"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for June, 2017|Monthly archive page

New Studies Confirm Rapid Accelerations In Global Sea Level Rise & Ocean Heating

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2017 at 5:36 pm
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An Argo float is deployed into the ocean Photograph: CSIRO

Oldspeak: “A big question in climate science has been whether the rise in global sea level rise is accelerating. Now there is strong evidence that this is indeed the case,” – Brian Hoskins, Imperial College, London.

“Our study confirms again a robust global ocean warming since 1970.” –Dr. Gonjgie Wang

“Cue the blaring alarm bells. We’re sooooooo fucked. ” –OSJ

Written By Alister Doyle @ Reuters:

OSLO The rise in global sea levels has accelerated since the 1990s amid rising temperatures, with a thaw of Greenland’s ice sheet pouring ever more water into the oceans, scientists said on Monday.

The annual rate of sea level rise increased to 3.3 millimeters (0.13 inch) in 2014 – a rate of 33 centimeters (13 inches) if kept unchanged for a century – from 2.2 mm in 1993, according to a team of scientists in China, Australia and the United States.

Sea levels have risen by about 20 cms in the past century and many scientific studies project a steady acceleration this century as man-made global warming melts more ice on land.

Until now, however, scientists have found it hard to detect whether the rate has picked up, is flat or has fallen since 1990. The study found that early satellite data had exaggerated the rate of sea level rise in the 1990s, masking the recent acceleration.

The confirmation of a quickening rise “highlights the importance and urgency” of working out ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to protect low-lying coasts, the scientists wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change.

A thaw of Greenland’s ice sheet accounted for more than 25 percent of the sea level rise in 2014 against just 5 percent in 1993, according to the study led by Xianyao Chen of the Ocean University of China and Qingdao National Laboratory of Marine Science and Technology.

Other big sources include loss of glaciers from the Himalayas to the Andes, Antarctica’s ice sheet and a natural expansion of ocean water as it warms up from its most dense at 4 degrees Celsius (39.2°F).

A U.N. panel of climate scientists said in 2014 that sea levels could rise by up to about a meter by 2100.

Several climate experts who were not involved in the study welcomed the findings.

“This is a major warning to us about the dangers of a sea level rise that will continue for many centuries even after global warming is stopped,” Peter Wadhams, of the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.

“A big question in climate science has been whether the rise in global sea level rise is accelerating. Now there is strong evidence that this is indeed the case,” said Brian Hoskins of Imperial College, London.

A rise in sea levels will threaten low-lying coasts from Miami to Bangladesh, cities from Shanghai to San Francisco and small island states such as Tuvalu in the Pacific.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Gareth Jones)


 

Written By John Abraham @ The Guardian UK:

As humans put ever more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, the Earth heats up. These are the basics of global warming. But where does the heat go? How much extra heat is there? And how accurate are our measurements? These are questions that climate scientists ask. If we can answer these questions, it will better help us prepare for a future with a very different climate. It will also better help us predict what that future climate will be.

The most important measurement of global warming is in the oceans. In fact, “global warming” is really “ocean warming.” If you are going to measure the changing climate of the oceans, you need to have many sensors spread out across the globe that take measurements from the ocean surface to the very depths of the waters. Importantly, you need to have measurements that span decades so a long-term trend can be established.

These difficulties are tackled by oceanographers, and a significant advancement was presented in a paper just published in the journal Climate Dynamics. That paper, which I was fortunate to be involved with, looked at three different ocean temperature measurements made by three different groups. We found that regardless of whose data was used or where the data was gathered, the oceans are warming.

In the paper, we describe perhaps the three most important factors that affect ocean-temperature accuracy. First, sensors can have biases (they can be “hot” or “cold”), and these biases can change over time. An example of biases was identified in the 1940s. Then, many ocean temperature measurements were made using buckets that gathered water from ships. Sensors put into the buckets would give the water temperature. Then, a new temperature sensing approach started to come online where temperatures were measured using ship hull-based sensors at engine intake ports. It turns out that bucket measurements are slightly cooler than measurements made using hull sensors, which are closer to the engine of the ship.

During World War II, the British Navy cut back on its measurements (using buckets) and the US Navy expanded its measurements (using hull sensors); consequently, a sharp warming in oceans was seen in the data. But this warming was an artifact of the change from buckets to hull sensors. After the war, when the British fleet re-expanded its bucket measurements, the ocean temperatures seemed to fall a bit. Again, this was an artifact from the data collection. Other such biases and artifacts arose throughout the years as oceanographers have updated measurement equipment. If you want the true rate of ocean temperature change, you have to remove these biases.

Another source of uncertainty is related to the fact that we just don’t have sensors at all ocean locations and at all times. Some sensors, which are dropped from cargo ships, are densely located along major shipping routes. Other sensors, dropped from research vessels, are also confined to specific locations across the globe.

Currently, we are heavily using the ARGO fleet, which contains approximately 3800 autonomous devices spread out more or less uniformly across the ocean, but these only entered service in 2005. Prior to that, temperatures measurements were not uniform in the oceans. As a consequence, scientists have to use what is called a “mapping” procedure to interpolate temperatures between temperature measurements. Sort of like filling in the gaps where no data exist. The mapping strategy used by scientists can affect the ocean temperature measurements.

Finally, temperatures are usually referenced to a baseline “climatology.” So, when we say temperatures have increased by 1 degree, it is important to say what the baseline climatology is. Have temperatures increased by 1 degree since the year 1990? Since the year 1970? Since 1900? The choice of baseline climatology really matters.

In the study, we looked at the different ways that three groups make decisions about mapping, bias, and climatology. We not only asked how much the oceans are warming, but how the warming differs for various areas (ocean basins) and various depths. We found that each ocean basin has warmed significantly. Despite this fact, there are some differences amongst the three groups. For instance, in the 300-700 meter oceans depths in the Pacific and Southern oceans, significant differences are exhibited amongst the tree groups. That said, the central fact is that regardless of how you measure, who does the measurements, when or where the measurements are taken, we are warming.

The lead author, Dr. Gonjgie Wang described the importance of the study this way:

Our study confirms again a robust global ocean warming since 1970. However, there is substantial uncertainty in decadal scale ocean heat redistribution, which explains the contradictory results related to the ocean heat changes during the “slowdown” of global warming in recent decade. Therefore, we recommend a comprehensive evaluation in the future for the existing ocean subsurface temperature datasets. Further, an improved ocean observation network is required to monitor the ocean change: extending the observations in the boundary currents systems and deep oceans (below 2000-m) besides maintaining the Argo network.

In plain English, it will be important that we keep high-quality temperature sensors positioned throughout the oceans so in the future we will be able to predict where our climate is headed. We say in science that a measurement not made is a measurement lost forever. And there are no more important measurements than of heating of the oceans.

Study: “Human society has yet to appreciate the implications of unprecedented species redistribution for life on Earth, including for human lives.” Climate Destabilization Causing 1,000’s Of New Global Species Migrations

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2017 at 5:10 pm

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Oldspeak: Yep, Humans have yet to appreciate the grave implications of global species migrations, I anticipate this will continue to be the case, until it is no longer possible to ignore them. As time passes and conditions deteriorate, more and more plants, animals, insects, birds and yes, humans, will likely continue to be displaced as vast regions of Earth on land and sea become increasingly inhospitable to life. In fact one scientist observed that “The colliding forces of human fertility, submerging coastal zones, residential retreat, and impediments to inland resettlement are a huge problem… preliminary estimates of the lands unlikely to support new waves of climate refugees due to the residues of war, exhausted natural resources, declining net primary productivity, desertification, urban sprawl, land concentration, ‘paving the planet’ with roads, and greenhouse gas storage zones offsetting permafrost melt.”  Expect the constelation of negative implications to grow more grave.” –OSJ

Written By Dan Zukowski @ EnviroNews:

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — A spate of new research studies has confirmed a disturbing pattern: climate disruption is confusing migratory birds, causing trees to relocate and allowing tropical diseases to spread northward. “Human society has yet to appreciate the implications of unprecedented species redistribution for life on Earth, including for human lives,” states a study, “Divergence of Species Responses to Climate Change,” published May 17, 2017, in Science Advances.

Imagine if you had to travel thousands of miles and arrive at a specific time each year, but you had no way of knowing the precise time you needed to get there. That’s what it’s like for many songbirds that migrate from Central and South America each spring to breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada. If they were to arrive too early, they wouldn’t find food and could freeze to death. If they arrive late, the best nesting sites may be taken and there will be fewer opportunities to find a mate.

For countless generations, these birds have been able to rely on seasonal signals such as the length of daylight. That hasn’t changed of course, but now, due to a rapidly changing climate, the conditions at their summer homes may not be what they’ve come to expect, according to another study published May 15 in Scientific Reports.

“We’re seeing spring-like conditions well before birds arrive,” said lead author Stephen Mayor, a postdoctoral researcher with the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, in a press release. “The growing mismatch means fewer birds are likely to survive, reproduce and return the following year.”

This groundbreaking study combined 12 years of NASA satellite imagery tracking the arrival of spring greenery, with citizen-collected science data extracted from eBird, which records more than 60 million observations a year. An online tool used by amateur and professional bird watchers, eBird is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

“It’s powerful. Whether they know it or not, birders are helping scientists do their work, and they could end up helping birds in the process,” stated study co-author Rob Guralnick, Associate Curator of Bioinformatics at the Florida Museum.

The researchers looked at 48 species of songbirds and found that the average gap between the onset of spring and the arrival of these birds has lengthened by half a day per year, or five days per decade. Nine of these species fell further behind, losing a full day or more per year. Those struggling most were great crested flycatchers (Myiarchus crinitus), indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea), scarlet tanagers (Piranga olivacea), rose-breasted grosbeaks (Pheucticus ludovicianus), eastern wood pewees (Contopus virens), yellow-billed cuckoos (Coccyzus americanus), northern parulas (Setophaga americana), blue-winged warblers (Vermivora cyanoptera) and Townsend’s warblers (Setophaga townsendi).

“If anything could adapt to climate change, you’d think that birds that migrate thousands of miles could,” Mayor said. And that may happen, but it will take many generations, as evolution selects for earlier-arriving birds. Adding to the complexity, these scientists also found that greening is beginning earlier in eastern forests and later in western forests in the U.S.

All this is happening while forest trees themselves are moving in response to a disrupted climate. Yet another corroborating study, led by Purdue University and published May 17, 2017, in Science Advances, looked at 86 species of trees in the U.S. over three decades. Researchers found that 73 percent shifted westward and 62 percent shifted northward, including some species that moved simultaneously in both directions. Of course, the trees themselves don’t move, but over time, the highest concentration for each species has been notably shifting.

The movement has thus far been greater in the westerly direction, equaling 50 feet per decade. Northward movement was measured at 36 feet per decade. The shifts are attributed to changes in precipitation and temperature — both outcomes of climate destabilization.

Another study on vegetation migration was carried out by scientists at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UT), published May 8, 2017, in Science Daily. That research, like Purdue’s analysis, found trees in the Rocky Mountains moving northward. “One general expectation is that tree ranges will gradually move toward higher elevations as mountain habitats get hotter,” said Michael Van Nuland, the project’s lead researcher and a doctoral student in UT’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “It is easy to see the evidence with photographs that compare current and historical tree lines on mountainsides around the world. Most document that tree lines have ascended in the past century.”

In Europe, 34 percent of timber forests will be suitable only for Mediterranean vegetation by 2100, according to the Purdue University study. Looking at the redistribution of species under climate disruption, the authors found many other changes coming. “For marine, freshwater, and terrestrial species alike, the first response to changing climate is often a shift in location, to stay within preferred environmental conditions,” they wrote.

Of more than 4,000 species studied around the world, half are relocating, says National Geographic. In the Arctic, brown bears (Ursus arctos) are expanding their range northward, in some cases competing with and even mating with polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Beavers (Castor canadensis) have been found as far north as the coast of the Beaufort Sea. The list includes mammals, amphibians, fish and insects.

“Movement of mosquitoes in response to global warming is a threat to health in many countries through predicted increases in the number of known and potentially new diseases,” states an additional report titled “Biodiversity Redistribution Under Climate Change: Impacts on Ecosystems and Human Well-Being,” from an international team of 41 scientists, published March 31, 2017, in Science. The World Health Organization (WHO) counted 212 million new cases of malaria in 2015, primarily in Africa, Southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. But climate change will allow the disease to spread to new areas, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Center for Science Education.

That will be a problem for health officials. “Climate-related transmission of malaria can result in epidemics due to lack of immunity among local residents and will challenge health systems at national and international scales, diverting public and private-sector resources from other uses,” state the authors of the UCAR report.

Other insect-borne diseases are on the rise due to climate change as well. Of the approximately 3,500 species of mosquito around the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only a hand-full carry and transmit the dreaded West Nile virus, dengue fever and the lesser-known Chikungunya. West Nile claimed 146 lives in the U.S. in 2015 while an island-wide epidemic in Puerto Rico in 2007 tallied 10,000 cases. Black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), which carry Lyme disease as well as other deadly pathogens, have spread to 41 states as the blood-sucking bugs enjoy warmer, shorter winters.

“The natural world is very complex,” said the University of Florida’s Stephen Mayor. “When you kick it with a big change by altering the climate, different parts of that natural world respond in different ways. We’re just beginning to understand the consequences of this grand unnatural experiment.”

Atop Maine’s Bradbury Mountain, for the past 11 years, a lone volunteer spends his or her days from March 15 to May 15, scanning the skies for birds. It is often cold and windy into late April, sometimes requiring snowshoes to ascend the summit. From the rounded granite top of the mountain, the view extends outward to the ocean. It’s the site of the northernmost hawk watch in the Eastern Flyway – one of the major north-south routes for migratory birds in North America. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and broad-winged hawks (Buteo platypterus) can be seen and counted, soaring above the tall white pines and iconic sugar maple trees.

“It has not escaped our attention that they are recording increasing numbers of raptors while the more southern hawk watches are showing an opposite trend,” stated the 2016 spring Eastern Flyway Report, published by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). “This coupled with the dramatic decrease in more northern migrants such as the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), which are at 32 percent of historical values for the Eastern Flyway this year, leads us to consider if climate change is a potential factor.”

On a positive note, citizen science is increasingly coupling with academics, scientists and government researchers from around the world to document the disruption to wildlife wrought by human-caused destabilization of the climate. These volunteers help to create a more scientifically complete picture of what is happening in the natural world. “It’s like ‘Silent Spring,’ but with a more elusive culprit,” added Mayor. “These are birds people are used to seeing and hearing in their backyards. They’re part of the American landscape, part of our psyche. To imagine a future where they’re much less common would be a real loss.”

 

 

Three Years To Safeguard Our Climate?

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm

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Oldspeak: “The good news is that it is still possible to meet the Paris temperature goals if emissions begin to fall by 2020” –Christiana Figueres et Al.

Sigh… Such unfounded fantasy is disheartening to me. How long are we gonna extend and pretend that humans can still “safeguard our climate”? Consider this optimistic hopium fueled poppycock in the context of these brutal truths: Last month, it was reported that NONE of the countries who signed the paris climate agreement are taking the actions necessary to meet the commitments they made. A year ago, it was reported that “average global temperatures were already more than 1C above pre-industrial levels for every month except one over the past year and peaked at +1.38C in February and March.” Less than 3 years ago it was reported that “The climate justice movement has an expiration date. If the tipping points in the earth system are passed, and the feedback loops begin their vicious cycle, human attempts at mitigation will be futile, and climate justice will become an anachronism – or at worst a slogan for geo-engineering lobbies. Thousands of scientists have come to consensus on this point, and many years ago gave us a deadline: A carbon emissions peak in 2015 followed by rapid and permanent decline.” In this unfortunate context,  I am really puzzled as to why papers like the one below continue to be published.  There is no rapid and permanent decline of human generated carbon emissions at this time, two years past when they were supposed to peak.  Multiple tipping points in the earth system have been passsed. The alleged “carbon budget” is dubious at best, based on calculations that factor in technology that does not exist. Plantations of trees in degraded and desertified land would need to be so large they would eliminate most natural ecosystems or reduce food production if implemented.  There is no way to stop naturally generated emissions that will likely accelerate in a non-linear fashion as global temperatures rise. “Action” at this point is futile. Why are people continuing to pretend like humans can safeguard the environment with the very same technology and way of being that has precipitated it’s destruction? Why are people still pretending like we still have the natural, financial and political resources necessary to make this grand global transition to a “green energy” fueled future. We don’t have any of that. We can’t consume our way to a “fix”. We need to stop pretending. It’s obvious that fake news doesn’t only come from right-wing nuts. -OSJ

Written By Christiana Figueres et Al @ Nature:

Decarbonizing the world economy will require renewable energy generation from vast solar farms, such as this one in Nevada.

In the past three years, global emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have levelled after rising for decades. This is a sign that policies and investments in climate mitigation are starting to pay off. The United States, China and other nations are replacing coal with natural gas and boosting renewable energy sources. There is almost unanimous international agreement that the risks of abandoning the planet to climate change are too great to ignore.

The technology-driven transition to low-carbon energy is well under way, a trend that made the 2015 Paris climate agreement possible. But there is still a long way to go to decarbonize the world economy. The political winds are blustery. President Donald Trump has announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris agreement when it is legally able to do so, in November 2020.

The year 2020 is crucially important for another reason, one that has more to do with physics than politics. When it comes to climate, timing is everything. According to an April report1 (prepared by Carbon Tracker in London, the Climate Action Tracker consortium, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut), should emissions continue to rise beyond 2020, or even remain level, the temperature goals set in Paris become almost unattainable. The UN Sustainable Development Goals that were agreed in 2015 would also be at grave risk.

That’s why we launched Mission 2020 — a collaborative campaign to raise ambition and action across key sectors to bend the greenhouse-gas emissions curve downwards by 2020 (www.mission2020.global).

As 20 leaders of the world’s largest economies gather on 7–8 July at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, we call on them to highlight the importance of the 2020 climate turning point for greenhouse-gas emissions, and to demonstrate what they and others are doing to meet this challenge. Lowering emissions globally is a monumental task, but research tells us that it is necessary, desirable and achievable.

After roughly 1°C of global warming driven by human activity, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are already losing mass at an increasing rate. Summer sea ice is disappearing in the Arctic and coral reefs are dying from heat stress — entire ecosystems are starting to collapse. The social impacts of climate change from intensified heatwaves, droughts and sea-level rise are inexorable and affect the poorest and weakest first.

The magnitude of the challenge can be grasped by computing a budget for CO2 emissions — the maximum amount of the gas that can be released before the temperature limit is breached. After subtracting past emissions, humanity is left with a ‘carbon credit’ of between 150 and 1,050 gigatonnes (Gt; one Gt is 1 × 109 tonnes) of CO2 to meet the Paris target of 1.5 °C or well below 2 °C (see go.nature.com/2rytztf). The wide range reflects different ways of calculating the budgets using the most recent figures.

At the current emission rate of 41 Gt of CO2 per year, the lower limit of this range would be crossed in 4 years, and the midpoint of 600 Gt of CO2 would be passed in 15 years. If the current rate of annual emissions stays at this level, we would have to drop them almost immediately to zero once we exhaust the budget. Such a ‘jump to distress’ is in no one’s interest. A more gradual descent would allow the global economy time to adapt smoothly.

Harness momentum

The good news is that it is still possible to meet the Paris temperature goals if emissions begin to fall by 2020 (see ‘Carbon crunch’).

Greenhouse-gas emissions are already decoupling from production and consumption. For the past three years, worldwide CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have stayed flat, while the global economy and the gross domestic product (GDP) of major developed and developing nations have grown by at least 3.1% per year (see go.nature.com/2rthjje). This is only the fourth occasion in the past 40 years on which emission levels have stagnated or fallen. The previous three instances — in the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 — were associated with global economic predicaments, but the current one is not2.

Emissions from the United States fell the most: by 3% last year, while its GDP grew by 1.6%. In China, CO2 emissions fell by 1% in 2016, and its economy expanded by 6.7% (ref. 2). Although it is too early to tell whether this plateau will presage a fall, the signs are encouraging.

In 2016, two-thirds of China’s 5.4% extra demand for electricity was supplied by carbon-free energy resources, mostly hydropower and wind2. In the European Union, wind and solar made up more than three-quarters of new energy capacity installed; coal demand was reduced by 10% (ref. 3). In the United States, almost two-thirds of the electricity-generating capacity installed by utility companies was based on renewables (see go.nature.com/2skv20g).

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted that, by 2020, renewable sources could deliver 26–27% of the world’s electricity needs, compared with 23.7% of electric power at the end of 2015. But that underestimates the pace of change in energy systems.

Growth in electric vehicles alone could displace 2 million barrels of oil per day by 2025, according to a February report4. It suggests that, by 2050, this could reach 25 million barrels of oil per day — a stark contrast to expectations from the fossil-fuel industry that demand for oil will rise. And solar power alone could supply 29% of global electricity generation by 2050. This would remove the need for coal and leave natural gas with only a 1% market share. However, the oil firm ExxonMobil predicts that all renewables will supply just 11% of global power generation by 2040 (ref. 4).

Investors, meanwhile, are growing wary of carbon risks. BlackRock and Vanguard, the two largest fund managers, voted — along with many others — against ExxonMobil management at its annual general meeting on 31 May and instructed the company to report on the profit impact of global measures to keep climate change below 2 °C. Earlier this month, Norway’s US$960-billion sovereign-wealth fund declared that it will ask the banks in which it has invested to disclose how their lending contributes to global greenhouse-gas emissions.

Last year, the installed capacity of renewable energy set a new record of 161 gigawatts; in 2015, investment levels reached $286 billion worldwide, more than 6 times that in 2004. Over half of that investment, $156 billion, was for projects in developing and emerging economies5.

There is a strong headwind against the low-carbon transition in some places, which may impede progress. For example, the Financial CHOICE Act — a bill passed by the US House of Representatives on 8 June — would make it nearly impossible for investors to challenge companies on climate-risk disclosure through shareholder proposal processes, as at ExxonMobil. However, as the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, said in New York last month: “The sustainability train has left the station.” The fossil-free economy is already profitable6 and creating jobs (www.clean200.org). A report this year by the International Renewable Energy Agency and the IEA shows that efforts to stop climate change could boost the global economy by $19 trillion7. The IEA has also said that implementing the Paris agreement will unlock $13.5 trillion or more before 2050.

Recent geopolitical events, too, have galvanized activity in support of the Paris agreement. For example, the #WeAreStillIn campaign — involving more than 1,000 governors, mayors, businesses, investors and universities from across the United States — has declared that it will ensure the nation remains a leader in reducing carbon emissions.

Six milestones

To prioritize actions, we’ve identified milestones in six sectors. Developed with knowledge leaders, these were reviewed and refined in collaboration with analysts at Yale University, the Climate Action Tracker consortium, Carbon Tracker, the low-carbon coalition We Mean Business, the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), advisory firm SYSTEMIQ, the New Climate Economy project and Conservation International.

These goals may be idealistic at best, unrealistic at worst. However, we are in the age of exponential transformation and think that such a focus will unleash ingenuity. By 2020, here’s where the world needs to be:

Energy. Renewables make up at least 30% of the world’s electricity supply — up from 23.7% in 2015 (ref. 8). No coal-fired power plants are approved beyond 2020, and all existing ones are being retired.

Infrastructure. Cities and states have initiated action plans to fully decarbonize buildings and infrastructures by 2050, with funding of $300 billion annually. Cities are upgrading at least 3% of their building stock to zero- or near-zero emissions structures each year9.

Transport. Electric vehicles make up at least 15% of new car sales globally, a major increase from the almost 1% market share that battery-powered and plug-in hybrid vehicles now claim. Also required are commitments for a doubling of mass-transit utilization in cities, a 20% increase in fuel efficiencies for heavy-duty vehicles and a 20% decrease in greenhouse-gas emissions from aviation per kilometre travelled.

Land. Land-use policies are enacted that reduce forest destruction and shift to reforestation and afforestation efforts. Current net emissions from deforestation and land-use changes form about 12% of the global total. If these can be cut to zero next decade, and afforestation and reforestation can instead be used to create a carbon sink by 2030, it will help to push total net global emissions to zero, while supporting water supplies and other benefits. Sustainable agricultural practices can reduce emissions and increase CO2 sequestration in healthy, well-managed soils.

Industry. Heavy industry is developing and publishing plans for increasing efficiencies and cutting emissions, with a goal of halving emissions well before 2050. Carbon-intensive industries — such as iron and steel, cement, chemicals, and oil and gas — currently emit more than one-fifth of the world’s CO2, excluding their electricity and heat demands.

Finance. The financial sector has rethought how it deploys capital and is mobilizing at least $1 trillion a year for climate action. Most will come from the private sector. Governments, private banks and lenders such as the World Bank need to issue many more ‘green bonds’ to finance climate-mitigation efforts. This would create an annual market that, by 2020, processes more than 10 times the $81 billion of bonds issued in 2016.

Further, faster, together

If we delay, the conditions for human prosperity will be severely curtailed. There are three pressing and practical steps to avoid this.

First, use science to guide decisions and set targets. Policies and actions must be based on robust evidence. Uncensored and transparent communication of peer-reviewed science to global decision-makers is crucial. Academic journal articles are not easily read or digested by non-experts, so we need a new kind of communication in which Nature meets Harvard Business Review. Science associations should provide more media training to young scientists and hold communication boot camps on how to make climate science relevant to corporate boards and investors.

Those in power must also stand up for science. French President Emmanuel Macron’s Make Our Planet Great Again campaign is a compelling example. He has spoken out to a global audience in support of climate scientists, and invited researchers to move to France to help accelerate action and deliver on the Paris agreement. To encourage others to speak, scientists should forge connections with leaders from policy, business and civil society. The Arctic Basecamp at Davos in January, for instance, brought scientists into high-level discussions on global risk at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Switzerland.

“The fossil-free economy is already profitable.”

Second, existing solutions must be scaled up rapidly. With no time to wait, all countries should adopt plans for achieving 100% renewable electricity production, while ensuring that markets can be designed to enable renewable-energy expansion.

Third, encourage optimism. Recent political events have thrown the future of our world into sharp focus. But as before Paris, we must remember that impossible is not a fact, it’s an attitude. It is crucial that success stories are shared. Demonstrating where countries and businesses have over-achieved on their targets will raise the bar for others. More-ambitious targets become easier to set.

The upcoming G20 meeting in Hamburg is the perfect moment for heads of state to integrate the six milestones into their discussions on how to ensure a resilient, prosperous, inclusive and interconnected global economy. This would pave the way for a year of raised ambition in 2018, when nations take stock of progress and revise national commitments under the Paris agreement.

The G20 is due to adopt the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, on how the global finance system will manage the risk of climate change. It requires financial institutions to design, disclose and implement a transition strategy with a view to full decarbonization of operations, value chains and portfolios by 2050. National governments and financial regulators must enact these recommendations swiftly.

Cities and provincial governments must help to drive the ambition of national governments on climate change, particularly through smart infrastructure and transport policy. C40 Cities, a network of megacities committed to addressing climate change, has adopted a strategy called Deadline 2020 that aligns its emissions-reductions plans with the Paris agreement. Other cities now have an opportunity to follow suit, for example through the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

Our co-signatory list, which includes eminent scientists, business leaders, economists, analysts, influencers and representatives of non-governmental organizations, is an example of the strength of radical collaboration across unusual partners, who all share a mission to seize this opportunity to improve people’s lives, the planet and the global economy.

There will always be those who hide their heads in the sand and ignore the global risks of climate change. But there are many more of us committed to overcoming this inertia. Let us stay optimistic and act boldly together.

Climate Scientist: “There’s a substantial loss of ice going on…It’s not a good prescription.”: Scientists Saw Nearly Unheard Of Antarctic Meltdown

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2017 at 10:51 am
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Surface melt became widespread over West Antarctica in January 2016. Credit: Nicolas et al,. 2017

Oldspeak:”Earth’s polar regions and planetary air conditioners are continuing to disintegrate at a fairly rapid clip. Annnnd as an added bonus, thanks to hordes of human activities, they’re turning green and moldy too- well, mossy and full of flies and other invasive species of plants and insects. Leading one scientist to say “The sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises suggests that ecosystems will alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of the region. In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic.” Green land,  near the south pole. How bout that.  Did you think you’d see any of this in your life time? The greening of polar regions? The loss of Polar Bears and likely the rest of the lifeforms in that food chain? The rapid melting of “Permafrost”? The disintegration of eons old ice shelves? I didn’t. It’s pretty breathtaking when you think about it. We’re bearing witness to loss of life and habitat on a pace and scale that is unparalleled in the geologic record. And the scores of other natural feedbacks to the monumental disruption of ecological balance brought about in a significant way by the activities of this hellacious, human generated, life-grinding gristmill, relentlessly and insatiably grinding the life out of all that Is. Monetizing and quantifying all activity. “warehousing wealth“. Disregarding and dismembering primordial biogeophysical cycles. Homogenizing and monoculturing Earth’s biodiversity. This omnicidal gristmill that is Industrial Civilization will likely grind on, until our Great Mother has nothing left to give.” -OSJ

Written By Brian Kahn @ Climate Central:

Antarctica is unfreezing. In the past few months alone, researchers have chronicled a seasonal waterfall, widespread networks of rivers and melt ponds and an iceberg the size of Delaware on the brink of breaking away from the thawing landscape.

A new study published in Nature Communications only adds to the disturbing trend of change afoot in Antarctica. Researchers have documented rain on a continent more known for snow and widespread surface melt in West Antarctica last summer, one of the most unstable parts of a continent that’s already being eaten away by warm waters below the ice.

The findings, published Thursday, indicate that last year’s super El Niño played a large role in driving the meltdown, but researchers are concerned that overlaying natural climate patterns onto the long-term warming driven by carbon pollution could put Antarctica’s ice in an even more precarious position.

“There’s a substantial loss of ice going on from warm water eating away at the bottom of some critical ice shelves,” David Bromwich, a climate modeler at Ohio State, said. “If we move into the future and we’ve got a lot of melting from the top as well, that means things would proceed even faster. It’s not a good prescription.”

The research, which Bromwich helped produced, stemmed from a series of coincidences starting at the top of the West Antarctic ice sheet, nearly 6,000 feet above sea level. Researchers stationed there in January 2016 noticed surface melt starting in the middle of the month and even reported seeing rain as warm, moist air poured into the region.

Bromwich said he had never heard of rain falling on that region of the ice sheet, though the Antarctic Peninsula further north will occasionally get a few showers. His and other researchers’ curiosity was piqued and using satellite imagery and high altitude balloon data, they were able to confirm the melt not just at the top of the ice sheet but across much of West Antarctica.

About 300,000 square miles of the ice sheet near the Ross Sea experienced melt, making it the second-largest surface melt ever documented in that region of Antarctica. The meltdown was caused by incredibly mild air. Temperatures spiked 27°F (15°C) above where they were at in early January in some locations, pushing them above freezing for a two-week period at lower elevations of the ice sheet.

The biggest driver of the Antarctic heat wave was the super El Niño, then at its peak in the tropical Pacific. It helped rearrange the atmosphere so a high pressure system off Chile’s coast could steer abnormally balmy weather toward West Antarctica. The pattern has played out in other El Niño years, causing similar widespread melt events.

Ted Scambos, a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said the study did a good job of explaining the mechanisms behind the meltdown and could be helpful in further understanding the forces at play in the region’s climate.

The rain that preceded the major melt also may have also played a role in preconditioning the surface melt that Bromwich said was essentially a thick layer of slush covering the ice sheet.

What happened in West Antarctica last January was driven by natural climate shifts, but overlaying it on climate change is bad news for the region where ice shelves are melting from below.

Research has shown that those disappearing ice shelves could trigger “unstoppable” melt as warm water eventually pushes up under parts of the marine ice sheet itself, sending sea levels at least 10 feet higher. Surface melt events like the one Bromwich and his colleagues documented will only compound the speed at which the ice sheet melts.

Previous research has shown that the odds of a super El Niño like the one that boiled the ocean in 2015-16 are likely to double as the climate warms, further compounding the risk. There were also strong winds out of the west that helped blunt some of the melting in January 2016, but if the meteorological odds don’t line up in the future, the region could be in even deeper trouble.

“What this particular event reported in this paper means is that regardless of how strong the westerlies are, we’re likely to get widespread melting,” Bromwich said. “And if they’re weak, we’ll get extreme melting.”

Hotbox Earth: ” A death zone is creeping over the surface of Earth, gaining a little more ground each year.” As Heatwaves Persist & Proliferate, 3/4ths Of Humanity To Be Exposed To Lethal Heat By 2100

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2017 at 7:30 pm
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Keeping cool will get more difficult as heatwaves soar. Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty

Oldspeak: As news breaks of extreme heat gripping the northern hemisphere, dangerously hellish 120 F heat grounding aircraft in Arizona, a heatwave in the UK creating conditions for dangerous air quality, California bracing for more brutal heat, and drought driven climate refugees being displaced by the ever swelling millions across Africa, the author summed the global heat situation up nicely: “The world is cooking and we should anticipate more of the same.” –OSJ

Written By Editor @ Nature:

Scott Pruitt achieved something of a political first last week. The controversial head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was grilled by the officials who control his budget and told that he had asked for too little cash. In fact, the officials insisted, they were determined to give his agency more than he had requested.

“I can assure you, you’re going to be the first EPA administrator that’s come before this committee in eight years that actually gets more money than they asked for,” said Oklahoma congressman Tom Cole, a member of the US House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations who, as a Republican, is nominally on the same side as Pruitt. In a gruelling session, Pruitt was left in no doubt of what the committee members thought of proposals from Donald Trump’s administration to slash both the spending and the remit of the EPA.

“I’ll get straight to it. The fiscal year 2018 budget request for EPA is a disaster,” said Nita Lowey, a Democratic representative for New York who sits on the committee. The intended cuts of US$2.4 billion to the agency budget, she said, would “surely impact EPA’s ability to fulfil its critical mission of protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink”.

Not so, Pruitt stated. With less money and fewer staff, the agency would do a better job and be able to focus more on its core mission. What’s more, President Trump’s high-profile exit from the Paris agreement on climate change, he has promised, does not undermine US leadership on and engagement with the problem.

Meanwhile on planet Earth the heat is rising. Britain was hit by a heatwave at the weekend that forecasters say could last for weeks, and temperatures in California are predicted to reach record levels in a few days’ time. The world is cooking and we should anticipate more of the same.

From extreme rainfall to rising sea levels, global warming is expected to wreak havoc on human lives. Sometimes, the most straightforward impact — the warming itself — is overlooked. Yet heat kills. The body, after all, has evolved to work in a fairly narrow temperature range. Our sweat-based cooling mechanism is crude; beyond a certain combination of high temperature and humidity, it fails. To be outside and exposed to such an environment for any length of time soon becomes a death sentence.

And that environment is spreading. A death zone is creeping over the surface of Earth, gaining a little more ground each year. As an analysis published this week in Nature Climate Change shows, since 1980, these temporary hells on Earth have opened up hundreds of times to take life (C. Mora et al. Nature Clim. Change http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3322; 2017). At present, roughly one-third of the world’s population lives for about three weeks a year under such conditions. If greenhouse-gas emissions continue to rise unchecked, that figure could climb, exposing almost three-quarters of the population by the end of the century.

The analysis also reveals that even aggressive reductions in emissions will lead the number of deadly heatwaves to soar in the coming decades. Cities including London, New York, Tokyo and Sydney have all seen citizens die from the effects of excessive heat. By 2100, people in the tropics could be living in these death zones for entire summers. It’s true that warmer winters will save lives further north. And those living in urban environments may find ways to adapt to the new norm of extreme heat. But, if the researchers are correct, the politics of Pruitt and those who try to hold him to account will seem quaint and anachronistic to our grandchildren. For they will live in a world in which most will see the environment less as something to protect, and more as something to protect themselves and their families from.

 

Climatologist: “It’s a scale we haven’t seen in recent history and it’s very concerning.” Forest Fires Worldwide Burning Longer At Greater Frequency & Intensity Across Wider Areas

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Portugal forest fire (Reuters/R. Marchante)

Oldspeak: “In recent years, there have been big fires in Siberia and various other places around the world where we typically don’t see large-scale wildfires… The areas where wildfires are taking place are always areas that [have become] drier and hotter, and where spring has come earlier…They really take off and get out of control more frequently than in the past… We know that… pest outbreaks have been caused by climate change, because there hasn’t been anything like that in the past 500 years, perhaps even 1,000 years… We can link those effects to the warmer temperatures that we’ve seen in the places where wildfires have been taking place… It creates a feedback loop: the fires create more emissions, which in turn contribute to more global warming, which will then cause more fires… We’re likely to see more wildfires in more places than just the boreal forest in the future.” –Dr. Jason Funk, Senior Climate Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists

“This irreversible, non-linear positive feedback loop is not going to do anything but get more destructive as temperatures rise. It brings with it a whole host of deleterious effects. Decreasing air quality, decreased biodiversity, increased flooding, habitat destruction, polar melt, greater greenhouse gas emissions…. Add to that acute human activity threats like logging and mining, and things are not looking good for Earth’s lungs atal. Since the advent of human “civilization” Earth has lost half of her forest cover. With humanity forecast to balloon to 10 billion in 30 years, expect Earth’s ravaged and overworked lungs to collapse sooner than later.” –OSJ

Written By Anne-Sophie Brändlin @ Deutsche Welle:

Have wildfires increased globally over recent years? And if so, is global warming to blame? Research has illuminated this, along with what wildfires do to us and our environment, and which areas are most vulnerable.

Are wildfires increasing around the world?

Unusually large wildfires ravaged Alaska and Indonesia in 2015. The following year, Canada, California and Spain were devastated by uncontrolled flames. In 2017, massive fires devastated regions of Chile – and now, a deadly blaze in Portugal has claimed dozens of lives.

So, have wildfires actually increased globally, or does it just seem that way because we’re tuned in more to bad news and social media?

Science suggests that over the past few decades, the number of wildfires has indeed increased, especially in the western United States. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), every state in the western US has experienced an increase in the average annual number of large wildfires over past decades.

Extensive studies have found that large forest fires in the western US have been occurring nearly five times more often since the 1970s and 80s. Such fires are burning more than six times the land area as before, and lasting almost five times longer.

A fire blazes at Les Pennes-Mirabeau, near Marseille, southern France (Photo: Getty Images/AFP/B. Horvat) A wildfire has hit southern France in 2016 forced more than a thousand people to flee their homes

 

What’s more, wildfire season – meaning seasons with higher wildfire potential – has universally become longer over the past 40 years.

This trend is something Jason Funk, senior climate scientist with UCS, is very worried about.

“2015 was a record-breaking year in the US, with more than 10 million acres burned,” he told DW in an interview. “That’s about 4 million hectares, or an area of the size of the Netherlands or Switzerland.”

“It’s a scale we haven’t seen in recent history and it’s very concerning.”

According to Funk, not only US forests are endangered by increasing wildfires – the trend has been that wildfires are burning more area around the world.

“In recent years, there have been big fires in Siberia and various other places around the world where we typically don’t see large-scale wildfires,” he said.

Projections by the UCS suggest that wildfires could get four, five and even six times as bad as they currently are within this century.

Forest fire in Funchal, Madeira Island, Portugal, 09 August 2016 (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/G. Cunha) Portugal was on high alert after a wave of wildfires swept the country in 2016, with around 350 isolated fires

 

What is the main reason wildfires are increasing?

Funk has been researching the impact of climate change on landscapes in the US, and says there is very well documented scientific evidence that climate change has been increasing the length of the fire season, the size of the area burned each year and the number of wildfires.

Wildfires are typically either started accidentally by humans – such as a burning cigarette carelessly tossed out of a window – or by natural causes like lightning.

Portugal Waldbrand (REUTERS)

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa has described raging forest fires in central Portugal as “the greatest tragedy of human lives that we’ve witnessed in our country in years.

These “ignition events” don’t have a major effect on the scale of the fire, says Funk. But what does affect scale are prevailing climate conditions. And these have become warmer and drier – due to climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions, via the greenhouse effect, are causing the global temperature to increase and the climate to change. This enhances the likelihood of wildfires.

Why? Because warmer temperatures increase evaporation, which means the atmosphere draws more moisture from soils, making the land drier.

A warmer climate also leads to earlier snowmelt, which causes soils to be drier for longer. And dry soils become more susceptible to fire.

“The areas where wildfires are taking place are always areas that [have become] drier and hotter, and where spring has come earlier,” said Funk.

Drier conditions and higher temperatures increase not only the likelihood of a wildfire to occur, but also the duration and the severity of the wildfire.

A helicopter drops water on a wildfire burning in Artana, near Castellon, eastern Spain, on July 26, 2016 (Photo: Getty Images/AFP/J. Jordan) Climate change has increased the length of the fire season, the size of the area burned and the number of wildfires

 

That means when wildfires break out, they expand faster and burn more area as they move in unpredictable ways. “They really take off and get out of control more frequently than in the past,” said Funk.

What else is increasing wildfires?

A less direct climate-driven effect is pest outbreaks that have killed a lot of trees. Pests make forests more susceptible to wildfire, according to Funk.

“We know that these pest outbreaks have been caused by climate change, because there hasn’t been anything like that in the past 500 years, perhaps even 1,000 years,” he said.

Insects are responding to warmer conditions, Funk explained, taking advantage of the longer summer season which grants them longer breeding circles and faster reproduction. “We can link those effects to the warmer temperatures that we’ve seen in the places where wildfires have been taking place.”

While human activities such as logging and mining are known to influence the likelihood of wildfires as well, many of the areas that have seen recent increases in wildfires are relatively unaffected by human land use.

This suggests that climate change is a major factor driving the increase in fires, according to UCS.

A firefighter hoses down burning pipes near a water tank at the Sand Fire on July 23 2016 near Santa Clarita, California (Photo: Getty Images/AFP/D. Mcnew) Fires can be beneficial for ecosystems – but changes in climatic conditions are allowing them to burn out of control

 

What threats do these wildfires pose?

Forest fires aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, fire is a natural and beneficial part of many forest ecosystems, and we need to allow some fires to burn, as they are necessary for the ecosystems to stay healthy.

Over the decades, undergrowth builds up on the forest floor – so when a fire burns through, that provides space for larger, more mature trees that are more fire-resistant.

But the unnatural increase in wildfires is causing entire forests to burn down uncontrollably. This is bad for the environment – and for us.

Wildfires pose risks to human life, property and infrastructure – recent wildfires have already caused significant human health impacts across southeast Asia, says Funk.

Forest fires directly kill plants and animals, also causing a loss of habitat.

Sunlight shines through pine forest in Germany (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Pleul) Humid boreal forest faces greater threats from wildfires

 

But the biggest problem is that the scale of these fires has increased to the degree that they themselves have become significant contributors of greenhouse gas emissions.

After all, trees absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere – so the more trees that burn down, the harder it is to combat climate change in the future. And this is dangerous, Funk said.

“It creates a feedback loop: the fires create more emissions, which in turn contribute to more global warming, which will then cause more fires,” Funk said.

“Fires are not the enemy – they are an effect of an underlying process, so we need to address the problem rather than the symptoms of that problem.”

What areas are most affected by wildfire?

According to US federal research, humid, forested areas are most likely to face greater threats from wildfires, as conditions there grow drier and hotter due to global warming.

Forests increasingly affected by fire and climate change, and which are thus the most vulnerable, are in the boreal region. This stretches across the northern hemisphere through Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and Russia.

Wildfire rages through the town of Fort McMurray, Canada, in May 2016 (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/Twitter.com/Jeromegarot) Wildfire raged through the Canadian town of Fort McMurray in 2016, forcing the evacuation of some 90,000 people

 

Boreal forest comprises almost a third of forested land in the world, and plays an important role in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide.

Studies show that especially the Russian and Canadian boreal forests are increasingly threatened by wildfire, as temperatures are rising faster in these northern regions than in other areas of the planet.

Funk warns that since rising temperatures are transforming many landscapes, “we’re likely to see more wildfires in more places than just the boreal forest in the future.”

Oceanographer: “They’re going into new environments with a lot of environmental impacts. We are going to lose stuff before we ever discover it.” – In Deep Oceans Human Activities Taking A Toll

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2017 at 7:00 pm
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Photo Courtesy of Diva Amon and Craig Smith, University of Hawaii

Oldspeak: “This is fucking certifiably INSANE. Earth’s oceans are already dying. And now the deep oceans, one of the greatest mitigators of climate change; already being ravaged human generated greenhouse gasses, heat and human generated wastes, is set to endure more devastating human abuses. Greed and profit driven mining companies are taking their destructive and extractive operations to the oceans deepest depths to destabilize & tear up one of the most stable & delicate ecosystems on earth. Hmm. I wonder, what could possibly go wrong? SMDH…. Profit Is Paramout. Everything else is fucked.” –OSJ

Written By Eric Vance @ Ensia:

Once seen as too remote to harm, the deep sea is facing new pressures from mining, pollution, overfishing and more.

Imagine sinking into the deepest parts of the Central Pacific Ocean, somewhere between Mexico and Hawaii. Watch as the water turns from clear to blue to dark blue to black. And then continue on for another 15,000 feet (4,600 meters) to the seafloor — roughly the distance from the peak of California’s Mount Whitney to the bottom of nearby Death Valley.

“As soon as you start to descend, all of the wave action and bouncing goes away and it’s like you’re just floating and then you sink really slowly and watch the light fade out through the windows and then you really are in another world,” says Erik Cordes, a researcher at Temple University and frequent visitor to the deep ocean.

Finally, you come to a stop 12,000 feet (3,700 meters) below the last bits of light from the surface. The water here is strangely viscous yet remarkably transparent, and the light from your flashlight extends for hundreds of yards. You are in the heart of the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone, a region of the ocean seafloor roughly the size of the United States, populated by colorless invertebrates adapted in astounding ways to the sparse, crushing conditions found here.

And all around you — as far as the eye can’t see — are small, spherical rocks. Varying from microscopic to the size of a volleyball, they look like something stolen from the set of “Gremlins” or maybe “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

And they’re worth millions. Because inside these mysterious little eggs are untouched stores of copper, titanium, cobalt and especially manganese — crucial for making anything from the steel in your car’s frame to the circuitry that tells you how much gas is left in it. Some metals exist in larger quantities here than on all the continents of the world — and you had better believe they have caught the eye of mining companies.

It’s hard to draw a line exactly where the deep ocean starts. Starting at about 650 feet (200 meters), there’s not enough light to support photosynthesis, and at around 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) there’s no light at all. From there to the deepest spot, at the bottom of the 36,000-foot-deep (11,000-meter-deep) Mariana Trench between Japan and Papua New Guinea (deep enough to hold Mount Everest with New Hampshire’s Mount Washington stuck on top of it) is loosely defined as the “deep sea.”

However it’s defined, the deep sea today is a place of change. Human activities already are affecting it — and are poised, as these mineral stores suggest — to radically affect it even more in the decades to come. Attention we pay and decisions we make now could make all the difference in its fate.

Mining the Depths

The mineral riches of this deep ocean are vast and nearly untouched for now. But that’s changing as new technologies are allowing humans to access ever-deeper parts of the seafloor.

Current mining strategies break down along two rough categories. First is nodule mining — gathering up those bizarre seafloor billiard balls that have slowly collected minerals over the centuries as they trickled down like rain from above or seeped up from below and congregated around some central particle like rock candy around a string. There is no industry standard for sweeping up nodules so far below the surface — about 4,000 to 6,000 meters (13,000 to 20,000 feet) — though companies have proposed ideas as varied as deepwater vacuum cleaners and massive trawlers dragging across the seafloor. One 1985 study estimated 550 billion metric tons (610 billion tons) of nodules in the sea.

The second form of mining is targeted around sulfur vents and other types of seeps. These operations would be in shallower water — 4,000 to 12,000 feet (1,200 to 3,700 meters) — and look more like traditional mining operations scraping sulfur, phosphorus or precious metals from the sides of underwater ridges.

So far, all of these projects are theoretical. Most of the permits currently granted for deep-sea mining are for nodules, but the first ones to actually break ground are likely to be around ocean vents. Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian company working off the coast of Papua New Guinea, has begun implementing a project to mine gold and copper at a ridge about 5,000 feet (2,000 meters) below the surface and in April began receiving equipment.

Company executives have pointed out that they have passed environmental impact reviews and that their project is friendlier to the Earth than other mining operations because the ore is so rich they can get more of it by disturbing less of the soil. But scientists point out that much remains unknown about what deep-water strip mining will do to the environment. In the case of ocean vents, there are some animals that may live only in that spot, and a single mine could wipe out entire species. In addition, both styles of mining would kick up potentially toxic plumes of ultra-fine sand that could travel hundreds of miles through a part of the ocean that has remained undisturbed for thousands of years.

“They’re going into new environments with a lot of environmental impacts,” says Lisa Levin, an expert in the deep sea at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. “We are going to lose stuff before we ever discover it.”

Climate Change and the Deep Ocean

Because life in the deep ocean is more sensitive to change than in the shallows, the smallest shift in pH, oxygen or temperature can have huge effects. Thus, one of the most serious concerns about the deep ocean is climate change.

According to Andrew Thurber, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, a quarter to a third of the CO2 humans have released has gone to the deep ocean. Some of it gets absorbed into the water itself or turns to particulate, thus lowering the pH and oxygen levels, and some is buried and turned to stone, where it effectively neutralized and stored for millions of years.

A quarter to a third of the CO2 humans have released has gone to the deep ocean.Ironically, the deep ocean is one of the greatest mitigators of climate change as well, since it absorbs a massive portion of the Earth’s heat and CO2. In fact, one recent study showed that the ocean is absorbing phenomenally more heat now than ever before — about the same amount between 1997 and 2015 as it had in the previous 132 years. As a result, scientists are already seeing incremental temperature rise in the deep sea. Though less than at the surface, changes down there tend to represent more permanent ocean shifts.

Trickle Down Effects

Then there is chemical pollution. While mining the deep sea might be new, polluting it is not. Recent studies have found toxic terrestrial chemicals like PCBs and PBDEs in the tissues of animals living in the deepest places on Earth. In fact, where once scientists assumed the deep ocean was rather isolated from the surface, new studies have shown that the two are closely connected and that material can pass quickly into the depths.

The most spectacular example of this was the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico. It was assumed at the time that much of the millions of barrels of oil released by the faulty offshore drilling rig would float; they did not. It was assumed that the dispersant would neutralize the oil; in fact it was more toxic to deep sea corals than the oil itself.

“The probability of an accident goes up with depth,” and thus the potential for harming ocean life, Cordes says of deep-sea operations. “The deeper you go, the more stable the environment is; the more stable it is, the less those organisms can deal with changes.”

Cordes studies all sorts of pollution effects beyond the reach of sunlight. He and colleagues published pioneering research looking at the first evidence of acidification in the deep ocean in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Norway.

He says it’s easy to think of the deep sea as some kind of wasteland, while in fact it’s brimming with life.

“People don’t realize that there are massive coral reefs all over the Gulf of Mexico, there’s corals right off shore in California, there’s corals up in New England,” he says.

To overload this system or tinker with it at all is to play with fire.

“If we put something in the deep ocean, we pretty much can’t clean it up,” Thurber says.

And we can’t depend on the animals down there to adapt and clean up after us as they often do at the surface. Cordes says microbes at the surface can double their numbers in 12 hours; in the deep ocean it takes half a year. Because the generation time is so much slower, Thurber says, it takes decades for carbon-munching deep water microbes to battle, say, higher methane levels than the days or weeks it would take critters at the surface. Thus, our decisions around greenhouse gas emissions at the surface have now affected every ecosystem on Earth.

Permanent Decline

And it’s not just the microbes that grow slowly — fish in the deep ocean also take their time. As a result, fishing is another threat to the deep ocean. With most normal, surface fishing practices, it’s possible to manage a population such that what you take out is the same as what the population can replenish. But because fish found far from the surface grow slowly, some scientists have gone so far as to say that deep sea fishing is more analogous to mining than to fishing.

The classic case of this is the common slimehead. The slimehead is a delicious, bulky, dark red fish found from 180 to 1,500 meters (590 to 4,920 feet) below the surface in many of the world’s oceans. In the late 1970s, concerned that cod was on a permanent decline, seafood marketers in New Zealand began pushing slimehead under the more palatable name, orange roughy, because it turns orange after death.

Why this seemed like a good idea is a mystery. Slimehead spawn only 4 percent of the number of eggs as cod and take 20 to 30 years to reach maturity (rather than about two for cod). Within a couple decades the Australian government started reducing allowable harvest and then closing fisheries altogether as they tried to figure out catch limits that wouldn’t decimate the creature.

Some scientists now say there is no such number. One team estimated The New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries in 2009 estimated that a single 40-square-mile (100-square-kilometer) deep ocean fishery in the Pacific can only sustainably produce about 200 kilograms (400 pounds) of product per year. That’s about 57 adult slimehead. But that particular fishery produces 8,000 metric tons (9,000 tons) of slimehead per year. A similar story is playing out in other slimehead fisheries across the world, as well as other deepwater creatures like grenadiers, sharks and toothfish (otherwise known as Chilean seabass).

Direct Connection

In many ways, the deep sea truly is a new world waiting to be explored. But in our rush to exploit that new world, unless we think carefully about the impacts, we may find ourselves harming it before we even understand it — with implications for ourselves.

“[The deep oceans] are supporting these fish that we are depending on for food, they’re helping to recycle nutrients that come back to shallow waters, fuel the productivity of the ocean, produce half of the oxygen we breathe,” says Cordes. “We are directly connected to them.”

Scientist: “Human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction in the history of life on Earth, despite the fact that diversity of life enhances many benefits people reap from nature…”

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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Africa’s lions number only 10% of those the continent could sustain. Image: Luca Galuzzi via Wikimedia Commons

Oldspeak: “It is a given that human economies depend entirely on what grows on the planet, and what can be excavated from its soils. The clearing of the forests and the settlement of the grasslands, pollution from the cities, overhunting and overgrazing, all driven by the swelling of human numbers, have now taken rates of species extinction to alarming levels.” –Tim Radford

“Human economies are indeed utterly dependent on Earth’s vast and rapidly dwindling biodiversity. Paradoxically, Human economies are driving Earth’s fastest progressing mass extinction. Unfortunately, humans are in a no win situation here. At present, Unfettered human industrial civilization, overpopulation and overconsumption REQUIRE the continued destruction, depletion and extinction of Earth’s biodiversity, irreplaceable water and mineral stores. These conditions don’t seem set to change dramatically in the foreseeable future. I mean for fucks sake, scientists are still quantifying the impact of mass extinction in human economic terms. As if human economies are the most important factor in this planetary death spiral. This is part of the problem. The root cause of mass extinction, human economies and human technology is somehow expected to “fix” this intractable predicament. This is of course, is highly unlikely.  How exactly is the way of being that created the conditions for mass extinction supposed to change the conditions it created? Albert Einstein said it best: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It’s long past the time for the change in consciousness that would have been required for a even a small chance at the remote possibility of averting catastrophe.  The reality is the problem is no longer solvable on human time-scales.” -OSJ

Written By Tim Radford @ Climate News Network:

Climate change is multiplying existing threats to much of the natural world, and more species face an unparalleled extinction risk.

LONDON, 9 June, 2017 – Biologists have once again confirmed that the wild things face a growing extinction risk, and that the biggest losers could be humankind itself.

They point out that at a conservative estimate the economic benefits of biodiversity – the collective word for all the richness of the planet’s species – are at least 10 times the cost of conservation of that biodiversity.

And yet, they report, human actions already threaten a quarter of all mammal species and 13% of all birds. An estimated 21,000 plants and other kinds of animal are known to be at risk.

In one of the world’s richest habitats of all – the terrain where south-east Asia, India and China meet – people in the last 50 years have put at risk two thirds of all mammals that weigh more than 10kg.

This summary of waste and despoliation is in a series of papers in the journal Nature, one of which looks again at the threats to biodiversity, while another concentrates on the ways people influence and depend on the fruits of three billion years of natural evolution.

Human pressure

It is a given that human economies depend entirely on what grows on the planet, and what can be excavated from its soils. The clearing of the forests and the settlement of the grasslands, pollution from the cities, overhunting and overgrazing, all driven by the swelling of human numbers, have now taken rates of species extinction to alarming levels.

Climate change, too, has now become a factor: it has been linked to the potential extinction of species, and to the obliteration of species in particular regions

It has also been identified as a danger to the diversity of plant life as temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change with rising ratios of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas emitted from internal combustion engines and coal-fired power stations.

No one yet claims that climate change itself is the principal hazard, but it exacerbates the impact of all the other pressures on wildlife.

Tropical targets

So a team led by David Tilman of the University of Minnesota has delivered a paper looking at the next 50 years, as human impact on habitat poses, they say “unprecedented levels of extinction risk on many more species worldwide” – especially the large mammals of tropical Africa, Asia and South America.

The world had lost half of its terrestrial mammalian megafauna – mammals heavier than 44kg – by 1,000 BC, and 15% of all bird species. In the last 3,000 years human numbers have multiplied 25-fold and another 4bn of us will join the human race by the century’s end. So, the scientists argue, unless steps are taken, extinction rates will accelerate.

But, they point out, some steps are being taken: 31 bird species have been saved by conservation programmes from total extinction, and the same efforts have halted the decline of one threatened vertebrate in five. Captive breeding programmes have reintroduced species that were once all but lost.

But there is much more to be done: lion numbers in Africa, for instance, have fallen to one-tenth of their potential.

And in a second paper, a team led by Forest Isbell of the University of Minnesota and backed by co-authors from eight nations on four continents, instances the benefits of conservation

“Human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction in the history of life on Earth, despite the fact that diversity of life enhances many benefits people reap from nature”

Biodiversity in the form of trees and scrubland saves humans up to US$3 trillion just as carbon storage: that is, it keeps dangerous levels of carbon out of the atmosphere.

At a practical finance level, the calculated value of biodiversity to commercial forest productivity is set at between $166bn a year and $490bn.

Right now, the world spends about $25bn a year on conservation. It would cost $76bn annually to meet all the world’s conservation targets. And, the authors point out, a cash value simply cannot be set on many of biodiversity’s blessings. Some things are priceless.

“Human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction in the history of life on Earth, despite the fact that diversity of life enhances many benefits people reap from nature, such as wood from forests, livestock forage from grasslands, and fish from oceans and streams,” said Dr Isbell. “It would be wise to invest much more in conserving biodiversity.” – Climate News Network

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Scientist: “All the indicators are going in the wrong direction, and warning bells are ringing so loud as to be deafening.” 2016 Saw 2nd Biggest Jump in Annual CO2 Levels

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2017 at 1:37 am

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Oldspeak: ” With news recently that in May 2017, CO2 set an all time high, these findings can’t be surprising.  Deafening warning bells are ringing ever louder, alerting us to rapidly increasing levels of greenhouse gases. Atmospheric CO2, Methane and Nitrous Oxide are on the rise, currently at levels not seen in 800 thousand years. Trump withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement has zero impact on this reality. Even if countries were taking their pledged commitments seriously (they’re not), they’ll have no bearing on this reality. It’s time we stop pretending like Earth’s climate responds to our anthropocentric, non-binding, and non-enforceable climate policies. The die is cast. We could go to zero human generated emissions tomorrow, and earth would still be on course for at least 3.5c of warming, well over the proposed 2c “guardrail” concocted by humans. Environmental alarm bells will continue to grow louder and conditions will continue to deteriorate, as humans pretend to “fight climate change” with market based “solutions”. “Green energy”, eating less meat, going off fossil fuels, recycling, “sustainable” business practices, carbon capture and sequestration, etc, etc, etc, None of this shit we’re being encouraged to get all worked up about matters to Earth’s rapidly destabilizing life support systems. The jig is up. Tick, tick, tick, tick , tick, tick, tick….” -OSJ

As President Donald Trump prepared to pull the United States out of the global Paris climate agreement this week, scientists at NOAA reported that 2016 had recorded the second-biggest jump in atmospheric carbon dioxide on record.

Last year’s increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration was nearly double the average pace since detailed measurements started in 1979.

Once CO2 is in the atmosphere, the heat-trapping gas persists there for decades as new emissions pile in, which means that even if global emissions level off—as they have started to do—the planet is on a path toward more warming, rising sea levels and increased heat waves and droughts in the decades ahead.

Concentrations of other greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, also increased last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest update to its greenhouse gas index. The heating effect of all combined greenhouses gases in the atmosphere increased by 2.5 percent in 2016, according to the index.

“The warming effect of these chemicals we’re tracking has increased by 40 percent since 1990,” said Steve Montzka, a NOAA scientist who co-authored the update. “Even though emissions are leveling off, CO2 is so long-lived that the concentration is still increasing.”

Getting the atmospheric concentration to also level off would require reducing emissions by 80 percent, he said.

That 80 percent cut is exactly what is targeted under the Paris climate agreement, but the goal is in doubt as the Trump administration rolls back climate and energy policies meant to lower emissions in the United States, historically the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution.

“All the indicators are going in the wrong direction, and warning bells are ringing so loud as to be deafening,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist in the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Without the Paris agreement, the acceleration will likely continue and we will exceed 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial by the 2050s or earlier.”

The index was established in 1979, when NOAA expanded the global network of 80 land- and ocean-based measurement sites, including the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. In the 1980s and 1990s, the CO2 level increased at about 1.5 parts per million each year. The last two years, it’s been rising at nearly twice that rate—2.9 ppm—as emissions overwhelm the oceans’ and forests’ ability to take CO2 out of the air.

The new data also show that the powerful effect of heat-trapping and ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)—once widely used as refrigerants and propellants—continues to decrease. That decline reflects the success of the 1989 Montreal Protocol, one of the early global efforts to tackle an environmental challenge.

“That’s given us a little reprieve from even more warming,” according to Montzka, who said the continued use of CFCs could have had a substantial additional heating effect.

Methane, which is a much more powerful heat-trapping gas than CO2, increased in 2016 at about the same rate as the previous two years, which is double the pace set between 2007 and 2013. Scientists suspect the methane increase is mainly from decomposition of plant matter in the tropics, where global warming is speeding biological processes. Earlier spikes in methane have also been linked with warmer Arctic temperatures that release the gas by thawing permafrost.

Since 2013, the methane concentration has increased between 8.7 and 12.6 parts per billion each year, compared to an average annual increase of about 5.7 ppb between 2007 and 2013. Methane is measured in parts per billion rather than parts per million because the total amounts are much smaller.

Even though the latest figures are sobering, the fact that global carbon emissions are starting to plateau is a hopeful sign, said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.

“This emphasizes a key basic truth: There is nothing Trump can do to stop the dramatic global transition away from fossil fuels toward clean and renewable energy,” he said. “The world is moving on, and we will tackle this problem. At this point, it is simply a question of whether we get onboard the great economic revolution of this century, or whether we get left behind.”