Bunbury resident talks about the difference between global warming and climate change

Bunbury's rocky point. Photo from Bernhard Bischoff.
Bunbury's rocky point. Photo from Bernhard Bischoff.

You can't get away from global warming, not even on a Sunday morning at Rocky Point. "How many ships can you see? "asked an elderly man behind me. "Six," I replied. "No, there're eight out there today! My wife and I have coffee here each morning and count the ships...my eye is in!"

Back home I told a friend about my ship spotting. "Do you know how much fossil fuel they burn? They're a big contributor to global warming and climate change!" she said with a frown. "We should really go onto the grid -wind and solar power. Send produce by electric trucks across the country and manufacture locally!"

I later looked up the facts on the NASAs website. Global warming is the long-term heating of the Earth's climate system observed since the pre industrial period (1850-1900) due to human activity, primarily fossil fuel burning which increases heat - trapping greenhouse gas levels in the Earth's atmosphere. Since the pre-industrial period, human activity is estimated to have increased the Earth's global average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius, a number that is increasing by 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade.

Climate change, on the other hand, is the long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth's local, regional and global climates. Since the 20th century, change of the Earth's climate has primarily been driven by human activities, especially fossil fuel burning.

I thought about the rising sea levels. Friends no longer want to invest in properties directly on the coastline. North of Sydney, houses have fallen into the sea and there have been insurance issues.

Apparently, most houses in Australia are withing 50 km of the sea. But why is the sea level rising? Back to NASA: the global mean sea level (GMSL) is driven by ice melt. Due to warming atmosphere and ocean, ice sheets and mountain glaciers are melting, resulting in the addition of freshwater into the ocean. And thermal expansion causes ocean water to expand as it absorbs heat, causing sea levels to rise. In addition, land water storage such as water that is removed from the land (graduated pumping) and water that is impounded on land (dam building) can cause a net change in the total water found in the ocean.

The rate of GMSL rise from 1993 to present has been measured at 3.3 millimetres per year. It seems we should all prepare for future flooding and mitigate coastal ecosystem damage.

Now that I have the facts, where do I start to do something practical to prevent global warming? Nannas for Native forests are taking action locally as deforestation is proven to speed global warming.

But today I'm back at Rocky Point and resting. With fresh sea breeze, my biodegradable coffee cup and ecofriendly sustainably grown coffee at hand, I'm looking at where they want to make our new rock pool. I have counted five ships at sea and suddenly realise that they may be floating directly next to our lighthouse in a few years' time. It's an inconvenient thought right now- I'll think about it tomorrow!