2018/11/28: The short-term outlook doesn’t look so scary. Climate change means a longer growing season, and conditions might actually improve in places like the Dakotas, where cold weather currently limits farming. Warming should also boost wheat and barley harvests. But rising temperatures and CO2 concentrations will also “enable ragweed and other plants to produce allergenic pollen in larger quantities,” for more months out of the year. And in the long term, harvests of all food crops, including wheat, are expected to decline unless farmers take unprecedented steps to adapt.
Radical adaptation could improve harvests and help solve the larger climate problem. Crops can suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it in the soil. The report notes that “agriculture is one of the few sectors with the potential for significant increases in carbon sequestration.”
What would radical adaptation look like? The corn belt might move north from Kansas to Saskatchewan with the weather. Farmers could synch planting times and fertilizer application with precise weather forecasts. Governments might pay farmers for locking up carbon in their fields instead of maximizing profits. They could also provide the funding necessary for scientists to breed climate-adapted crops and animals.
In short, there are plenty of ways that agriculture can provide hope in place of worry. But without action, there’s going to be misery in farm country, according to the report.
2018/10/04: World greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 - just 15 months from now.
According to a U.N. preview of the report, meeting the 1.5 goal would “require very fast changes in electricity production, transport, construction, agriculture and industry” worldwide, in a globally coordinated effort to bring about a zero-carbon economy as quickly as possible. It would also very likely require eventually removing huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using technology that is not currently available at the scale that would be necessary. And there’s no time to waste: “The longer CO2 is emitted at today’s rate, the faster this decarbonization will need to be.”
The world has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees C, and the implications of that are increasingly obvious. In just the three years since the Paris Agreement was signed, we’ve seen thousand-year rainstorms by the dozens, the most destructive hurricane season in U.S. history, disastrous fires on almost every continent, and an unprecedented coral bleaching episode that affected 70 percent of the world’s reefs.
In this age of rapid warming, the IPCC report is inherently political — there are obvious winners and losers if the world fails to meet the 1.5-degree goal. If the world’s governments are to take the implications of IPCC’s findings seriously, it would be nothing less than revolutionary — a radical restructuring of human society on our planet.
2018-10-04: Research published today suggests that the power available from wind is much more limited than many experts thought, and that deployment on a larger scale could significantly raise temperatures over the Earth’s surface, as turbines alter atmospheric flows. The research highlights a painful but not altogether surprising reality: Even the cleanest renewable technologies come with environmental costs.
Research found that wind plants encompassing the largest areas had the lowest power densities, as expected. This figure implies that meeting current U.S. electricity needs alone would require wind farms to cover fully 12 percent of the U.S. land area. Wind power has physical limitations.
Miller and Keith found something even more surprising in another study that looked at a related question: What should we expect the climate impact of significant wind energy generation to be? Removing energy from atmospheric winds means those winds carry less energy afterward, moving more slowly, among other things.
simulations revealed that interactions of the turbines with the atmosphere would likely lead to a redistribution of heat in the lower atmosphere, resulting in a 0.54 degrees Celsius (0.97 degrees Fahrenheit) warming within the wind farms’ region itself, and an increase of 0.24 degrees Celsius (0.43 degrees Fahrenheit) over the continental U.S. This result, they note, actually matches up pretty well with recent satellite observations of local warming around wind farms operating in California, Illinois, Iowa and Texas. They also found that an expansive wind farm would need to operate for more than a century or so before the reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions would offset the local warming effect.
Miller and Keith also looked at U.S. solar farms, finding an achieved energy density about 10 times higher than for wind farms. Solar arrays in their study also led to much less local warming. There may be a good reason to shift future investments toward solar energy, as some big investors are doing already.
2018/09/26: The energy lessons here are many.
The industrial whale business tells us, for example, that human economies don’t respond to the depletion of any commodity with alacrity. Or reason.
The discovery and mining of petroleum could have prevented the slaughter of nearly three million whales in the 20th century, but it didn’t.
Just because a substitute exists — kerosene for whale oil or renewables for some fossil fuels — doesn’t mean the market will use them for conservation purposes.
The factory ship and its fleet could not exist without fossil fuels, which powered the whole operation and allowed for long-duration storage of whale products by running freezers (for meat) and processing whale oil so it would not become rancid.
The prospect of regulating whaling also provided whalers with an extra incentive to catch as many whales as they could before the regulations came into force.
Economists now call this perverse response to resource depletion the “green paradox.”
German economist Hans-Werner Sinn, for example, argues that society is playing out the same game with fossil fuels.
policies aimed at reducing future demand for fossil fuels could backfire by inducing resource owners to bring forward their extraction plans, thus accelerating global warming. In fact most oil-exporting nations such as Canada want to build more pipelines and export more carbon-heavy fuels as quickly as possible.
Technological innovations don’t retire resources or lead to conservation but increase production so as to increase revenue.
The widespread expectation that new technologies will help societies overcome environmental problems reflects the still common assumption that technologies will principally have the consequences intended by those who develop and/or deploy them.
Real change, he writes, “may require active suppression of fossil fuel use, such as by restricting the amount of fossil fuel that can be extracted.”
2018/09/22: Permafrost thawing could indeed release ancient fossil fuels in areas where they intersect.
So now, in the Arctic’s August warmth, she had come back to this isolated spot with a small research team, along with her husband and two young sons, to see what secrets Esieh Lake might yield. Was it simply a bizarre anomaly? Or was it a sign that the thawing Arctic had begun to release an ancient source of methane that could worsen climate change?
When the scientists examined samples of the gases, they found the chemical signature of a “geologic” origin. In other words, the methane venting from the lake seemed to be emerging not from the direct thawing of frozen Arctic soil, or permafrost, but rather from a reservoir of far older fossil fuels.
If that were happening all over the Arctic, Walter Anthony figured — if fossil fuels that had been buried for millennia were now being exposed to the atmosphere — the planet could be in even deeper peril.
Scientists know the permafrost contains an enormous amount of carbon — enough to catastrophically warm the planet if it were all released into the atmosphere. But they don’t know how fast it can come out and whether changes will be gradual or rapid.
the continuing growth of thermokarst lakes — many of which have already formed in the tundra — could more than double the greenhouse gas emissions coming from the Arctic’s soils by 2100. That’s despite the fact that the lakes would cover less than 6 percent of the total Arctic land surface.
2018/09/17: in recent years, research has made it increasingly clear that — after an 11,000 year period of relative stability — the climate has become destabilized by human emissions of carbon pollution, putting us on a path towards steadily rising temperatures throughout the century.
In this business-as-usual case — without more drastic action taken to cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — we will continue warming more than 50 times as fast as the planet was (slightly) cooling in the past 5000 years.
And it’s not just global temperatures that are being destabilized, so are sea levels. That’s clear from the Trump administration’s own November 2017 National Climate Assessment.
This “authoritative assessment of the science of climate change” explains that sea levels do not stop rising this century. Even worse, if the country’s do-little climate policies continue — or, worse, actually get rolled back as they are under Trump — then the rate of sea level rise will actually speed up.
our current climate is near the very edge of stability, according to a major new study by 16 leading climate scientists.
We are pushing the planet toward an irreversible “Hothouse Earth” — catastrophic warming of 9°F or more with ultimate sea level rise of up to 200 feet. And that study warns we are much closer to the “point of no return” than most people realize.
2018/08/14: none of this is inevitable, and one of the main barriers between us and a stable planet - one that isn’t actively hostile to human civilization over the long term - our economic system.
dramatically reimagine sectors like transportation and agriculture “at very fast rates.”
humans have to create their own negative feedback mechanisms so the Earth can maintain a stable level of carbon in the atmosphere. That means expanding and repairing the Earth’s natural “carbon sinks,” like big forests that can effectively suck emissions out of the atmosphere and store them naturally.
For high-emitting countries like the U.S., Steffen says the first step to avoiding planetary apocalypse is basically self-evident: “absolutely no new fossil fuel developments. None. That means no new coal mines, no new oil wells, no new gas fields, no new unconventional gas fracking. Nothing new. Second, you need to have a rapid phase-out plan for existing fossil fuels,” starting with coal
2018/08/20: Nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere's landmass sits above permafrost. Trapped in this frozen soil and vegetation is more than twice the carbon found in the atmosphere.
New data from two Arctic sites suggest some surface layers are no longer freezing. If that continues, greenhouse gases from permafrost could accelerate climate change.
in a region where temperatures can dip to 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, the Zimovs say unusually high snowfall this year worked like a blanket, trapping excess heat in the ground. They found sections 30 inches deep—soils that typically freeze before Christmas—that had stayed damp and mushy all winter. For the first time in memory, ground that insulates deep Arctic permafrost simply did not freeze in winter.
Could a thaw of permafrost begin decades sooner than many people expect in some of the Arctic's coldest, most carbon-rich regions, releasing trapped greenhouse gases that could accelerate human-caused climate change?
2018/09/16: How bad is the situation with plastic pollution? Rather bad, by all means. Citing from a recent paper by Geyer et al., more than 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. Of this mass, 9% percent was recycled, 12% was incinerated, the rest is still around. It is this mass of plastics, billions of tons, which generates the pollution we see today. It is almost one ton of plastic waste for every human being living today. Imagine if it were magically to appear in your living room: one ton for every member of your family.
Still following Geyer et al., we learn that in 2015 the world produced 380 million tons of plastics from fossil hydrocarbons. To get some idea of how polluting this mass is, we can compare it to the total carbon emissions produced by hydrocarbon combustion, which today can be estimated to be around 9 billion tons per year. As an order of magnitude comparison, we can say that about 4% of the fossil hydrocarbons we extract become plastics.
4% doesn't seem to be a large amount, but it is not negligible, either. Apart from the horrible state of some beaches, the islands of plastics in the oceans, it is a lot of carbon pumped into the ecosystems and its effects are scarcely known, especially on humans: we are all eating microplastic particles, today. What will that do to our health, nobody knows -- we are all guinea pigs in a great experiment. The long-run problem is that all this plastic is made from fossil hydrocarbons, it is going to be gradually oxidized and turned into gaseous CO2. Then, it will contribute to global warming.
is bioplastic the solution to the problem? As it often happens, quantification makes short work of ideas that seemed to be good in theory. Today, bioplastics are made mainly from cereals (corn) or directly from sugar. According to the data from Statista, the world's production of sugar was about 170 million tons in 2017, less than half the amount needed to make the currently produced amounts of plastics even in the wildly optimistic assumption of a 100% efficient process. About grain, the data tell us that in crop year 2016/2017, a total of approximately 2.62 billion metric tons of grain were produced worldwide. Again in the wildly optimistic assumption of a 100% efficient production process, it means we should set aside about 15% of the world's grain production - more realistically about 20%-25%. Then, of course, efficiency can be improved and we may find ways to make plastic out of plants not used as food. But, at present, it is the way things stand.
There is just so much that agriculture can do: it can't feed more than 7 billion people and, at the same time, provide fiber, chemicals, and fuel for everybody.
it would be perfectly possible to develop and implement international agreements that would curb the use of plastics made from fossil fuels and eventually ban it completely. That implies changing something in our everyday life: the "overpackaged" products that today are so common in supermarket aisles would have to disappear. But packaging is not evil: it is a way to store food more efficiently. We need to learn how to be much more efficient with it.
A deadly positive feedback from melting permafrost is extremely bad news - and it will not even be noticed by most of the political class.
An international team of U.S. and German researchers found that abrupt thawing more than doubles previous estimates of permafrost-derived greenhouse warming. Even in the scenario where humans reduced their global carbon emissions, large methane releases from abrupt thawing are still likely to occur.
2018/07/16: the first ever report to quantify the growing risks and assess the opportunities of the global cooling challenge.
There are over 1.1 billion people globally who face immediate risks from lack of access to cooling. Cooling underpins the ability of millions to escape poverty, to keep our children healthy, vaccines stable, food nutritious, and our economies productive. Access to cooling is now a fundamental issue of equity, and as temperatures hit record levels, this could also mean the difference between life or death for some.
These risks are both a development and climate change issue, as they pose challenges for the health, safety, and productivity of populations across the world – especially countries in Asia and Africa where access gaps are the largest. Yet this challenge also offers business and entrepreneurs the opportunity of major new consumer markets which want super-efficient, affordable technologies to meet their cooling needs.
In a world facing continuously rising temperatures, access to cooling is not a luxury – it’s essential for everyday life. It guarantees safe cold supply chains for fresh produce, safe storage of life-saving vaccines, and safe work and housing conditions-
2018/07/30: Rising carbon dioxide levels are making the world greener. But that’s nothing to celebrate.
Plant growth is increasing because of rising carbon dioxide. But plants return carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at night.
four reasons he believes nobody should be celebrating global greening.
More Photosynthesis Doesn’t Mean More Food.
Extra C02 in the atmosphere Can Make Plants LESS Nutritious.
Global Greening Will Not Last Forever.
The deadliest place on the planet for extreme future heatwaves will be the north China plain, one of the most densely populated regions in the world and the most important food-producing area in the huge nation.rnrnNew scientific research shows that humid heatwaves that kill even healthy people within hours will strike the area repeatedly towards the end of the century thanks to climate change, unless there are heavy cuts in carbon emissions.rnrn"This spot is going to be the hottest spot for deadly heatwaves in the future," said Prof Elfatih Eltahir, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, who led the new study. The projections for China's northern plain are particularly worrying because many of the region's 400 million people are farmers and have little alternative to working outside.rnClimate change to cause humid heatwaves that will kill even healthy peoplernRead morernrn"China is currently the largest contributor to the emissions of greenhouse gases, with potentially serious implications to its own population," he said. "Continuation of current global emissions may limit the habitability of the most populous region of the most populous country on Earth."rnrnThe new analysis assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, which is measured as the "wet bulb" temperature (WBT). Once the WBT reaches 35C, the air is so hot and humid that the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade die within six hours.rnrnA WBT above 31C is classed by the US National Weather Service as "extreme danger", with its warning stating: "If you don't take precautions immediately, you may become seriously ill or even die."
The monetary stakes, it turns out, are not the biggest obstacle to rational action on global warming.
La fine dell'Olocene e l'inizio dell'Antropocene emergono chiaramente dall'unione delle temperature ricostruite negli ultimi 11000 anni e da quelle attese per i prossimi 100. Di recente, grande sca
On Thursday, President Trump made the first major move of his administration since the appointment of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court: he withdrew from the Paris Accord, a non-treaty entered into by President Obama that committed the United States to serious economic deprivation in order to ac
Humanity faces few larger questions than what, exactly, to do about climate change - and, in a sense larger still, what climate change even means. We've all heard a variety of different future scenarios laid out, each of them based on different data.
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The Paris agreement on climate change charts a narrow path to avoiding a global apocalypse. Just one problem: Its centerpiece is a technology that basically doesn't yet exist.