, published on 1 Jul 2022, duration 0:59:51, David Spratt discusses with the group Operaatio Arktis (Operation Arctic) on a wide range of reasons why the public, policy makers and even many activists have a way too optimistic image of the state of our climate system.



    Former Australian Chief Scientist (Nov 2008 – Mar 2011) and now ANU Professor Penny Sackett made a presentation to the Independent Planning Commission NSW (IPCN) on 8 Jul 2022 on behalf of the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) concerning the assessment and determination of the proposed Mt Pleasant Optimisation Project. On page 5 of the IPCN hearing transcript, Professor Sackett is recorded stating:

    What does that mean for New South Wales? Well, we’ve had record drought followed by record fires, followed by record floods in three years. 47 per cent of all local extinctions in the world are now caused by climate change, that’s at 1.2 degrees of warming. At 1.5 only 0.3 degrees Celsius more which is virtually inevitable by the late 2030s. What used to be once-in-30-year heatwaves will occur every three years and that very hot summer of 2019/2020 will be an average summer.

    Transcript for IPCN public hearing on Jul 8 (492.3 kB) at: https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/resources/pac/media/files/pac/transcripts-and-material/2022/mt-pleasant/220708-public-hearing-day-2-transcript.pdf

    Professor Sackett’s expert report to IPCN (19.7 MB) at: https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/resources/pac/media/files/pac/projects/2022/05/mt-pleasant-optimisation-project-ssd-10418/email-and-postal-public-submissions/dams-heg/attachment-a–sackett-report-climate-change-impacts_redacted.pdf

    The IPCN approved the Mt Pleasant Optimisation Project on 6 Sep 2022.

    Food for your thoughts.

  9. Brian, the thing with looks into the distant past on how things recovered is you don’t see the progression with the environmental change surges.

    By the end of this century the reef could well have an extra mean 1.5 meters so sea coverage, which will mean the the reef is permanently submerged and therefore cooler. Positive. But then there will be a degree of ocean acidification. Negative. There will be greater storm activity in that area. Positive. China could very well populate Australia by then so the reef will be fished out. Negative. Negative.

    It’s too early to tell how this will play out.

  10. Bilb: Lived on Groote Eylandt for years. An area with a lot of coral reefs. At least some common species stretched from near surface quite a long way down stuff near surface should survive some sea level rise. Cyclones did some damage to some species.

  11. bilb, I agree with uncertainty, but we need to attend to risk.

    The IPCC are basically verifying that 1.5C is terminal for reefs, as the Adele Dixon study found. This is likely to happen by 2030 by which time ‘sudden’ slr is extremely unlikely. More on that soon, if I get time.

    Meanwhile we are being offered what some smart operators term VRI experiences of the GBR. I’ll try to find the link tomorrow, but you just put on a headset, and bingo there you are among the fishes, as far as your brain can tell!

  12. Thankyou, Geoff Miell, for your comment at SEPTEMBER 11, 2022 AT 8:04 PM . You’ve said what I’ve been wanting to say for about 3 months, but haven’t gotten around to it for long and boring reasons. I was thinking of doing my next post with the title The Revenge of Gaia, because it has become really obvious in the last few weeks that the earth system has tipped.

    I had most of those links, except the Penny Sackett stuff.

    May I say, Geoff, welcome back, I hope you stay. I don’t know why you comment was held up this time, perhaps you’ve changed something in your email or ID. You were never banned.

  13. Geoff, probably the number of links in the comment. At present it is set at 4 or more, so those YouTubes would put it over the limit.

    The reason for a limit is that it part of spam management. When there are 4 or more I get an email, which I get all the time and mostly ignore because it will most likely be spam!

  14. Thanks Brian,
    You state:

    I was thinking of doing my next post with the title The Revenge of Gaia, because it has become really obvious in the last few weeks that the earth system has tipped.

    ICYMI, you may wish to view Prof Will Steffen in the YouTube video titled SR Australia – Social and Earth System Tipping Points | Prof. Will Steffen + Dr. Nick Abel (referred above in my earlier comment), from time interval 0:20:51, where Steffen suggests:

    Arctic sea ice has tipped – by 2040 to 2050, it will likely be ice-free in summer;
    West Antarctic Ice Sheet will likely tip within next ten years;
    Amazon Forest will likely tip within 15 years – some others suggest within 5-10 years;
    Greenland Ice Sheet will likely tip within 25 years; and
    If these all tip there’s likely to be a cascade of other tipping points.

    Glaciologist Prof Jason Box said last year: “Technically now, Greenland is beyond its viability threshold…
    https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2022/07/the-cos2-problem-in-six-easy-steps-2022-update/#comment-805978

    Professor Jason Box tweeted on Mar 20:

    Arctic land ice loss averaged 8,800 cubic meters PER SECOND between 2020 and 2021

    https://twitter.com/climate_ice/status/1505226416811659266

    Coastal Risk Australia provides an interactive map of which coastal areas are at risk of flooding due to sea level rise (SLR).
    1) Select a location: e.g. Brisbane, QLD, Australia;
    2) Select ‘MANUAL’ mode;
    3) Adjust slider to required SLR scenario;
    4) Zoom & pan to view areas at risk of inundation.
    https://coastalrisk.com.au/viewer

    SLR + storm surges later this century increases risks of inundation for many coastal and estuarine areas.

  15. Thanks Geoff; Ballina where I live is not a place for living in the future. More so when you look at high tides then add the effect of cyclones and storm surges coming further south.

  16. Brian,

    He’s very good.

    Indeed. IMO, Prof Box was saying what he thinks and knows – which I read to mean that the ice sheet destabilisations, rates of melting and consequent SLR contributions, are likely to be much worse than perhaps he can put in a peer-reviewed paper, and what the IPCC would have you believe in their latest AR6 reports.

    This was what Nine News (and many other media outlets) were reporting last month:

    Study lead author Jason Box, a glaciologist at the Greenland survey, said it is “more like one foot in the grave”.

    The unavoidable 27 centimetres in the study is more than twice as much sea level rise as scientists had previously expected from the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet.

    David Spratt said:

    You say to climate scientists, can you say something absolutely, and they’ll say no, and you say, what do you think your… what in your heart… what’s your best bet, and they’ll tell you something different. So their opinions are different from what you can prove in a peer-reviewed paper.

  17. The full David Spratt interview ‘Biggest Scandal in Climate Policy’ – David Spratt on Tipping Points, IPCC, IAMs and Risks is well worth a look.

    On sea level rise, there has been understandable concern recently about Greenland and Antarctica losing ice six times faster than expected (2020).

    Ted Scambos, who has been working on the Thwaites Glacier project gave an interesting talk to scientists – Sea Level Rise Seminar, 2022-04-19: Ted Scambos.

    In short, it looks dreadful and is probably on the way out, but is unlikely to crash dramatically in the next 30 years.

    It was interesting to note in the discussion how little many scientists know outside their defined area of expertise.

    The money webinar was Jeremy Bassis. His approach is unusual, but he is trying to assess risk. See Sea Level Rise Seminar, 2022-04-26: Jeremy Bassis

    At about 55 mins on the clock, in answer to a question he reels off how wrong scientists have been and how much has happened that they didn’t predict.

    This was followed by an intervention by Gavin Schmidt, current head of NASA GISS and I think about the last word on climate modelling from inside the tent.

    He points out that the IPCC fixed their modelling so that it aligned with the last interglacial, which rendered it out of whack with everything else. You may recall that at RealClimate he took them to task for ignoring the ‘wolf pack’ of models because they were based on different and higher levels of climate sensitivity. Schmidt said that what they had done was not science, more like guesswork.

    Here he ends up suggesting that there are too many variables at work and that the task of seeing beyond the horizon is basically impossible and always will be.

  18. Published Sep 21 on YouTube was a video titled Antarctic Futures Seminar 5 | Crazy Big Ideas: Value of SciFi for Conceiving Antarctic Futures, duration 1:15:50, as part of the University of Wollongong Antarctic Futures event in 2022.

    From around time interval 31 minutes, David Spratt talks briefly about Sir David King’s work, reporting that experiments have begun with cloud brightening in the Great Barrier Reef region to assist in reducing ocean heating below the clouds in an attempt to try to save some of the coral reefs in the short-term.

  19. Thanks, Geoff, for the link. There is so much going on!

    Such an interesting event – Antarctic Futures 2022:

      Antarctic Futures is an exhibition, seminar series and set of early learning workshops that considers the nature and future of the Antarctic continent. Proudly presented by the UOW Gallery and Art Collection, in partnership with the University of Wollongong Early Start and Global Challenges programs, the event aims to highlight Illawarra artistic and scientific engagement with Antarctica and to equip young ‘citizen science’ activists with knowledge of Antarctic ecosystems, how Antarctica affects global climate and how climate change is affecting Antarctica. The seminar series aims to facilitate more general discussion about these issues. The event will spark curiosity and inspire creative problem-solving that explores novel linkages between artistic and scientific practices and perspectives, with the view that such an holistic approach is essential to comprehending and addressing Earth’s wicked problems.

    I had a squizz at most of the Webinar you linked too.

    Must say I agree with most of what David Spratt says. We have violently disrupted nature and are in a scrape where we will have to be a bit violent to have a go at getting things back into shape.

    I knew Sir David King was working on creating cloud to shield the Arctic, but did not know he was trialling his ideas on the GBR. May have been following the grant money stream.

  20. To any observer, the Queensland Government has seemed somewhat asleep at the wheel in relation to renewable energy since Mark Bailey was moved to Transport (2108, I think).

    We knew there was a 10-year energy plan in the works to be released this month. Today it happened. I missed the web briefing provided to party members, being engaged in taxi services to the airport. Here’s Premier Palaszczuk’s media spiel – Energy and Jobs Plan: Premier’s 2022 State of the State address (check against delivery)

    A couple hours earlier this summary statement – World’s biggest pumped hydro for Queensland.

    That gave a link to the Qld government site Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan: Power for generations.

    There you can find heaps of links – two 60-page documents or a visual summary in Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan Overview.

    I’d have to say, bigger and better than I expected. I’ll wait to see what the commentariat make of it.

    There was little modesty in the Premier’s speech:

      “This plan makes Queensland the renewable energy capital of the world.

      “It also takes real and decisive action on climate change providing the biggest commitment to renewable energy in Australia’s history.”

    I might have to buy the Courier Mail to see what Murdoch’s hacks made of it. Do you know they did not turn up at the national Press Club today to hear Sally McManus talk.

  21. Brian,

    I might have to buy the Courier Mail to see what Murdoch’s hacks made of it.

    Please don’t provide any financial support to them. I’d suggest you try the local library for a look.

    I’d have to say, bigger and better than I expected.

    I’d suggest it may have something to do with the fact that coal & gas are NO LONGER CHEAP.
    Newcastle thermal coal market has risen from about US$50/tonne in early 2020 to circa US$435/tonne now.

    Gas on the east coast of Australia has risen from around AU$3-5/GJ before the LNG plants started exporting in 2015, to AU$45/GJ earlier this year.

    I think governments are becoming very nervous that fossil fuel electricity generators will go broke sooner than anticipated, and higher electricity (and energy) prices are an election deal-breaker for incumbents.

    IMO, the consequences of decades of government energy and climate policy neglect and denial are now manifesting.
    See a pdf file attachment (10.4 MB) with my Submission to the IPCN re the Mt Pleasant Optimisation Project.

  22. Generally the Courier Mail can be relied upon to have an anti-Qld Govt story on the front page, so that is what happened. A continuation of criticising Palaszczuk for not changing her title to acknowledge the Paralympics as well as the Olympics, and then criticising her “backflip” when she agreed.

    So they had a short story on page 4, about 150 words, with a single graph and a photo of the Premier. Today they found space to report that a small town will have to be moved (50 houses) to install the pumped hydro facility west of Mackay.

    There is a stack of stuff at RenewEconomy, which I haven’t had time to read.

    Geoff, on coal and gas power closure, In Queensland the high level of public ownership, plus complete ownership of transmission, allows a combination of flexibility and rationality to be employed. Coal and gas stations won’t close until replacement power is available, then they will be kept on standby for a time.

    Geoff, there is impressive information assembled in your Mt Pleasant Optimisation Project submission. The issue of liveability (p10 ff) is scary.

  23. Brian,

    Today they found space to report that a small town will have to be moved (50 houses) to install the pumped hydro facility west of Mackay.

    Meanwhile, at the April 2019 General Meeting of the American Philosophical Society, glaciologist Professor Eric Rignot confirmed that the whole of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is now committed to melting, and the Greenland Ice Sheet loss is irreversible with current warming. Rignot said from time interval 0:02:51:

    So right now, sea level is raising, rising about thirty centimetres per century, but we know there’s the possibility that it could do this ten times faster because it did that in the past and, what causes that is the, is the ice sheets.

    Professor Jason Box said last year he calculated there’s at least a metre SLR by 2100 from what he is observing now, and Eric Rignot says we may see an acceleration of melting rate of three metres per century. So reportedly 50 houses needing to be moved pales into insignificance compared with perhaps hundreds of millions of homes & businesses around the world at risk of inundation in the coming decades due to SLR + storm surges. Cairns is one place very vulnerable to SLR.

    Coal and gas stations won’t close until replacement power is available, then they will be kept on standby for a time.

    The coal- & gas-fired generators still need fuel to operate. The Queensland coal & gas producers are not government owned, so these generators will continue to be at the mercy of coal & gas fuel market prices that are currently very high (and may stay that way) – unless governments ‘constrain’ the prices of those supplies? Peter Hannam reported a AU$40/GJ wholesale gas price translates to about $400/MWh wholesale electricity price to breakeven for a gas-fired generator.

    The issue of liveability (p10 ff) is scary.

    Yep, IMO so is:
    * slide 9 – IMO, some parts of the world are already seeing some impacts on food security
    * slide 11 – less than 50 years away with BAU scenario
    * slide 13 – already happening
    * slide 14 – already unavoidable and likely arriving before 2035, possibly in late 2020s (per James Hansen)
    * slide 15 – possible before 2050 (& likely on current GHG emissions trajectory)
    * slide 17 – what we/humanity need to be doing now, but aren’t – still approving and investing in more fossil fuel projects

  24. Brian: Coal fired standby can have problems with spontaneous combustion of coal stockpiles and in mines. Gas is easier and open cycle gas turbines can be located near gas sources.

  25. John, there are a lot of pages in the documentation, and I’m not sure they are promising to keep coal for any length of time. I may have got that wrong. They they talk of turning coal into renewable energy hubs (from Sophie Vorrath) to make use of the plants’ “large spinning turbines” to provide system strength to the grid.

    Their firming story is from p12 of the Supergrid document.

    I think the key is that the supergrid will be up to 500kV voltage, compared to 275kV.

    Those numbers don’t mean anything much to me, but I gather it makes a massive difference to moving electricity over a distance.

  26. Geoff, yes I meant the whole sequence. There was some new stuff there I’ll have to check out.

    There has just been a Global Tipping Points conference at Exeter, where Tim Lenton hangs out. Here’s Carbon Brief’s report.

    I remember climate scientist Roger Jones who used to comment in the Larvatus Prodeo days saying around 2009, from memory, that Greenland had tipped.

    Here’s a graph from Damien Carrington, sourced from a scientific article:

    That’s from World on brink of five ‘disastrous’ climate tipping points, study finds.

    Collapse of Greenland is now reckoned to be in the span 0.8°C to 3.2°C. David Spratt and Ian Dunlop reckon that for a SAFE climate we should go back to 0.5°C.

    Must say, I agree, whatever it takes.

  27. Brian: I have no feel for how effective using old power stations to provide spinning reserve.
    BZE has argued in the past that long range power lines should be DC, not AC. DC gives lower line losses and removes the risk that the power system will collapse in the event of a “Carrington Event” A Carrington event has the potential to fuse transformers.

  28. John, that was Carrington rather than Cannington. So I’ve adjusted your text accordingly.

    It could be that the Supergrid will be DC. No specific mention is made that I saw. I recall that Andrew Blakers was recommending DC. Blakers was widely consulted in Qld’s first push into renewable energy, dating from 2015.

    Protection from Carrington events would certainly be useful.

  29. John D,

    I have no feel for how effective using old power stations to provide spinning reserve.

    I suspect “spinning reserve” can be achieved with grid forming inverter technology to manage grid & frequency stability.

    Some gigawatt-hour scale battery energy storage system (BESS) projects I see in progress:

    Wallerawang 9 (NSW), by Greenspot, 500 MW / up to 1.0 GWh, NSW DPIE approved 4 Aug 2022, construction commencing Q1 2023?, operational by 2023-24?
    Great Western (NSW), by Neoen, 500 MW / up to 1.0 GWh, Response to Submissions, construction commencing in 2023?, operational by 2024?
    Liddell (NSW), by AGL, 500 MW / up to 2.0 GWh, NSW DPIE approved 8 Mar 2022, construction commencing 2022?, operational Stage 1 by 2023? Stage 2 by 2025?
    Eraring (NSW), by Origin, 700 MW / up to 2.8 GWh, NSW DPIE approved 10 May 2022, construction commencing 2022?, operational Stage 1 by 2023? Stage 2 by 2025?
    Waratah Super (NSW), by EnergyCo, 700 MW / up to 1.4 GWh, Prepare SEARs, construction commencing 2023?, operational Q4 2024?
    Orana (NSW), by Blackrock/Akaysha Energy, 200-400 MW / up to 1.6 GWh, Prepare EIS, construction commencing 2023?, operational 2025?
    Wooreen (VIC), by EnergyAustralia, Planning Application lodged VIC DELWP, construction commencing 2024?, operational 2026?
    Robertstown (SA), by AMP Energy, 250 MW / up to 1.0 GWh, SA Gov approved 4 Jul 2019, construction commenced Q1 2022?, operational 2025?
    Goyder South (SA), by Neoen, 900 MW / up to 1.8 GWh, SA Gov approved 15 Mar 2021, Stage 1 construction 2022?
    Bulli Creek (QLD), by Genex Power, 400 MW / up to 1.6 GWh, QLD Gov approved, construction commencing 2022?, operational 2024-25?
    Collie (WA), by Neoen, 1,000 MW / up to 4.0 GWh, Community consultation, construction commencing 2023-24?

    We’ll probably see more added to the list soon.

    And there are a few proposed pumped hydro projects emerging in Australia – see RenewEconomy’s pumped hydro map.

    And it seems there’s high-density pumped hydro technology emerging from a company named RheEnergise. It uses a fluid they call “R-19” that they claim is “environmentally benign” that has a density 2.5 times that of water. Projects are 10 to 50 MW of power.

  30. My understanding of spinning reserve involved getting a generator up to the speed needed to give the required so that it could start producing power very quickly at the required frequency. (The rpm of the generator determines frequency. Can’t see that you could store any serious energy at the required frequency.

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