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Earth’s Changing Oceans. Physical Oceanographer Nathan Bindoff
Episode 17613th June 2022 • Your Positive Imprint • Catherine Praiswater
00:00:00 00:42:57

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Professor Nathan Bindoff is a world renown physical oceanographer at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. His research takes him on voyages of discovery where he documented the first evidence of changes in the Indian, North Pacific, South Pacific and Southern Oceans, and the earth's hydrological cycle from ocean salinity. He predicted fire catastrophes. His most recent work is studying the decline in oxygen content of the oceans. All of these global climate changes have been attributed to human activity. Nathan Bindoff is one of the lead authors contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that are informing world leaders on climate policy.

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Your positive imprint.

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What's your PI.

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Professor Nathan Bindoff and his background in physical

Catherine:

oceanography is so extensive.

Catherine:

There is no way I can cover his massive research studies,

Catherine:

but we can narrow it down.

Catherine:

Well, Nathan is a professor of physical oceanography at the

Catherine:

university of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic studies.

Catherine:

And my gosh, he was the coordinating lead author on the ocean's chapter in the

Catherine:

fourth intergovernmental panel on climate change in 2007, in which he was awarded

Catherine:

a certificate for his own contribution of Al Gore winning the Nobel peace prize.

Catherine:

That is just so amazing.

Catherine:

And then again, in 2014, he took a lead in the fifth assessment

Catherine:

climate change report.

Catherine:

Well professor Bindoff and his colleagues documented some of the

Catherine:

first evidence of the high melt rates of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Catherine:

His most recent work is on documenting the decline in oxygen content of the

Catherine:

oceans and dynamics of the Southern ocean.

Catherine:

When he's not on a boat doing research, he tries to be on his own boat that he built

Catherine:

from wood, a hobby that he so much enjoys.

Catherine:

And now he is here to talk about all of this and what the

Catherine:

future holds for our planet.

Catherine:

Professor Nathan Bindoff . Thank you so much for coming on the show to

Catherine:

share your amazing positive imprints.

nathanbindoff on:

00:02:50

Thank you, Catherine.

nathanbindoff on:

00:02:51

That's a lovely introduction.

Catherine:

This is so incredible to finally meet you after reading so many

Catherine:

articles and reading your research and hearing about you from other researchers.

Catherine:

There's so much to talk about and I'm going to kind of let you guide as to

Catherine:

what research you want to chat about.

Catherine:

Professor Bindoff explains who he is and how he came to be part of the

Catherine:

intergovernmental panel on climate change.

nathanbindoff on:

00:03:18

Oh, Nathan's a a practical, pragmatic

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00:03:23

sort of guy that likes to, actually I, I often, draw parallels to, uh, parboil

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detective stories where, you know, the, the, the lone detective is out there.

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Well, private eye is out there and he's taking the clues and

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00:03:42

kind of discovering something.

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And, and that's kind of how I feel about science

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actually.

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You know, you, you look at observations, you discover things, you compare them,

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you get evidence and you build a story.

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And it's just like that parboiled detective guy, that those parboil

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detective stories where you figure out what's going on and then you

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write it up and turn it into a paper.

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And the pragmatic part of me is the part that likes to, turn this sort

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of discoveries in science, into things that are important and relevant to

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people who think about the environment.

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So you know, the participation in IPCC, for instance, Was sort of a

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fluke, a wonderful fluke, by the way.

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I was in the corridor one day and one of my ex supervisors came by and he said, oh,

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you should, you should nominate for IPCC.

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And that's all he said.

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And that night I went away, uh, put in a nomination and

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00:04:52

that began my career in IPCC.

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I was invited to be a coordinating lead author in that fourth assessment

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report, which was the one that actually led to a moment in history where

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00:05:04

had been very strong through:

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00:05:12

And then suddenly the stern report came out and that talked about the

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00:05:17

economic consequences of climate change.

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00:05:20

And Al Gore had his movie on the inconvenient truth.

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00:05:25

th assessment came out and in:

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2008, we had a change in our narrative around, uh, the acceptance of

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00:05:39

climate change and the need to act.

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00:05:42

And it was a terrific moment.

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00:05:44

And then it was sort of topped off by IPCC winning with Al

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00:05:50

Gore, the, Nobel peace prize.

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00:05:52

And, and, and I actually liked the fact that it's not, it's not a, a

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prize for scientific excellence.

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It's not a prize for intellectual endeavor.

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Actually, it's a prize for creating an opportunity if you like for peace.

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00:06:11

So you can see, I, I like the observations, I like the detail,

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00:06:15

like a narrative, and then actually, if it does good, if it does good,

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00:06:20

then that makes me very happy.

Catherine:

We talked about some of his quotes and I brought up this one.

Catherine:

"When I commenced my career, the question of whether the ocean state

Catherine:

had changed was completely open.

Catherine:

It was a voyage of discovery."

Catherine:

Well, professor Bindoff has been on this voyage of discovery, bringing back his

Catherine:

research to share with the IPCC., the intergovernmental panel on climate change.

Catherine:

And I asked professor Bindoff about the history of the IPCC

Catherine:

and the state of the ocean.

nathanbindoff on:

00:06:55

So let's, let's talk IPCC for a moment.

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00:06:58

IPCC was a, a vision and that vision was an understanding that the changing

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00:07:07

composition of the atmosphere.

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00:07:09

So this was for measurements of atmospheric CO2.

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The changing composition of the atmosphere was going to influence the planet.

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00:07:18

At that moment there was a decision and it was in the time of, Margaret

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00:07:25

Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

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00:07:27

A decision was made to create a panel.

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00:07:31

And that panel was a joint effort between United nations environment program and

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00:07:38

the world meteorological organization.

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And what happened was that that panel was created very perceptively it excluded

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00:07:48

it's not quite true, but it is basically excluded non-governmental organizations.

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So they made it a report to governments.

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And because it's a United Nations process, that process demands that every country

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has a, what they call a focal point.

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And that focal point in each country is the avenue by

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which the IPCC reports, , and.

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00:08:20

Development and their commissioning is, created within each of

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00:08:24

the countries that participate.

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United Nations is 195 countries and almost all participate in the IPCC process.

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00:08:35

So this process immediately meant that, every report is well understood.

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00:08:43

at some levels of governments.

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00:08:45

That's unusual relative to other kinds of reports.

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00:08:49

There's a similar report around, , chlorofluorocarbons,

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00:08:52

in the upper atmosphere.

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And there's a similar process there.

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00:08:57

So that's basically the process around, but, , the IPCC, it

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00:09:03

was created in:

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00:09:08

And it came from the inspiration of Bert Bolin.

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Bert Bolin was a, Swedish, atmospherics, scientist, famous actually.

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And it was him plus a couple of others.

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And the first report was quite very, very thin.

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Actually, it didn't even say that humans were influencing climate, but

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curiously, that report was enough to create the United Nations Framework

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00:09:37

Convention on Climate Change.

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And that's the body that runs the conference of parties every year, which

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00:09:45

negotiates, , the processes around emissions and hopefully emissions

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00:09:50

reductions, as we go into the future.

Catherine:

You've given a wonderful explanation on the IPCC.

Catherine:

And I appreciate that because I was unaware of some of the history,

Catherine:

and I was definitely unaware in how much of the partaking you have

Catherine:

had in this historical and most important piece that is going to take

Catherine:

us and is taking us into the future

Catherine:

with regard to legislation and changes in lifestyle.

nathanbindoff on:

00:10:17

Yeah.

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00:10:19

So IPCC evolves actually.

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00:10:22

And in the first report, there was no mention of the oceans and in

Catherine:

oh, there was no mention of oceans.

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00:10:28

Correct.

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00:10:29

And then the second assessment, there was, uh, no mention really either.

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00:10:34

And then in the third assessment, they talked about sea-level and

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00:10:39

then in the fourth assessment, they actually introduced an oceans chapter.

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00:10:44

And, and the reason an oceans chapter was introduced was because there

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00:10:50

had been a bit of a revolution going on in the oceanography community.

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00:10:55

It goes to the first question you asked.

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The oceans were considered to be static, unchanging.

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00:11:01

They had so much, , inertia that they were basically unable to change.

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00:11:09

They were kind of a fixed fly wheel.

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00:11:12

If you like, circulating the global ocean.

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00:11:16

And then increasingly oceanographers and atmospheric scientists have

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00:11:21

understood that there was El Nino.

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00:11:23

Then we came to understand actually the deep ocean was changing subtly as well.

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00:11:29

And we found that, that there was on starting to appear on global scales.

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00:11:35

So what really happened was that we understood that the oceans too were

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00:11:42

responding, that they weren't static and that they were changing and that

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knowledge and the amount of literature that was starting to accumulate at

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00:11:54

that time allowed for the introduction of this chapter around oceans.

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00:12:00

It's the building of the momentum around the science.

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00:12:04

It was a increased realization that the oceans were important that

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00:12:09

they were changing and evolving.

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00:12:11

And, at that time, we believe that the ocean, uh, sea level change was through

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00:12:18

primarily through, thermal expansion.

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00:12:20

So that's where you warm up the ocean and it expands.

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00:12:24

And that's the biggest contributor to the rising sea levels.

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00:12:29

That's actually changing again, so that rising sea levels, are now

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00:12:35

dominated by the melt of the ice caps, both Antarctica, Greenland, and, the

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00:12:43

glaciers mountain glaciers as well.

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00:12:46

So the heating of the oceans, isn't the biggest component to

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00:12:51

the rising sea level anymore.

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00:12:53

So that's a new level of knowledge that we've actually got.

nathanbindoff on:

00:12:56

So this is part of this voyage of discovery where we're actually learning

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00:12:59

more progressively more about the earth's system in response to climate change

Catherine:

One of Nathan's earliest discoveries was that of the planet's

Catherine:

melting Antarctic ice shelves.

Catherine:

He and his colleagues made measurements, studied the data and concluded

Catherine:

something absolutely extraordinary.

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00:13:21

With colleagues.

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00:13:22

Um, so I wrote some early papers around, the melt of , the Amery ice shelf.

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00:13:28

In fact, I remember a conversation.

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00:13:30

I said, oh, 50% of this.

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ice shelf is melting, from the ocean, from the underside.

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00:13:36

It's a paper that's buried in the past, the glaciologists

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00:13:40

telling me that was impossible.

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00:13:41

Well, actually what's happened is this has become a prime research, , activity

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00:13:47

here in Hobart and elsewhere in the world.

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It was the capacity for those ice sheets to have a huge, huge impact

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00:13:57

on rising sea level, is enormous.

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00:14:01

I've used a lot of superlatives there, but it's true.

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00:14:04

There were some papers just recently, which some people are backing away from

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00:14:09

a little bit, but they were predicting 16 meters of sea projecting, 16 meters of

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00:14:15

evel from Antarctica alone by:

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00:14:21

So think about 16 meters of sea level.

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00:14:24

That's enormous.

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00:14:25

These estimates, are reducing, , but they're still very large.

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00:14:29

Just recently in the report that we did on oceans and cryosphere and a

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00:14:34

changing climate, the governments' insisted on showing the sea level

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rise projections out to:

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00:14:43

So for a lot of people,:

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00:14:47

but the sea level projections were showing, at the upper range, five

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00:14:51

s of future sea level rise by:

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00:14:56

Now, just to give a context, I think if it's eight meters, we can

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00:15:02

row in our boat to the footstep of, Capitol hill and step out.

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00:15:08

Of course, in the case of the Thames parliament, uh, we

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00:15:13

could step through the windows.

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00:15:16

Uh, uh, you know, uh, most of Florida has disappeared, south Australia.

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00:15:22

I think if it goes to eight meters, we can have a ocean in the middle of Australia.

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00:15:28

So, so, you know, these are very significant, profound,

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possibilities for, , future, sea level in an unmitigated world.

Catherine:

that's key.

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that's the key.

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00:15:43

And so, so it hasn't happened of course.

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00:15:45

Um, it's, it's something that humans could, materially alter

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00:15:51

by making certain decisions.

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So it's sort of a value judgment.

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We can have this hotter, higher sea level world if we choose, or we can actually

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00:16:02

step back, we mitigate emissions and not have that hotter higher sea level world.

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00:16:10

And there are some distinct benefits,, I think that's my value judgment, if we

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were to reduce our emissions to zero.,

Catherine:

oh, I think it is a decision that we do need.

Catherine:

But there are people who won't change until it's legislated

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00:16:26

So some of the language we might use, we

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scientists might use is that we society needs a license to, reduce emissions.

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00:16:36

Society has the license to omit them.

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00:16:39

Yeah.

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00:16:39

Right.

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00:16:41

We now need a license to reduce them to zero.

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00:16:45

And, uh, that is actually something that no individual can accomplish.

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00:16:51

Right.

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00:16:52

So, so therefore means that, no individual country can

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actually accomplish it alone.

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00:17:01

So it does require a genuine collaboration of all the nations to actually agree,

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00:17:07

and then follow a pathway to reduced emissions, , to kind of avoid the

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worst outcomes of climate change.

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00:17:17

Some people may not realize, but we've already committed to

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00:17:20

quite a bit of climate change.

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00:17:22

We've already come one degree of warming since the instrumental

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record began say in the:

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00:17:30

Now one degree of global warming means that actually over Australia,

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it's 1.4 times that, over the, Arctic it's, uh, even more and over

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the tropics, it's actually less.

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00:17:43

It's a global average.

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00:17:45

Some areas will have larger temperature changes than others.

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00:17:50

We've already committed to that.

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We can already see that, the water cycle over the planet has been altered.

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00:17:58

We can already see that Greenland and Antarctica are losing increased mass.

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00:18:03

That's something that's become very obvious in the last 20 years

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00:18:08

on this voyage of discovery.

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These things mean that we've already committed to those changes.

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00:18:15

If we switched off our missions tomorrow, right which is, would

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00:18:20

be an extraordinary thing.

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00:18:21

We would still warm up by another 0.3 to 0.4 degrees.

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if we want to avoid 0.5, we'd have very little time left

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00:18:30

actually, if you think about it.

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00:18:32

Cause if we've committed to a further 0.3 degrees, we've come 0.1.

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We've only got 0.2 of headroom.

Catherine:

yes.

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so say you can see that it's now

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00:18:42

becoming a very urgent problem if you want to minimize the

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00:18:49

consequences of climate change..

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00:18:52

One of the things that became obvious was that the, interaction between the ocean

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00:18:59

and the ice sheet was quite significant.

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00:19:03

And so we actually did a wintertime voyage.

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00:19:06

We went to Antarctica in July.

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00:19:10

So that's our Southern hemisphere winter.

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00:19:13

We were there against the continent in a, , ice breaker and making measurements

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00:19:19

right in front of the, of a, um, it's not, not the biggest glacier.

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00:19:25

Uh, they'd called the Mertz glacier.

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00:19:28

It's actually that place has now broken off, but it was a source of

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00:19:34

very dense what we call Antarctic bottom water, very dense waters, some

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of the densest waters in the world.

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00:19:42

And because they're dense, they'll actually flow down the

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00:19:45

continental slope so they'll start off on the continental shelf

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00:19:49

they'll fly down the continental slope and then they end in the abyss and

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00:19:54

they actually drive a circulation that we call the overturning circulation.

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00:20:02

And this overturning circulation is an important component of the

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00:20:07

global thermohaline circulation or the global thermite.

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00:20:11

Global thermohaline circulation in the world.

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00:20:14

It's a driver of the deep ocean circulation.

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00:20:20

And as a consequence, we were there exactly to study that flow.

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00:20:29

Now I've talked about the deepest ocean that right there in front of the glacier,

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00:20:34

you also see and toughen the case, very fresh waters that reflect the melt of

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00:20:41

the bottom of the, glaciers themselves.

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00:20:44

And so we estimated that melt rate and we came to understand how much was being,

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00:20:50

lost by the ice sheet there in winter.

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00:20:53

What's new and more important to the story of climate change is we've realized

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00:20:59

that these glaciers are thinning..

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00:21:03

And so they're losing, they're not in equilibrium.

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:06

If they're an equilibrium sea level would be unchanged, but

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00:21:10

actually they're thinning.

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:11

And so sea level is actually going up as a consequence and the ice sheet itself

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00:21:17

on average is actually losing mass.

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00:21:20

So it's transferring mass that, in the Antarctic ice sheet itself into the

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00:21:26

oceans and causing sea level to go up.

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:31

And that voyage was the first ever against the Antarctic continent in winter.

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:37

That was:

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:39

That voyage, was actually on the relatively newly commissioned

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:43

Aurora Australis so that was the Australian icebreaker.

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:48

That ship has now come to end of life.

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:51

And it's about to be replaced.

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:53

There'll be a new Australian ice breaker that will replace the Aurora Australis.

nathanbindoff on:

00:21:58

It was both a science ship and also a resupply, ship.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:04

And the moment that we actually got that, icebreaker, the Australian Antarcitc

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:11

research took a quantum step upwards.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:14

That vessel gave Australia new capabilities that it

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:18

didn't have prior to:

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:22

, it's interesting.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:23

I.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:25

I was sort of, um, a little bit hesitant.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:28

I have to say, there you go.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:29

I was a little bit hesitant about going to, , Antarctica working at sea.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:36

I've spent more than two years at sea now, uh, in my career.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:40

Right?

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:41

So I've got over the hesitancy, but, the first trip I was, it was

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:47

actually a particularly rough trip.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:49

I remember kind of feeling only 80,, 90%, 90% of the time.

nathanbindoff on:

00:22:56

Uh, and, uh, that was, that was a tough voyage actually.

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:00

And, and, you know, shaped my life.

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:05

Sea-going life is actually a very pleasant once you get into the rhythm

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:10

of it, it's a very simple life.

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:13

And in the case of, research in Antarctica itself, you

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:17

get the most fantastic views.

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:19

You know, you're privileged in a way you, you see these ice sheets, um, they're,

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:26

they're cliffs right there in front of the ocean and they're brilliantly white.

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:33

And then, , the green of the green to sort of clear blue of the ocean and

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:40

the contrast in color is, , striking.

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:44

And then sometimes you see these ice sheets, they have icebergs and

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:48

they're flat tabular kinds of icebergs.

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:52

Icebergs

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:54

always flattened tabula, typically in the Antarctic, quite unlike the icebergs

nathanbindoff on:

00:23:59

in the, from the Greenland ice sheet.

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:02

And, but often you see surf on the have wave cup platforms on them and

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:06

you can see surf there and people,

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:09

oh, that's cool.

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:10

and some people have actually surfed them.

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:12

So, so there are these very beautiful, there's this, sea

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:17

life, some extraordinary sea life.

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:20

The thing that's grabbed me the most actually, and what allows

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:23

me to keep on going back is the science that's associated with it.

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:30

The science in the end is the driver of this activity and, and

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:36

the, the, joy of seeing it all is kind of a peripheral thing.

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:41

Hate, hate to say it that way, but actually that's what,

nathanbindoff on:

00:24:44

makes it for repeat trips.

Catherine:

well, it certainly shows your dedication to not just the work

Catherine:

that you're enjoying doing, but to the future of decision-making of our planet

Catherine:

and populations that live on our planet.

Catherine:

I think that's a huge responsibility for scientists to undertake when you know,

Catherine:

very well that when you are doing this research and you're coming back with

Catherine:

the statistics and the projections, and if we keep going the way we're going

Catherine:

and things don't get changed, if you lose populations, animal populations,

Catherine:

that's a, that's a heavy emotional burden.

Catherine:

I think

nathanbindoff on:

00:25:23

You're quite right that, but I'm not

nathanbindoff on:

00:25:25

actually frustrated, by the world.

nathanbindoff on:

00:25:29

I feel personally that I've actually done the work, I've made, made with the

nathanbindoff on:

00:25:36

measurements, we've reported the science I've worked with IPCC with literally,

nathanbindoff on:

00:25:42

you know, uh, 200 to 300 scientists with the similar kind of thinking.

nathanbindoff on:

00:25:48

We've put these assessments together with, literally seven to 10,000

nathanbindoff on:

00:25:53

different papers, we've assessed it.

nathanbindoff on:

00:25:56

We've written the reports.

nathanbindoff on:

00:25:58

They're being communicated to government.

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:00

We have actually done our job.

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:03

And, and, and in that sense, , I'm not frustrated because I can see that actually

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:10

to make the decision and for society to agree to act on it is a big thing too.

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:18

And we're in that process.

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:20

So my task is really to continue to do that job, to communicate

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:26

what's going on, how things are changing, why it might be urgent.

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:32

Um, what are the consequences?

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:35

Cause that's, that's the projections part.

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:37

You know, we can look a bit into the future.

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:39

If we continue on this path, this is what it will mean.

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:43

And, and if we continue to do that, then hopefully the rest of society can find

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:51

the solutions that allows to transform to the new world where we don't have

nathanbindoff on:

00:26:59

emissions going into the atmosphere.

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:01

We limit the amount of damage caused by climate change.

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:05

And, we address the other problems that we need to solve.

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:09

And that's a deeply society related question.

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:14

I think scientists have done a terrific job in communicating it.

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:17

It's deeply political to get to perhaps, uh, where we might like

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:22

to be, but we're in this moment where we're trying to get there.

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:27

That's why we have these institutions like IPCC, United Nations, the

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:32

World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Framework

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:36

Convention on Climate Change.

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:38

It's why they have a meeting every year, every year, the ministers and

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:43

bureaucrats of every country actually go and discuss how to make the decisions.

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:49

They may not succeed, but they actually do do it, every year.

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:53

So ya, there's a considerable effort going into the process and hopefully we'll turn

nathanbindoff on:

00:27:58

the corner and, uh, really have action.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:01

We have had action in the past and that's why I'm not, uh, pessimistic.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:05

I think it is a solvable problem.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:08

There was a report just released that describes the fact that, you know, with a

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:13

concerted effort, we could actually limit global warming to one and a half degrees.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:18

We could actually do it.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:21

And there are pathways to get there.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:24

Scientifically, there are pathways to get there and then sociologically

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:28

and decision-making, let's see if we can get to those parts.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:34

So, so you can see I've stepped back from being frustrated

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:38

sure.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:38

Sure.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:39

because I feel like we've,

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:41

I've done as much as we can.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:43

Scientists have done as much as they can.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:45

And,

Catherine:

you've great at what you are doing.

Catherine:

and it's inspiring.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:51

and so, well, thank you.

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:53

And so the other half of it is can we as society, accept that, make the

nathanbindoff on:

00:28:59

value decision and transform itself.

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:03

And the nice thing I think is that, , 20 years ago, renewables may not have

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:08

been so cheap and you can see the huge increase in renewables in the landscape.

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:13

And you can see many of the transformations of the energy business

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:17

that are going on, and you can see the pressure on the coal industry.

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:22

So you can see that there are forces and pressures trying to

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:28

change the pathway that we were on.

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:31

Emissions are still going up.

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:32

We haven't turned the corner, but you can see that there's action.

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:36

Not enough maybe.

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:37

Maybe it's my worldview, but that narrative I gave was

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:42

one, of precisely about hope.

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:44

It was about the hope that we could collaborate globally and actually

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:50

understand the innovations that we can embrace and change the course.

nathanbindoff on:

00:29:57

And it does require the world to do it together.

Catherine:

Bindoff predicted the catastrophic fires that would occur.

Catherine:

Right now my own state of New Mexico is experiencing horrific fires, which are

Catherine:

the absolute worst in recorded history.

Catherine:

Well, professor Bindoff wrote papers years ago on this very subject.

Catherine:

He wrote.

Catherine:

"If the temperature rose and continues to rise

Catherine:

sea levels could rise by three to four meters and Greenland could disappear.

Catherine:

There would be at least a 20% increase in fire danger and catastrophic fire

Catherine:

events would be more likely to occur."

nathanbindoff on:

00:30:35

It's uh, the fire season has been

nathanbindoff on:

00:30:38

an extraordinary wake up call for, Australia and the wildfires in the USA

nathanbindoff on:

00:30:45

, had extraordinary impacts.

nathanbindoff on:

00:30:48

The report that you referred to we wrote, basically pointed to the

nathanbindoff on:

00:30:52

fact that these extreme conditions are going to occur more frequently.

nathanbindoff on:

00:30:56

So we said twice as often, but they actually affect the

nathanbindoff on:

00:30:59

bigger area, uh, as well.

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:02

and then when you put those two together, they turn out to

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:06

be four times more workload.

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:08

It's like a 20% per decade, increase.

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:12

So these are nontrivial changes that are emerging because of that warming.

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:18

And it's primarily because of the warming.

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:20

There are other things that go into fire, but there's, that's primarily because

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:25

of the warming that goes, associated with increasing the fire danger.

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:30

So, so yes, we did talk about that years ago and I'm off to meet the Premier today.

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:35

And I'll probably mention it again.

Catherine:

Well, my goodness.

Catherine:

I would love to have an update on that meeting that professor

Catherine:

Bindoff had with the Premier.

Catherine:

Well today, professor Nathan Bindoff and his team are studying oxygen levels.

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:50

Yeah.

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:50

So, so oxygen, a lot of people, don't understand that the ocean is a very

nathanbindoff on:

00:31:59

small reservoir of oxygen, obviously critical for fish to live off and

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:04

much of life, within the oceans.

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:08

But it turns out that if you make measurements of the oxygen content

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:14

in the oceans, there are some areas where it's actually declining and

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:21

this work that we're doing is actually about documenting those declines.

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:26

And there are some particularly big declines in the equatorial

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:31

zone of the Pacific and also in the Indian and Atlantic oceans.

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:38

And there are declines at high latitudes as well.

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:42

These declines aren't so aren't so big that the fish can't, can't ac tually

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:48

still function but their declines are altering the distribution to some

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:54

extent of fish in the equatorial parts.

nathanbindoff on:

00:32:58

It's just reflecting the fact that we're on this voyage of discovery,

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:03

where the oceans are changing and oxygen is just another one

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:08

of those things that's changed.

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:10

And, you know, it's, it's not talked about a lot about, it's actually a

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:16

thing that's going to have influence, particularly in the equatorial

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:22

zone, future equatorial zone.

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:26

In the past records, the paleo oceanographic records we have, it's often

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:31

talked about, the, chain variations in oxygen in the global oceans.

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:36

So geologists have understood that there are, uh, changes in

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:40

the oceans on long time scale.

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:44

The difference here is that these changes that we're talking about

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:49

are connected to human activity.

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:51

So it's, uh, human induced oxygen decline, in fact, in the United States,

nathanbindoff on:

00:33:58

there have been some famous, uh, kills of crabs washed up on the Oregon coast.

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:05

And these are connected to this, changing oxygen levels, in

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:10

the equatorial ocean actually.

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:13

And at various times, those low oxygen zones catch up with the

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:18

crabs, which are sitting out there on the continental shelf.

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:22

They suddenly don't have enough oxygen.

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:24

So they actually, asphyxiated, I suppose and then washed up, that

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:30

is an example of the growth of this oxygen minimum layer in that zone.

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:35

So it is influencing, uh, Marine life and their distribution.

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:41

It's a sort of a localized catastrophe for those animals.

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:45

Tuna populations have tended to move a little bit in response

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:50

to these oxygen content changes.

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:53

There are other kinds of effects on Marine wildlife.

nathanbindoff on:

00:34:57

It's, it's always complex, but that's actually what's going on.

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:01

And, uh, the project that I was that, that I was referring to there is

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:06

about understanding how that oxygen is actually changing the global oceans.

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:13

And we have relatively few observations for it.

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:16

So it's, it's a, um, it's not as detailed or accurate picture as we

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:21

might have for ocean temperatures

Catherine:

oh, but you'll get that

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:26

with a few more measurements.

Catherine:

right?

Catherine:

Yeah.

Catherine:

And the reason I had mentioned fisheries is because that

Catherine:

will be an economics question.

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:37

Yeah.

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:38

So, so this is, something we've detailed in our most recent IPCC report actually.

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:45

There are three things going on if you like.

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:48

The atmosphere's warming up..

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:51

The surface ocean warms up at a faster rate than the deeper ocean.

nathanbindoff on:

00:35:57

And because the surface ocean is warming up at a faster rate,

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:02

um, warmer water is lighter.

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:05

And so, uh, the surface waters are becoming more buoyant

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:09

relative to the deeper waters.

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:12

And now oxygen mostly gets into the deeper waters because there's a,

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:17

what we call ventilation, literally, you know, uh, the exchange between

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:22

the atmosphere and the deep ocean.

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:24

Um, and that process is inhibited or reduced or slowed by the warming

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:31

up of those surface waters, because it's actually physically harder

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:35

to take the surface water and move it into the deeper ocean.

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:40

And.

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:41

Because it's physically harder there's less oxygen being

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:44

moved into the deeper ocean.

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:46

So when I say deeper below a hundred meters, and as a consequence of

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:52

biological activity in that depth range, the oxygen content is the oxygen is

nathanbindoff on:

00:36:57

consumed and it's, uh, becomes lower.

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:01

So this decline in oxygen is really caused by surface ocean warming and,

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:09

and a reduced rate of exchange between the atmosphere and the, and the deeper

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:14

ocean, below 100, 200, 300 meters.

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:19

Um, and, and that's what we've been documenting.

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:23

And we can attribute it to the human influence because we know that, in

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:28

following the scientific method, if you like, models that do not have

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:33

changing cO2 do not have warming of the surface ocean, um, will still have

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:40

the same equilibrium oxygen inside.

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:43

But when you warm the ocean progressively from rising greenhouse gases, you

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:49

find that the pattern of oxygen change, agrees with what's observed

nathanbindoff on:

00:37:53

and you can formally attribute it to that rise in, , CO2 in the atmosphere.

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:02

So the response looks like climate change, and that's why we say

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:08

it's to do with human activity.

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:10

, so, so Catherine, I can talk quite a lot as you might have, uh, appreciated

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:16

but let me say, it's been a pleasure to chat, about these bigger picture

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:22

issues with a little bit of extra time versus a normal media event.

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:29

It allows, I think a, um, kind of a nice, nice discourse about, the

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:35

problem that is confronting the earth..

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:39

I'm I'm very optimistic that we can actually solve these, this,

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:44

this particular problem, because I can see the innovation that we

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:50

acquire, the technologies we require.

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:53

I can see that there's a potential for the transformation transformations

nathanbindoff on:

00:38:58

that we acquire to occur.

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:00

And so I'm actually hopeful that we can accelerate the progress and actually,

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:07

minimize, minimize the, problem at hand.

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:10

And, and of course I can then just go back to doing ordinary old oceanography.

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:15

Don't have to, uh, work on these socially relevant problems,

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:20

become the academic that I was.

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:24

Um, you know, it's been very interesting and fascinating time

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:28

to be working in the oceans.

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:30

The oceans, unlike meteorology, the oceans, Uh, 20 years behind

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:35

the meteorological community.

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:37

And so I've actually entered this career into this career at a, at a kind of an

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:43

exciting moment where we've kind of become to understand much more about the oceans

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:49

and we've developed, tools and methods to explore and see, how it's changing and

nathanbindoff on:

00:39:57

how it's moving and how it's responding to, climate change, for instance.

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:02

I've been a participant in these things, iPCC, I feel actually that, uh, if

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:08

there are any budding scientists out there, if you do it right, there can be

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:12

a very exciting and exhilarating career..

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:16

Oh, I, I agree.

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:18

Thank you so much, Nathan.

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:21

You are just so good in your field and you are a very well-spoken speaker.

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:27

You're extremely inspiring and your positive imprints are certainly global

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:32

but your, your imprints are such a legacy because this research is for

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:39

yesterday, today and the future, and it's going to be obviously research needed.

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:45

I commend you for taking on the role that you are taking, not just as

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:50

a scientist, but as a spokesperson

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:53

and I appreciate that.

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:55

, I think that I want to end with letters to earth,

nathanbindoff on:

00:40:59

Nathan, I'm going to

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:00

share my screen with you because this letter that you wrote to earth

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:05

is very inspiring and it just shows your optimism and everything that you

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:11

believe in for the future of our earth.

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:13

Um, thank you Catherine.

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:16

From time to time.

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:18

I do think about the future.

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:20

My dream is that the picture we so frequently paint will be different.

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:25

Not the catastrophe that is so frequently forecast, but a world where the pressing

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:31

problems that cutoff circumvented with human ingenuity and self-realization

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:37

and mobilized by collaborative effort, a world where humans decide the future

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:43

to be sustainable and transformed,

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:46

and a transformed one that successfully reconciles climate change, our needs

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:51

for food, energy, and all of life.

nathanbindoff on:

00:41:57

That is what I imagine we can achieve.

Catherine:

Professor Nathan Bindoff.

Catherine:

thank you.

Catherine:

so much for your inspiration and your commitment to your science and research.

Catherine:

Thank you for sharing on your positive imprint.

nathanbindoff on:

00:42:15

thank you Catherine..

Catherine:

To learn more about professor Nathan Bindoff and his research go

Catherine:

to university of Tasmania website, UTAS.edu.au and search button for Nathan

Catherine:

Bindoff, N a T H a N B I N D O F F.

Catherine:

You can read more letters from scientists and oceanographers

Catherine:

from isthishowyoufeel.com?

Catherine:

You can also write your own letter to earth by going to letterstoearth.com.

Catherine:

In two weeks, join members of the Matt Palmer band as they share music and their

Catherine:

climate change research from England.

Catherine:

Your positive imprint.