Thursday, March 03, 2016

Great Barrier Reef suffers 'tragic' coral bleaching event

This is utter rubbish.  Bleaching events are poorly understood but one thing we know is that they are NOT a response to warmer water.  Corals are at their most prolific in Torres strait, the part of Australia nearest to the equator, and hence the warmest East coast waters.  And in any case even NOAA's "adjusted" figures showed only 13 hundredths of one degree global  temperature rise in 2015

Fears of a mass coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef have prompted federal authorities to issue an urgent warning on the natural wonder, which is *under threat from climate change*.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on Tuesday said patchy bleaching had been detected on multiple reefs in mainly shallow areas, and weather forecasts of upcoming hot conditions posed a dangerous threat over the next few weeks.

In a statement, the authority said the conditions had triggered "level one incident response" involving more in-water field surveys and monitoring by authorities and researchers.

Climate action advocacy group said the bleaching was "tragic" and the Turnbull government should block what would be Australia's largest coal mine, by Indian mining giant Adani, and commit to halting new fossil fuel projects nationally.

The authority said the bleaching had occurred in mainly shallow areas where corals are often exposed to high levels of sunlight.
Chairman Russell Reichelt said February and March were the highest risk periods for mass coral bleaching on the reef because of hot, dry El Nino conditions and high sea surface temperatures, adding "the next few weeks will be critical".

"Bleaching is a clear signal that living corals are under physiological stress. If that stress is bad enough for long enough, the corals can die. Corals generally have a temperature limit, and the bleaching indicates they're outside of their comfort zone," Dr Reichelt said.

"At this stage, there appears to be low rates of coral mortality restricted to a small number of reefs, and most of the corals affected by bleaching are those that are particularly vulnerable to this type of event such as plate and branching corals."

The authority says the most common cause of coral bleaching is sustained heat stress, which is occurring more frequently as the climate changes.

Dr Reichelt said the Bureau of Meteorology and the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had forecast a high probability of heat stress that would cause further bleaching.

While sea surface temperatures were fluctuating across the 345,000 square kilometre marine park, in some areas they had reached 2.5 degrees above the summer average, which was exacerbated by lack of cloud cover, he said.

"What happens now will be entirely dependent on local weather conditions. If we're fortunate enough to receive plenty of cloud cover, which will effectively provide shade, it will go a long way to reducing heat absorption by the ocean and alleviating thermal stress on corals," he said.

Dr Reichelt said the bleaching event was less severe than that which has occurred across the Pacific during the current global bleaching event. The authority says past bleaching events show coral reefs can recover if thermal stress does not last for prolonged periods.

If mass bleaching does occur, the authority would study its extent and impacts, alongside coral reef scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University, the University of Queensland and the CSIRO.

Blair Palese, chief executive of said the "tragic coral bleaching" showed coal and gas were "warming the planet and destroying the places we love most".

The authority says bleaching occurs when stress causes corals to expel tiny marine algae called zooxanthellae, which live inside their tissue and provide corals with much of their food and colour.
Without zooxanthellae, the coral tissue appears transparent, revealing the coral's bright white skeleton.


Senator Joe Bullock quits citing Labor's support for 'homosexual marriage'

West Australian Senator Joe Bullock has announced he is retiring from politics citing an inability to support the Labor Party's position requiring MPs to vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

Calling it "homosexual marriage," the 61-year-old right-wing Senator told Parliament on Tuesday night that he was "morally obliged" to quit, just two years after entering Parliament because he could not agree with the party's decision to impose a binding vote on MPs.

He said his decision to retire began when he was asked how he could support the Labor Party given his view on same sex marriage.

"This question has dogged me for six months," Senator Bullock said. "How can I in good conscience recommend to the people that they vote for a party which is determined to deny its parliamentarians a conscience vote on the homosexual marriage question?" "The simple answer is that I can't."

Senator Bullock said he would not defect to the crossbench because he was elected on the ALP's ticket.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten immediately issued a gracious statement saying that while he often disagreed with the West Australian, he wished him well.

"A man of deeply held faith and convictions, Joe has always held to his views," Mr Shorten said.

"I don't agree with his views on a number of issues – including marriage equality – but I respect his right to hold those opinions."

"I respect the decision he's made to step down tonight, knowing it's come after a long period of consideration."

But one Labor MP who did not want to be named told Fairfax Media there was no love lost for the outspoken conservative Senator.  "Good riddance to the big fat rat," the MP said.

Senator Bullock is the fourth West Australian to announce their retirement ahead of the 2016 election. Gary Gray, Melissa Parke and Alannah MacTiernan have all recently said they will be quitting politics. Mr Gray attended Senator Bullock's speech in the Senate.


Australia's economy is stronger than anyone thought

Inumerable prophecies of doom over fall in Chinese demand for coal and iron get it wrong

Australian economic growth has beaten expectations, rising 0.6% in the final quarter of 2015 in seasonally adjusted chain volume terms.

The figure, well above expectations for an expansion of 0.4%, left the annual rate of growth at 3.0%. This too was significantly above forecasts for an increase of 2.5%.

It was the fastest annual expansion seen since the September quarter of 2012.

According to the ABS, the robust result was driven by strength in household final consumption expenditure along with public gross fixed capital formation.

Over the quarter household consumption expenditure increased by 0.8%, leaving the annual growth rate at 2.9%. It contributed 0.4 percentage points (ppts) to the quarterly GDP figure.

The ABS notes the increase was driven by growth in services industries such as information, media and telecommunications (2.7%), retail trade (1.0%) and arts and recreation services (2.2%).

Government final consumption expenditure also rose by 0.7% for the quarter, leaving annual growth at 3.6%. This contributed 0.1ppts to quarterly GDP.

Public gross fixed capital formation, linked to an increase in military spending, rose by 6.0% over the quarter, adding 0.2ppts to GDP.

Inventories, unexpectedly, contributed 0.2ppts to growth.

Offsetting those positives, private non-dwelling construction, linked to the unwinding mining investment boom, fell by 7.0%, detracting 0.5ppts from growth.

Net exports, as opposed to the previous quarter, made no contribution to GDP.

The table below, supplied by the ABS, reveals the contribution to economic growth by component. The quarterly contribution to economic growth in percentage points is shown in red.

While in volume terms GDP exceeded expectations, that result was somewhat tempered by continued weakness in national incomes.

Real net national disposable income, described by the ABS as “a broader measure of change in national economic well–being”, fell by 0.1% over the quarter in seasonally adjusted terms, leaving the annual decline at 1.1%.

Gareth Aird, an economist at CBA, notes that nominal GDP, the broadest measure of income in the economy, grew by less than real GDP in the December quarter.

“This weakness is weighing on confidence, wages and government revenue,” says Aird. “It makes debt repayment for households and businesses harder, notwithstanding record low interest rates.”

“It reflects a big decline in commodity prices which puts downward pressure on wages, company profits and government revenue growth. And it is why the economy feels weaker that the headline GDP numbers imply.”

While a backward-looking data release, showing where the economy has been rather than where it is heading, in volume terms the report was far stronger than what many had imagined, even with persistent weakness in national incomes.

In what will no doubt please the RBA, household expenditure continued to impress, fitting with recent improvements in the labour market along with substantial gains in residential property prices. At a time when business investment remains weak, this will likely need to strengthen further in order to power economic growth in the quarters ahead.

This is what the RBA expects, heightening the importance of upcoming labour market and housing data, along with the upcoming federal budget, given their implications for household spending.

Despite the backward looking nature of the release, the strength of the data has seen the odds of a near term rate cut from the RBA diminish somewhat, helping to underpin the Australian dollar which has rocketed higher in the minutes following the release.

As at 12.10pm AEDT, the AUD/USD buys .7230, representing an increase of 0.78% for the session.

Australia’s stock market has also welcomed the news with the ASX 200 pushing above the 5,000 point level in recent trade. It currently trades at 5,005 points, representing an increase of 1.68%.


New cycling laws: One of the first bike riders hit with $319 fine for not wearing a helmet

DESPITE the threat of the massive new fines for running red lights, not wearing helmets and riding dangerously, The Daily Telegraph witnessed cyclists continuing to flout the road rules.

Ben Ackerley, who recently moved to Sydney from the United States, became possibly the first rider to be booked under the new fine regime.

The restaurant manager from Darlinghurst was riding on Oxford St just before midday and was not wearing a helmet.
Ben Ackerley was upset over being fined $319 for not wearing a helmet while riding his bike. Picture: Ross Schultz

Ben Ackerley was upset over being fined $319 for not wearing a helmet while riding his bike. Picture: Ross SchultzSource:News Corp Australia

A police Highway Patrol officer on a motorcycle pulled Mr Ackerley over and hit him with the new $319 fine – up from just $71.

“I’d just picked the bike up from the bike shop after getting it fixed,” he said.

“It got wrecked in an accident with a taxi on Market St about three weeks ago. I knew about the no helmet laws but I was just riding about a mile and a half (1.6km) home.

“I’ve just come from living in New York City. The cops there have got better things to do than worry about this sort of stuff.”

Mr Ackerley said he may appeal for leniency.

As part changes to cycling laws beginning Tuesday, fines for five offences have increased by up to 500 per cent.

As well as new fines for no wearing helmets, cyclists risk $425 fines for running a red light; riding dangerously and; not stopping at pedestrian crossings.

Motorists who do not leave a 1m buffer between their vehicle and a bike when travelling up to 60km/h can be hit with a $319 fine and lose two demerit points. Those travelling more than 60km/h must leave a 1.5m space.

During today’s morning peak, The Daily Telegraph saw riders shooting through on the red light at busy intersections along Oxford St, between Taylor Square at Darlinghurst and College St in the CBD.

While the vast majority of cyclists kept to the left lane, some riders weaved among the traffic, coming less than a metre from vehicles moving slowly through the rush hour traffic.

At the intersections with Flinders, Crown and Riley streets, a number of cyclists pushed to the front of the traffic queues stopped at red lights, leading to some distance issues between cars and bikes when the lights turned green.

In Randwick, a number of cyclists were spotted riding in the middle lane of the three city-bound lanes, on Alison Rd.  Several weaved among the traffic even though a shared cycle/pedestrian path runs along the northern side of the road.

On King St at Newtown, a rider, without a helmet, insisted on riding on the footpath.

Along busy Bondi Rd at Bondi, several riders darted between vehicles slowing moving towards the city.

Police could not confirm any other incidents of vehicle drivers being fined for not giving enough space to cyclists.

On Monday, Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander John Hartley said his officers would use their discretion, but would book those who were obviously breaking the new laws.

A spokesman for the police Highway Patrol said it had not scheduled a specific enforcement operation targeting cyclists to coincide with the first morning of the new laws. “Police, including our Motorcycle Response Teams, were undertaking their regular duties this morning,” the spokesman said.

The government’s Transport Management Centre said it had not recorded any incidents involving cyclists during the morning peak.

Bicycle NSW CEO Ray Rice said the majority of cyclists are keen to do the right thing and obey all road rules.

While he strongly supports the new minimum passing distance rule, because it offers extra protection to riders, the cycling community is opposed to the increased fines and mandatory photo ID for bicycle riders.

In the lead up to the law changes, Bicycle NSW handed a petition containing 10,000 signatures to the state government demanding the government immediately rescind the fine increases and photo ID sections of the legislation.

Mr Rice said last month that regulation should be a last resort and described NSW as fast becoming Australia’s nanny state.

The NRMA today said it supports the increase in fines. “We support the argument that cyclists should have to carry ID because what we know is that the overwhelming majority of cyclists do the right thing and this is targeting the ones who don’t,” spokesman Peter Khoury said. “They are putting their lives at risk and we don’t want that.”

City of Sydney Liberal councillor Christine Forster said cyclists are road users so should be expected to obey the rules.


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