WHY

WE WOKE UP IN BRUNSWICK TO THE FUTURE. THE POLAR ICE-CAPS HAVE MELTED. SEA LEVELS HAVE RISEN 43 METRES, FORMING THE FAMOUS BRUNSWICK BEACH IN THE CITY OF MORELAND.

IF THINGS KEEP GOING THE WAY THEY ARE, THIS COULD HIT US ANY TIME BETWEEN THE YEARS 6,876 AND 49, 767*. THE FUTURE IS UNCERTAIN, BUT ONE THING’S FOR SURE: BY THIS STAGE, BRUNSWICK WILL NO LONGER EXIST. THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IMAGINE.

SO, ARTISTS SONJA HORNUNG AND RICHARD PETTIFER BUILT THE BRUNSWICK BEACH NOW, TO PREPARE THE PEOPLE OF MORELAND FOR THE RISING SEA LEVELS.

WE INVITED PEOPLE FROM BRUNSWICK AND BEYOND TO COME AND JOIN US ON OUR SUNNY SHORE AND CONSIDER THE POLARISING ANXIETIES OF OUR FUTURE.

* Figures are based on our extrapolation of the rate of sea level rise from Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, Earth Institute, Columbia University, 2000.

FACTS

The planet earth is wrapped in a layer of “greenhouse” gases that allow the earth to sustain life by trapping the sun’s heat.

These gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane,  nitrous oxide and ozone.

As we burn fossil fuels, we directly increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Livestock have increased the amount of methane in the atmosphere by 37%.  Nitrous oxide has increased due to our use of nitrogen fertilisers and the production of nylon. And both nitrous oxide and ozone are byproducts of the chemical reaction that occurs when the sun hits polluted air.

In 1850, around the start of the Industrial Revolution,  carbon dioxide concentration levels were at 280ppm (parts per million)

In 2006, carbon dioxide levels were at 381ppm. This is an increase of 30%.

In this time period, global surface temperatures rose from an average of 13.5 to 14.5 degrees Celcius (IPCC, 2007).

Sea levels have risen around 195mm (IPCC, 2007).

Around 45% of human (anthropogenic) carbon dioxide emissions stay in the atmosphere. This is known as the “airborne fraction” and stays in the air for decades, centuries even. The remaining 55% is absorbed by natural “sinks” (oceans, trees).

Approximately 40,000 Gt (gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide are stored in the ocean. Rocks contain around 80,000 Gt; fossil fuel deposits around 4,000. In comparison, the atmosphere contains around 775 Gt. Permafrost contains double this (1,400 Gt).

 Permafrost is soil in the Arctic that sits at or below the freezing-point of water. Permafrost covers 24% of exposed land in the Northern Hemisphere, and on average it’s around .6-.4m deep and stores carbon in the form of peat and methane.

Methane emissions from the Arctic increased by 31% between 2003-7, enough to lift the global average increase by 7%. [click for source]

The growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide depends on global economic activity (65%), the carbon intensity of the economy (17% — in 2006, we used 0.245kg of carbon per dollar), and the functionality of carbon (7%). [click for source]

It is difficult to predict how natural sinks (particularly ocean systems) will be affected by the current trend of global warming. There are signs that large regional sinks are weakening as global weather patterns shift increasingly more often from El Nino to La Nina, and glaciers begin to melt. Nobody knows, on the flipside, what sort of effect mass reforestation would have in improving terrestrial sinks.

So far as we can tell, for these and other (ideological?) reasons, many scientists disagree on the scale and magnitude of the impact of global warming. But 96% percent of scientists agree with the proposition that temperatures are rising due to anthropogenic global warming.

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