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Climate change showing its hand: IPCC

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EMBARGOED 11am AEDT 31 March 2014

Climate change showing its hand: IPCC
31 March 2014

Global warming and ocean acidification is driving species to the poles, unbalancing ecosystems and increasing risks to people, says an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released today.

IPCC Coordinating Lead Author and University of Queensland Global Change Institute Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said the report presented incontrovertible data recording higher temperatures and sea levels, and more frequent heat waves, droughts and floods.

“Human intervention is most definitely affecting the global climate and posing risks to human and natural systems,” he said.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, a marine biologist, said this was the first IPCC report to include a chapter focused solely on oceans as a region.

“It identifies tourism and maritime shipping as industries likely to feel some of the earliest and most significant climate change impacts,” he said.

“Extreme weather events affect holidays and disrupt global transport schedules.

“Even a one degree Celsius temperature change above today will bring devastatingly expensive impacts for human communities and economies.

“Oceans have absorbed over 90 per cent of the heat arising from human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and have soaked up around 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

“The rate at which energy has been entering the ocean is phenomenal, equivalent to the addition of two atomic bombs every second,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

The report states that the distribution and abundance of many marine species and ecosystems – and consequently the food supply for heavily populated coastal communities – is changing.

“The ability of ocean species to adapt genetically to increasing levels of stress brought on by rising temperatures and increased ocean acidification is not occurring fast enough, given the long generation times of many organisms such as corals and fish,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

Report recommendations include new and urgent research to map ocean acidification patterns.

“Combined with temperature rise, ocean acidification could seriously impact calcifying organisms and coastal aquaculture, causing irreversible damage to oceans and economies,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

Some of the changes in ocean chemistry would take tens of thousands of years to reverse.

“Experimental work in this area is starting to reveal many other aspects of ocean life that are vulnerable to ocean acidification,” he said.

“This experimental work continues against a backdrop of the fastest rate of change in temperature and ocean chemistry in 65 million years.

“We need to act urgently.”


The Global Change Institute

The Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland, Australia, is an independent source of game-changing research, ideas and advice for addressing the challenges of global change. The GCI advances discovery, creates solutions and advocates responses that meet the challenges presented by climate change, technological innovation and population change.

The University of Queensland

The University of Queensland is one of Australia's premier learning and research institutions.Queensland’s oldest university, it has produced more than 200,000 graduates since opening in 1911. Measured through a combination of three key global university rankings — The Times Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong and QS World University — UQ is currently ranked in the top 100 of all universities worldwide. UQ is a founding member of the national Group of Eight (Go8) – a coalition of Australia’s leading universities.

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