2014 SA Climate Change Adaptation Showcase

ccadapt header

Date: February 13th & 14th, 2014
Time: 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Venue: The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide
Cost: $250 for two day registration including dinner. Student discounts apply.
RSVP: – Click here to register your attendance.

You will hear the latest in climate science research and also how practitioners from around South Australia are working at the local level to determine the best response for their region.

The expert panel:

–       Roger B Street from the UK Climate Impacts Programme at Oxford University (UKCIP)
Roger is a leading international adaptation expert and will be hosted (via live-feed) from the UK. He leads the technical and scientific work at UKCIP aimed at guiding risk, vulnerability and adaptation assessments.

–       Dr Karl Braganza, Director of Climate Monitoring Section, Bureau of Meteorology
Karl’s research is centred on understanding climate variability and change using climate modelling, instrumental observations and palaeo-climate evidence.

–       Dr Susannah Eliott, CEO, Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC)
The AusSMC works with the news media to inject more evidence-based science into public discourse.

–       Dr Peter Hayman, Principal Scientist in Climate Applications, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI)
Peter has been recently working on impacts and adaptation to climate change in the irrigated wine grape and low-rainfall grains industries.

–       Professor Will Steffen, Climate Council
Peter’s research interests span fields of climate and Earth System science, with an emphasis on sustainability and climate change.

–       Dr Russell Wise, Sustainability Economist, CSIRO
Russell’s work is focussed on understanding the interplay between institutions, values and knowledge to enable communities in Australia and overseas to adapt to climate change.

Learn from the experts how to translate the science into action!

For more information, view the program.



Water Wednesday Bryson Bates Podcast Available

Dr Bryson Bates

Dr Bryson Bates

It’s National Water Week, and to celebrate we’re releasing the latest Water Wednesday podcast. Dr Bryson Bates was a Theme Leader for CSIRO’s Climate Adaptation Flagship from 2008 to 2013, and is an Adjunct Professor at the Department of Civil, Environmental and mining at the University of Adelaide. 

He spoke at the Water Wednesday about climate change and flood risk.

Dr Bates, was the Director of CSIRO’s Climate Program from 2004 to 2006. He served as a Lead Author for the Second, Third and Fourth Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  and a Convening Lead Author for the IPCC’s Technical Paper on WAter and Climate Change. Bryson has received a certificate of recognition for his contribution to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded jointly to the IPCC and Al Gore. Bryson is the Foundation Editor-in-Chief for the international journal Climate Risk Management and an Editor for the international journal  Climate Research. He is an invited member of several national and international committees. He was also a member of the Expert Advisory Board for the European Union’s WATer and global Change (WATCH) Project. His research interests include: hydroclimatic extremes; non-stationarity in hydroclimatic time series, downscaling numerical climate model simulations, and the effects of climate forcing on rivers.

Click here to download the podcast.


Further evidence on human global warming

Professor Tim Wigley

Professor Tim Wigley

A team of international climate scientists including University of Adelaide’s Professor Tom Wigley has today reported further strong evidence of the human influence on climate change.

Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS), the researchers have detailed a comprehensive study investigating the causes of temperature changes in Earth’s atmosphere.

They have analysed satellite temperature data over 34 years and compared these data with results from more than 20 different climate models, focussing on the vertical structure of atmospheric temperature change (from the troposphere or lower levels of the atmosphere through to the stratosphere or upper reaches of the atmosphere).

The study was led by scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United States and builds on work published in 1996 by the same group. The 1996 Nature paper, ‘A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere’, was the first published work to clearly identify the human fingerprint in observed temperature changes.

“With this paper we have built on our earlier work with another 20 years of data that adds further strong evidence for the human impact on our climate,” says Professor Wigley, ARC Fellow with the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute.

Professor Wigley says the study is more much comprehensive than other published studies and has been able to better define the human ‘signal’ in atmospheric temperature change. There is a clear pattern of warming temperatures in the troposphere and cooling temperatures in the stratosphere, changes that are the characteristic signature of human activity.

“The main thing is that we can identify what is called a human fingerprint, or a distinctive pattern of change in the observational record, and that pattern is derived from climate modelling experiments,” he said.

“We look at patterns of change that can be attributed to other things, such as changing output of the sun for example, and we show that those cannot be identified in the observational record. 

“We can see the human fingerprint, we can’t see the fingerprint of any other cause, and so it’s pretty obvious that the only explanation is there’s been a very distinctive human influence on the patterns of climate change.”

The scientists said more had been done to tackle ozone depletion than the effects of greenhouse gases.

“Greenhouses gases trap the warmth in, they allow radiation from the sun to penetrate to the lower layers of the atmosphere, but they don’t allow as much outgoing radiation and that’s what’s called the greenhouse effect,” Professor Wigley said.

“One of the standard skeptic ‘arguments’ is that all the observed changes are caused by natural variability, and often supposed to be due to solar activity,” says Professor Wigley.

“What we have shown beyond a shadow of doubt is that the climate changes we are observing cannot be due to the Sun or any other natural factors.

“There is simply no other way to explain the changes that have occurred since 1979 (when special research satellites were introduced by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) other than as a result of human influences – primarily greenhouse gases and related pollutants like sulphur dioxide emissions and gases that affect the atmospheric concentrations of ozone.

“Other published work has already shown a convincing and growing pile of pebbles of evidence for the dominant role of humans in climate change. Our paper adds a huge boulder to that pile.”

Find the paper here. 

Read a longer interview with Professor Wigley here. 

Barry Brook wins prestigious Scopus award.

Professor Barry Brook Professor Barry Brook, one of our leaders at the Environment Institute has won the Life Sciences category of the 2013 Scopus Young Researcher Awards.

The Scopus award recognizes researchers under the age of 40 for their output, impact and contribution to their field. Recently, Barry’s work has focused on climate change and biodiversity loss.

Not only has Barry authored over 240 papers, he is in the top 0.1% of cited scientists in environmental and ecology research in the past decade and has attracted more than $18M in funding.

On top of producing all this work, Barry is dedicated to science communication and outreach. His blog Brave New Climate has received over 3.5 million hits since it started in 2008.

“Impact matters, and citations of publications are a vital metric for measuring effectiveness of a scientist. It’s great to be recognised by the Scopus Young Researchers Award 2013 as being someone whose work is being used and built upon by the world’s research community,” says Barry

“For me to be awarded the Life Sciences prize communicates clearly to potential future research stars — from aspiring high-school kids to postgraduate science students — that ecology and conservation biology is an exciting and high-impact discipline where you can make a real difference. It’s a great area in which to work.

“I always try to ensure that my research findings have the highest likelihood of reaching a wide audience. My view is that whether your goal as a scientist is to inform and fascinate the general public, or to change on-ground management practices and influence policy, quality publications and good communication are key.”

Below Barry explains some of his research and its impact with Professor Corey Bradshaw.

World’s rarest cat under threat from a changing climate.

Image – Iberia Nature

A new international study including members of the Environment Institute, Damien Fordham and Barry Brook, has found the world’s most endangered cat species, the Iberian lynx, could be driven to extinction within 50 years due to climate change.  Published today in Nature Climate Change,

“We show that climate change could lead to a rapid and severe decrease in lynx abundance in coming decades, and probably lead to its extinction in the wild within 50 years,” says lead author Dr Damien Fordham. “Current management efforts could be futile if they don’t take into account the combined effects of climate change, land use and prey abundance on population dynamics of the Iberian lynx.

Estimates indicate only 250 individuals survive in two populations on the Iberian Peninsula.  Its decline has been linked to sharp regional reductions in its main prey species, the European Rabbit.

“Models used to investigate how climate change will affect biodiversity have so far been unable to capture the dynamic and complex feedbacks of species interactions,” says Dr Miguel Araújo, senior author and Spanish Research Council (CSIC) Senior Researcher at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. “By developing new forecasting methods, we have managed, for the first time, to simulate demographic responses of lynx to spatial patterns of rabbit abundance conditioned by disease, climate change, and land use modification.”

Since 1994 over €90 million has been spent on saving the Iberian lynx including reintroductions into suitable habitats. Although there is evidence that lynx numbers have increased in the last ten years in response to intensive management, this study warns that the ongoing conservation strategies could buy just a few decades before the species goes extinct. This study is the most comprehensive conservation-management model yet developed of the effects of climate change on a predator and its prey.

CSIC researcher at the Estación Biológica de Doñana in Seville, Dr Alejandro Rodríguez, says: “Habitat in the south-west of the Iberian Peninsula, where the two existing populations of lynx persist, is most likely to be inhospitable to lynx by the middle of this century.”

“That the numbers of Iberian lynx are currently increasing suggests that intensive management of habitat and rabbit populations have worked as effective short-term conservation strategies, but small population size means that the species is still threatened and susceptible to future population declines,” says Professor Barry Brook, Chair of Climate Science at the University of Adelaide. “This means that the species is extremely vulnerable to shifts in habitat quality or to changes in the abundance of their rabbit prey due to climate change.”

The researchers say climate-change-informed decisions should be a common part of conservation practice.

Read the publication here.

The second industrial transformation of Australian landscapes.

Australian Rural Landscape - Flickr/dioshotspot

Australian Rural Landscape – Flickr/dioshotspot

Inarguably colonisation and industry have changed Australia’s environment since the first fleet set foot on NSW in the late 18th Century. This first industrial age was built on natural capital, driven by the need to populate and establish, with unprecedented changes to the natural environment.  In some cases we have exceeded environmental and resource limits, a scenario echoing across the world.

A new paper, co- authored by Wayne Meyer from the Environment Institute suggests we are moving through a second industrial transformation of Australian landscapes. Wayne and his co authors examine six emerging economies driving change in the Australian landscape; water, carbon, food, energy, amenity and mining.

These emerging economies could result in positive or negative transformations of Australia and the paper delves into some of partnerships and decisions we face as a nation to ensure a positive outcome. This includes forming new partnerships between government, science, the private sector and communities, supported by renegotiated institutional settings and governance. Science has a pivotal role in getting the information we need to make these deicisions and supporting effective strategies for positive change.

The paper is wide ranging in its scope, looking at local impacts and communities to generation- and nation-wide changes in how the country manages economies, environments and society. Overarching is the need to adapt to climate change and the global changes it will force in the absence of immediate and deep cuts to carbon emissions. The authors provide  potential pathways to move forward, citing the need for vision and the power it provides towards solving these complex multidisciplinary problems.

The full paper is accessible here.

Brett A Bryan, Wayne S Meyer, C Andrew Campbell, Graham P Harris, Ted Lefroy, Greg Lyle, Paul Martin, Josie McLean, Kelvin Montagu, Lauren A Rickards, David M Summers, Richard Thackway, Sam Wells, Mike Young, “The second industrial transformation of Australian landscapes”, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Available online 24 June 2013, ISSN 1877-3435, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2013.05.011.

Assessing Future Drought and Megadrought Risk – Prof Jonathan Overpeck Seminar Today

Jonathan OverpeckThe Sprigg Geobiology Centre, The Environment Institute and the Centre for Tectonics, Resources and Exploration present Professor Jonathan Overpeck, Departments of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona, USA and visiting VCCCAR Fellow and Visiting Professor, School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, on Friday 14 June 2013.

The presentation is titled ‘Assessing Future Drought and Megadrought Risk’ and examines the increased risk of droughts with climate change and how humans can mitigate the risk.

When: Friday 14 June
Time: 3pm – 4pm
Where: Mawson Lecture Theatre, North Terrace Campus, The University of Adelaide (map)
Cost: Free

All welcome!


Increased drought risk is (and will be) arguably one of the most certain and troubling aspects of anthropogenic climate change for many parts of the world. At the same time, it is emerging in the scientific literature that state-of-the-art climate and Earth system models are not able to simulate the full range of drought, whether decade-scale droughts like seen recently in both the SW US, and Australia, or multidecadal “megadroughts” that eclipse droughts of the instrumental era in both duration and severity. Evidence for this assertion will be examined, particularly as it comes from the paleoclimatic record of several continents, in both semi-arid and wetter regions. The implications for decision-making will also be discussed, including the on-going operational use, in the United States, of no-regrets drought planning strategies that incorporate paleoclimatic data. Fortunately, because droughts will still occur for natural reasons as well as anthropogenic, increased drought preparedness is a clear “no-regrets” climate change adaptation strategy.

Snap the sea, see the future – Witness King Tides 25 May 2013

hp photosmart 720The Witness King Tides project needs you, and as many other coastal communities as possible, to take a photo or two this Saturday 25 May. Your photos of the impacts of high tides will form a comprehensive collection of snapshots of what our coastline could like in the future as a result of sea level rise.

Having this visual collection of images can help us be better prepared for a future where sea levels are higher than they are today. If we can envisage future change, we can plan and prepare for it now.

King tides can demonstrate what our coasts might look like in the future under conditions of sea level rise due to climate change. To avoid confusion, it’s important to know that king tides aren’t part of climate change; they are a natural part of tidal cycles but they do give us a sneak preview of what higher than average sea levels look like.

It is possible that by 2070 we could experience tides of the magnitude of a king tide every month due to sea level rise induced by climate change.

The Witness King Tides project aims to promote awareness around the impact of sea level rise, and help to identify coastal areas that are vulnerable to inundation, which can be monitored over time.

Visit www.witnesskingtides.org to register and head to the coast with your camera on Saturday 25 May. Check the website for regional times.

Witness King Tides is a Green Cross Australia project and is proudly supported by The Environment Institute.

Endangered species: could better tracking methods reduce vulnerability or extinction?

Palau landscape

Palau. Image by LuxTonnerre, licensed under Creative Commons.

Guest blogger botanist Craig Costion has written an article on endangered species on Biodiversity Revolution‘s blog which describes a new approach to developing the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) classification for potentially endangered species for which no demographic information is available.

The term ‘endangered species’ refers to species which fall under the IUCN’s Red List, a complete list of all endangered mammals, birds, amphibians, sharks, reef-building corals, cycads and conifers, but only a small percentage of all species of reptiles, fishes, and selected groups of plants and invertebrates have been classified.

Currently the IUCN classifies a species or habitat as ‘vulnerable’ if it has suffered a 30% decline ‘over 3 generations or within 100 years’. The author believes it is important to classify the remaining species to include ‘information on the history of habitat modification and destruction extending over and beyond 100 years’ to obtain a greater understanding of species vulnerability.

The full findings and methods are available in the post entitled Endangered Species by Craig Costion.

How vulnerable are plant species to climate change?

bottlebrushIn a study conducted using the native shrub Needle Bottlebrush, Environment Institute member Prof Andrew Lowe (and others) explore the vulnerability of plant species in the face of climate change in their paper Combining population genetics, species distribution modelling and field assessments to understand a species vulnerability to climate change.


The aims of this research were ‘to evaluate ‘the risk posed by climate change on C. teretifolius (Needle Bottlebrush), and identify populations for conservation based on high genetic diversity and predicted persistence of habitat’ by using a number of approaches including field assessments, using data from field assessments, population genetics, species distribution modelling and spatial analysis.

The authors find that ‘temperature and rainfall distribution as a result of contemporary climate change are expected to impose serious challenges on many plant species’, but other factors can have effects on plant populations such as species geographic location and human intervention.

The full findings are in the journal Austral Ecology.