Prof Tim Flannery, State of the Climate, What next for us? Manly, Oct 30 2019
Prof Flannery's talk on the State of the Climate, What next for us? was the first in our Manly Talks series.
The talk, by Australia's leading climate scientist and former Australian of the Year, was a great way to kick off our new series. It sold out within hours, with about a hundred people joining us in the lobby of the stylish new Royal Far West building,
Next year Good For Manly will continue to bring speakers to Manly, who present new ideas and spark community conversations.
Images: Candy Bingham introducing Prof Flannery in RFW lobby; Prof Flannery & Dep Mayor Bingham in front of RFW picture wall; RFW CEO Lindsay Crane thanks Prof Flannery.
Talk summary - State of the Climate, What next for us?:
As early as 1859, scientist John Tyndall demonstrated that carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere traps heat energy, thereby warming the earth, in a process now known as the “greenhouse effect”. All atmospheric measures since then have shown an increase in CO2 levels and in the last thirty years the human influence on this process has become clearer and more pronounced.
Our oceans, which are 500 times larger than the atmosphere, provide a huge reservoir to soak up CO2. Despite this, levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are rising steeply and are now higher than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years. If we stay on our current trajectory we will be committed to the danger point of 2' C global warming in 15 years from now.
Ecosystems are suffering as land animals lose their habitats, while global fish stocks decline due to warmer oceans with lower oxygen levels. Human populations are being affected as well, including problems with food security due to loss of productive farming areas and increasing water shortages.
While not everyone is on board, the 2016 Paris Agreement has had a positive impact by galvanised economies and businesses at all levels to set science-based emission reduction targets, and to reduce emissions in their own operations and supply chains.
Images: Forest in Gabon; Giant kelp
Proven ways to reduce Atmospheric CO2
Trees grow through their leaves by taking in CO2 and storing it as fibre. Up to 50% of the dry mass of a tree is made up of carbon. However, to reduce atmospheric CO2 on a global scale, a massive tree planting exercise would have to take place. To offset 10% of annual emissions of greenhouse gases, for example, an area covering four southern states of the USA would have to be planted with trees. Not only that, but trees are slow growing and hard to recycle without releasing the carbon. But planting trees on a local scale is still worthwhile, particularly as global tree coverage is falling rapidly.
Agricultural zones tend to be regions with high levels of carbon in the soil. Improved farming techniques could reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.
Our occeans make up 78% of the surface of the planet, and this is already where most atmospheric CO2 capture occurs. Ocean-growing plants, like seaweed and kelp, can potentially capture even more. Kelp can grow at an amazing 60 cm per day; take up C02 via photosynthesis, like a land plant; then die and sink to the bottom of the ocean sequestering the carbon away for centuries. Experiments are underway around large kelp farms for this purpose. Enormous areas are required - of the scale of four times the area of Australia - but that's not impossible.
Images: Solar panels; Nissan Leaf
What we can do as individuals
1. Elect good representatives that support the science of climate change.
2. Purchase carbon neutral products
3. Install solar panels, if you can afford it
4. Make your next car electric, if you can afford it
5. Show leadership on the issue with family, friends and community
Prof Flannery was very positive about the future. He pointed to huge changes in technology that have taken place in the last few decades, saying we should expect similar game-changers in the decades to come. With a global commitment to both decreased carbon emissions and increased carbon sequestration, Prof Flannery said the climate emergency can be solved.
Summary by audience members Roger Dawson and Janne Seletto.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor & Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.