Posts Tagged ‘climate change’
Although vegetation growth in the Arctic is boosted by global warming, it’s not enough to offset the carbon released by the thawing of the permafrost beneath the surface, University of Florida researchers have found in the first experiment in the Arctic environment to simulate thawing of permafrost in a warming world.
Twice as much carbon is frozen in Arctic permafrost as exists in the atmosphere today, and what happens to it as it thaws – releasing greenhouse gases that fuel climate change – is a key question, said professor Ted Schuur…
“The plants like it when they’re warmer, so their growth is increasing, and if you just watch the tundra in the summertime and you look at the balance between what the plants are doing and what the soil is doing, the plants actually offset everything that happens in the soil. They’re growing faster, getting bigger and taking carbon out of the air,” Schuur said. “From the perspective of climate change, that’s a good thing, tundra vegetation is making up for any carbon you’re losing from the soil.”
The hitch? The Arctic’s short summers do not make up for the long winters.
Researchers are interested in the permafrost of the polar regions because these soils – permanently frozen at great depths and for tens of thousands of years – are vulnerable to global warming…
As the experiment continues into the next three-year cycle, Schuur said he is looking for a point at which the plants hit a growth limit and stop absorbing more carbon, while the thawing permafrost continues to release carbon…
One of the successes of the experiment, Schuur said, was finding a way to model carbon release from permafrost in the environment on a year-round basis. Previous studies had used miniature greenhouses in summer months, but creating a warming situation in the winter was more challenging.
“We wanted to warm the tundra and cause the permafrost to recede. This is the first experiment to isolate that effect in the field, so the first thing we show is that we’re able to simulate what will happen in a future world when the permafrost degrades,” Schuur said…
The studies confirm that a significant amount of carbon is released from thawing permafrost and highlight that there are factors beyond simply temperature that affect carbon release, Schuur said.
New variables identified by Professor Schuur and postdoc researcher Susan Natali range from water content to the ratio of nitrogen to carbon in the permafrost soil.
There’s the added existential fillip that these researchers are staff at a university in Florida – therefore they’re overseen by politicians and ideologues who refuse to accept any scientific acknowledgement of climate change.
In fact, there is at least one city in another neo-Confederate state where local politicians made it illegal for public funds to be used to publish any document describing sea levels as rising – even though that happens to be a problem in that city.
Whether it’s wildfires in the West, drought in the Midwest, or sea level rise on the Eastern seaboard, chances are good your state is in for its own breed of climate-related disasters. Every state is required to file a State Hazard Mitigation Plan with FEMA, which lays out risks for that state and its protocols for handling catastrophe. But as a new analysis from Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law reveals, many states’ plans do not take climate change into account…
While FEMA itself acknowledged this summer that climate change could increase areas at risk from flooding by 45 percent over the next century, states are not required to discuss climate change in their mitigation plans. The Columbia analysis didn’t take into account climate planning outside the scope of the mitigation plans, like state-level greenhouse gas limits or renewable energy incentives. And as my colleague Kate Sheppard reported, some government officials have avoided using climate science terminology even in plans that implicitly address climate risks; states that didn’t use terms like “climate change” and “global warming” in their mitigation plans were docked points in Columbia’s ranking algorithm.
Michael Gerrard said he wasn’t surprised to find more attention paid to climate change in coastal states like Alaska and New York that are closest to the front lines. But he was surprised to find that a plurality of states landed in the least-prepared category, suggesting a need, he said, for better communication of non-coastal risks like drought and heat waves.
The Koch Bros and their tools in the Republican Party got one thing right. Americans are such a political lazyass nation that the easiest lie to sell is one that concludes we needn’t do a damned thing.
Between lying about climate change, ignoring the effects of climate change, staking absolutely NO claim either for causing climate change or taking responsibility to reverse climate change – reactionary politicians have charted the perfect course for American voters.
Just imitate the Do-Nothing Congress!
Human activity continues to upsets the natural balance of our atmosphere – says the World Meteorological Organization
The World Meteorological Organization said Wednesday the amount of greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2012.
“The observations from WMO’s extensive Global Atmosphere Watch network highlight yet again how heat-trapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement. “As a result of this, our climate is changing, our weather is more extreme, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.”
WMO said there was a 32 percent increase in the warming effect of greenhouse gases between 1990 and 2012. Carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal accounted for 80 percent of the increase.
CO2 levels in the atmosphere increased at a higher rate from 2011 to 2012 than the average growth rate over the last 10 years, the WMO’s report said.
Jarraud said the temperature increases associated with higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may result in “devastating consequences” for the international community.
“We need to act now, otherwise we will jeopardize the future of our children, grandchildren and many future generations,” he said. “Time is not on our side.”
I’m fortunate in that I live in a county, a region where my Congressional representative and senator are on my side in the fight for sane science-based ecology. In fact, the state of New Mexico only has the one Congress-scumball downstate who believes the world must revolve around the needs of Big Oil and mining companies.
Still, my guys don’t fight for our future in a vacuum even if that is all I would expect to find inside the heads of many of our elected officials in Washington. And statewide, our local politicians ain’t a whole boatload better. The battle is joined, folks. Time to elect someone who can see further than the end of their nose and more detail than their bank account.
In the last two decades climate change emerged as a momentous threat to ecosystems and species, calling for — politics aside — a greater interest in the adaptation abilities of the world’s creatures. Understanding and predicting how populations will respond to climate fluctuations has been attracting a wealth of research into evolutionary biology and the molecular components of evolution; with some vital questions motivating these studies: namely, how organisms will handle their new circumstances, or how populations will be able to cope with climate change in order to survive and avoid extinction. With the far-reaching impacts of climate change being felt globally, it is no wonder that scientists are desperate to understand evolution and its implications for adaptation abilities.
Until recently, biological information was thought to be transmitted across generations by DNA sequencing alone. Furthermore, adaptation to the environment was thought to only occur with Darwin’s mechanism of rare mutations of the DNA that are selected for the reproductive advantage that they provide. However, scientists are now paying increased attention to non-DNA factors that are inherited and can actually help offspring adapt to their environment.
An article published last week in Non-Genetic Inheritance — an open access journal by Versita, brings attention to this new mode of inheritance. The authors refer to a process called Transgenerational plasticity (TGP). Plasticity is a term used to describe how an organism changes its phenotype (e.g. morphology, physiology or behaviour) to adapt to its environment. For example, some animals become more hairy when bred in cold conditions. Transgenerational plasticity refers to offspring developing the adaptations, when the parents experience the environment…
Dr. Santiago Salinas and his colleagues put forward a convincing argument that not only could non-genetic fast-acting mechanisms of adaptation be widespread in nature (complimenting the slower DNA-mutation based methods of adaptation) but that they could also be of increasing importance as rapid climate change continues. In an extensive catalogue of examples they suggest that non-genetic inheritance mechanisms are being used in a wide variety of life forms.
Salinas surveyed 80 empirical studies from 63 species to argue that the new adaptive method is sufficiently established both theoretically and empirically to merit inclusion as a coping tactic against rapid environmental changes. Moreover, modulation of the system could be used in agriculture to ensure that crop species are fully adapted to their environments.
A fascinating approach to questions hindered and hampered outside the realm of science and research by political hacks and seat-of-the-pants pundits. Nonetheless interesting and thought-provoking.
Here’s a link to the article – which is not available free to the general public, yet. Worth keeping an eye out for it, though. Should be a fun read and lead to beaucoup learning and discussion. Some of us should live long enough to see if the hypotheses prove to be correct.
A year after superstorm Sandy caused extensive damage to Hoboken, New Jersey, the city is looking to its past in order to plan for the future. “Hoboken: One Year After Sandy,” an exhibit that recently opened at the Hoboken Historical Museum, aims to not only remember the storm, but to highlight the city’s vulnerabilities and emphasize the need for long-term changes that Hoboken must make in order to continue thriving on the Hudson river waterfront.
The city of over 50,000 people…sits right on the Hudson River, as does much of its critical infrastructure. The Hoboken Terminal serves as one of the New York metropolitan area’s most important transportation hubs, with thousands of commuters passing through via New Jersey Transit, the Metro North Railroad line, Path train, and more each day. The waterfront is dotted with parks and offers spectacular views of Manhattan’s mighty skyline. Further inland (which isn’t very far at all) Hoboken is filled with pastel-colored buildings dating back to the late 19th or early 20th century, and many residents live in ground-floor or basement-level apartments.
According to Juan Melli, communications manager for Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Hoboken sustained over $100 million in private property damage from Sandy and $10 million in public property damage.
Hoboken’s peculiar topography caused uneven flooding throughout the city; much of the city sits in a flood basin below sea level but some areas occupy a higher elevation. Some streets were spared, while others were submerged beneath several feet of contaminated water.
The museum’s exhibit demonstrates this phenomenon with an interactive computer map of Hoboken that models how floodwaters engulfed the city during the storm; it poured in from the north and south, and quickly pooled in lower-lying areas.
Residents have been encouraged to submit multimedia to the exhibit, as well as to share their story of Sandy in a guestbook or record it in a quiet booth off to the side. The museum hopes to create an archive of the accounts and make them available to the public online once the exhibit closes next year…
A recent analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that sea levels are rising faster than previously – and Hoboken itself was mentioned by the report’s author as being in danger. Future planning is key.
“We’re very comprehensive,” Melli said of the city’s plans to protect itself from future storms. The city has partnered with the Department of Energy to create a “smart grid” that will be more resilient to power outages. The city has also purchased additional flood pumps, is growing its emergency response team, promoting greener and stronger infrastructure, in addition to exploring a plethora of other options.
Know-nothing conservatives, whether Tea Party ignoranuses or simply cheapskate Republicans, in state after state, city, shore or mid-American farm country continue apace in their denial of any change in climate. Rejecting science is considered holy writ in bastions of superstition. They rely on the American tradition of providing aid to communities too stupid to care for themselves, so perverse in their reliance on 14th Century ideology they refuse to allow investigation of future danger or preparation for safety of citizens at risk.
Cities like Hoboken will prove themselves representative of the best of American standards in political action – while bird-brains and turd-brains from North Carolina to Nebraska take chances with the lives of generations to come.
Do you believe that a covert group called the New World Order is planning to take over the planet and impose a single world government?
Do you think the moon landings were staged in a Hollywood studio?
What about 9/11—do you suspect the US government deliberately allowed the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks to happen in order to concoct an excuse for war?
If you believe these sorts of things, you’re a conspiracy theorist. That much goes without saying. But according to new research, if you believe these sorts of things, you are also more likely to be skeptical of what scientists have to say on three separate issues: vaccinations, genetically modified foods, and climate change.
The new study, by University of Bristol psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and his colleagues in the journal PLOS ONE, finds links between conspiratorial thinking and all three of these science-skeptic stances. Notably, the relationship was by far the strongest on the vaccine issue. For geeks: the correlation was .52, an impressive relationship for social science. Another way of translating the finding? “People who tend toward conspiratorial thinking are three times more likely to reject vaccinations,” says Lewandowsky…
As if the new study won’t provoke enough ire by linking anti-vaccine views to conspiracy theories, Lewandowsky also finds links—albeit much weaker ones—between conspiracy theories and both anti-GMO beliefs and climate change denial. On GMOs, the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has stated that “crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.” Accordingly, Lewandowsky’s survey respondents were asked to react to items like “I believe that because there are so many unknowns, that it is dangerous to manipulate the natural genetic material of plants” and “Genetic modification of food is a safe and reliable technology.”
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are sponsoring a study of how climate change will affect the United States and what that disruption will cost.
The true price of deadly storms, prolonged drought and other extreme weather that most scientists believe is climate change brought about by human actions is unknown. That knowledge could aid business and government leaders trying to respond to the changes, the men said in a video statement announcing the study.
“I believe the … study will be a catalyst for action,” Paulson said, referring to the examination of climate impacts around the country. Paulson and Bloomberg are lending their names and financial support to the roughly $1.2 million analysis due to be released in June that will tally costs from around the country…
The impacts of a warming planet will vary over geography and worsen over generations so it is important that officials try to anticipate those risks now, Paulson said.
“As a former banker and Treasury Secretary, I’ve learned that you can’t always see the extent of a looming crisis before it hits with full force,” said Paulson, who helped lead the United States during the onset of the global financial shock in 2008.
Superstorm Sandy that blasted the East Coast last year and wildfires that have recently devastated the West are among the phenomenon that might have a climate change component and policymakers need to understand the costs of future risks as they brace for the worst impacts…
Before the voices predominant in today’s American conservatism became more concerned with ideology than science, obedience before inquiry, it wasn’t uncommon for stolid sources of business policy and information to delve into scientific fact, reports with conclusions rooted in peer-reviewed fact. Not anymore.
Though I may not especially agree with Mayor Bloomberg’s politics or Hank Paulson’s economics, I give them credit for acting like public servants instead of nutballs at the service of do-nothings like the Koch Bros. One of whom sponsored a study by a climate skeptic to examine the sum of climate change research – and had to face paying for a study that said the climate change analysis was correct.
Not that his politics changed or his efforts to impede change in environmental policy. Like the rest of his peers, today’s conservatives figure they can grab enough money to maintain a safe fortress somewhere while the rest of us face a dying planet.
CTD probe being lowered into the depths
Since 1993, oceanographers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have carried out regularly expeditions to the Greenland Sea on board the research ice breaker Polarstern to investigate the changes in this region. The programme has always included extensive temperature and salinity measurements. For the present study, the AWI scientists have combined these long term data set with historical observations dating back to the year 1950. The result of their analysis: In the last thirty years, the water temperature between 2000 metres depth and the sea floor has risen by 0.3 degrees centigrade.
‘This sounds like a small number, but we need to see this in relation to the large mass of water that has been warmed’ says the AWI scientist and lead author of the study, Dr. Raquel Somavilla Cabrillo. ‘The amount of heat accumulated within the lowest 1.5 kilometres in the abyssal Greenland Sea would warm the atmosphere above Europe by 4 degrees centigrade. The Greenland Sea is just a small part of the global ocean. However, the observed increase of 0.3 degrees in the deep Greenland Sea is ten times higher than the temperature increase in the global ocean on average. For this reason, this area and the remaining less studied polar oceans need to be taken into consideration’.
The cause of the warming is a change in the subtle interplay of two processes in the Greenland Sea: the cooling by deep convection of very cold surface waters in winter and the warming by the import of relatively warm deep waters from the interior Arctic Ocean. “Until the early 1980s, the central Greenland Sea has been mixed from the top to the bottom by winter cooling at the surface making waters dense enough to reach the sea floor” explains Somavilla. “This transfer of cold water from the top to the bottom has not occurred in the last 30 years. However, relatively warm water continues to flow from the deep Arctic Ocean into the Greenland Sea. Cooling from above and warming through inflow are no longer balanced, and thus the Greenland Sea is progressively becoming warmer and warmer.”
These modified conditions provide AWI scientists with unique research opportunities: “We use these changes as a natural experiment. The warming allows us to calculate how much water flows from the deep central Arctic into the Greenland Sea” says Prof. Dr. Ursula Schauer, head of the Observational Oceanography Department at the Alfred Wegener Institute, about this project and adds: “We observe here a distinct restructuring of the Arctic Ocean. This is a very slow process, and its documentation requires long term observations…”
Not exactly snap decisions; but, that wouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the methods of science. This is why there is more time between IPCC publications, for example, than box scores for the Miami Marlins. When I joined the discussion on climate change at the turn of the millennium, some folks had a few decades of research underlying their analysis.
I spent two years in study while engaged in the debate before I came to my own conclusions. Fortunately, most of the best researchers in the world publish in English – even if it’s not the native language of the institute where they work. This is how you go about real study. Personally, I find a healthy balance between the naturally conservative pace of science and my own root progressivism.
A large freighter completed a voyage through the hazardous Arctic Northwest Passage for the first time this week, showing the potential for cutting shipment times and costs as global warming opens new routes.
The 75,000 deadweight-ton Nordic Orion, built in 2011 by a Japanese shipyard, left the Canadian Pacific port of Vancouver in early September and is scheduled to arrive in the Finnish port of Pori on October 7, according to AIS shipping data.
The ship will deliver coking coal from Canadian miner Teck Resources to Ruukki Metals, a Finnish steel producer…
Nordic Bulk Carriers, the Danish operator of the ship, estimated that the route saved around $80,000 worth of fuel.
The Arctic route also enabled the Nordic Orion to carry its full capacity, adding 15,000 tons of coal that it would not have transported via the Panama Canal, where the depth limits the size of ships and cargo, the marine operator added…
Until now, harsh Arctic conditions have limited shipping on the passage mostly to small cargo vessels and ice-breakers, which supply northern Canadian communities…
Last November, Russian gas export company Gazprom made the first ever delivery of liquefied natural gas through the Arctic north-east route, sailing from Norway east to Japan.
Many maritime analysts have said, however, that large volumes of commercial shipping via the Arctic are at least 10 years away.
Be of good faith if you’re investing in Arctic shipping. The Republican Party is doing their very best to hurry global warming along.
The philosopher Daniel Dennett once compared science to the construction of a huge pyramid. Its base comprises the mass of well-established knowledge – no longer controversial and seldom discussed outside academia. More recent research is piled toward the top of the pyramid, where most public debate takes place. It is an apt metaphor for climate-change research…
The IPCC’s fifth report, the product of several years of work by hundreds of climate scientists around the world, reviews our established understanding of climate change and explains more recent findings…Let us step back from the news cycle to look at the solid knowledge base of our pyramid…
An extraordinary, if underappreciated, feature of the IPCC’s reports is that, though many different scientists have worked on them over the past 23 years, the fundamental conclusions have not changed. This reflects an overwhelming consensus among scientists from around the world. Polls of climate researchers, as well as analysis of thousands of scientific publications, consistently show a 97-98% consensus that human-caused emissions are causing global warming…
The past can serve as a guide to the consequences of the warming that we are causing. Scientists studying paleoclimate – the climates of the ancient past – have documented the massive impact of earlier climatic changes. At the end of the last Ice Age, for example, global temperature rose by about 5ºC over a period of 5,000 years. This was enough to transform the Earth’s vegetation cover, melt two-thirds of the continental ice masses, and raise sea levels by more than a hundred meters. Slowly but surely, sea levels are inching up once again. A key conclusion of the new IPCC report is that sea-level rise has accelerated.
But, before millions of people are submerged, many will be struck by extreme weather events. Record-breaking hot months now occur five times more frequently than they would in a stable, unchanging climate; these heat waves cause droughts, wild fires, poor harvests, and, inevitably, loss of life.
The latest IPCC report describes our current predicament with disturbing clarity: global temperatures are climbing, mountain glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe.
The details near the top of the knowledge pyramid can and should be intensely debated. But our solid understanding of the fundamentals of global warming – the base of our knowledge of climate science – should provide reason enough to press on with the implementation of carbon-free energy technologies. With a rapid reduction in emissions, it is still possible to keep warming within safe bounds (estimated at below 2ºC); but the task is becoming increasingly difficult. Failure to act quickly and globally will leave our children and grandchildren struggling to adapt to rapidly rising seas and devastating weather.
Here in the United States, self-destruction of traditional American conservatism and its replacement with populist, anti-science, superstition-based ideology makes any reasoned response to this information impossible. The legislative side of our federal government – and many of the state governments – is incapable of enacting anything useful. They would rather focus their loyalties on the wealthiest individuals and most powerful corporations. They dedicate the political process to bigotry and foolishness that passed its sell-by date a century ago.
Part of this is opportunism. The natural anger of a populace lied to by previous governments, their children sent off to imperial wars. The other side of this opportunist core is our long-cherished racism. Hypocrisy demands lip service to a post-racial society. Reality is another story. Add to this a fear of equal opportunity on the part of aging white males facing a minority role as time passes – and we have all the ingredients for fascist ideology finding a stronghold in this nation.
That the liberal portion of our political hacks has demonstrated the political will of a traffic light flashing caution at a 4-way stop intersection hasn’t helped. The vaguely [and barely] progressive wing of the two parties we’re generally allowed has the courage of a cricket and the attention span to match. If the rest of the Left side of educated folks in this land didn’t have the gumption it does, we’d be doomed. But, as an optimist as well as cynic, I’m always encouraged by the ability of the masses of this nation to allow a small percentage of brave individuals to coalesce and join the fight to improve life for us all.